FOXBORO -- Imagine a scenario in which a Tom Brady-led team can’t score touchdowns in the red area. If you told me that, I’d be convinced you were spinning quite the yarn. But it’s true - or at least it has been in three of the last four weeks - and it’s pissing off Bill Belichick.
“Yeah, we’re obviously not doing a very good job in that area and that’s something we have to do better at,” he said following a 21-13 win over the Chargers. “No question about it. We’re giving up too many big plays on defense and can’t convert on third down in the red area. Those are two huge issues.”
The Patriots found themselves in the red zone four times Sunday. They scored just one touchdown, that coming at the very start of the 2nd quarter on a short pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. They also started the 3rd quarter with the ball on the Chargers 25-yard line and not only didn’t gain a single yard, but then watched Stephen Gostkowski miss a field goal. That allowed Los Angeles to hang around until the game’s final play.
- Chris Hogan leaves with shoulder injury, wearing a sling in the locker room
- Game notes: Record and near-records from Pats' 21-13 victory
- Gostkowski admits misses leave 'bad taste' despite Patriots win
- Curran's Patriots-Chargers preview/review
- Five thoughts: Patriots prevent Bosa, Ingram from taking over
“We have to be able to score,” said Danny Amendola. “We have to find a way to punch the ball in and get six points on the board, and go from there. We have to give our team the best chance to win.”
This has been a recurring theme for the Pats. They scored just twice on 5 trips to the red zone against Atlanta and once in three tries at MetLife Stadium versus the Jets. It’s been a struggle of late.
“Yep, that’s a good word for it,” said Tom Brady. “We didn’t finish them off. I think we just have to do a better job of that. I know I’ve said that about 100 times this year, but it’s tough. I mean, we’re trying. It’s just the execution is coming up a little short in critical times. I’m glad we won. That’s the most important thing. You know, starting 0-1 and then being 6-2 – you know, a lot of mental toughness. So, that’s good, and we’ve got to keep it going. You know, biggest games are ahead of us, so we’re going to have to go play well.”
Brady - like his coach - is never satisfied with where his offense is at. It’s not always on him, but a fair amount of the red zone issues have come - in part - because of his failure to make either A) the right decision or B) an accurate pass. He was nearly intercepted at the tail end of the first half on a drive that resulted in the third of Gostkowski’s four field goals. The poorly delivered throw came on 3rd down at the Chargers 18. He did the something similar in that win over the Falcons, losing sight of an open Danny Amendola and instead force feeding the ball to Gronk. The play never had a chance and forced yet another field goal. It’s unrealistic to expect perfection from Brady and an offense that is missing it’s number one option, Julian Edelman, but the reality is, the red area requires something close.
“You know, I think that’s – obviously, you’d love to have timing and execution and consistency in offensive football,” said Brady. “You know, that’s an important word, and timing’s important in the pass game and the run game, absolutely. I just think we can do a better job than what we’ve done. We’re close. Even at the end, we’re close to breaking a couple runs there for big yards, and [we had] a hit pass and then we had a couple penalties and I took a sack that I shouldn’t have taken, and that hurts us. So, just work on it and try to do a better job.”
You know Brady will watch red area failures on a loop, searching for themes and searching for solutions. He’s long said you want to be playing your best football after Thanksgiving - I think he got that from his coach - and the good news is, despite being 6-2, the Pats aren’t playing their best. The expectation is it will get better. It’s rare for those expectations in Foxboro not to get met.