Mazz: The Patriots new offense? Grip it and whip it
September 20th, 2022
Well, this is going to take some getting used to.
The Patriots’ offense hasn’t exactly been something to brag about in the early part of this season, but if you’ve detected a change beyond the ongoing debate about the zone blocking scheme, you’re not alone. Once the executioners of death by a thousand paper cuts, the Patriots suddenly are a team that has embraced the coin flip – otherwise known as the 50-50 ball. If this seems an odd development from the world’s greatest control freak, Bill Belichick, it is. The idea of leaving something to chance seems like something Belichick would never do – at least until now.
So why the change? Good question. Maybe the Pats want Mac Jones to be aggressive because they need some element of explosiveness (read: chunk plays) in their offense. Maybe Belichick doesn’t think his team can execute a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive without committing a penalty (the Pats had seven offensive penalties on Sunday), allowing a sack or committing a turnover. Whatever it, the Pats are basically chucking it up there at least a handful of times per game with mixed results.
Here’s what Jones offered up after Sunday’s touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor:
“And he’s one of those guys that I put in the throw-it-up-to-him category. And he’s going to have to make the play,” he said. “So if it’s one-on-one, I’ll give him a shot. Obviously, had time with the offensive line and I think all our receivers can do that, if they’re one-on-one, I’m going to give them a chance. Different philosophy, but that’s what we need to do.”
Here’s a snapshot look at how it has worked so far:
Week 1 at Miami: Jones to DeVante Parker gets intercepted
It was first-and-10 from the Miami 22-yard on the game’s opening drive – and then it all went poof. The Pats ended up losing the game 20-7 and, curiously, Bill Belichick seemed to defend the play.
“It was a close play. [Xavien] Howard made a good play on the ball and then it ended up – which most of those ended up on the ground – and that one ended up back up in the air, and then [Jevon] Holland came over and got it. So it was a good play on their part. Kind of went their way. Holland made a good play on the ball, ran it back to the 20 yard line or whatever it was. So, could we execute it a little bit better? I mean, sure.”
Kind of went their way.
Week 1 at Miami: Mac Jones complete to Jakobi Meyers on third-and-8
Different receiver, different result. The Patriots didn’t score on this possession, but Jakobi Meyers makes a nice catch on the right sideline by doing what Parker did not – jumping and fighting for the ball. Remember Jones’ comment above. If they’re one-on-one, I’m going to give them a chance. The point is that the Patriots seem intent on taking their chance if it’s man-to-man or single coverage, which puts the onus on the pass catchers. Now the obvious question: are they good enough?
Week 1 at Miami: Fourth-and-1 from the Miami 28
Given that the Pats trailed 17-0 at the time – halfway through the fourth quarter – they needed points and decided to go for it. But the play call nonetheless seemed unlike them. Again, Jones tosses it up to Parker, who fails to come down with the catch. However, Howard was called for illegal contact earlier in the play. resulting in a first down and, eventually, a Patriots touchdown from Jones to Ty Montgomery. Does that mean the logic worked? Maye yes, maybe no. But getting penalties on these plays is undoubtedly part of the Patriots calculus.
Week 2 at Pittsburgh: Jones to Parker intercepted by Minkah Fitzpatrick
Remember, the goal is to identify one-on-coverage, particularly in a mismatch. Parker is lined up against linebacker Robert Spillane and appears to have him beaten, but safety Minkah Fitzpatrick comes over to help on the play and makes an easy interception. While it’s easy to blame the philosophy, it certainly feels like Jones was fooled by the coverage. (“The one interception wasn’t good by me, but I’ll get that cleaned up and make sure we see it all the way through,” he said.) Like the interception to Jones, the interception came on the plus side of the field.
Week 2 at Pittsburgh: Jones to Nelson Agholor for a touchdown
Like the interception by Fitzpatrick, this throw came on third down in the middle of the field. (The Fitzpatrick pick came on third-and-5 from the Patriots’ 44-yard line. This touchdown came on third-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 44.) Jones gets one-on-one coverage against Agholor on the right sideline and tosses up a true jump ball, which Agholor plucks away from defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon for a touchdown and a 10-3 Pats lead with 22 seconds left in the half. The Pats’ only other touchdown came on a Damien Harris run after the Steelers muffed a punt deep in their own territory.