The struggles by the Patriots offense were on full display on Sunday in Pittsburgh. They failed to sustain drives, they could not convert on third downs, and they were 0-3 on red zone trips. Just a week after dropping 30 points on the Dolphins, New England barely managed double digits against Pittsburgh.
This should not have come as a particular surprise. To say that the Patriots offense has been Jekyll and Hyde between home and away games this year would be an understatement. In Foxboro, the Patriots offense is averaging:
- 305 pass yards p/g
- 142 rush yards p/g
- 34 points p/g
On the road, the Patriots offense is averaging just:
- 258 pass yards p/g
- 98 rush yards p/g
- 22 points p/g
In addition, the Patriots are averaging only 5.5 penalties per game at home, and 6.8 penalties per game on the road.
New England's offense hasn't been able to find any sort of cohesion at all on the road. Their penalties have been more pronounced, and more back-breaking, as evidenced by the team's loss on Sunday. They have also struggled at every position. The offensive line has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking. New England's receivers have failed to step up when needed, and in fact, have let the team down with ugly drops. The Patriots running backs have been unable to break open games. Tom Brady has looked pedestrian at best. Overall, nothing has succeeded.
Something needs to change for the Patriots offense going forward, especially considering that they will almost certainly have to play a road game if they want to make it to Super Bowl 53. The first issue is going to be protection. The Patriots offensive line needs to play better if the unit wants to have success. They are vital to every single offensive snap, and the team cannot move the ball if they don't find a rhythm.
Brady also needs to step up and play with less fear. He has been much more jittery in the pocket this year, jumping around in suspense instead of stepping up and making throws as he has in the past. It is this fear that led to Joe Haden's interception on Sunday, and to New England's receivers having no shot at a touchdown on the team's final play. It is no easy task at forty, but it is what the team needs.
Most importantly, the team needs to find a way to get James White back involved. During the team's most productive run this year, from weeks 4-9, White was targeted at least seven times in each game. His targets reached double digits in four of those contests. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead returning from injury have played a factor in White's role, and that's understandable. With three talented backs, naturally, the team wants to spread the touches and keep their runners fresh. But White was the offensive MVP through the first half of the season. Opposing teams had no answer for the former Super Bowl hero, and he could be the key to kickstarting the resurgence of the Patriots offense.
New England is in a precarious situation with just two weeks left in the regular season. They need to figure something out offensively against the Bills and the Jets if they hope to have any shot at a playoff run. It's going to take duct tape, WD-40, and a whole lot of creativity.