The Patriots are currently 10-2, but nobody in New England is happy with where they sit.
The Patriots lost their second game of the season to the Houston Texans on Sunday night in a game that looked out of reach for them at halftime. They put together a good opening drive establishing the run game and converting on third down when necessary and they came away with a field goal to go up 3-0. After that opening drive, Houston made their adjustments defensively and New England struggled from that point on. This game was very symbolic of all of New England’s struggles this year. All of their issues start and end with the offense, but they are struggles that make them extremely vulnerable. So what are the issues on the offense?
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For one, the offensive line has been struggling all season. It dates back to the offseason when they lost their best player on the o-line to free agency in Trent Brown who signed with the Oakland Raiders, but it didn’t stop there. Just weeks before the season began, the Patriots’ starting center David Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots and was forced to miss the entire 2019 season. When they finally plugged those holes at the start of the season and got off to a hot start against Pittsburgh and Miami, trent Brown’s replacement, Isaiah Wynn was placed on IR with a toe injury. They were able to mask their depleted offensive line with a very favorable schedule through the first half of the season, but it is clear how much of a weakness this is for the Patriots.
Secondly, the Patriots have had a staggering number of changes at the receiver position which makes it difficult for Brady to find any sort of chemistry with the guys he has. At the start of the season, their top four receivers were Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and Julian Edelman. Just 12 weeks later and only Edelman remains of the four. Brady still has Phillip Dorsett who has been one of Brady’s more reliable targets in recent years but he has struggled to stay healthy. Beyond Dorsett and Edelman, he’s throwing to Mohamed Sanu who was acquired roughly a month ago now, and two rookie receivers in Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. To add another layer to it, all of these guys have missed time due to injury so the team struggles to even put together a consistent group of receivers week in and week out. The only one who has not missed time is Edelman, but he is clearly banged up and looks like he is one hit away from landing on the IR.
Another issue for New England is their lack of a dominant tight end. Rob Gronkowski was such a huge part of the Patriots’ offense for so many years and was a security blanket that Brady could go to because Gronk could and would catch almost anything. As currently constructed, the Patriots’ best tight end is 38 year old Ben Watson. Behind him is Matt Lacosse was can’t stay healthy, and Ryan Izzo who is on the IR. The Patriots rank last in tight end catches this season and are tied for last for tight end touchdown receptions. The plan going into the season was that their high-powered receiving core of Edelman, Brown, Gordon, and Thomas would negate the loss of Gronkowski. Since they do not have a stellar receiving core anymore by any stretch of the word, the absence of a dominant tight end has a direct correlation to the Patriots’ stagnant offense, especially in the red zone.
I have faith that the Patriots are capable of finding a groove offensively, but they are running out of time. There are four games left in the regular season and their next opponent is the Chiefs. They win games with defense and field position. That will not work with teams like Kansas City, Baltimore, or Houston. Right now, the Patriots are not a team that can win a shootout football game, and all three of the aforementioned teams are very dangerous offenses that can and will score a lot of points. Last night when the Patriots went down by 11 when the Texans scored to make it 14-3, I lost all hope for them winning that game, which is the first time in a very long time that I can remember not believing it was possible that Tom Brady could overcome a deficit. The Patriots have been exposed and have some soul searching to do before the playoffs. They are still 10-2, but they should not be satisfied with their level of play offensively.