Patriots look to get offense back to midseason form
It might have been a bit much to expect the Patriots to sustain the run of offensive dominance they had during their seven-game win streak. Over the last month, the offense has not performed at the same level.
It's tough to pinpoint exactly what is ailing the unit, since it hasn't suffered any major losses in personnel, but there is no denying that numbers are down across the board.
And that includes the most important category: points scored.
During their midseason win streak, which began Oct. 5 against Cincinnati and ran through Nov. 23 against Detroit, the Patriots averaged 39.6 points per game, with only three touchdowns scored via defense or special teams.
Over the final five games of the regular season —
The Patriots were especially successful in the second quarter during their win streak, outscoring opponents, 108-33. Over the final five games, they were outscored in the second quarter, 54-41.
Not coincidentally, the Patriots trailed at halftime in four of those five games, though they rallied to beat the Chargers and Jets.
"We always want to try to get off to a good start and play from ahead. That's the goal every week," Bill Belichick said. "Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn't. It's a 60-minute game. You have to be able to play for four quarters, no matter what happens early in the game, good or bad, but you always want it to be good. We've had times when it has been. We've had times when it hasn't gone quite the way we wanted it to.
"[We] always have to play 60 minutes. We'll just keep trying to find a way to get off to a good start and finish strong."
There are other key areas where the Patriots have seen a decline: first downs (27.3 per game during the win streak, down to 20), third-down conversions (49 percent to 44.8 percent), and yards per game (435.9 to 320.6).
Quarterback protection may be part of the problem. Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo were sacked six times during the win streak and 10 times over the final five games, including four times each in the final two contests.
New England started Sunday's game against Buffalo without two starters on the offensive line, and lost a third, Nate Solder, during the first half.
Brady's completion percentage has dipped as well, from 67.9 during the win streak to 61.8 over the final five games.
Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have expressed displeasure over the performance of the offense in recent weeks, and Brady has looked frustrated on the field at times.
"I think everything works together and the protection and the routes and the throws and the catches — offensive football and scoring points is about great execution," Brady said. "If it's anything less than that, it's hard to score, unless somebody makes really a spectacular play. So if you have a breakdown on a throw, if you have a breakdown on a block, if you have a breakdown on a route, usually it doesn't result in a good play.
"And I think obviously in the first half [against Buffalo], we didn't have enough good plays to score enough points. We're trying. Hopefully we do a lot better job in a couple weeks. That's what it's going to take."
The Patriots have two weeks to get their offense back to midseason form.
"We have a lot of confidence as an offense. We've been able to score points against a lot of good teams, a lot of good defenses," Brady said. "Nothing that we've done this past season is going to help two weeks from now. What's going to matter is how well we prepare this week and how well we prepare next week and how ready we are to go whenever we play.
"I'm not worried about us lacking confidence, going out there, and executing. We've got a lot of good players."