Following a loss to the Houston Texans, the New England Patriots have, for the moment, fallen into the second AFC playoff seed with a 10-2 record. New England is now just one game ahead of the 9-3 Buffalo Bills in the AFC East with four games remaining this season. The Patriots were far from good enough throughout all phases of this game, but their offense was atrocious.
New England Patriots Offense Struggles Against Texans
Patriots Lack of Weapons
Outside of wide receiver, Julian Edelman, and running back, James White, the Patriots receiving targets have failed to develop a functional connection with Tom Brady. Supporting cast members Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, and rookie first rounder N’Keal Harry, have failed to find any level of consistency. Multiple examples were seen on Sunday which demonstrated why Brady has both a lack of communication and trust with his secondary receiving targets. The first example came during the first quarter when Brady threw his sixth interception of the season while targeting Harry on a three yard slant. Harry ran a sloppy and lazy route that allowed for Texans cornerback, Bradley Roby, to undercut the route. Instead of using his 6-4, 225 pound frame to box Roby out, Harry’s sloppily run route and lack of effort to fight back for the football enabled the veteran corner to pick off the pass.
Furthermore, there were two glaringly obvious instances of miscommunication between Brady, Dorsett, and Meyers. With 59 seconds left in the second quarter, Brady made a hand signal audible to Dorsett that indicated he wanted the receiver to run a deep, downfield route. Rather than run the instructed route, Dorsett missed the audible and ran a shallow route, causing Brady to launch a 43 yard pass which landed with no one close to it. Additionally, on a key third down and six, Meyers ran an out route but was quickly redirected by Brady as pass rushers were bringing pressure. Brady pointed downfield before flicking a 25 yard pass up the sideline that again landed incomplete with no one around it. Meyers misinterpreted Brady’s gesture and tried to comeback towards his quarterback rather than burst upfield. Brady was by no means perfect in this game, but his lack of offensive weapons has made a slightly declined Brady look as if he has completely fallen off Max Kellerman’s “cliff.”
Offensive Coaching Improvements
New England is no stranger to getting the most out of players who have otherwise been an afterthought throughout the league. However, this season has largely been a different story on the offensive side of the football. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, looks to be relying on the pure talent of his players for success rather than scheming success. As this season has progressed, the Patriots offense has slowly become more predictable and far less creative. Defenses have clearly adjusted to the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski, and are now keying much more on White and Edelman.
McDaniels now needs to figure out new ways to scheme White and Edelman open by engineering different formations to get favorable matchups. Also, while Harry is far from a polished NFL route runner, he still possesses amazing physical talent that New England must start consistently featuring. Last week, Harry and Brady connected on a phenomenal red zone fade route touchdown. This week, the Patriots failed to throw up one jump ball to Harry throughout the entire game. In order for this offense to see improvement, McDaniels must develop ways to scheme players open and keep opposing defenses guessing.
New England is in the homestretch of their season and they can not afford to lose another game. Thankfully though, the last two opponents the Patriots will face with winning records, the Kansas City Chiefs and Bills, will be played at Gillette Stadium. Currently, New England’s offense is not good enough to win a Super Bowl nor is it good enough to get to one. However, with four games left and hopefully a playoff bye week, there is still time to make adjustments.
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