The Patriots Must Open Up The Playbook To Have Postseason Success

This season for the Patriots has been interesting to say the least. After Cam Newton was initially listed as the starting quarterback, rookie first round pick Mac Jones beat him out in training camp and has had a promising start to his young career. At one point, he had New England in first place in the AFC and the football world thought Bill Belichick brought them back to the NFL’s elite tier. However, the Patriots have dropped their past two games, ultimately being outclassed by the Colts and AFC East rival Buffalo Bills, who regained control of the division with the win in Foxboro last Sunday. Sitting at 9-6 and currently the 6th seed in the AFC playoff picture, the Patriots have glaring flaws from the standpoint of offensive approach and it has evidently limited the team’s potential.

Let me preface by saying that I understand that the Patriots are a run-first team and having a dominant run game is definitely a huge luxury going into the postseason. That being said, the reality is that the run game is only a luxury if you’re able to keep the defense honest by also having a quarterback who can make plays downfield. Personally, I believe Mac Jones can do this. Whenever the Patriots are down in games and they have to go away from the run game, Mac shows a capability of stringing together completions and moving downfield in a timely manner. We saw it in the 4th quarter in Indianapolis where he led the Patriots to a 17 point quarter including two touchdown passes. We even saw it this past weekend against Buffalo as Jones had multiple 4th down conversions towards the end of the game and showed that he can make adjustments on the fly and create for his teammates. Although they lost both of these games, you have to wonder what the outcome would have been if offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels allowed the rookie to attempt to make big plays and spread out the defense in the first three quarters of the game.

The point I’m trying to make is that the Patriots’ system is limiting the ceiling of Mac Jones and the team as a whole. They need to stop treating him like he’s nothing but a game manager, because we’ve seen multiple times this season that he can sling it when the circumstances call for it. The other thing is that the current game plan simply puts too much pressure on the defense. Whenever the Patriots go down by two scores, it is almost impossible to come back because they stay true to the run game for too long and are never able to get back into games quickly. The result of this is an enormous amount of pressure on the defense to force three and outs every possession so that the Patriots can get the ball back quickly and continue their 20th century style offense that eats away at the clock. The AFC Playoffs will have very talented young quarterbacks, highlighted by Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and of course Josh Allen. If the Patriots want to go on a deep playoff run, they will have to be prepared to possibly have to play from behind and it is paramount that they’re comfortable throwing downfield to keep up with these superstar quarterbacks. While it’s certainly important to use the run game to keep these guys off the field, the one-dimensional, predictable run-heavy approach that the Patriots have right now just won’t work against these high-octane offensive teams.

I’m not saying that the Patriots have to change their entire identity, but they won’t go far in the playoffs if they continue neglecting their passing game. It’s time for them to trust Mac Jones and give him the opportunity to be a real asset to this team instead of just handing the ball off all game long. It all starts this week, as a home game against Jacksonville is a great time to try out new things that can potentially help come playoff time. Let’s hope that we see a more creative Josh McDaniels these last two weeks of the season.

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