Redskins defense just what the doctor ordered for Patriots offense
A hapless Washington Redskins defense could be the perfect remedy for the New England Patriots to cure their offensive woes.
The New England Patriots are coming off a wonky 16-10 victory over the previously-undefeated Buffalo Bills this week. On the surface, New England should be proud of their continuing defensive dominance and an unblemished 4-0 record. Looking deeper though, the narrow win over the Bills exposed some serious problems with the Patriots offense.
The long-term good news is that New England probably won’t face another defense this regular season of the Bills’ exceptional caliber until they host Buffalo again in Week 16. More immediately though, there’s also some good news coming down the road this Sunday, as the Patriots travel to Landover, Maryland, to take on the 0-4 Washington Redskins.
Apart from the Redskins and the Patriots having completely opposite records so far on the season, ESPN’s Football Power Index also gives New England an 85.7% chance to score the victory and push their record to 5-0 this year.
Now obviously football games aren’t decided on odds, betting lines, point spreads, or statistical projections. Football games are decided on the field, and the classic saying ‘any given Sunday’ certainly applies to every team in the NFL – even to the mighty Patriots when they take on massive underdogs like the Redskins.
Realistically though, this is a game the Pats should win going away. Especially considering the otherworldly level the defense is playing at right now – and considering the Redskins have taken a step back offensively every week this season – it’s not absurd to suggest that New England could enjoy a double-digit victory even if their offense struggles again this week like they did against Buffalo.
But if the Patriots are smart, they’ll utilize this gift on their regular season schedule as an opportunity to work out the kinks on their offense. Now is the time to tweak and experiment – as opposed to further down the line in a more meaningful, high-stakes contest against a tougher team like the Baltimore Ravens or the Kansas City Chiefs.
Quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged as much earlier this week, stating that it’s high-time the New England offense figures out what their identity is and plays up to that moving forward.
“The way to do that is to go out and practice every week and try to evaluate the things you haven’t done a good job at, see if you can correct them, and if you can’t correct them, then you throw them out,” he said during a recent radio interview, via WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “You don’t try them again. That is how it goes as the season goes along.”
It’s hard to fault the Patriots too much for the place they’re in offensively, still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work. Whereas the defense has largely remained consistent personnel-wise since the start of the season, the offense has undergone and will continue to undergo massive turnover.
The offensive line make-up has constantly shifted because of injuries and illness, the tight ends have all either been injured or suspended, the running backs have dealt with unusual extenuating circumstances at times (like James White missing a game to attend the birth of his son), and the receiver group has been shaken up both by injuries as well as by the whole failed Antonio Brown experiment.
Those excuses are all fine and good and valid, but the Patriots are past the quarter-mark of the season now. September has traditionally been seen as an extension of the preseason for this club, when Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are still tinkering and toying with their personnel groupings and strategies. Now that the calendar has rolled over into October, it’s time to focus in on what this offense is best at.
And there’s no better opponent in the NFL – apart from the Miami Dolphins or maybe the Arizona Cardinals – to exorcise offensive demons against than the Washington Redskins. The ‘Skins have the fifth-worst defensive outfit in the league in terms of yards allowed this season. Even more embarrassing, they rank second-worst in points allowed on the year (behind the Dolphins unsurprisingly).
While the Redskins’ passing defense is fairly mediocre at best, their rushing defense has been flat-out atrocious. Washington is fourth-worst in that metric, behind only the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos. Those loud cries of excitement you hear are coming from Sony Michel’s locker, who must be absolutely licking his chops at the prospect of facing a porous run defense this Sunday after mostly getting stuffed by the likes of the Bills and the Jets in back-to-back weeks.
Now is the time for the Patriots to morph into an offensive juggernaut that will make their proven juggernaut of a defense proud. The Redskins are appearing at the perfect point of the schedule for New England, and it’s up to the Pats offense to take full advantage of this golden opportunity before them now.