Due partially to having more time in the pocket, there were also more instances where Jones progressed past his initial read rather than panicking when his first read wasn’t open. That was noticeable when the Pats used play-action on third-and-short. The initial read was to Bourne on a whip route, and it was well covered, but Jones calmly moved off it to his second read to find Demario Douglas for a 16-yard catch.
The Patriots QB said there were a few instances where his eyes dropped to the rush rather than sticking with his reads, but this was significantly better from Jones. Mac also made “big-time” throws to TE Pharaoh Brown (seam) and rookie WR Demario Douglas (seam) and ran the schemed elements of the offense sufficiently (quick-game, play-action, RPO, etc.). In all, Jones generated an excellent +0.34 expected points added on his 39 drop-backs (84th percentile).
We’ve been tough on the quarterback over the last three weeks, but against a team that had his squad’s number, Jones delivered against the Bills on Sunday.
3. Personnel and Scheme Tweaks Lead to a Season-High 29 Points for the Patriots Offense
After back-to-back blowout losses to the Cowboys and Saints, the mantra around the team, led by the head coach’s remarks following the losses, was that the Patriots were “starting all over.”
However, a disappointing loss on the road in Vegas to the Raiders didn’t feel like starting over. It felt like the same movie we watched in the first four games: the same slow start (13-3 at half) and the same shaky play by the offensive line and receivers, leading to the same rocky showing by the quarterback — if that was starting over, oh boy, watch out below.
On Sunday, it felt like the Patriots offense started over, tweaking several aspects of the offense to stabilize the offensive line and create more conflict in the defense. Beginning with the personnel, the Pats coaching staff finally made a move we were all clamoring for by moving OL Mike Onwenu to right tackle. Onwenu hadn’t started a game at right tackle since the 2021 season, with the team trying to lock him in at guard, but the move was necessary.
Heading into the weekend, the Patriots ranked dead-last in pressures allowed (36) and were 32nd in pass-blocking grade by right tackles (27.9 out of 100). Something had to give, as the team couldn’t keep rolling out Vederian Lowe, who is simply in over his head. With fourth-rounder Sidy Sow holding his own at right guard, the Pats went with their sixth different combination in seven weeks: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, and Onwenu at right tackle.
Although they were missing interior rusher Ed Oliver, the Bills entered the game, leading the league in sacks (24) while ranking fifth in pressure rate. With big Mike at right tackle, Jones was only under pressure on a season-best 21.9% of his drop-backs, and the Pats had a 48% success rate on the ground. It might’ve come too late with the Pats in a hole record-wise, but it’s not hyperbole to say that reconfiguring the O-Line might’ve saved their season from disaster.
Along with re-shuffling the offensive line, O’Brien is slowly building more motion into the offense, especially in the running game, with the Pats utilizing motion on 72.7% of their plays this week. The Pats OC also called eight play-action plays (6-of-8, 95 yards) and used more RPOs.
It’s fair to ask, and we will, what took so long for the Patriots to do the following: move Onwenu to right tackle, feed Kendrick Bourne and Pop Douglas, and utilize more motion and run fakes. But my guess is that O’Brien was always building to this point with the offense. Unfortunately, the losses just snowballed on them too quickly.
This is the way for the Patriots offense moving forward. Now, let’s hope they stick with it.
4. Patriots Defense Finally Solves Josh Allen By ‘Charging Up’ the Bills Quarterback
The Patriots took a different approach to defending Bills quarterback Josh Allen this time, focusing on a coordinated pass rush to put Buffalo’s QB1 under siege.
As we wrote in our game plan piece earlier this week, to beat Captain Chaos (Allen), you have to bring the fight to him. New England did that by blitzing Allen on 43.2% of his drop-backs, while the Pats coaching staff challenged the interior defensive line to pressure Allen up the middle. The idea was to make Allen escape through the middle of the pocket rather than extending plays to his left or right, where he is most dangerous.
“You have to put the pressure up the middle. The edge guys can put pressure on him all you want, but if you don’t have pressure up the middle against this guy, this guy is an elite quarterback. Top three quarterbacks in the NFL, so you have to force him out of the pocket up the middle and hope that the ends can catch him,” Godchaux told Patriots.com.
The Pats interior rushers answered the call by contributing to a 40.9% pressure rate, which threw off the rhythm of the Bills offense and flustered Allen into some uncharacteristic misses in playground football mode. The leaders for the Patriots in QB pressures, per NextGen Stats, were Christian Barmore (5), Deatrich Wise (5), Ja’Whaun Bentley (3), and Godchaux (3). As those numbers suggest, they succeeded in pressuring Allen up the middle.
Although the Bills quarterback was only sacked once, Allen was hurried 18 times, throwing him off his game a bit. On pass attempts in over 2.5 seconds, Allen was just 10-of-24 with a 42.0 passer rating and a completion percentage over expected of -8.1.
Some days, the Bills quarterback might’ve burned the Patriots defense for allowing him to extend plays with his legs when pressure arrived. But, on this day, Allen was off his game.
5. Rookie WR Demario Douglas Breaks Out With Team-High 74 Scrimmage Yards
In another positive development for the Patriots offense, rookie jitterbug Demario Douglas returned from a one-game absence to lead the team with 74 scrimmage yards on five touches.