Questions linger as Patriots’ offense falls short again

Dec 1, 2022, 10:10 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 12:11 pm
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks off the field after the team's 24-10 loss to t...

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks off the field after the team's 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills in an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass, (AP) — Quarterback Mac Jones was adamant his expletive-laced tirade on the sideline during the Patriots 24-10 loss to Buffalo was about motivating himself and not an emotional plea about the play calling or anything directed at his coaches.

Only he knows for certain.

What does seem apparent is his vocal outburst had an undertone: He wants the training wheels to be removed from the offense.

“What I said was about throwing it deeper in the short game. I got to execute that part better,” Jones said. “But it’s the short game we kept going to, which is working. But I felt like we needed chunk plays. I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going. That’s emotional. That’s football. I’m passionate about this game.”

At 6-6 and back in last place in the AFC East following its loss to the Bills, New England’s season is now officially on the brink with five games to play.

And the much-talked about offense has yet to find consistency under the primary direction of Matt Patricia, a seasoned defensive coach who is making the deepest foray into offensive football of his career.

It’s been costly to the development of the Patriots’ second-year quarterback and remains the most baffling thing about a team that seems to be content to ride out the status quo on offense despite diminishing returns.

Jones is just 4-5 as New England’s starter this season, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. For the season, his passer rating is down to 87.0 — 24th in the NFL.

If there are any major changes coming to help correct the issues, coach Bill Belichick isn’t giving any hints what they could be.

“The bottom line is, we need to just keep working to improve it every week,” he said. “We need to continue to work to do things better on our end. Then as it relates to our specific opponent, then match them up and doing well against that opponent. So that’s really the process.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Patriots’ offensive issues meant they were punting a lot on Thursday. Michael Palardy was again solid in his second game handling the duties with Jake Bailey on injured reserve with a back injury. Palardy averaged 41.8 yards for the night, dropping two inside the 20-yard line.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Situational football was again a glaring shortcoming. The most notable example was during the offense’s management of the two-minute drill in the second quarter.

Trailing 17-7, the Patriots took over with 1:20 left and drove to the Buffalo 35 with 50 seconds remaining.

From there they let 11 seconds elapse following a Rhamondre Stevenson second-and-1 run for no gain, forcing them to use their second timeout. Jones got the first down via a sneak on third down, then burned his team’s final timeout instead of spiking the ball or running another play.

Two incompletions and a short pass to Hunter Henry later, New England was left to line up for a 48-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk that was no good after hitting the crossbar.

STOCK UP

Marcus Jones. His surprise usage on offense and subsequent 48-yard touchdown reception was the Patriots’ biggest highlight. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Jones is the first player in Patriots history to log both a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown in his rookie year.

STOCK DOWN

Offensive line. Though dealing with injuries that forced practice squad elevation of Conor McDermott into the starting lineup at right tackle, the Patriots struggled up front. The group was whistled for four of New England’s six accepted penalties — holding calls on McDermott, Trent Brown, David Andrews and Cole Strange.

INJURIES

The Patriots had no announced injuries but have several key players on the mend. Starting running back Damien Harris (thigh) sat out along with tackles Isaiah Wynn (foot) and Yodny Cajuste (calf and back).

KEY NUMBER

25% — The offense’s conversion percentage on third down (3 of 12) after it made finishing drives a priority following last week’s loss at Minnesota. It drops the Patriots to a conversion rate of 36.2% for the season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

NEXT STEPS

After playing a brutal stretch of three games over 12 days, the Patriots have 10 days to rest before their Monday night road matchup against Arizona on Dec. 12.

___

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Questions linger as Patriots’ offense falls short again