After a dismal performance in Dallas that resulted in the worst loss of Bill Belichick’s career, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is feeling pressure to fix the offense.
No one is feeling good about the team’s 1-3 record, O’Brien said on Tuesday.
“We have to solve problems right now,” O’Brien said. “The clock is ticking. We realize that. But, we think there are some things we can do to improve.”
Helping quarterback Mac Jones make better decisions will be a point of emphasis for O’Brien this week. Through four games, Jones has five touchdown passes against four interceptions.
On Sunday, two of Jones’s three turnovers resulted in Cowboys touchdowns.
With the Patriots pinned inside their 10-yard line, Jones attempted to scramble away from the pressure. He didn’t make it past the line of scrimmage before Dallas’s Dante Fowler chased him down and punched the ball out. It bounced forward to the 11, where Leighton Vander Esch scooped it up and raced in for a score.
A little later, Daron Bland pounced on a Jones throw intended for Kendrick Bourne and returned the interception 54 yards for a touchdown.
“I think we can do a lot of things to help Mac’s decision-making,” O’Brien said. “He can do things himself to be better. I’m sure he would be the first to tell you that.
“So we’re going to work hard on that this week, you know, like here are some things we’re going to help you with, whether it’s mechanics or where your eyes are or what it is.
“He’s already talked about, ‘Hey, here are some things I’m going to do.’ We’re going to be on the same page. We’re very much in this together. Nobody is pointing fingers. We know we have a lot to improve on; we have to get it done, though.”
O’Brien said some of the decisions Jones made Sunday were “uncharacteristic.” Jones is a competitor who wants to win, and he was just trying to make plays, O’Brien said. However, it’s important for the quarterback to keep his limitations in mind.
“I think you always have to play mentally within yourself,” O’Brien said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t take calculated risks. It doesn’t mean that when something opens up and you’re not a runner that you can’t take off and run. It doesn’t mean that.
“It just means that you have to do a really good job of understanding what we’re trying to do on every play and then executing the play to the best of your ability at a high level and take what the defense gives you.”
Filling the Judon void
With Matthew Judon out indefinitely with a lower biceps tendon tear, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo said the Patriots are approaching things with a “next man up” mentality. That likely means more playing time for rookie Keion White, who made his first NFL start against the Jets in Week 3.
“It will be multiple guys, obviously,” Mayo said. “Keion is going to play more, simply said. We really need him to show up.
“There will be different guys on the roster to help fill that void, you know, with [Deatrich] Wise and those guys like that. We don’t just play four down, we don’t just play three down, we’re pretty versatile with our scheme, so we’re trying to figure it out.”
Along with White and Wise, Mayo mentioned Anfernee Jennings among players who will help fill in for Judon.
“He’s always in the mix,” Mayo said. “He’s actually been doing a good job over the last few weeks when he gets his opportunities. He’s gone out there and played well, so absolutely.”
Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez also is out indefinitely after dislocating his shoulder Sunday.
“We have guys that can play in those roles,” Mayo said. “Obviously it hurts to lose a guy like Gonzo, but at the same time, we’re going through the game-planning process right now and we feel pretty confident that we have guys who can fill that role.”
The Patriots already have three cornerbacks — Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, and Isaiah Bolden — on injured reserve. And veteran Jonathan Jones, who is dealing with an ankle injury, hasn’t played since the opener against Philadelphia.
Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade saw increased playing time against Dallas after Gonzalez’s injury.
Mayo said Jalen Mills, whose playing time has dipped this season, also will be in the mix.
“He’s handled things outstandingly,” Mayo said. “It’s always tough when you don’t play as much as you want to play. All these guys are competitors, but he’s handled it as a true professional.
“We always talk about versatility. He’s another one of those guys when you talk about the injuries that we’ve had, he’s one of those guys that can play on the perimeter, play safety; if you need him in the box, he can do that, as well. We really need him to come through for us.”
Khari Thompson can be reached at email@example.com.