Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels pulled the right levers for Patriots all night

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Josh McDaniels pulled the right levers for Patriots all night

FOXBORO -- Games like this one are why Josh McDaniels will always be in demand. The Patriots offensive coordinator may have hurt his Q-rating for the near future when he left the Colts at the altar in February but the game he called Sunday night – especially on the Patriots fourth-quarter possessions – was outstanding.

Start with the overall plan. The Patriots ran out of shotgun and spread situations early in the game almost as often as they threw it out of “heavy” personnel. It helped the offense put up 24 in the first half and score 16 in the fourth (a touchdown and three field goals) and Sony Michel put together another big game on the ground (106 yards on 24 carries). Michel, James White and Kenjon Barner combined for 161 yards on 33 carries. Fullback James Develin was a force in short yardage which is something Bill Belichick said in the postgame was an issue they needed to fix this year.


Michel’s third-and-1 conversion coming out of the two-minute warning was a must-have and they got it.

But there’s such volume to the Patriots playbook and McDaniels has such an outstanding feel, he was able to dial up two plays following the Michel conversion that picked up 55 total yards.

First, the Patriots got James White by himself in the left flat 1-on-1 in space and he picked up 16. On the next play, the underneath business froze the free safety and allowed Rob Gronkowski to go down the seam for a 39-yard gain to set up the game-winner.  

“Each situation is a little bit different based on time, timeouts and score and so forth but this one ended up playing out good for us,” said Bill Belichick. “We had the final possession. We had the final opportunity and we made it. Josh called a great game. We had great execution on that drive by a lot of different people. But we work on that stuff every week. Both ways – if they had had it, if we had it, need a touchdown, need a field goal, so forth. We try to be prepared for that.”

It was obvious the Patriots loved their matchups against Kansas City and that -- coupled with the fact they knew Kansas City would probably put up plenty of points as well -- put them in an aggressive mode. They went for it on fourth down on their first drive after a Gronk drop on third down as Brady didn’t seem totally dialed in.


But they kept going deep into their personnel and on their fourth drive they put it together with a variety of options -- Barner ran three times, Brady hit Gronk for 16 and Edelman for 14, Michel picked up 12 on two carries and Josh Gordon caught one for 6 before Brady hit Edelman for a 17-yard score on third-and-10.

On the next drive, it was White catching one for 17 then carrying for 5, Cordarelle Patterson getting 13 then a long one to Gordon that resulted in a 37-yard DPI.

The Patriots only failed to score on one of their second-half drives and that’s when Brady was strip-sacked on a third-and-10 in the third.

The Patriots put of 500 yards of offense. It’s an entirely different group than what they took the field with against the Lions and Jaguars now that Edelman’s back, Gordon’s being incorporated, and the running game has found its footing. 


McDaniels takes the blame for offense: 'I need to get better'

McDaniels takes the blame for offense: 'I need to get better'

A measly 10 points? 133 passing yards? If you're looking to place blame for the 1-2 Patriots offensive struggles, the offensive coordinator says to start with him.

"I haven’t done a good enough job the last two weeks of putting us in the right positions to be successful, and I need to get better at that," Josh McDaniels told reporters on a conference call Monday in the aftermath of a 26-10 loss in Detroit. "I need to do a better job of helping them do that and we need to play better."

It's the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double-digits since 2002. 

"We try to come up with the right things each week, in each situation – you know, practice them and then hopefully execute them properly in the game," said McDaniels, who had agreed to take the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job in the offseason before he was talked out of it and remained in New England for a new five-year deal reportedly worth more than $4 million a year. 

Of failing to convert on third downs, McDaniels said: "We felt like those gave us an opportunity to do that, and certainly Detroit did a better job of executing and defending us on those plays than we did. So, again, I take responsibility for all those things, and they didn’t work out so we have to do a better job of finding a way to make those short-yardage conversions moving forward."



How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 


But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?


Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.


The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 


Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 


McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 


It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich