Josh McDaniels was critical of himself for these two play calls vs. Chargers

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The New England Patriots had about a yard and a half to the goal line with about nine minutes left in the second half of Week 8 against the Los Angeles Chargers. And the Patriots had two downs to get those yards for the touchdown.

One third down, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a pass play, with quarterback Mac Jones firing incomplete to tight end Hunter Henry. Then on fourth down, the Patriots decided to go for it. Against one of the NFL’s worst rushing defenses, they threw the ball against, this time to receiver Jakobi Meyers, who had never caught a touchdown pass in his career. The result? Another incompletion.

“I look back on that sequence and it’s probably one of the ones I could do differently,” McDaniels told reporters on Tuesday during a conference call. “If it works out on third-and-goal … and you end up with the play-pass, and it works, it’s great. And everybody thinks it was a great call.”

It’s one thing to break trends to surprise opposing defenses. (Though you could argue that it’s no surprise to throw to Meyers, a player everyone knows the Patriots are trying to get his first touchdown.) It’s another thing entirely to go so far from the sensical decision — running the football — that it looks like a major mistake. McDaniels seemed to recognize he strayed from what made sense on those two downs in the Patriots’ 27-24 win over the Chargers.

Running the ball might have been the right choice.

McDaniels explained that they’d run a goal-line run earlier in the game, and they’d seen a breakdown on the play. While Damien Harris had been successful on his 1-yard touchdown run, there was penetration from the Chargers that left McDaniels concerned for the next time around. He apparently second-guessed the effectiveness of their goal-line runs — and decided to go with the pass on back-to-back plays.

“We only have a handful of things you do down there, inside that yard line, so I chose obviously at that point incorrectly,” McDaniels said. “At that point, is it the wrong thing to do to run it? No, it’s not the wrong thing to do to run it at all, but I was kind of using some of the things I had seen previously, made the choice to do that, and it didn’t work out in our favor. Then obviously, we didn’t convert the fourth-down play, either.”

New England’s offense wouldn’t score another touchdown, instead settling for field goals. The defense scored the team’s second touchdown, a pick-six from safety Adrian Phillips.

“Not a good sequence for me,” he said. “I think I can do better than that, and I want to do better than that for our team. So, those are always really important plays. Hard to sometimes to choose between certain things based on what you’ve done previous. But I gotta do better, and we can do better than that for sure.”

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