The New England Patriots have an enormous downside.
As soon as they enter the pink zone on offense, a landing turns into an not possible activity.
This incapacity to complete drives with touchdowns, and their lack of execution within the pink zone, was on full show of their Thanksgiving evening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. On an evening the place quarterback Mac Jones put collectively certainly one of his finest performances of the season, finishing 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards and a pair of touchdowns, New England got here out on the dropping finish by a last rating of 33-26.
What did they do on offense after they reached the pink zone? Not a lot in any respect. The Patriots had two drives attain the top zone, one earlier than halftime and one other early within the third quarter.
Each resulted in discipline targets from Nick People.
In all, the Patriots ran 9 performs on offense within the pink zone Thursday evening. The outcomes? A 3-yard run from Damien Harris, a seven-yard loss on a reverse from Kendrick Bourne, a sack for no achieve, a 13-yard completion to Nelson Agholor, a quarterback spike to cease the clock, a one-yard run from Rhamondre Stevenson, and three incompletions. (If you wish to fold in yet one more play, that got here after the seven-yard loss that pushed them out of the pink zone, then you’ll be able to add in a five-yard completion to Agholor).
9 performs. 13 yards. No touchdowns, and 6 factors.
Sure, there’s a little bit of controversy round a type of incompletions, because it regarded as if Jones and Hunter Henry had linked on a six-yard landing cross on their drive within the third quarter. However upon overview the play was dominated incomplete for, let’s simply say causes, and the Patriots settled for one more discipline aim.
You make the decision:
Even when that decision was allowed to face, it will have been simply New England’s thirteenth landing on 31 pink zone journeys this season, giving them a pink zone landing share of 42.0%.
That isn’t nice firm.
What have been the problems on Thursday evening within the pink zone? The identical points we have now seen crop up from the Patriots’ offense within the pink zone all season: An general lack of consistency. Failures in cross safety, curious offensive play-calls, and missed alternatives within the passing sport.
Take the reverse to Bourne. New England was handed an ideal alternative to take a 14-7 lead late within the first quarter after Jonathan Jones intercepted Kirk Cousins, and returned the interception all the way down to the Minnesota 17-yard line.
After a three-yard run from Harris on 1st and 10 play, the Patriots face a 2nd and seven on the Vikings’ 14-yard line. This play, nevertheless, is lifeless from the beginning. Watch as Za’Darius Smith, the bottom edge defender, stays residence and is in place to make the play. However he’s not alone, as heart James Ferentz is tasked with blocking defensive deal with Harrison Phillips, who’s aligned over the left guard. Ferentz tries to get there, however Phillips shoots within him:
That put New England into a third and 14 scenario. Minnesota rushes simply 4 on the following play, dropping into Quarters/Cowl 4. The Patriots run a flat-seven/smash mixture on the left, with Henry working a deep nook route and Bourne releasing to the flat. Agholor runs a shallow crosser, working right-to-left, whereas DaVante Parker runs a put up route ranging from the best facet of the sphere.
There may be maybe a window for Jones to squeeze in a throw to Henry on the nook route, however he’s pressured off the best edge by Danielle Hunter, who beats proper deal with Yondy Cajuste. As an alternative of making an attempt to pressure within the throw to Henry, Jones throws the shallow and the Patriots convey on Nick People:
Late within the first half, the Patriots once more had an opportunity to place a landing on the board, with a drive within the closing minutes that bought down into the pink zone. However with only one timeout remaining, New England wanted to be good with clock administration.
On a 1st and 10 play from the Vikings’ 18-yard line, they regarded to push the ball into the top zone, however inside stress pressured Jones off the spot early within the down, and he slid to the turf after a fast scramble, forcing the Patriots to burn that one timeout:
The Vikings have a pass-rushing package deal within the sport, that places Smith inside over rookie left guard Cole Unusual. The rookie slides out in the direction of Smith, however provides up his inside edge, and that’s precisely the place the cross rusher assaults. Jones hits his drop depth and hitches up within the pocket, however as he begins his throwing movement — maybe to focus on Henry on an out-breaking path to the best facet of the sphere — the QB sees a flash of shade on the within.
Jones pulls the ball down, and ultimately provides himself up.
The Patriots would choose up a primary down on the following play, with Jones hitting Agholor for a achieve of 13. However missing timeouts, Jones is pressured to spike the soccer, stopping the clock with 9 seconds left within the half. New England tried yet one more play to achieve the top zone, calling for a 4 verticals idea, however Jones’s throw to Bourne is damaged up:
Maybe if New England nonetheless had their final timeout, Jones would have hung within the pocket a second longer and regarded to one of many inside seam routes, each of which break open after he releases this throw. However with the clock a problem, he’s pressured to make a fast learn and throw, and he tries to attach with Bourne, and the cross falls incomplete.
Additionally, if the Patriots nonetheless had that timeout, maybe they might attempt yet one more offensive play. As an alternative, they bring about on People.
Their last pink zone possession, the one which ended with the Henry play that was dominated an incompletion, began this fashion:
There appears to be some confusion right here.
The Patriots align in an empty formation, with Stevenson aligned exterior and Agholor within the slot. Agholor runs a fast out route, however with the working again working a fast hitch, each receivers are in the identical space. Jones’s throw sails over each their heads, and falls incomplete.
Having poured via many variations of New England’s playbook through the years, except offensive coordinator Matt Patricia put in some new route mixture, somebody made a mistake.
One other discipline aim can be the top outcome.
New England is making an attempt to maintain tempo in a particularly aggressive AFC East, and stay within the playoff hunt in a deep convention. However their ineffectiveness within the pink zone, and their inconsistency in that space of the sphere, is an issue. Returning to the pink zone landing share rankings for a second, of all of the groups within the playoff hunt within the AFC, the Patriots — raking thirty first — are ten spots behind the following AFC competitor, the Baltimore Ravens who rank twenty first.
Even the New York Jets, who simply benched Zach Wilson, have scored a landing on over half of their pink zone possessions. 55.2% of the time to be precise, in stark distinction to New England’s 38.7%. (Once more, even if you wish to give New England credit score for Henry’s play in opposition to Minnesota, that solely bumps them to 42%).
The Patriots must get higher down within the pink zone, and with Stevenson and Harris, two excellent working backs, you’ll assume they might be higher in that space of the sphere. In opposition to Minnesota, their under-center play-action passing sport was clicking on performs like this one to Henry:
Maybe continued success on designs like this one will create higher scoring probabilities for the Patriots within the pink zone as effectively.
However till the Patriots work out these points, and enhance within the pink zone on offense, they will see extra drives finish in discipline targets.
Which is never, if ever, a successful proposition within the NFL.