Michael Lombardi has seen some of the best Patriots offenses in franchise history up close and personal. What New England is putting on film in 2022 was very, very far from that.
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During a post-game breakdown of the Patriots' loss to the Buffalo Bills last Thursday on the betting site VSiN, the former New England staffer dove into the team's striking but somewhat predictable offensive regression between this season and a much better 2021.
“They were a top-10 offense last year,” he said. “Their offensive line has not been as good this year, there’s no denying that. Their passing game, with even better players in their passing game, with DeVante Parker and Thornton back, they haven’t [been as good]. It’s a concern. They haven’t been able to close the gap…they can’t consistently move the ball.
“They have players that can get down the field. They don’t have big-strike ability. They don’t. You can blame it on Mac Jones. You can blame it on the offensive line…it’s just not there. All you know is last year they were a top-10 offense. This year, they’re not.”
Specifically, Lombardi points to the Patriots’ inability to stretch the field vertically as a problem…despite the fact that the offense actively tried to do make downfield passing a bigger part of their game this year (and still are trying, aside from last week).
Under Josh McDaniels, who runs a very “methodical” offense with the Raiders according to Lombardi, the Patriots were frequently able to push drives 8-12 plays and keep the ball away from the other team.
I wonder what changed…
Though Lombardi has taken aim at Mac Jones at previous points in the season for turning the ball over too much and simply not executing the Patriots’ masterplan to perfection, it seems clear since Jones’ clunker against the Chicago Bears that the quarterback is down the list of problems for this offense.
Lombardi admitted that with a succinct yet damning statement about the team’s offensive operations thus far: “To me, when I watch the Patriots, they don’t have an offense. They just run a bunch of plays.”
Those words make Kendrick Bourne’s unsanctioned remarks about the Patriots’ poor scheming on third downs and the offense’s general lack of identity stand out in sharper relief. Even New England’s futile attempt to become a more Shanahan/McVay-style offense back in training camp speaks to Lombardi’s quote.
The Patriots seemingly believe that whatever play they call should work as long as it’s executed properly. But even the simple, repetitive concepts they call aren’t well-executed or well-schemed, and they frequently call plays without a strong feel for marrying concepts together or throwing wrinkles based on plays they’ve previously run.
That’s how you call random things like a Kendrick Bourne end-around in the red zone after running nothing like that earlier in the game and somehow expect it to work. That’s how you lose your nerve on third down repeatedly and draw up deep routes without easy outlets or run right into the teeth of a defense.
There is ostensibly no “system” here. It’s a collection of plays meant to accomplish one goal or another – to chuck the ball downfield or dial up a quick throw or run the ball – without much strong connection between them. They are also slow to adjust to what defenses throw at them, which has led to the offense getting outsmarted frequently.
No matter who you blame it on, one thing is obvious: this offense needs a new voice in 2023.