LANDOVER, MD. — The Patriots aren’t going to complain too much about a hard-fought victory over a division opponent on the road. They’ll take a 16-10 win over the Bills and happily flee Orchard Park.
But even in victory last week, there was one phase of their game that caused some agitation, especially with the quarterback.
While the dominance of the defensive unit was certainly on display at New Era Field, the offense struggled. Neither the passing attack nor the run game were especially effective.
Tom Brady & Co. were stymied against a legitimate defense. It’s not often you see the Patriots punt nine times in a game on 12 possessions, punctuated by seven three-and-outs.
The good news? It shouldn’t take offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels all that long to come up with a cure for what ails the offense.
Meet the Washington Redskins defense. They’re not particularly good at stopping either the pass or the run.
They’re 28th against the run, 18th against the pass. It’s a deadly combination, as they’re surrendering 29.5 points per game. There’s only one team allowing more points per game, and that’s the Dolphins. The Patriots already put up 43 on them. So the offense should turn it around against the Skins.
“We know we can play better,” said wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who was targeted nine times but caught just two passes against the Bills. “We have to go back to the drawing boards and practice harder. We got to play harder.”
The Skins are the first in a succession of not-so-elite defenses the Pats face this month, as they’re followed by the Giants Thursday night and a return engagement with the Jets the following week. Gang Green was already victimized by the Pats.
So they should be able to steady the ship, and get back on track.
“We’re going to practice this week, and hopefully come out and make a statement next game,” said rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
The Pats should show they’re still capable of moving the ball, and piling up the points against inferior defenses. They’ll attack the Redskins where they’re the weakest. Since McDaniels can pick his poison, he might go to the air first, before finishing them off on the ground.
The Redskins like to blitz, and Brady is a master at picking up the added rushers, and getting rid of the ball quickly.
“They’re an aggressive team. They blitz quite a bit, try to apply pressure on the quarterback,” said McDaniels. “They’ve got a good front . . . Stout guys, difficult to move, really good power rushers, play hard. They have (Ryan) Kerrigan, (Montez) Sweat on the edge. They do a lot of blitzing off the edge. So, we’re going to deal with those guys the entire game because they’ve got two really good playmakers on the edge who can create disruptive plays.”
The offensive line is still adjusting to new personnel. Another new wrinkle could have come at tight end, with Benjamin Watson eligible to be activated for the game after serving his four-game suspension.
He would certainly would have helped the cause, but he didn’t make the trip for the game.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden no doubt took notes of how the Bills were able to neutralize the Patriots offense and made it difficult for Brady & Co. to move the ball. The Bills shut down the run and played man coverage in stuffing the passing game. They also got a bit of pressure on Brady, forcing him to get rid of the ball.
“They did a job stopping the run, and in passing situations, getting a little bit of pressure on Tom (Brady]), which is good. Forcing him into some errant balls from time to time, but really it’s all about pressure,” said Gruden. “Stopping the run with them, and then obviously handling some of their unique formations and (Julian) Edelman out in space on the shallow crosses and all of his work that Edelman does, you’ve got to have a hat on him somewhere.
“I know, obviously, the running backs are very productive out of the backfield catching the football,” he continued. “But really, I still think stopping the run is key because Tom gets a ton of action, a ton of plays with his play-action passes. He’s one of the best play-action passers in the game in my opinion, or probably the best.”
Brady said it was a matter of going back to the film room and figuring out what they do well, and bring it against the Redskins where it will be 4-0 vs. 0-4.
Instead of the battle of unbeatens we saw last week, this week it’s a battle of opposites. If you’re the Patriots offense, it’s the perfect opponent.
PREDICTION: Patriots 30, Redskins 6