Through the first two games of the season, the Patriots offense has had trouble finishing what it has started.
For most of the season's eight quarters, New England has been able to move the ball up and down the field fairly easily. In the first half of the season-opener against the Bills, the Patriots had 217 net yards. On Sunday against the Jets, it was much the same story — the Patriots gained 197 net yards in the first half alone.
But when New England has gotten close to the end zone, the offense has sputtered to a halt. The Patriots have gotten inside the opposing 25-yard line on nine occasions through the first two games, and they have just three touchdowns to show for it.
It happened six times against the Bills, and the Patriots came away with three touchdowns, including just one in their first four attempts. It happened three times against the Jets, and New England came away with no touchdowns. (In fact, New England had just 11 total yards of offense in the Jets’ red zone Sunday.) Sunday’s game marked the first time since 2006 the Patrots offense did not produce a touchdown.
Take away the final 5½ minutes of the fourth quarter against the Bills, when Tom Brady found Benjamin Watson with touchdown passes on back-to-back possessions, and that ratio dips to just one touchdown in seven trips inside the 25.
While the Patriots were able to escape with a win over Buffalo, the Jets made them pay for their missed opportunities. At the Meadowlands, New England was at New York’s 17-yard line or better three times in the first half.
“We were in the red zone three times, and we came away with three field goals,” tight end Chris Baker said after Sunday’s game. “That’s not going to win in this league. We didn’t make the plays. We have to obviously correct that problem. We’ve had that problem two weeks in a row.”
This pace will make kicker Stephen Gostkowski a Pro Bowler — he’s hit on five consecutive field goal attempts and is tied for third in the league in total points with 16.
But for a team that has so much offensive talent, it’s puzzling. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it was a collection of events that conspired to leave New England’s red zone offense stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.
“I don’t think it was one thing. I think it was a combination of things,” Belichick said.
Asked if it was related to down-and-distance, Belichick elaborated.
“No, I think that transcended the whole game,” he said. “There were things during the game; sometimes it was good, sometimes it was OK, sometimes it wasn’t very good. That happened on all downs. That happened on all field position. It happened in all three phases of the game. It just wasn’t consistent enough.
“Overall, it just wasn’t good enough.”
One of the reasons is simply bad football — two holding penalties marred the Pats' first red zone appearance on Sunday against New York. In addition, Brady is clearly still struggling to find a rhythm with his receivers after a year away from the game, and as a result, there were several missed connections on Sunday, including passes to Julian Edelman and Randy Moss that were off the mark.
Regardless of what the problem is, members of the offense know they have to get it turned around quickly.
“Obviously, if we had our way, we’d score 40 points every game and it’d be easy,” running back Sammy Morris told reporters on Monday. “But sometimes, that’s what the games come down to, especially in this league.
“Execution. It’s a combination of probably bad reads on our part sometimes and maybe just one missed block up front,” he added. “I think it’s just overall execution.”