Josh McDaniels agrees with everyone who watched Sunday’s New England Patriots game: He shouldn’t have passed so much near the Los Angeles Chargers’ goal line.
Despite facing a Chargers team that ranked last in run defense and last in goal-to-go defense, McDaniels dialed up six pass plays from inside the LA 6-yard line. The final five fell incomplete, including a never-had-a-chance goal-line fade to Jakobi Meyers that resulted in a turnover on downs.
The Patriots survived those red-zone errors to win 27-24, but McDaniels acknowledged he cost his team points with his play-calling.
“I look back on that sequence, and it’s probably one of the ones that I wish I could do differently,” the Patriots offensive coordinator said Tuesday in a video conference.
On the Patriots’ third possession, they faced first-and-goal from the 4 after a 33-yard completion to Hunter Henry. An errant throw from Mac Jones to Kendrick Bourne followed by a 3-yard Damien Harris carry made it third-and-goal from the 1.
At that point, McDaniels tried to fool the Chargers by sending in his jumbo personnel package and calling a play-action pass to Henry. After it failed, he put in pass-catching back Brandon Bolden and called the fade to Meyers, who has yet to catch a touchdown pass in 2 1/2 pro seasons. That flopped, as well, with Jones’ pass sailing out of the receiver’s reach.
Why run two straight passes from the 1-yard line rather than handing the ball to either of New England’s bruising ball-carriers (Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson)? McDaniels pointed to the fact that the Patriots already had called a goal-line run to Harris earlier in the game. Harris scored, but McDaniels didn’t love his team’s overall execution on the play.
“If it works out on third-and-goal … you end up with the play-pass and it works, it’s great, and everybody thinks it was a great call,” McDaniels explained. “We had already been down there once and run one of our goal-line runs down in there and were fortunate to get it in on that one. (Fullback Jakob Johnson) made a great block. We had some other things — there was some penetration on the play; Damien kind of pounded it through there and ended up scoring. But we only have a handful of things you do there down there inside that yard line, and so I chose, obviously at that point, incorrectly.”
Of course, teams can run the same goal-line play multiple times in a game, and McDaniels admitted he outsmarted himself by going to the air. The Patriots also threw on back-to-back snaps from the Chargers’ 6 on their next possession and settled for a field goal after both missed their mark.
“At that point, is it the wrong thing to do to run it? No,” McDaniels said. “It’s not the wrong thing to do to run it at all. But I was just kind of using some of the things that I had seen previously and made the choice to do that. It didn’t work out in our favor, and then obviously, we didn’t convert the fourth-down play, either.
“So, not a good sequence for me. I think I can do better than that, and I want to do better than that for our team. Those are always really important plays. (It’s) hard sometimes to choose between certain things based on what you’ve done previous, but I’ve got to do better, and we can do better than that, for sure.”