Red alert: Patriots unproductive in red zone
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
The NFL and its fans welcomed back the regular officials with open arms
The New England Patriots are hoping their red-zone offense makes a
triumphant return this week, too.
season after scoring touchdowns on more than 65 percent of their trips
inside the 20-yard line, the Patriots have converted on just six of
their 12 visits this season, a distinct difference for an offense
accustomed to ranking among the league's best.
''We want to
score every time we get down there,'' receiver Deion Branch said.
''That's our goal to score in the red area. We just got to do a better
job of executing our plays.''
New England's recent red-zone
ineptitude was on full display in its 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. Nursing a six-point lead early in the fourth,
quarterback Tom Brady marched the offense 79 yards to the Baltimore
2-yard line before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 20-yard field goal.
a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, the Patriots
entered the red zone just once in the first half, again settling for a
Gostkowski field goal.
''That's been a big reason why we've lost
these last two games is because we're kicking field goals,'' Brady
said. ''If you start scoring touchdowns in those situations, then those
are four-point swings every time you have to kick a field goal and I
think we kicked whatever it was, three field goals last week.
hard to win if you're not productive in the red area and we have to
(be). That's definitely something we have to do a better job of.''
not going to get any easier Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (2-1) and
a revamped defense that has allowed just four touchdowns - two from
inside the 20 - in their last two victories over Kansas City and
Sure, the Chiefs and Browns don't exactly boast the
perennially potent offensive attack the Patriots (1-2) have put on
display in recent years. But an offseason overhaul on the defensive
line, anchored by defensive end Mario Williams, is sure to make Brady's
task of improving New England's red-zone production much more
Defensive end Mark Anderson - another key offseason
free agent signing who recorded 10 sacks with the Patriots last season
- has one of Buffalo's nine sacks this year, which is tied for seventh
best in the league.
''It's a big front, it's big linebackers,
they can all move, they're athletic and they really count on those
front four to get to the quarterback and they do it. It's not like you
can stand back there and figure everything out all day,'' Brady said.
''They have some guys that can really rush the passer. Bringing in
Mario and Mark obviously added a lot to their defense and they think so
New England also is in the unfamiliar position of
staring up at Buffalo in the AFC East. The last time the Patriots found
themselves under .500 was following a season-opening loss to the Bills
''I think we have to . dig ourselves out of a bit of a
hole that we kind of put ourselves into,'' Brady said. ''We're sitting
here at 1-2 and looking up at Buffalo and the Jets. It's a big game for
us, obviously, in terms of conference and division standings.
time you play a division opponent on the road, it's a big game. We lost
up there last year, so we have to go out there and try to play better
than we've been playing.''
Brady likely is trying to forget last
year's uncharacteristic performance. The two-time league MVP tossed
four touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions, one that was
returned for a touchdown, as the Bills stormed back from a 21-0
second-quarter deficit for a stunning 34-31 win that snapped a 15-game
losing streak against the Patriots.
New England was 3 of 5 in
the red zone that day, finding the end zone on its first two
possessions, but struggled the rest of the way, scoring just one
touchdown in the second half.
''We went up there last year,
didn't put our best foot forward. Now we've got to make sure that we go
out and don't have the same thing occur this year,'' Branch said. ''We
know what to expect from those guys. It's going to be a very intense
game, hostile environment - same as Baltimore.''
efficiency will play a pivotal role in the Patriots' quest to avoid
their first three-game skid since losing four in a row in 2002.
think there's always urgency. It's the NFL, you got to make sure you're
on top of everything at all times,'' receiver Wes Welker said.
''Especially the situation we're in, we've got to get back to winning
and making sure we're doing that and doing the things necessary to make
Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is atop the list.
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