McDaniels answers "Red Zone" critics, but reveals chink in armor as well?
Was that a bus that just drove past Gillette Stadium and, if so, was that Tom Brady underneath it?
In the hell storm of negativity following the New England Patriots' dismal loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was pelted by questions during his weekly conference call with reporters on Tuesday regarding his play calling and how it was connected to the teams' red zone woes - and his replies were oddly accusatory of his future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Blount is one of four powerful backs for the Patriots
And while McDaniels attempted to be Belichickian in his responses, his attempt at dodging the question revealed some transparency in his thinking, and also perhaps revealed a disturbing soft spot in his own philosophy.
"The Miami Question", as McDaniels put it, is a question as to whether the Patriots would have been better off sprinkling in some more running plays into the offense, given the success on limited attempts by his running backs - but we've seen this before.
The Patriots called just nine running plays in the second half of Sunday's loss, with McDaniels explaining that the Dolphins dictated what New England should call on offense by showing Brady different reads that supposedly caused him to check out of running plays close to the goal line - Reminiscent of the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5:
"Even having a first and goal from the Bengals’ one yard line late in the game, McDaniels called a first down run and, not gaining any ground, gave up and attempted a fade to eligible tackle Nate Solder of all people, and a jump ball for a 5′ 10″ Julian Edelman before settling for a field goal – essentially telling every football player, fan and expert that he doesn’t trust his offensive line and backs to get one yard for a game altering touchdown…" - Foxborough Free Press, October 7, 2013
After that game, McDaniels admitting that he could have been better at achieving balance in his play calling - but now while accepting some responsibility, he's explaining that a 14-year-veteran with two league MVP awards, who has guided the club to seven AFC Championship games, five Super Bowls and who has won three World Championships checked out of running plays near the goal line in order to get smacked in the teeth by an unrelenting Dolphins' blitz?
"A lot of times we have multiple options in the huddle, and sometimes you end up with the perfect blend and perfect balance when you do that, and sometimes the defense, when you're trying to get certain things against a specific look, sometimes you can get a little skewed."
McDaniels responded to questions about his Red Zone philosophy on Tuesday, acknowledging that the Miami defense was dictating the play calling and taking away New England's power game, then throwing his quarterback under the bus with a read-between-the-lines, back-handed compliment:
"We certainly don't want to take the freedom away from our quarterback to get us into a good play and we don't want to become just a call-it-on-the-sideline team when we have a quarterback that's capable of doing a lot of good things with our offense at the line of scrimmage."
Is this what's been happening all season? Is this why the Patriots have been struggling in the first half of games - because they are being dictated to by the defensive play calling instead of taking the bull by the horns and taking by force what they are fully capable of taking?
The simple fact of the matter is that the Patriots have a power running game that is being used inconsistently, and the offense - in fact, the entire team - is suffering the consequences when balance is not achieved - and it's not like the Patriots haven't used the running game to it's full advantage at times this season, and always to the compliment of McDaniels and the backs...
...which makes the inconsistencies and the excuses all the more maddening.
With the talent on this roster and the wizardry of coach Bill Belichick and, yes, the offensive mind of Josh McDaniels, these Patriots should be running folks over on offense, not meekly taking what the defense supposedly gives to them - otherwise, what's the point of even taking the field?
In a game of violent ground acquisition, only the strong survive and the meek get stomped like grapes - there is no room for excuses, no tolerance for tactical errors and the team that adheres to the fundamentals reign supreme.
"No one is innocent, and on the field it starts with the offensive line and works it’s way back – but before any of that occurred, there was the play calling." - Foxborough Free Press, October 7, 2013