The Patriots rank dead last in the league for red zone offense.
It's a strange-sounding statement. Because of old bravado? No, because of the numbers. New England has been first, third, and fourth in red zone efficiency over the last three seasons. Converting two of five opportunities against Tampa Bay last Sunday was actually an improvement.
Tom Brady's rating inside an opponents' 20-yard line is currently 67.3-percent. Last year, the QB stood pat at 106.0.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can't put lipstick on this particular pig.
"The red zone certainly is an area of the field where any lack of execution – timing, those types of things – could impact your ability to score touchdowns and/or kick field goals. I would say there’s no common theme to some of the things that we’ve done down there that have hurt us, we just can do a better job of coaching things down there and a better job of executing some of the opportunities that we have when we get them in the games," he said Tuesday.
"I would say we need to start with making sure that we don’t turn the ball over, because we’ve had a couple turnovers down there that we’ve been in position to potentially put on seven points and then turn the ball over and come away with absolutely nothing, and that always hurts. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football, and we can coach and execute things better down there. We’re going to work real hard this week at trying to improve in that area of our game."
Sunday could be the day to take advantage. The Patriots do face a challenge in meeting Atlanta on the road, but the Falcons are at least letting opponents convert red zone chances into touchdowns 70-percent of the time. New England's previous opponents are far stingier: Buffalo's defense is at 40-percent, the Jets are at 22.22, and Tampa Bay's 'D' allows red zone touchdowns just 27.27-percent of the time.
Atlanta will hope the home fans can mess with New England's efforts; the Georgia Dome can hold 71,228 people and crowd noise will be a factor. McDaniels expects the music to get cranked up at Patriots practice this week.
"We definitely expect it to be an exciting environment. It always is when you play down there in Atlanta and it’s inside. They have a really good football team, and I’m sure they’ll be excited to play, and we’ll be excited to play, so we’re looking forward to that," he allowed.
"But there’s no shortcut to [noise]; you’ve got to do a good job of communicating during the week, you’ve got to practice well with the noise and the distraction that the noise creates, you’ve got to try to eliminate all unnecessary communication that you can so that you can just get out there and hear what you need to hear and go execute your job and play as fast as you can. We’ve done it before."