Hunter Henry reacts to one of eight TD grabs in the red zone in 2021. He’s still looking to celebrate his first of 2022. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Former Jaguars and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had his own way of telling time. Clocks in his teams’ facilities were set five minutes ahead. While players for both franchises lived in the Eastern time zone, they worked on ‘Coughlin Time.’
Coughlin also chose to uniquely color the field when discussing the most valuable 19 yards in football. What others think of as the ‘red zone,’ Coughlin called the ‘green zone.’
In his Irish eyes, green meant go; red stood for stop. Obviously, defenses play for the stop; offenses go for green.
Playing off the same color scheme with a different metaphor, money downs occur inside the 20. Either you maximize profits or leave points on the table.
Regardless of what we call it — here on out, we’ll revert to red zone — the Patriots have too often failed to fully cash in. At Minnesota, they went 0-for-3. Three red-zone drives. Thirteen total yards. Three field goals.
Ranked 31st in the league, ahead of only Denver, the Pats have scored touchdowns on just 38.7 percent of red-zone opportunities. According to Pro-Football Reference, they’ve had 81 plays inside the 20-yard line.
Forty-three were rushing attempts. Eight of those were touchdowns. But Damien Harris hasn’t scored since Week 4 at Green Bay. Rhamondre Stevenson hasn’t plowed into the end zone since Week 8 vs. Chicago.
Patriots quarterbacks have dropped back to pass 38 times in the red zone. They’ve thrown for four touchdowns and been sacked four times. Mac Jones’ three red-zone TD passes were targeted to Ty Montgomery, Jakobi Meyers and Stevenson. Bailey Zappe’s one found Tyquan Thornton.
Tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry have been targeted nine times inside the 20 and caught four passes. Whereas Henry had eight catches, all for touchdowns, last season in the red zone, his two scores this fall came on 31- and 37-yard completions.
Big receiver DeVante Parker was acquired in the offseason after making 26 red-zone grabs, including 15 for TDs, in 93 career games as a Dolphin. In his first 10 outings as a Patriot, Parker’s single red-zone reception lost a yard. His other red-zone target was intercepted.
In five of the Patriots’ final six games, they’ll have to outscore offenses ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in points: Buffalo (2nd), Cincinnati (5th), Miami (6th) and Las Vegas (10th). The only way to keep up and eventually outscore them is by going green when in the red zone.