Their Week 5 victory over the Houston Texans was basically a tale of two halves for the New England Patriots. The team started sloppy on both sides of the ball, before finding its rhythm midway through the third quarter and erasing a 13-point deficit to win with a final score of 25-22.
It was not pretty, but the Patriots did make enough plays in the end to fly back to the Northeast victoriously. For the first 32 minutes of the game, however, arguably the biggest issue of their season was on full display yet again: inconsistency.
Whether it was turnovers courtesy of quarterback Mac Jones (interception) and running back Damien Harris (red zone fumble), multiple mishaps in coverage, or questionable play calling, the Patriots seemingly continued to stand in their own way while falling behind by two scores. They eventually settled down and played some good situational football down the stretch, but their consistency issues almost cost them again.
Head coach Bill Belichick spoke about this problem as well after the game, particularly in regards to New England’s third down defense.
“The biggest thing was third down conversions. They converted almost every third down in the first half. Penalties, we had a couple — well, one penalty on third down conversion, hit a couple slants, short yardage plays, scramble play. It was just ... not very good on third down. We got them in third down. Just didn’t win on third down,” Belichick said during his postgame press conference.
“That changed in the second half. I thought the running game, that settled down, but it was really the third down conversions that ended up being a big difference for us defensively. They did not get the time of possession, and they weren’t able to sustain the drives like they did in the first half.”
The Texans ended the game having gone just 6-for-14 on third down (42.9%), but most of their success came early on in the contest. In the first half, they moved the chains on 5 of 9 such plays (55.6%). Furthermore, they converted all three of the fourth downs they attempted.
New England’s defense had numerous chances to get off the field, but it failed to do so. That all changed in the second half and it allowed the team to bounce back.
Despite that positive development, Belichick knows that his squad needs to start playing more consistent football. He said so again while appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday morning.
“I’d say it’s kind of the theme of the year, really: consistency and doing things at a good level for all 60 minutes,” he said. “Not just parts of the game, whether it’s the beginning or the end, whatever it is, just doing it for 60 minutes.”