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Internal unity in the spotlight amid Patriots’ prolonged offensive struggles

New England’s offense has struggled mightily so far this year.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ current 1-5 record is not the result of a total breakdown across the board. Instead, it is a consequence of the team’s offense being unable to pull its weight through the first six weeks of the season.

That fact has led to some frustration inside the building. It has not caused a noticeable rift within the team so far, however.

As linebacker Jahlani Tavai claimed after the Patriots’ recent loss — a 21-17 defeat at than hands of the Las Vegas Raiders — the mindset on defense is not one of assigning blame to the other side of the ball. Instead, the focus is on itself.

“We got the offense’s back no matter what,” Tavai told WEEI’s Gresh & Fauria. “They’re going to have some plays where they struggle. But it’s on us as a defense to make sure that we do our job, get the ball back into their hands. And if we got to go back out there again then we’ll keep repeating that process where we just have to make sure we do our job.

“I know that might be stressful for some people, but me and the other guys who are on the football field on defense we’re ready for any challenge. We have no grudge or whatsoever with the offense. We just have to make sure we have their backs no matter what.”

Tavai’s message is consistent with what the defense has been saying throughout the season. Even with the offense taking a step back and at one point failing to score a touchdown in 39 straight possessions, the unit’s leadership was trying to keep players focused on their own side of the ball.

That said, linebackers coach and de facto co-defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo recently acknowledged that some friction does exist.

“I would be lying if I said players don’t feel some of that,” he said. “At the same time, us as coaches, it’s our job to remind them we’re not on that side of the ball. Let’s continue to get them the ball and see what happens. That’s pretty much how we approach it.”

Through six games, the Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in scoring and 24th in points against. That latter number, however, is deceiving: without the offense giving up four touchdowns off of turnovers for 29 total points, New England would rank 17th in scoring defense.

The difference is even more pronounced when using a metric such as expected points added. Whereas the offense ranks dead-last in that category (-0.225), the defense is a comparatively solid 15th (-0.030).

“As the season goes on, there are a lot of ebbs and flows,” said Mayo. “What I try to relay to the defense is don’t get discouraged. Go out and do your job.”