Perry: Time for Patriots to 'let it rip' offensively vs. Dolphins? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
FOXBORO -- One of the favorite adages for Bill Belichick's teams over the years has been, "You have to first learn how not to lose before you can win."
The idea is self-explanatory: Don't blow it for yourself. Winning can't happen until that seemingly-simple approach is executed first.
The 2022 version of the Patriots have had issues following through on that thought, though. Which is why, maybe -- at least on the offensive side of the ball -- it may behoove Belichick to rip a page from the playbook of former Jets head coach Herm Edwards: Play to win the game.
This Patriots attack has gone through several different iterations since the regular season began. None have stuck.
Early on, they took an overly-aggressive bent and pushed the ball down the field more than any team in the league through three weeks. They sat near the top of the league in turnovers. Then Mac Jones got hurt, the defense took off, and offensively the goal became to avoid mistakes.
When Jones returned from injury, they remained wildly conservative. The second-year quarterback's average depth of target, according to Pro Football Focus, was second-lowest among 41 quarterbacks (6.4) between Weeks 8 and 15. In that span, Jones had the 24th quarterback rating in the league, and he was 30th in yards per attempt.
Is there a chance, however, that the Patriots found something they can believe in during the second half of last week's loss to the Bengals? They opened it up because they had to, and they hit on plays down the field to help get them back in the game.
"I think it’s just a good example of not quitting, playing for each other and just trying to do everything right," Jones said of the last 30 minutes of Week 16. "When we do things right, it’s really good and when we don’t, it’s not so good. Just having that mindset of, 'Hey, let’s go out there and have fun and compete.' We’ve got nothing to lose, so just go out there and let it rip and play the game we love. That’s what it’s about."
Jones ended up with a 12.6 ADOT against Cincinnati, third-highest in the NFL last week, and well ahead of the league's season-leader in ADOT Marcus Mariota (10.5). Jones' passer rating on the day, thanks in part to his avoidance of turnovers, was 105.6. His yards-per-attempt figure was 7.3 and he maintained an adjusted completion percentage number of 74.2, which was less than three percentage points lower than his shorter-throwing stretch through the middle of the season (76.9).
They may not need to be the deepest-throwing team in football to beat Miami on Sunday, but striking a balance between last week and the thou-shall-not-screweth-up approach they've had most of the season could help the Patriots maintain a pulse for one more week.