Cardinals defensive coordinator pulls no punches when discussing Patriots offense
December 9th, 2022
In the media both locally and nationally there’s been plenty of criticism of the Patriots’ offense this season. After all, they’re on pace to average one touchdown less per game, going from 27.2 points per game last year to 20.8 this year. The unit ranks 20th in the NFL in scoring, just a year after finishing sixth in that category last year.
The media are going to talk. That’s what they – or we – do. What’s much less common is hearing those same talking points coming from an opponent. Yet that’s exactly what happened on Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was speaking with reporters ahead of his team’s upcoming Monday Night Football matchup with the Patriots. When asked about what he sees in the Patriots’ offense, Joseph delivered an answer that – at least by the transcript – would be right at home on Felger & Mazz.
“I see an offense that’s running the football well. It’s a very conservative pass game. Lots of screens. All kinds of screens,” Joseph noted. “It’s like a defensive guy is calling offense.”
As we all know, the Patriots do have “a defensive guy calling offense.” Matt Patricia is the presumed offensive play caller as well as offensive line coach, after spending the majority of his career on the defensive side of the ball. Patricia was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator from 2012-2017 before becoming the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2018. He returned to New England in 2021 as a ‘Senior Football Advisor’ before having the other two responsibilities added to his title this year.
“It’s how a defensive guy would call offensive plays, right?,” Joseph continued. “Let’s not turn the ball over. Let’s get four yards a play. Try to burn clock. That’s what they’re doing. That’s what he’s going to do on Monday night. He’s going to be patient. Maybe take a shot from time to time. But for the most part, it’s running game, it’s quick game and it’s screens.”
Now Joseph, who chuckled at times during his answer, isn’t spewing a hot take here – despite what it might sound like. He’s a football coach giving an assessment of what he sees in his opponent. Nothing he points out here hasn’t been said about this Patriots team before, it’s just more jarring hearing it come from an opposing coach given the context of where it’s being said.
Thinking about it on a football level, what Joseph is saying makes a lot of sense. What’s the biggest play a defense can make? A turnover. So approaching offense from a defensive point of view, it would be logical that limiting turnovers at all costs would be a top priority. Long drives that keep the offense on the sideline are another thorn in defenses sides, so playing a time of possession friendly game would also fit into that category.
As much as this all may sound like criticism from Joseph – who like Patricia has been a defensive coach his whole life and had a stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2017-2018 – it’s mostly just facts from that football point of view. Let’s take a closer look at some of what he said.
“Lots of screens.” The Patriots’ screen rate with Mac Jones in at quarterback is 14.5 percent. That’s the sixth-highest among qualified quarterbacks this season.
“Let’s not turn the ball over.” The Patriots are tied for the fewest turnovers in the league (2) since Jones returned as the full-time quarterback in Week 8.
“Try to burn clock.” The Patriots average drive time of 2:42 ranks 20th in the NFL, despite their 5.5 average plays per drive ranking 29th.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 26: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 and senior football advisor Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots talk on a sideline during their preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 23-6. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
As for the overall conservative approach of the Patriots’ offense and specifically the passing game, that really clicked in when Jones fully returned from his injury for that Week 8 game against the Jets. The Patriots actually had Jones looking like a gunslinger the first three weeks before he got hurt, but pulled a 180 when came back in the lineup.
Over the first three weeks of the season, Jones’ average depth of target was 10.3 yards downfield, which ranked third among qualifying passers. From Week 8 on though that number has dropped to 5.9 yards per attempt, which ranks 36th.
While this is meant to be an honest football assessment from Joseph, it’s also prime bulletin board material for Patricia and the Patriots’ offense. Will they be able to make Joseph regret his comments? We’ll see Monday night.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.