Belichick reveals Patriots' 'biggest problem' in loss to Bills


The New England Patriots have suffered back-to-back losses at a critical stage of the NFL regular season, and they've fallen down a few spots in the AFC standings as a result.

Just a week and a half ago, the Patriots were the No. 1 seed in the conference and the first-place team in the AFC East. But after losing 33-21 to the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's Week 16 game at Gillette Stadium, New England is now the second-place team in the division and the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

One issue in Sunday's defeat that must be improved ASAP is the Patriots' success on third and fourth downs -- on both offense and defense. 

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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick even identified his team's problems in this area as its "biggest problem" versus the Bills.

“I think there were a lot of things we did well, we just didn't do them well enough, often enough,” Belichick said Monday morning on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show".

“Obviously, the biggest problem in the game was third down. Had we done a better job on third down, then things probably would have looked differently. Third and fourth down on defense, a combination of it. We were 1-for-10 on third down on offense. And then 6-for-12 (on defense), and they were 3-for-4 on fourth down. That would have been a big factor in the game had we done that better.”


The Patriots just couldn't get enough stops on defense to slow down the Bills offense and mount a successful second-half comeback Sunday. Buffalo didn't punt a single time or face a third down on its own side of the field.

The Bills put the game out of reach with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to go up 33-21. On that drive, Buffalo went 1-of-2 on third down and converted a 4th-and-1. Bills quarterback Josh Allen ran for eight yards on that fourth down play and finished the drive with a touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

The Patriots weren't much better on offense, going 1-of-8 on third downs. New England did go 5-of-6 on fourth down, but too many drives were halted as a result of failing to convert on third down. The Patriots also found themselves in too many 3rd-and-long scenarios.

Belichick's team has two weeks left in the regular season to make the necessary adjustments and start to execute at a much higher level on third and fourth down scenarios before the playoffs commence in January.