Patriots: Josh McDaniels babying Mac Jones after strip-sack doomed New England
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots have now come within one or two plays of defeating two of the best teams in the NFL.
In Week 4, they fell to late field goal against Tampa Bay. This past Sunday, they lost to Dallas despite having a number of opportunities to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter.
The 3rd and long completion to CeeDee Lamb that set up Greg Zurlein’s game-tying field goal in the final seconds springs to mind. As does Cedrick Wilson’s acrobatic catch on fourth down earlier in that drive.
You can also point Anthony Brown’s blatant facemask penalty on Jakobi Meyers that the refs conveniently missed. What about Bill Belichick settling for overtime instead of going for the game-winning field goal at the end of regulation?
In summation, everything that could’ve gone wrong for the Patriots in crunch time did. And horribly. However, most of those plays were largely out their control.
With that in mind, fans should probably put some of the blame on Josh McDaniels’ shoulders for his conservative gameplan. After all, the longtime offensive coordinator coiled up after the strip-sack on Mac Jones.
Patriots OC Josh McDaniels held the offense back vs the Cowboys.
How does your quarterback getting strip-sacked by an unabated defender force you to completely alter the offensive script? Was McDaniels trying to protect Jones or did he simply lose all confidence in the passing game after that turnover?
Unfortunately, we have no idea what he was thinking. What we noticed, though, was Jones — when he wasn’t getting walloped in the backfield — exploiting huge pockets of space in the Cowboys’ secondary.
After the strip-sack, McDaniels was afraid to dial up any downfield throws. Four punts and a kneel when you know that Dallas’ offense is capable of scoring at any given moment is inexcusable. It’s not like Jones was seeing ghosts out there!
What’s particularly concerning is that McDaniels completely abandoned dropping back to pass on first down. Per Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, the Patriots were passing 55% of the time on first down, resulting in nearly 13 yards per play. That was before Randy Gregory got home on Jones.
After the turnover, the Patriots first-down run rate ballooned to 73% for the rest of the game, resulting in a measly 4.2 yards per play.
We get that the Patriots enjoyed success on the ground. Damien Harris finished with 101 yards and a touchdown on 5.6 yards per carry.
However, the fact it didn’t become obvious to McDaniels that this game needed to be won through the air is alarming. Was he not paying attention to what Dak Prescott was doing to the Patriots’ defense? He finished with the most passing yards (445) a Bill Belichick-coached defense has ever allowed!
But sure, McDaniels, completely tweak your game plan just because a backup right tackle failed to hold up his end of the bargain on one snap.
This better not happen again.