When you stack the Patriots offensive stats from the 2019 season alongside those of seasons past, the results aren't pretty.
Their points-per-game are at 26.8, their first time under 27 since 2009. They're 10th overall in Football Outsiders DVOA, their lowest ranking since 2003. They're converting third downs just 38.8 percent of the time, their second-worst rate of since 2000, and they're scoring touchdowns in the red zone just 50 percent of the time, their lowest rate since 2003.
But at 10-2, the 2019 Patriots still very much control their own fate, and this weekend's game against the Chiefs will be a big chance to get things on track against one of the best teams in the NFL.
"I think there's a lot of things that you could look at that you could say we could improve on," admitted Josh McDaniels this week. "Certainly, that's the truth. I think it's been the truth most seasons that I've ever coached. But, at the end of the day, there are certain things that we have to do well in order to give our team the best chance to be successful, some of which we've done decent throughout the course of the year and some of which we certainly need to do better."
But there's no magic bullet, or player, to make things right and Patriots players remain confident that they have the pieces to turn things around.
"We have all the pieces we need in that room, it's all about execution," reassured captain James White. "Just got to go out there and play better. Everybody knows that.
"You can tell on the film we have spurts of good plays and spurts of bad plays and have a lot of penalties, negative plays, things of that nature. It's very uncharacteristic of our offense. Everybody knows we have what we need, it's just all about executing and being locked in on every single play."
If the Patriots are locked in against the Chiefs defense there will opportunities for success. The Chiefs are allowing 141.3 rushing yards-per-game, 30th in the league, their same ranking in run defense DVOA. But paper rankings matter little once the football is kicked off and if the running game is to explode on the Chiefs, players like Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will have to earn it.
"We just got to be expecting that they know what we do," said Michel in the locker room on Wednesday. "Prepare as if they'll propose a good challenge for us just like every week. We just have to be ready for it. The guys, we're working this week and we're ready."
A good game on the ground means controlling the clock and opening up the passing game, two things the Patriots offense could use some help with.
Because once the Chiefs get offenses into passing situations they're able to tee off.
"Really a good team in short yardage, very good in third-and-medium scenario where they excel and they can get after the quarterback," said McDaniels. "To create disruptive plays they have guys in the front, [Frank] Clark, [Chris] Jones, [Alex] Okafor – those guys can really get in the backfield and create some disruption in the running game."
The other key for Kansas City's defense? Takeaways, where they're tied for seventh in the NFL.
"Defensively, they've got the takeaways, and they've hit the plus-side on that and that's always a big key for their defense when they can take the ball away," said Belichick. "So, got a lot of ball hawking-type players over there on the defensive side of the ball, and we're going to have to do a good job there of making sure that we take good care of it."
Despite their statistical weaknesses, the Chiefs should be expected to bring their best game. They'll need no extra motivation against a Patriots team that ended their season last year and has represented the AFC in the four of the last five Super Bowls.
James White was confident that his team was ready for the challenge.
"For us, we have a lot of fight in this team. Whether we're up 20 points, down 20 points, guys are going to keep competing, you have no doubt about that."
They'll need 60 minutes of fight on Sunday.
The Patriots had the same attendance at Thursday's practice as they had at Wednesday's, missing Ted Karras and Byron Cowart with no place kicker present. A cold and breezy practice, the team was in helmets and shells.
Locker Room Sound Bites
Jonathan Jones on the Patriots tough five-game stretch:
"It's that time of the year, it's that time of the year when it's crunch time. Everybody knows what they do well as a team on offense and teams are gelling. It's that stretch where you have to play good football and every down matters. You never know when the explosive plays are going to come, you have to prepare for that."