The New England Patriots did not play their best 60 minutes of football against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9, with the offense in particular having a rough time early on. The unit turned the football over twice, was plagued by penalties, and repeatedly put itself behind the sticks.
Eventually, however, the Patriots were able to steady the ship and to cruise to a 24-6 victory that saw all three phases of the game contribute. Still, Sunday’s game showed that New England has plenty of room for improvement despite its three-game winning streak — something center David Andrews also mentioned after the game.
“We’ve been working really hard and we have to continue that this week,” Andrews said during his postgame press conference. “It was a great team win. I thought we did some things really well and there’s always some things that we can clean up. We’ll learn from that and we did some things to hurt ourselves, and so we have to fix that and correct that. When we executed, we had success so that’s got to be our formula every week.”
What exactly does that formula look like, though? Andrews explained that creating favorable down-and-distance situations was the key for New England.
“We put ourselves in some not advantageous positions early on with long yardage and that kind of distorts some things,” he said. “I really thought when we put the drives together and did what we wanted to stay ahead on down and distance we had good results and positive plays. That’s got to be our formula.”
Head coach Bill Belichick sang a similar tune after the game.
“There are 11 guys out there, so when we were able to work well together, we had more production,” he said. “We put ourselves in some long-yardage situations with the penalties which are definitely a problem. 1st-and-15, 1st-and-20, 2nd-and-25 — those are tough situations. Those pre-snap penalties are definitely our fault. There’s no other way around it, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to be able to run plays without that stuff happening.”
When following the formula, the Patriots did find some success against Carolina especially after a sloppy first quarter. With the running game finding plenty of success and with rookie quarterback Mac Jones distributing the ball quickly to counter a ferocious pass rush, New England was able to put itself in favorable positions and to control the flow of the game down the stretch.
Of course, it helped that the defense did its part as well: it limited Carolina to a combined six points off of two turnovers, and registered three takeaways — including a pick-six by cornerback J.C. Jackson.
As for the defense, the formula also remains the same according to linebacker Matthew Judon.
“One game at a time,” he said. “I think if you ask anybody on this team, that is how we have been taking it. We had some tough games and we had some tough losses, but right now it is one game at a time. We have to continue to stack the wins and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have good opponents in the next coming weeks and we have got a short week coming up. So, we have to make sure we stack these wins. It is one week at a time.”
Their approach has helped the Patriots win three straight games, and to reinsert themselves into the playoff picture after a disappointing 2-4 start. Now, it is all about following the formula for success that has brought them to this point.