Patriots fans take a break this weekend with the team not playing, but the coaches are using the bye week to look inward, since there is no opponent.
With three losses and some noticeable areas of concern, there is no shortage of focus points.
“You want to get better every week, you always want to try to improve,” said coach Bill Belichick during his Tuesday teleconference. “This is a good opportunity for us to look at some things that we can do better going forward, but also looking back at maybe things that we could spend more time on to try to improve.”
One trouble area — at least going into last Sunday’s game against the Rams in London — was in some of the situational spots any offense encounters: not being able to maintain late leads, missing end-of-half scoring chances, red zone turnovers.
None of that was an issue against the Rams.
“We really have been focusing hard on a lot of the situational plays and had some good production on third down, red zone, two-minute offense, those types of things,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“I think there’s a lot of different ways you could go into a bye week. But if we find a few things that we feel like can make a difference for us in some areas of our games, that’s definitely something you try to get done.”
How does a team go about identifying and addressing those during the week off?
“I think it’s a combination of things,” Belichick said. “We take a look at our statistical information, what we’ve done, how productive it has or hasn’t been in all aspects, see what tendencies we have created and whether we’re happy with those tendencies or whether we want to change them.
“The self-scouting process, the film evaluation, kind of taking a look at how other teams have played us, if there’s a common thread there, if we’re kind of seeing the same coverages or the same front or the same formations are repeating. Whatever it happens to be on a consistent basis, then there’s probably a reason for that.”
Thirty-eight point wins in the NFL are rare, so the Patriots, courtesy of the bye week, have a little extra time to enjoy the 45-7 win in London over the Rams.
“When you go into any week, you hope to put together a plan that gives your guys a chance to go out there and execute and play fast and hopefully be productive,” McDaniels said. “And then for the players to go out and play the way they did, it always makes you feel good.”
Through eight weeks, the Patriots lead the league in points (262), points per game (32.7), and yards gained (3,526). They have the top-ranked offense in the league, perfectly balanced: No. 5 in rushing, No. 5 in passing.
“Staying balanced is certainly something that can help the passing game,” McDaniels said. “But I also think it ultimately comes down to guys doing a good job of running their routes and getting open and Tom [Brady] throwing them the ball.”
‘A’ for effort
During his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady had high praise for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had his best game of the season (8 catches, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns) against the Rams. What impresses Brady most is that Gronkowski has put up solid numbers (43 receptions, 580 yards, team-high 7 touchdowns) despite a nagging hip injury. He has been on the injury report since Week 4.
“He hasn’t had much of a chance to practice this season, he’s been listed on the injury report a bunch, but he comes out and plays every single weekend,” Brady said. “There’s nothing more you can say about one of your teammates than when you’re playing at less than 100 percent and you’re giving everything you can to the team. That’s what Patriot football is all about. Everyone recognizes that with a guy like Gronk.”
The players had Tuesday off, and will be given Halloween off, as well. They’ll practice just once this week, on Thursday, before getting an extended weekend break and then returning next week for the second half of the season. Brady said he’ll draw trick-or-treating duty on Wednesday, taking his sons out with friends. He was asked during his WEEI interview what costumes he remembers selecting for Halloween. “I was Joe Montana,” said Brady, who grew up in the Bay area as a 49ers fan. “I was a ninja once.”
One and done
The only negative from the Rams game was the first-series touchdown (on a 50-yard pass) given up by the defense, yet another big pass play. But that was the only time the Rams scored. “I certainly don’t think you want to start any game, or any drive for that matter, giving up points,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “That’s our goal, to not allow them to score, and unfortunately we didn’t do a good job of that on the first series of the game. Our guys battled back, really tried to get things corrected.”
The Patriots made a roster move Tuesday, releasing linebacker Bobby Carpenter. He had played the past four games after being signed Oct. 3 (he was with the team in training camp before getting cut Sept. 1), and had two special-teams tackles . . . Belichick was asked what instructions or reminders he gives his players as they receive some rare in-season time off. “Use good judgment, be careful, come back with a fresh attitude, be ready to go,” Belichick said . . . Sunday’s win drew a 33.4 local television rating, much higher than the 25.3 the last time the Patriots played in London.