Few things if any went right for the Patriots Sunday afternoon in Tennessee in the 34-10 loss to the Titans. That was obvious both by the eyeball test and the stat sheet.
According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, it was pretty much 60 minutes of nothing being “good enough,” including the Titans 58-yard initial kickoff return that jumpstarted home team’s opening scoring drive.
“That play was pretty much symptomatic of the whole game,” Belichick said in the early going of his day-after-game conference call with the local media Monday afternoon. “So, bad coaching, bad playing. Offense, defense, special teams. Running game, passing game, kicking game. We just didn’t do a good enough job. I didn’t do a good enough job. It starts with me. We didn’t do a very good job of coaching. We didn’t do a very good job of playing.
“That’s pretty much all of it. Whatever area you want to ask about, I’d say that for all of us. None of it was good enough.”
Beyond Belichick’s blanket assessment of his team’s poor performance in Nashville, here are some of the other key takeaways from his afternoon conference call.
Too few passing game targets?: One of the talking points for fans and analysts after the loss was the fact that 32 of Tom Brady’s 42 passing attempts targeted just three players – Julian Edelman (12), James White (8) and Josh Gordon (12). Throws to Gordon were especially ineffective, as he caught just four passes for 81 yards. He battled drops and tailed off dramatically after hauling in a 44-yard reception on his first target of the day.
Belichick was asked if there was a desire to get more guys involved in the passing game and distribute the ball better through the air.
“Our main concern is to score points and win. So, whatever falls into that category I’m for and that’s what we’ll do,” Belichick responded rather concisely to the first question of the conference call.
Pass rush a productive of opportunity: A week removed from a controlled, consistent pass rush that was a big part of the successful defensive effort against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, New England wasn’t anywhere near as successful dealing with Marcus Mariota. The Patriots front had just two sacks and two QB hits on Mariota, who had a 20-yard designed run in the win.
Conversely, Brady was pressured early and often by Tennessee’s front, including three sacks and six QB hits.
Though Belichick was specifically asked about his team’s drop-off in pass rush from one week to the next, his answer focused on pass rush on both sides of the ball and how it often very much relates to the way the game is unfolding.
“Quite obviously the game situation has a lot to do with that,” Belichick said of an inability to get much pressure on Mariota. “When you are behind and throwing a lot like we were yesterday they are going to get more rush opportunities and get more pressure. When they’re ahead they can play an offense that is more balanced or maybe even more favorable to the run and there are less opportunities and certainly less predictable opportunities because of the score and situation. And vice versa. When you are playing from behind you don’t have a lot of opportunities to rush the passer. We sacked Mariota on a third down play at the end of the third quarter, somewhere in there. But we didn’t create enough of those situations and didn’t do well enough in them when we did. So that’s a big part of it, is opportunities. And we have to do better with the opportunities we have, obviously, however many there are.”
“Lot of confidence” in Develin: Patriots Pro Bowl fullback James Develin scored the team’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter in Tennessee. It was the versatile veteran’s first rushing attempt since 2014 and first rushing touchdown since 2013. But, it’s clear the well-respected Patriot contributes in a variety of ways, including in the kicking game where he had three tackles and a forced fumble against the Titans.
“James is a very hard working and dependable player,” Belichick said of his fullback. “He will certainly do whatever role he’s asked to do on our team and he’s been asked to do multiple ones. He’s a smart, well-prepared, versatile player that will do whatever he’s asked to do. He contributes for us in the kicking game and different situations offensively. We all have a lot of confidence in him and we know he works hard and prepares as well as anybody to do his job. He earns everybody’s confidence and respect from his daily performance to do that.”