Hannable: Sunday showed why Patriots should be thrilled with Josh McDaniels, but he needs to do it again vs. Chiefs


Josh McDaniels has called just over 200 games (201 by our count) for the Patriots in his two stints, and it’s hard to remember one as good as Sunday against the Chargers.

McDaniels called as close to a perfect game as a coordinator could call in the Patriots’ 41-28 win, which wasn’t indicative of how much better the home team was considering they were up 35-7 at halftime.

Just look at everything the Patriots offense did in the game:

— Scored on its first four possessions.

— Picked up 30 first downs on 78 offensive plays.

— Won time of possession 38:20-21:40.

—  Allowed zero sacks.

— Had seven different players catch passes, totaling 343 net passing yards, while also having 155 yards on the ground.

And it wasn’t like the Patriots played a poor defense, either. 

The Chargers finished the regular season eighth in points allowed and ninth overall. The 41 points were the most the unit had allowed since 2011.

“I think Josh is a great play-caller,” Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. “He does an excellent job of attacking, keeping the defense off-balance, but most importantly doing the things that we do well so that we're running things that we can execute. He does a great job of that. It was really the key to the whole day. We ran a variety of different plays – dropbacks, play-actions, inside runs, outside runs, gap runs, zone runs. Ultimately it was great execution by our players and, again, a really nice job by Josh of keeping the defense off-balance.”

This Patriots offense is not like some of the wagons its had in the past. This may be one of the least talented pass-catching groups Tom Brady has ever had to work with, which makes it even more impressive what McDaniels was able to do.

Sure, he relied on horses like Julian Edelman (nine receptions on 13 targets for 151 yards) and James White (15 catches on 17 targets for 97 yards), but also some lesser known players like having a rookie in Sony Michel run for over 100 yards and Phillip Dorsett catch four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Games like Sunday serve as a reminder of why it’s so beneficial he’s staying with the team as offensive coordinator, but there’s no time to celebrate. He’s going to need to do it again this week against the Chiefs in the AFC championship.

This will be a lot different, as the Chiefs don’t have even close to as good of a defense as Los Angeles, despite coming off a great game in their divisional round matchup against the Colts, a 31-13 win. Kansas City finished the year ranked 31st in overall defense and were 24th in points allowed. But, on the other hand, New England’s defense isn’t good enough to completely shut down the Chiefs offense, so the Patriots offense needs to be the team’s best defense.

This is where McDaniels come in.

The Patriots offensive coordinator will need to devise a gameplan that not only puts up points, but allows the offense to put together long, sustained drives. The last thing the Patriots want is to get into a shootout at Arrowhead Stadium.

McDaniels should look to the first half of the Week 6 meeting between the two teams at Gillette Stadium, a 43-40 Patriots win, for what to do. The Patriots entered the locker room at the half with a 24-9 lead. After turning the ball over on downs on the opening possession, the offense scored on its next four drives, including three straight touchdowns. It will need this once again, as when facing such a powerful offense, no opportunities can be wasted.

The offense was well-balanced in that half with Michel rushing for 60 yards and two touchdowns, while Brady was 11-for-15 with 113 yards and a touchdown.

With a lack of talent, it’s up to McDaniels to scheme things up once again. And based on Sunday he’s capable, he just needs to go out and do it.