There's been much consternation regarding the New England Patriots' offense as it relates to the quarterback position. Turns out there's concern over whether the opposing defenses know what's coming, as well.
Though the Patriots won in dominant fashion against the Indianapolis Colts, 26-3, in Week 9, the offense still sputtered and New England players said they could hear Indy linebacker Shaquille Leonard calling out their plays.
It's an issue that has coach Bill Belichick's attention and has been a problem that extends back at least to the Patriots' Week 8 win over the New York Jets.
"We definitely want to prevent that," Belichick said Tuesday, via team transcript. "I thought that there were two or three plays for sure that Leonard really got a big jump on and stopped us basically on those plays. (C.J.) Mosley got a couple of those a couple weeks ago in the Jets game."
The 26th-ranked offense in yards gained, the Patriots' offensive play-calling was a mystery leading into the season and now seems to be formulaic.
Belichick admitted a need for more balance going forward, but did nothing to point a finger at a perceived predictability from Matt Patricia's play selection.
"It looked like Mosley almost heard the play in the huddle. He was on it so fast," Belichick said. "Leonard had a couple like that, too. So, whether that's something we were giving away or just something that he anticipated based on whatever the keys were that he might have picked up, we certainly want to try to prevent that. I thought that Leonard for sure did it, and Mosley had a couple plays like that, as well. That's what good defensive players do. They anticipate things and they are able to sometimes get a read on what they think is going to happen. They're not always right but sometimes they are, and they can certainly make you look bad offensively but as an offense, you always want to be balanced and then try not to give things away to the point where you don't have something complimentary that goes with them."
Lauding the mental acumen of Leonard (three Pro Bowls, three All-Pro selections) and Mosley (four Pro Bowls) is certainly warranted, but their anticipatory abilities not withstanding, this is clearly an issue that Belichick and his staff will need to focus on during their bye week.
Quarterback Mac Jones has struggled mightily in his second season after an impressive rookie showing under the guise of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Though the Patriots have won two straight, the defensive has most certainly been the catalyst. Over those last two wins, the New England offense has scored just two offensive touchdowns, averaged 15 first downs per game and a meager 245.5 yards of offense.
The play-calling and offensive struggles have become predictable in New England.
"That's kind of the game within the game there," Belichick said. "Obviously if a player or team is stopping one thing, if you have something complimentary to go to then you can off-set that. So, we certainly had that situation come up as well, to where we were able to take advantage of whether it was a player thinking he knew what the play was, or the defense trying to play a certain play but not defend another play. You have to kind of strike that balance. So, yeah that's what it looked like to me, too."