The 2022 New England Patriots boasted the worst red-zone offense in the NFL.

They scored touchdowns on just 42.2% of their trips inside the 20-yard line — dead last in the league. It was one of many, many issues that plagued Matt Patricia’s bunch last season.

This year, they’ve been substantially better in that area. In their first two games, they converted on 71.4% of their red-zone visits, tied for fourth-best in the NFL. Mac Jones tossed two red-zone touchdowns to Hunter Henry and another two to Kendrick Bourne, and Rhamondre Stevenson added one of his own on a 2-yard rush.

But even with that marked improvement, there’s a reason why offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien listed “finishing drives” as one of New England’s biggest problems thus far.

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Yes, the Patriots have executed reasonably well in the red zone. But with the way their defense and special teams performed, they should have come away from their first two games with more than just five touchdowns and 37 total points.

What do we mean? Consider this: In Weeks 1 and 2, the Patriots’ offense had the sixth-most favorable average starting field position in the NFL, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The five teams ahead of them rank first, second, third, seventh and 13th in points scored entering Week 3. The Patriots are tied for 23rd.

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New England has started eight possessions outside of its own 40-yard line this season, including two in opposing territory. Those drives produced one touchdown (Jones to Henry in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins), one interception, three punts and three turnovers on downs.

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That’s seven total points from situations where the Patriots needed to travel less than 60 yards to reach the end zone and less than 25 to reach field-goal range. Three such drives (two against Philadelphia, one against Miami) came late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win or tie the game. They came up empty all three times and lost by five and seven points, respectively.

Simply put, that’s not good enough, especially when coupled with the Patriots’ penchant for falling into double-digit first-half deficits.

“For us, I think it’s about finishing drives,” O’Brien said Tuesday in a video conference. “I think we moved the ball at times. I’m not saying we moved the ball all the time, but we moved the ball at times. We’re just inconsistent.

“We’ve got to coach it better and try to get it to be more consistent and finish drives. We get in there and we drive the ball 30, 40 yards and then we stall. So we have to do a better job of stringing plays together to be able to finish drives.”

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How can the Patriots achieve this? More consistent O-line play would be a great place to start.

Of those aforementioned seven drives that did not produce points, four included a sack, and another two had early-down carries that lost yardage. The Patriots faced third downs of 7, 9, 12, 13 and 18 yards thanks to those negative plays.

Another factor: New England’s lack of overall offensive explosiveness. Through two games, it’s generated just two pass plays of 20-plus yards. Only the Carolina Panthers have fewer. The Patriots also have just three rushes of more than 10 yards, one of which was an 18-yard Jones scramble. They’re averaging 4.5 yards per play, good for 28th in the league.

Jones isn’t blameless here, either. Though he’s played well overall thus far, his poor decision to force the ball to a heavily covered DeVante Parker on Sunday resulted in an interception that spoiled a prime scoring opportunity.

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“We’ve got to do better, really,” Jones said Wednesday. “Score more points. Just by doing that, try not to focus on the result. Focus on the play. How can I execute the play? Who can I get the ball to? And let that take care of itself. We have great playmakers, offensive line is coming together. For me, I’ve just got to stay within the structure.”

The Patriots could have their best personnel setup of the season this Sunday when they visit the New York Jets. Starting left tackle Trent Brown was back at practice Wednesday after missing Week 2 with a concussion, and Jones should have his full complement of weapons, assuming playmaking rookie Demario Douglas isn’t still on the naughty list after his lost fumble.

We’ll see if that makes a difference in what already looks like a must-win game for the 0-2 Patriots.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images