Patriots look to improve red zone offense


Patriots look to improve red zone offense

If there are seven deadly sins in football, failing to convert in the red zone is one of them.
The Patriots were ranked No. 4 in red zone scoring (touchdowns only) last season at 65.05 percent. Though three games in 2012, they're No.16 with 50 percent success (6-for-12).
In Sunday night's 31-30 loss to Baltimore, New England scored six on 3-of-5 red zone opportunities. Tom Brady said in his post game press conference that his team needs to start winning close games. With the Patriots' two losses being by a total of three points, the red zone would be a good place to start.
Bill Belichick shouldered the load on his Tuesday conference call.
"It starts with us, it starts with coaching, making sure we have a good plan, making sure that we put our players in the best possible position to be productive and to be able to do their jobs, making sure that the plays that we run we practice, we know what to do, we can execute so if something different happens down there, which is always a problem because it all happens so fast.
"Theres so little space that youre involved in, all the plays just happen much quicker than they do out in the field. Running game, the holes close quicker; passing game, there are smaller windows and less space to throw in and all that.
"When we get inside the five-yard line, our goal-line type offense, we have to be able to get it in down there as well as from farther out. We just have to keep working on all those things and try to do a better job of them. I think we have good players and we have good coaches and weve certainly scored plenty of points down there in the past and weve gotten down there plenty of times. We just have to make a little more out of it, have to come out of there with more touchdowns and fewer field goals."
The Patriots coach had even more to say about red zone logistical difficulties.
Though there's less area to cover, which is obviously ideal for offenses, that area is packed in tightly with defensive land mines. Normal game rhythm gets thrown out the window and adjustments must be made instantaneously.
No space to throw, no room to run.
In the first quarter Sunday, New England was poised to strike on the Baltimore 20. Brady went back into shotgun and tried to find Julian Edelman on a third-down post route. Ed Reed made an excellent play to crush Edelman and force the incomplete.
The next missed opportunity came when the Patriots got to the 8 by third-down. Baltimore's 'D' was solid all series, and even though New England got into prime position, the Ravens were able to continue pressure and force a field goal.
Especially disappointing for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the fact they'd converted a similar series in the two-minute offense before halftime.
"We only go out there for one reason on offense and thats to try to score seven points every time we possess the ball," McDaniels said. "Its something that I think you just continue to work at. The red zone is always a tough place. Things happen faster down there and theres a mix of pressure and coverage that you have to be able to adjust to during the course of the play. We can improve in that area of the field as well."

PFT: Belichick can still diagram his dad’s Navy plays from 1959

PFT: Belichick can still diagram his dad’s Navy plays from 1959

CBS interviewed Patriots coach Bill Belichick and 1960 Heisman winner Joe Bellino from Navy as part of its Army-Navy Game coverage Saturday.

Belichick's father, Steve, was an assistant coach at Navy when Bellino played there, and little Bill, then 7, took it all in. So much so, that 57 years later, Belichick can still diagram the 27 F Trap play that his dad used to drew up in the 1959 season for Bellino.

More from NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk here.


Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

When trying to figure out what the Patriots will ultimately do with Jimmy Garoppolo, forget about the speculation and instead focus on the little things the team does. 

Like how they are tending to Jacoby Brissett. 

After having thumb surgery on Oct. 7, Brissett was put on IR. But the team used its one "Get off of IR free card" on Brissett and he's been practicing with the team for the past couple of weeks while not taking up a roster spot. 

That alone isn't compelling evidence that he's the backup-in-waiting and Garoppolo's about to be packed up and shipped out, argued my compadre, Senator Phil Perry. The team had no other players on IR that they could use the designation on at the time. Why not use it on Brissett?

Prior to that, though, we've seen Brissett accompanying the team to away games including the cross-country junket to San Francisco. A reason? Since the Patriots played three straight at Gillette at the start of the season when Brissett was the direct backup to Garoppolo, he didn't get a good look at the road operation and the tempo of being the visiting team. How things work on flights, in meetings, at opposing stadiums and on the sidelines is worth getting a promising young players' eyes on. Also, getting his offensive teammates used to having him around is probably an even bigger benefit. It's not unprecedented to have IR players travel but its not conventional practice either. 

With so many quarterback-needy teams around the league, Garoppolo is perhaps the most attractive option out there. By the end of this year, he will have apprenticed three seasons behind the best quarterback of all-time in a sophisticated offense for a program that's as demanding as any in the league. In the 1 1/2 games he was able to play as a starter in place of Tom Brady, he was sensational.

He got hurt and that's not great. But any team making a deal for him that has concerns about his durability can take him for a spin for one season. Garoppolo is on the books for $825K in 2017 and then his contract is up. The team that dealt for him can franchise him if they need another season to think on it. 

I don't think the Patriots are itching to move Garoppolo. They know they are sitting comfortably with a stack of the most valuable commodity in the sport -- good quarterbacks (or at least one great one and two promising ones) - piled in front of them. They can let the game come to them. 

If it does, as former Patriots executive and Bill Belichick consigliere Mike Lombardi thinks it will, the Patriots can rest easy dealing Garoppolo knowing that they already did advance work getting Brissett up to speed.