FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ offense has scored one or zero touchdowns in four of their last five games. They’ve regressed in nearly every metric this season, and since Mac Jones returned from his high ankle sprain, they’ve been one of the least efficient units in the NFL.
Why? What’s the cause of these struggles? In Jones’ eyes, it comes down to one word: “accountability.”
The Patriots’ second-year quarterback was harshly critical of himself after Thursday night’s 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium, which was not as competitive as the final score might indicate. Jones said in his postgame news conference that he “let a lot of people down” in the game, including New England’s defense, which was on the field for nearly 40 minutes.
But he also called for more from New England’s coaching staff — and he wasn’t the only player to do so.
“I think it’s accountability,” Jones said. “It starts with me. I want to be coached harder. I want to be a better player. The coaches have given us everything they’ve got. They’ve done everything to put us in position to win. But I want to hold everybody accountable, including myself. I think it’s tough, right? You get called out a little bit, you have to admit that you didn’t do your job. That’s part of the game. A lot of that blame falls on me. I didn’t do my best (Thursday night).”
Facing a Bills defense that was without star pass rusher Von Miller and starting safety Micah Hyde, the Patriots went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions, converted just three of 12 third downs and did not run a play in the red zone until the 3:43 mark of the fourth quarter, by which point Buffalo held a comfortable 17-point lead. Their only touchdown came on a screen pass to Marcus Jones that the rookie cornerback took 48 yards to paydirt. The Amazon broadcast showed Jones screaming on the sideline late in the game, profanely expressing his desire for more “chunk plays” as the offense struggled to gain traction.
Multiple offensive players voiced their frustration in the locker room, with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne blaming the Patriots’ persistent third-down problems on “scheme” — aka game-planning and play-calling — while also saying the players need to execute better. Since Week 7, the Patriots are third-to-last in the NFL in expected points added per play, ahead of only the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.
“I think a lot of other guys played with a lot of good effort,” Jones said. “We played with effort. I played with effort. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got every week, no matter what. I’ll go until the wheels fall off, but got to be better at executing plays. They’re putting us in a good position. We’ve just got to go out there and do it together. That starts in practice — ‘Hey, I didn’t do this right, call me out for it, tell me that I’m wrong.’ If you’re a good leader, you can accept that. You can look at the other guy and say the same thing to him that he says to you.
“The best players in the world at any sport, they have that accountability with their teammates. That’s something that we need to have that’s better. Obviously, the coaches are a big part of it, but it really starts with the players. Clearly, I haven’t done a good enough job of doing my part in that.”
Matt Patricia is the Patriots’ offensive play-caller, and Joe Judge is their quarterbacks coach. Both have extensive NFL coaching experience but never served in their current positions before this season.
Head coach Bill Belichick praised Jones when asked about the QB’s call for tougher coaching.
“Mac’s a very competitive guy,” Belichick said Monday morning. “Love his attitude. Love his passion for the game. He works as hard as anybody. As we move forward we’ll try to work to find ways to be more efficient, be more productive in every area. That’s coaching, playing, interaction with teammates, etc.”
The 6-6 Patriots will look to remain alive in the AFC playoff chase when they visit the Arizona Cardinals next week on “Monday Night Football.”