13 weeks into the regular season, the New England Patriots offense remains the team’s Achilles heel. Despite scoring 22 points during last week’s road loss against the Houston Texans — their most since Week 8 — quarterback Tom Brady and company were unable to consistently move the football down the field and put pressure on an opposing defense that ranked in the middle of the pack in scoring heading into the primetime contest.
During a media conference call after the game, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels preached patience and pointed out that his unit is not a finished product just yet and that it therefore remains a work in progress at this point in time: “I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product, and we do too, but at the same time you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to try to stick to it.”
It seems as if Patriots fans have a similar opinion when it comes to the team’s struggling offensive attack — at least when judged by the latest results of SB Nation’s FanPulse survey. Participants were asked whether or not they thought that New England “will figure things out” offensively over the last quarter of the regular season, and two-thirds of answered the question positively: 68% said “yes,” compared to only 32% who answered with “no.”
While the motives for answering the questions one way or the other are different for every individual voter, it would not be a surprise if last year’s developments were still fresh on the minds of those participating in the survey: before lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl, the Patriots offense struggled to find an identity and it took until Weeks 16 and 17 for the unit to develop its run-heavy style that powered the championship run.
Could 2019 be similar? Based on how quickly the team seemingly was able to flip the switch last year, it would not be a surprise. However, circumstances have changed quite a bit over the last 12 months with key players of last year’s turnaround such as Rob Gronkowski, James Develin and David Andrews no longer available. We could therefore see a different form of offensive evolvement over the next few weeks and into the playoffs.
One thing is clear, however, according to FanPulse participants: the run game is the least of their worries. When asked about the biggest issues for New England’s offense at this point in time, just 5% pointed to the ground game whereas 51% named the team’s receivers as the concern. This result was to be expected. After all, the Patriots have had a hard time moving the football through the air over their last few games with Brady and his pass catchers oftentimes not being on the same page.
Until the passing game starts to get consistent contributions from players not named Julian Edelman and James White, the unit will continue to struggle when going against defenses investing resources in stopping the Patriots’ top two skill-position players. While Tom Brady’s performance is not seen as too big an issue — 14% voted for him — he alone cannot turn the ship around if his receiving corps is unable to get into sync with him.
Ultimately, cautious optimism is nothing wrong considering how the Patriots have been able to adapt in years past and kickstart their offense late last season. But until they start showing results on the field, the number of those worrying about New England’s offense will naturally increase — all while the team will face some challenging opponents in two of their next three games (the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14, the Buffalo Bills in Week 16).
If you too are interested in participating in our FanPulse survey, please click here!