The New England Patriots offense isn't broken. It never worked. | Opinion
The New England Patriots' offense is not broken. That would assume the offense ever worked, which it did not.
The offense still doesn't work, as evidenced by the Patriots' anemic output in a 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on "Thursday Night Football." New England, which dropped to 6-6 on the season, managed just 242 yards, punted six times and went 3-for-12 on third down.
It would be more appropriate to call the Patriots offense defective. It was manufactured incorrectly. It contains faulty parts. It is fundamentally unsound.
And the only way to remedy the situation is to rebuild it.
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Who is calling Patriots' offensive plays?
The failed product likely started with a flawed blueprint. The decision to replace longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who departed in the offseason to become the Las Vegas Raiders' head coach, with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was immediately met with skepticism.
Patricia and Judge, two former assistants under Bill Belichick, returned to New England after both failed in respective head coaching stints. Patricia's background was on the defensive side of the ball while Judge previously coached special teams.
The experiment to trust them with keys to the offense looks like an abject failure.
Belichick, predictably, deflected when asked Thursday about the team's season-long struggles on offense.
"I'll just say tonight we didn't do enough," Belichick told reporters after the game. "Just got through with the game here."
Entering Week 13, the Patriots ranked 18th in the league in scoring and were tied for the seventh-fewest offensive touchdowns in the NFL with 23. They added just one more to that total Thursday, a 48-yard touchdown via screen pass courtesy of rookie Marcus Jones, who scored on the first offensive snap of his career.
This was quite the run by @MarcusJonesocho to put the @Patriots on the board! 💨#BUFvsNE on Prime Video
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— NFL (@NFL) December 2, 2022
Yes, the Patriots offense is so inept it needs to bring players over from the defensive side of the ball to ignite a spark.
The biggest reason for a lack of scoring is the Patriots' inability to cap drives in the red zone. Scoring touchdowns during just 38.7% of their red-zone trips, the Patriots entered Thursday second-worst in the NFL to only Russell Wilson's Denver Broncos.
The Patriots, who haven't scored a touchdown in their last seven trips inside the 20-yard line, were 0-for-1 in red-zone situations Thursday — and the play-calling and situational offense have been highly questionable all season.
Even Patriots quarterback Mac Jones seemed frustrated with the game plan after Thursday's loss as cameras captured what looked like Jones imploring (with expletives) the team to throw the ball.
"We were playing from behind and what I said was about throwing the ball deeper," Jones told reporters after the game. "It's the short game kept going to, which was working, but I felt like we needed chunk plays and I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going.
"Obviously, you don't want your emotions to get the best of you, but it wasn't directed at anybody."
— sportsvids99 (@sportsvids991) December 2, 2022
MORE: Mac Jones appeared to yell 'throw the (expletive) ball' on sideline during TNF
How big a problem is Mac Jones at QB?
Jones has regressed in his second NFL season, but just how much blame he shares in the Patriots' offensive woes is up for debate.
In comparing Jones' stats to his rookie season in 2021, he's roughly on pace to finish with a similar completion percentage and yards per game despite some alarming year-over-year trends.
In addition to Jones' interception numbers inflating this season, the quarterback entered Thursday taking a sack on 9.3% of passing attempts, up from 5.1% as a rookie. Jones took a 14-yard sack during a fourth-quarter possession in the red zone Thursday.
But how much of that is Jones' fault, and how much can be pinned on a Patriots' offensive line that has been anything but steady in 2022?
Entering Week 13, Jones had an average of 2.69 seconds to throw on passing attempts this season, which is only a quarter of a second more than the lowest mark in the NFL (Tom Brady, 2.43), according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
While that's not a ton of time to throw, poor decisions have followed Jones this season. With the Patriots pinned against their own goal line Thursday, Jones stood in the pocket too long and had to avoid a safety by taking an intentional grounding penalty that put New England in a third-and-long situation early in the game when it was trying to trade blows with the Bills.
Still, that doesn't mean Jones is constantly taking sacks. According to Next Gen Stats, he leads the NFL with a 29.7% evade rate, which measures how often a quarterback was under pressure at some point during their dropback but avoided it at the time of the throw.
Put it this way: Jones is facing a ton of pressure, escaping some of it but still taking more sacks than he should.
Jones was asked after the game about the team's struggles and said he wants more accountability from the offense.
"It starts with me," Jones said. "I want to be coached harder. I want to be a better player. The coaches have given us everything they've got and put us in positions to win, but I want to hold everyone accountable, including myself. It's tough, right? You get called out a little bit that you didn't do your job. A lot of that blame falls on me. I didn't do my best tonight and a lot of other guys played with effort. I played with effort.
"I'm going to give it everything every week, no matter what. I'll go until the wheels fall off."
Are there any bright spots within Patriots offense?
The same could be said last season, but there isn't a murderer's row of weapons waiting downfield for Jones' longball. One breakout star, however, has been running back Rhamondre Stevenson out of the backfield.
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— NFL (@NFL) December 2, 2022
The big-bodied Stevenson is a tough runner and has shown proficient ability in the passing game as well as a propensity for winning yards after the catch. Belichick has gushed about Stevenson all season as the back entrenched himself as a key cog in the offense.
Stevenson seems like the kind of offensive piece to build around, but he may be alone in that distinction. The jury is still out on whether Jones is a franchise quarterback, and some folks feel strongly that rookie Bailey Zappe performed better with Jones sidelined with a high-ankle sprain earlier this season. In fact, no QB the Patriots defeated with Jones this season is currently starting for their team (Zach Wilson, Sam Ehlinger, Mitchell Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett).
It has to be frustrating for Belichick, whose Patriots have the defense of a legitimate title contender, to be on the verge of missing the playoffs because of a totally unproductive offense averaging a full touchdown less than it did last season with fewer weapons.
It's not a matter of unplugging the offense and plugging it back in or tightening a few screws. The entire circuit board needs to be rewired.
There's still a chance for the Patriots to mount a late-season run and sneak into the postseason, but a growing sample size of offensive ineptitude makes the notion harder to imagine by the week.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mac Jones, Patriots offense stats: Inept again in loss to Bills