Behind Enemy Lines: Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick focuses on Patriots’ execution
After winning three straight, the New England Patriots have dropped back-to-back games with question marks on the offensive side of the ball.
They take on a 4-8 Arizona Cardinals team that’s also fresh off its bye week and looking to turn a corner offensively.
Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Cardinals’ opponent each week this season.
Belichick wants the Patriots’ execution to improve – Wednesday
By The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — If the Patriots are going to fix their ongoing issues on offense, they will have to start by perfecting the things they’ve been struggling to do consistently over their first 12 games.
On Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick doubled down on what he said during an appearance on Boston’s WEEI radio on Monday, saying that major changes offensively simply aren’t feasible at this point of the season.
“We’re not going to go to the wishbone offense here. We’re not going to run the veer,” Belichick said. “Defensively, we’re not going to change and run some other team’s defense or whatever. Major changes? We wouldn’t be able to practice it.”
New England’s offensive rankings have slumped across the board as the season has progressed.
It is averaging just 20.75 points per game, which ranks 20th and it is currently tied with Denver for last in the league in red zone efficiency, having scored a touchdown on just 37.5% of its trips inside the 20-yard line (12 of 32).
But execution, not creativity, is the priority this week Belichick insisted as the Patriots (6-6) prepare to visit Arizona (4-8), losers of two straight and four of its past five.
“The system that we have in place I feel good about,” Belichick said. “Which includes the offensive staff, it includes me, it includes whatever the whole process is.”
That process clearly isn’t progressing as fast as his players would like.
In a rare show of outward frustration, quarterback Mac Jones was captured by TV cameras expressing a need for throwing the ball deeper downfield during the Patriots’ 24-10 loss to Buffalo last week.
The numbers back up those concerns.
Jones is averaging just 5.3 yards in the air per completed pass this season, down from 5.8 his rookie season.
Receiver Kendrick Bourne said at least part of the reason the offense might not be getting more chunk plays in the passing game is that Jones isn’t being given time.
“We’ve got to get the ball downfield,” Bourne said following the Buffalo loss. “Mac needs more time. He’s obviously running around. So, it’s hard for him to get the ball downfield when you can’t really have time for him to throw. That’s no knock to the (offensive line), it’s just what we need to work on. Receivers can’t do nothing if the ball can’t get downfield. If we can’t throw it past 5 yards, it’s just going to be a long game. … We have plays, but we can’t get to them. We’re calling them, but they’re just not working.”
The Patriots’ offensive line was down a pair of tackles against the Bills with Trent Brown (foot) and Yodny Cajuste (calf and back) both out.
Some relief could come this week with Marcus Cannon (concussion) eligible to return from injured reserve.
But veteran center David Andrews said there’s no time to dwell on what’s gone wrong to this point.
“We’re 6-6. We’ve got five games left. We can do whatever we want to do and it can go one way or the other,” he said. “I think everyone’s committed to trying to turn it around and making it go the right way. That’s all we can do.”
NOTES: Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy is the Patriots’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Andrews was named the Patriots’ nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
Patriots sticking with what they have offensively – Monday
By Tyler Drake
The Patriots are among a handful of teams needing some kind of change.
Losers of two straight entering Week 14 but still just a game back in the AFC Wild Card, one would think head coach Bill Belichick might flip the switch and make a few changes with the postseason closing in.
But from the sounds of the future Hall of Famer on Monday, that would do more harm than good at this point in the season.
“I think we need to do what we’re doing better,” Belichick told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show when asked about if a play-caller change is needed. “I don’t think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes is – it’s too hard to do that. If we can just do consistently what we were doing, we’ll be alright.
“We just haven’t been able to have enough consistency. It’s not one thing. One time, it’s one thing. Next time, it’s something else. We just have to play and coach more consistently.”
With defensive-minded Matt Patricia calling plays — who took over for the departed Josh McDaniels — it’s been a roller coaster of a season for the New England offense.
Currently, the Patriots are 24th in total offense (318.9 per game), 23rd in run offense (104.9), 20th in points scored (20.8), 28th in passing touchdowns (12) and have given up the ninth most sacks allowed (32) in the NFL.
“It’s been a combination of things on every front really — coaching, playing, penalties,” Belichick told WEEI. “We’ve had some high-penalty games and we’ve had some low-penalty games. We’ve had some turnover games and then we’ve had some no-turnover games, and so forth.
“It hasn’t always been the same problem, or it hasn’t been the same problem on certain plays. Sometimes that’s shifted. And there’s certainly been some plays that haven’t matched up well against the defense when they were called. So whether that’s the design of the play or the way it hit against a certain defense, those have come up as well.”