The Patriots are turning the page to a new week following their big upset win over the Bills, but they're counting on winning being contagious as they face another divisional opponent in Miami on Sunday.
After orchestrating his first-ever game-winning touchdown drive, quarterback Mac Jones said the word for the offense this week is "consistency" as they try to build off the winning formula that helped them snap a three-game losing streak against their division rivals last Sunday.
"Really just want to build off the momentum and continue to do it, do it over and over again," Jones told reporters on Wednesday. "Stick to the process, have expectations for yourself, and don't pay attention to the other expectations. That's going to be big for me and really starts in practice, right? Try to focus on how you can do it again. How can you stack good days together? That's going to be a very big focus for me this week."
"Regardless of what happens, it's a one-week season every week. We understand that here, and that's important to understand because you've got to go out there and do it each week."
As they begin focusing on the Dolphins, a few areas of recent improvement plagued the Patriots in the first matchup against Miami, a 24-17 loss in Week 2 at Gillette Stadium.
First, Jones spoke about the Patriots generating more explosive plays in the passing game. In the first meeting with the Dolphins, the Pats didn't generate a single play over 20 yards, with their longest pass play being 14 yards and Jones going 0-5 on deep throws. Last week, the Pats offense generated five plays over 20 yards to set up a season-high 29 points.
"Yeah, it's good. We just want to try to do it again. What did we do well, and how can you replicate that? Then what did we not do well, and how can you learn from it," Jones said of the chunk plays.
One thing that the Patriots starting quarterback pointed to that helped the offense create more explosives was the use of motion, particularly involving rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas. During a post-game interview following Sunday's game, Jones credited offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien for calling similar plays to what the former Alabama quarterback ran in college.
"He did a great job calling a good game, being aggressive, and using things that I did in college that I really like. So, I really appreciate that," Jones said.
Based on his response to a question about motion, it appears that motion is an element that Jones was referring to when he brought up his success at Alabama on Sunday.
"I definitely enjoyed that part of the game. How can we do that to get guys open, create areas in the defense that become open because of that, and you see that around the NFL, a lot of teams use motion. High school football, it's big now. College football it's been big for a while. I definitely enjoy watching other teams use it as well and what you can learn from that information," the Patriots quarterback told reporters.
Specifically on his new jitterbug receiver who can make big plays with his route running and explosive ability as a ball carrier, Jones, who grew up in the same area as Douglas in Florida, continues to push his rookie teammate to get the best out of the Pats breakout playmaker.
"He always talks about his size, right? He's always going to keep fighting, and I know that about him. I can be hard on him and try to raise that standard because I know where he comes from. I know how hard he works, and he's going to bring it every week," Jones said of Douglas.
As for the Patriots offensive coordinator, O'Brien was also asked a follow-up question about adding more Alabama-style concepts to make Jones feel comfortable in the offense.
"There are some things that we do that really are still the foundation of this offense that maybe we do on a week-to-week basis that maybe dress things up a little bit differently," O'Brien began. "So whether it was Alabama or maybe 12 years ago, New England offense, we're always going to try to do things to put our guys in the right positions to make it where Mac can really communicate what he has to communicate and get things done."
Along with the college-style elements that the Patriots are integrating into the offense, O'Brien's emphasis on communication is key to one more talking point for Jones during his weekly media availability. Jones was asked about the Pats improvements against the blitz, where Mac was 9-of-10 for 114 yards with two touchdowns against the Bills.
Miami isn't typically a traditional blitz-heavy defense, but the Dolphins blitzed Jones on a season-high 13 drop-backs in Week 2. Plus, Miami also majors in "creepers" pressures where a back seven defender will blitz while a player who would typically pass rush drops in coverage. In Week 2, Jones was also efficient against the blitz (10-of-11 for 93 yards) but was sacked twice.
"The biggest thing is just trusting everything. It's going to be different guys everywhere. You're going to play against different guys. Trust in my rules, trust in my process," Jones said. "They've got a great defense that we're about to go up against. Obviously played against them earlier in the year, and they've got good talent everywhere. They've got good coaching, and when you have both of those things in this league, you're going to have a good team. So, definitely a big challenge."
When it comes to beating the blitz, most of it comes down to pre-snap communication and being on the same page as your offensive line and receivers. Quarterbacks can set the protection to block the blitz correctly and help their offensive line by knowing when they're "hot" based on the protection scheme, and receivers can help by making the proper post-snap route adjustments.
A few weeks ago, Jones pointed to his pre-snap checklist as a big thing for him when it comes to getting the offense into the best possible play to succeed. The Pats QB1 didn't want to share his secrets publicly but did answer generally about what a pre-snap checklist means to him.
"I don't really talk about that publicly, but definitely stick with what I do. There are a few things you can do. Every quarterback has some form of that, and for me, it's about keeping it simple and, like I said, do my job. If it's to hand it off, hand it off. If it's to throw it, throw it. If it's to read an RPO or whatnot, just try and read it out the right way. Try and eliminate any errors and continue to stick to the process," Jones told Patriots.com.
Although it's natural to point to the clutch moments and creative scheming by O'Brien as reasons for the offense's breakout performance last week, the devil is in the details for this offense. When the group communicates and plays with sharp fundamentals, they can be a productive offense, but they don't necessarily have the talent to cut corners.
The Dolphins, under vet defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, will certainly challenge the Patriots to be sharp with their execution. Fangio is known for his sound coverage system that puts a lot on the quarterback's plate after the snap to diagnose the defense, and they'll challenge New England's re-worked offensive line with a pass rush that ranks seventh in pressure rate.
The Patriots are feeling better about themselves coming off one of their biggest wins in Jones's career, but there's no rest for the weary when they travel to Miami this weekend.