Patriots' low-scoring offense remains a big concern even after first victory of season
Foxborough, Mass. — While the New England Patriots avoided their first 0-3 start in two decades, it's not clear whether they can consistently score enough points to contend in the AFC East.
New England played turnover-free in Sunday's 15-10 win over the struggling New York Jets, covering for the deficiencies of an offense that didn't run a single play in the red zone.
Pharaoh Brown had a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Chad Ryland kicked two field goals, and the Patriots' defense contributed a safety in the fourth quarter when Matt Judon sacked Zach Wilson in the end zone. New England's 15 points was its lowest scoring output so far.
Through three weeks under new coordinator Bill O'Brien, the Patriots are ranked 26th in total offense.
Quarterback Mac Jones still saw some progress, especially considering the rainy and windy conditions at MetLife Stadium.
“We’re definitely close and thought the play-calling was really good,” Jones said. “Coach O’Brien did a great job calling a great game. We’ve just got to execute better.”
The most positive development might have been the Patriots’ ability to run the ball against the Jets’ stingy defensive line, led by Quinnen Williams. He had seven tackles, but only one of New York’s two tackles for a loss.
The Patriots totaled 157 rushing yards, their best output of the season.
“Just good execution and grind it out. It’s hard to rip off a bunch of 20-yard runs against these guys,” coach Bill Belichick said. “There were some plays where we gave up some pressure but overall I thought it was a decent day in pass protection. We’ve just got to convert and get more points than we got.”
Judon continues to be a difference-maker. The safety was one of his two sacks. It was the 12th two-sack game of his career and sixth for New England.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The deep passing game. Jones was 0 for 5 on passes that traveled more than 20 yards. He went 1 for 4 on deep balls in Week 2 and 3 for 7 in Week 1.
“Those are statistically the hardest passes to hit. Completion percentage and all that, is true of every team,” Belichick said. “But we’ve got to hit them, we’ve got to throw them and we need more production out of the deep balls.”
Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 80 yards rushing on 16 carries. His 14-yard burst in the second quarter was the longest run by a Patriots running back this season. He benefited from an offensive line that was as healthy as it’s been over the first three games.
“I think we knew that it was going to be a running game,” Elliott said. “So we were just ready to come out and run the ball as much as we needed to.”
Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had his fewest targets (three), catches (one) and yards (5) this season. He has 10 catches for 66 yards in three games, hardly what the Patriots had hoped for when they signed him to a three-year deal in March.
DLs Daniel Ekuale (elbow) and Davon Godchaux (ankle) both left in the first half and didn’t return.
The Patriots visit Dallas next Sunday in what will be Elliott’s first game against his former team. The No. 4 overall pick by the Cowboys in 2016, Elliott ran for 68 touchdowns and more than 8,000 yards over his seven seasons there before being released in March.
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