Why Josh McDaniels Believes This X-Factor Won’t Affect Patriots’ Passing

'I don't really think that's a big deal'

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The last time the New England Patriots played in Buffalo, extreme winds prompted them to all but abandon their passing attack.

Extreme cold won’t have the same effect, according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The forecast for this Saturday night’s Patriots-Bills wild-card playoff game at Highmark Stadium calls for temperatures in the single digits and sub-zero wind chills. But as long as that wind remains manageable and there is no precipitation, McDaniels doesn’t believe the weather will significantly impact New England’s air attack.

“Look, the temperature will be what it will be,” McDaniels said Tuesday in a video conference. “We’ve certainly played and practiced in cold weather. Maybe haven’t practiced in that type of weather yet this year, but I’d say it’s been below 20 degrees at times. So it is what it is. You’ve got to dress appropriately for it and go out there and coach and play. I don’t think the temperature really has much to do with the passing game. That would certainly be more relative to precipitation and wind than it would the degree that we’re dealing with.

“It’s just more of a mental thing than anything else. Our guys are used to practicing and playing in whatever the conditions are up here in New England, and we’re going to be ready to go. Whatever the good Lord has for us on Saturday night, we’ll be ready to go, and we’ll try to do the best things we can to help us win the game.”

Quarterback Mac Jones isn’t used to these conditions, though. As a Jacksonville, Fla., native who played his college ball at Alabama, he’s never experienced just how cold Northeast winters can get.

And Saturday night will be cold. If the current projection holds, it could surpass Pats-Titans in the 2003 divisional round as the coldest game in franchise history. Kickoff temperature at Gillette Stadium that night was 4 degrees with a wind chill of -10.

The Patriots have played some chilly games in the second half of this season, but their lowest kickoff temperature to date was 33 degrees against Tennessee in Week 12.

Still, McDaniels downplayed the weather factor.

“I don’t really think that’s a big deal,” he said. “I mean, throwing the ball or running it in the cold, either way, it is what it is. I think the other stuff has more to do with whether or not it’s difficult to throw the ball — wind or rain or heavy, heavy snow.

“We’ll have contingency plans ready just in case something would change at the last second, because we know where we’re going. Buffalo is kind of like New England; the weather can change quick there. So we’ll be ready to deal with it the way we need to, but I wouldn’t expect us to change radically if the temperature is the only thing we’re dealing with.”

Regardless of the conditions, the Patriots likely will look to lean on their powerful rushing attack. They ran the ball effectively in both of their regular-season matchups against the Bills, rushing for 222 yards (4.8 per carry) in a 14-10 win in Week 13 and 149 yards (5.5 per carry) in a 33-21 loss three weeks later.

Jones attempted just three passes in New England’s first trip to Buffalo, then struggled through the worst game of his career in the Foxboro rematch, going 14-for-32 for 145 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. The Bills always have defended the Patriots’ passing game well under head coach Sean McDermott, allowing just four touchdowns and grabbing seven interceptions across 10 meetings since McDermott arrived in 2017.

“It’s always a huge burden to try to figure out how we can get that done,” McDaniels said, “and we’re going to be hard at work the next few days trying to crack the code.”

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
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