The Patriots’ 2022 season has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. The season started roughly with an embarrassing loss to the Dolphins in Miami, a game that went as well as the preseason had looked. Since that first loss, every game has been a toss-up. Although some noticeable improvements have been made within the team, the lack of consistency overall has continued to be the biggest culprit leading to their demise.
Because the defense has been the more prominent group of the team, keeping the Patriots within reach of securing another win, much of the focus and scrutiny has been rightfully directed at the offense. From the struggles of the quarterbacks to the inconsistent offensive line protection to the predictable play-calling, many have hoped a familiar face would return to the sideline at some point this season.
Although that scenario will likely never happen, former o-line coach, Dante Scarnecchia recently spoke to NBC Sports Boston’s Next Pats podcast about New England’s current issues and shared his thoughts on some popular topics.
Since it was revealed that Colts defensive players were calling out plays upon seeing the Patriots’ offense line up in last week’s game, it has been the most discussed topic throughout the week. Because the play-calling has been one of the more criticized parts of the team’s season so far, Scarnecchia was asked how common that was in the league from his experience.
"“I think it’s not unusual. We all have to understand, those guys are getting paid on the other side, too. Guys like C.J. Mosley and [Leonard], they’re both middle linebackers. They study the game. They study opponent tendencies and formations.”"
Bill Belichick was asked about the situation earlier in the week, mentioning even Jets’ C.J. Mosley seemingly knew what the Patriots offense was about to do during their matchup in week eight. The coach continued to say it wasn’t clear if Mosley had just anticipated the play to happen or if it was something the offense had made apparent but mentioned they’ll need to work on preventing it in future games.
Scarnecchia continued with his answer, repeating what Belichick had said in previous days, emphasizing the need to switch things up. He mentioned that tricking defenses is part of the game, which inevitably leads to more success offensively.
"“I think that’s part of, as an offensive coach, you say, ‘OK, look. When we line up in this formation, it can’t always be this. It has to be something else, too.’ That’s protecting the things you do. I think that’s hugely important. It’s not just studying your opponents, the things they do, and how they do it, but also studying yourselves. ‘What tendencies do we show people based on our formationing?’ A lot of times it can be something as simple as somebody in a certain type of stance. There’s many instances where a guard or tackle might be light in their stance, and everybody knows it’s going to be a pass. …You pick those things up, you use them to your advantage. I saw the plays they showed on TV. Guy knew what was happening? I’m sure he did.”"
Recognizing your opponent is just as well-informed about your team as you are theirs is typically a strength within a Belichick-led Patriots team. Seeing that continue as an issue over the last few weeks has become increasingly alarming as the offense’s struggles remain clear.
The defense has outperformed what most thought they would be capable of before the season began, but relying almost solely on that group to keep you in the game while also providing more opportunities for the offense to take the field is not a recipe for long-standing success.
Despite Belichick loving a defensively dominant team, he’s not naïve in what it takes to be competitive in today’s NFL. Scarnecchia was asked what he assumed the coach’s mindset has been and if he thought Belichick has relied on the defense’s performance to keep winning them games.
"“I don’t think they do (believe that’s enough). You want to be complete. You want to attack in the run game. You want to attack inside all the way to the outside … You want to complement that with run action passes, drop-back, empty … They’re certainly capable of doing all those things. Ultimately it will come to that, making plays in the passing game, using Mac (Jones’) talents and skills and the skill sets of the guys around him. You have to have the whole package to be successful. Not a lot of games are won 9-6 or 7-3 in this league.”"
As the Patriots take time off during their bye week, there is a lot for them to improve before their next game against the New York Jets. The AFC East has become a far more difficult division than it has been for several years, forcing the Patriots to iron things out quickly and swiftly.
With just eight more games left in the season, there is limited time to address what needs to be fixed and accomplish what is required to improve. However, hopefully having a whole week to dive into watching film and diagnosing the team’s weaknesses, the Patriots will become more vital starting in week eleven.