There was perhaps no better stat to summarize Thursday night’s 24-10 defeat to the Buffalo Bills than each team’s third down efficiency. As Buffalo converted 9-of-15 third downs, the Patriots mustered just three conversions on 12 attempts.
For the Patriots’ offense, it continued a troubling theme from this season of not being able to extend drives.
“It’s a combination of things, so there’s a lot of things we could to do better,” Bill Belichick said postgame. “Some of it’s third down, some of it’s first and second down.”
Entering the week, it appeared New England’s game plan was to attack Buffalo in the quick game, forcing the Bills defense - who have been one of the weaker tackling teams in the league this season - to make plays after the catch.
“The coaches have a really good plan for what they thinks going to work for that week,” Mac Jones explained postgame. “Today was just kind of like the quick game and get the ball outside and make everyone tackle.”
Once the game started, however, Buffalo’s defense had all the answers for anything New England threw at them. Jones and the passing attacked averaged just 4.9 yards per pass as they worked the short passing concepts.
On the night, New England scored just one touchdown - a screen pass to cornerback Marcus Jones who took it 48 yards to the house - as they were unable to move the ball downfield.
“We got to get the ball downfield,” Kendrick Bourne said of the passing issues. “I think Mac needs more time, he’s obviously running around so, it’s hard to get the ball downfield when you can't really doesnt have time to throw. No knock to the line it’s just what we need to work on. The receivers can't do nothing if the ball can't get downfield. If we can't throw it past five yards, it’s going to be a long game.”
“We just got to be able to get the ball downfield. We have plays, but we can't get to them. We’re calling them, they're just not working. We’re throwing five-yard routes and that's what we catch so it looks one way. Hopefully we can get Mac more time so we can make the plays.”
The poor results led to obvious frustration on the Patriots’ sideline. Mac Jones was seen on the Amazon broadcast proclaiming his frustrations on the bench, which he explained had to do with the lack of success in the quick game.
“We were kind of playing from behind and what I said was about throwing it deeper within the short game,” Jones said. “I got to execute that better but it’s the short game that we kept going too - which is working - but I felt like we needed chunk plays and I shouted that out to get everyone going.”
“It wasn’t directed at anybody, just emotion coming out and we kind of needed a spark.”
Credit can be given to the talented Bills defense, but they were also without two of their best defenders.
“No Von Miller, we gotta take advantage of that. No Micah Hyde, things like that. We have to take advantage of those things,” Bourne added. “They’re playing a different scheme. They’re more soft in what they’re doing, so they’re more conservative. We’ve gotta take advantage and not just have 5-yard throws and moving slow. We need to be able to attack and put pressure on the defense.”
The Patriots now have a long layoff till their Week 14 game Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps extra time can help the offense find their footing.
“We need to scheme up better,” Bourne said. “We need to know what they're doing. We need to know what they wanna do on third down. They call this and we call that, and it falls right into what they want. We need to have it where they're falling into what we want.
“It’s not my job, it’s my job to just run the call. But as we all can see, they had, what, 30 first downs and we only had eight. So, something they were doing against us was working and something we were doing against them wasn't working. It’s just about figuring it out each week.”