3. Force turnovers on defense, cash in on offense
Sooner or later, the New England Patriots offense is going to click into rhythm… at least we all hope so. It’s not unusual for Tom Brady and company to take a bit longer to find their stride during the regular season than most fans might expect. After all, the cliche with the Patriots is that the team often views September and even early October as a bit of an extension of the preseason, time in which they sort out their identity and discover just what it is they’re good at.
Here we are though in late November, and the New England offense is still very much a work in progress it seems. Brady has repeatedly expressed his frustration, both with himself and with the supporting cast around him. The offensive line hasn’t been up to snuff for most of this season – although Isaiah Wynn’s anticipated return to the starting lineup this weekend might help – and it’s been a revolving door of playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end positions since training camp first began.
Patriots fans should practice patience with this offense, keeping in mind that New England completely reinvented themselves on that side of the ball in December last season and still went on a run to win the Super Bowl. If that Patriots team could win it all after completely swapping out their offensive blueprint just before Christmas, this Patriots team should also be just fine in the long run.
For now though, New England’s offense needs to (at minimum) make the best out of the opportunities presented to them by their friends and compatriots on defense and special teams.
Too often this season the Patriots offense has inherited wonderful field position because of a great punt return or a defensive takeaway… and then proceeded to squander it quickly by going three-and-out and punting the ball back to the other team. This hasn’t been the end of the world for New England this year because the Patriots defense is just so good at trapping the other team’s offense down by their own end zone in these situations, but it’s still no way to win football games – especially against higher-quality competition.
In the Patriots’ one loss this year against the Ravens, New England only got back into the game because they were able to capitalize offensively on a couple Baltimore turnovers in the second quarter. Brady and the offense turned a muffed Cyrus Jones punt into a Mohamed Sanu touchdown, then used a Mark Ingram fumble on the next Ravens series as a springboard for a Nick Folk field goal. Just like that, an early 17-point deficit was suddenly a one-score game.
If New England can’t sustain long, methodical drives like we’re all normally used to seeing from this offense, they at least need to be able to cash in with points when their own defense and special teams give them the opportunity to do so on a short field or takeaway. Preferably those points should come via touchdowns and not field goals, too.