The biggest difference between preseason and regular-season football is game planning.
After an inconsistent seven exhibition drives, the Patriots offense is expecting that success will come when the coaching staff is crafting the best ways for the team to attack the opposing defense. Instead of calling plays with the focus on repetitions, now the results of the plays matter.
"Preseason and game-planning for regular season games are two different worlds. It's really not comparable," head coach Bill Belichick explained. "I don't think preseason games are a real big indicator of what the team is or isn't, one way or the other."
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Senior Football Advisor and offensive line coach Matt Patricia had a similar sentiment about New England's struggling running game this summer.
"Right now, we'll run (plays) into looks that maybe aren't great so that we can get the runs in and make sure we are getting enough reps at everything before the reps get limited," Patricia said.
Although the goal is to anticipate the best play calls against a specific defense, one of the advantages the Patriots have is a second-year quarterback with a high football IQ.
When it comes to the chess match on Sundays, quarterback Mac Jones relishes in the game within the game against opposing defenses to put his offense in a position to succeed.
"I've always enjoyed the X's and O's part of it more than anything else," Jones said during his weekly media availability on Wednesday.
"By the time you get to game day, the goal is to 'alright, this is exactly what I'm supposed to do. If this happens, what do I do? If that happens, what do I do?' So you have everything already played out in your head, and you just have to go out there and execute it.
With Jones having more control of the offense at the line of scrimmage in the regular season, he can audible or check into a better play against a specific defensive front or coverage.
"It's all about your tools and problem-solving. That's the fun part of the game. We have good coaches who are going to put us in a position to do that. We have good experience with some of the looks we've seen last year and in the preseason. It's all about what are my tools and how can I fix it. That's the big thing for me, just being able to apply that."
"I think we've ironed out a lot of things, and it's good that they are happening now. I feel confident in what we're doing. We just have to go out there and do it for 60 minutes," Jones added.
The questions around the Patriots are if game plans can fix what ails the offense. But New England is using the pseudo-bye week between the preseason and regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins next Sunday to clean up their fundamentals.
"Football is all about fundamentals. For me, that's stepping up in the pocket and going through my reads to get the ball to the open guy. Everybody else has a different maybe rule or thing that they're trying to work on, especially when you have a little bit of free time, you can call it, you always want to get better," Jones said.
Ultimately, the Patriots can't count on a game plan and Jones's problem-solving abilities to fix all the issues we saw with the offense in the preseason. However, there's a strong belief that things will fall into place when the game-planning begins, and Jones's football mind takes over.
When the team begins preparing for the Dolphins next week, it'll be the first test of the theory that installing a game plan and adjusting to an opponent can help the Patriots offense moving forward.