The New England Patriots offense has been among the least productive in the NFL so far this season, and the team’s upcoming opponent has taken note as well.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph gave a brief overview of the attack his unit will face against the Patriots on Monday Night Football. While he did praise New England’s ability to run the football, it appears he does not see the team’s passing attack as overly threatening.
Joseph summed up his feelings on the unit in one phrase, claiming that the Patriots offense would look like it was being called by a defensive coach.
“I see an offense that’s running the football well,” Joseph said. “It’s a very conservative pass game. Lots of screens — a ton of screens. It’s like a defensive guy’s calling offense. It’s how a defensive guy would call offensive plays, right? Let’s not turn the ball over; let’s get four yards a play; let’s try to burn clock. That’s what they’re doing, and that’s what he’s going to do on Monday night.”
Joseph is not wrong in his assessment. The Patriots offense does look like it is being called by a defensive coach because, frankly, it is: assistant coach Matt Patricia, who is responsible for play-calling, has spent the majority of his coaching career on defense — including six years as their coordinator on that side of the ball.
He took over as a leading offensive coach this offseason, following the departure of long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels. Since then, he and the rest of the coaching staff have tried to transform the unit into a more streamlined one capable of taking deep shots.
So far, however, that process has not worked well. While head coach Bill Belichick expressed his approval for the system in place earlier this week, the results have been largely disappointing.
Through 13 weeks, the Patriots are ranked near the bottom of the league in several major categories. The group is ranked just 23rd in the NFL in scoring, averaging just 18.4 points per game (without any defensive or special teams touchdowns),
Additionally, it checks in at No. 22 in turnovers (17), 25 on third downs (36.2%) and 26 in expected points added (-0.050). It is also tied for worst in the league in red zone success rate (37.5%).
And yet, Belichick said that no major changes should be expected anytime soon. The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator seems to agree with this, and projects Patricia to make his usual decisions in terms of play-calling and play-selection.
“He’s going to be patient, maybe take a shot here from time to time,” Joseph said. “But for the most part, it’s run game, it’s quick game and it’s screens.”