HOUSTON — The offensive segment of the visiting locker room at NRG Stadium wasn’t a happy place to be Sunday night. Patriots players on the offensive side of the ball aren’t throwing in the towel. They’re saying all the right things. But they’re also understandably not pleased with the trajectory of their unit that has struggled for four straight games.
The Patriots managed to gain 448 yards and put up 22 points Sunday in their loss to the Houston Texans. But 13 of those points came with the game out of reach after Houston moved to a prevent defense. The Patriots put up just three points through the first 44 minutes and 43 seconds of the game. Their late scoring surge was encouraging, but it also wasn’t enough.
So, with just four games left on the schedule, are Patriots players concerned that things won’t improve before the postseason?
“Not necessarily,” running back James White said. “We all know we can play better. We need to improve. Obviously, our defense was playing a good football game. We just have to do a better job helping them out. Just gotta figure things out sooner than later. It’s just everybody not making mistakes. Everybody can’t make one mistake on offense, because that can ruin a play. I had some out there. I had some bad plays. We all just need to figure it out and get together.”
The team’s record is 10-2, but they no longer control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens have a matching record and beat the Patriots, so they have the tie-breaker. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked point-blank if the Patriots’ offense is good enough for the team to accomplish its ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
“We’re battling,” Brady said. “We’re trying as hard as we can. Hopefully, we can make enough plays and be the best we can be. All remains to be seen. You can make a bunch of predictions and so forth, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about going out there and doing it. A lot of guys made some plays tonight. We’ll try to build on it and see if we can do better next week.”
Perhaps what’s most disappointing about the Patriots’ performance Sunday is that they were finally at full strength. Isaiah Wynn was at left tackle. Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu were back at wide receiver. And while the team was battling through illnesses, they also were facing a defense that’s struggled for most of the season.
“I think we’ll be all right,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “What I did see was a team that fought to the end. So, you can take that, and you can build off of that. It was ugly out there a little bit here and there. We didn’t play the way we wanted to. But you’ve got to tip your hat to Houston. They played a hell of a game.”
Sanu was perhaps the most confident that things will improve down the final stretch of the season.
“At the end of the day, it’s just fundamental stuff that we know we can fix that we will,” Sanu said. “Just can’t make the mistakes and beat ourselves, because we’ve got another team trying to stop us from executing. So, we’ve got to execute.”
It all sounds so simple. The Patriots need to execute, stop making mistakes and stop beating themselves. They’ve got another challenge Sunday when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. It’s OK if you’re losing hope that the Patriots’ offense can fix itself. But they have four more opportunities to prove it.