Sure, averaging over 30 points per game is something most NFL teams dream about. For the New England Patriots that has become commonplace over recent years with Tom Brady’s high-caliber play.
But this season, the Patriots have gotten points from other sources.
Twice, New England has blocked a punt for a touchdown. The Patriots have also scored three defensive touchdowns on a pair of pick-sixes and a fumble return.
Since racing out to a 20-0 lead over the New York Jets in Week 3, the Patriots offense hasn’t shown promise save for a second-half outburst at Washington.
While on-field performances have struggled, it’s not a result of poor preparation or bad play. Though the offense hasn’t been sharp, it’s not due to a lack of productivity at the skill positions.
Why is that? The answer might surprise you.
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Limited Personnel Groupings
The injury bug has hampered the Patriots a great deal this season, forcing New England to use second-choice lineups, especially on the offensive line. Tom Brady even remarked at how rare that is when the Patriots were forced into using a single grouping during the second half on Thursday.
Yeah, we just grinded it out pretty good. Got kind of forced into one grouping there in the second half. I don’t think that’s ever happened in 20 years, but defense played great, special teams played great. Outside of a few plays, it would have been pretty good. So, we’re hanging in there.
Rather than using its main weapons in the running and receiving game, the Patriots dispatched Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, and Brandon Bolden to move the offense. The trio filled in admirably, a performance that may build a ton of confidence for the two young receivers moving forward.
What was surprising was the limited use of full back Jakob Johnson. Thought to have no shot at making the roster during the summer, he worked to earn a practice squad spot before being promoted following James Develin’s injury.
While in the game, Johnson opened up holes for Sony Michel, provided protection for Brady in play action, and even lined up at tight end as a receiving option or an extra blocker on the left side. But in the second half, he all but disappeared from the game with a shoulder injury and a lack of run production resulted.
Matt LaCosse hardly played in the second half too, but he was dealing with an injury that limited his production. It has been no secret, however, that he helps fuel the offense when in the game.
What Was That Play-Calling?
Some of the blame lies with Josh McDaniels. The long-time offensive coordinator had several questionable play calls on Thursday, including a pitch to James White with no additional blockers on third-and-short in the red zone.
Against Washington, the Patriots deployed far too much passing in the first half and only scored 12 points by halftime. And against the Jets, New England strayed away from the run altogether and became predictable with Sony Michel in the game.
Though New England has used Michel more as a receiver and the offense as a whole has put up big numbers in second halves, that’s purely a result of wearing down opposing defenses.
Simply put, there’s not a lot of variety at the start of games for New England. It’s mainly all-pass, no-run from the outset, which sets up for success late in games but could be costly early against quality opponents.