Sunday was a pathetic display of defense by the New England Patriots.
On consecutive fourth quarter drives by the Miami Dolphins offense, the Patriots defense got dominated by their running game. The Dolphins entered the game with the worst rushing offense in the National Football League.
Miami was without their top 3 pass catchers, so it was reasonable that they would rely a bit heavier on the ground game than normal, but what occurred was some of the most rushing defense seen across the NFL this season.
Miami ran for a season high 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging over 6.0 yards per carry. On those two game-clinching drives, Miami ran for 121 yards including a 3rd and 8 conversion on a draw play.
Even worse, how did the New England staff respond while they watched their defense getting gashed play after play? By not changing their personnel and continuing to play with extra defensive backs on the field. Even once Miami entered the redzone while up by 3 points, New England had one linebacker on the field. On top of that, they made a crucial error by allowing too many men on the field penalty after a timeout and stoppage of play.
Those two drives were an indication that this Patriots defensive coaching staff, as a whole, is not properly equipped to run a defense. Getting beaten like a drum by the worst rushing attack in football is bad enough, but unforced coaching errors and a refusal to change the personnel that ultimately led to the loss was a sad, distressing effort.
Head coach Bill Belichick isn’t going anywhere, but he desperately needs a qualified assistant coach to call plays if he isn’t going to. His son Steve Belichick has been uninspiring as a play-caller this season, as New England’s defense has gone from the best in the NFL to an average unit at best. Former linebacker Jerod Mayo is too new to the coaching profession, as are the rest of the position coaches.
That issue has been a glaring one this entire season.
New England’s coaching staff has long been one that other franchises have poached from. They’ve continually lost assistant coaches who are seeking a promotion, but ultimately the finalized structure of the coaching staff this past offseason was questionable to say the least. It has come back to bite them throughout the season.
Bill Belichick promoted Mick Lombardi to wide receivers coach this offseason, a 32 year-old coach who has no experience with the position as a player or as a coach. That was the hire to handle a wide receiver group featuring two second-year players that are the current cornerstones of the room. Unsurprisingly, the development of 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry has been borderline non-existent.
The lack of development on the Patriots roster was predictable this season, and the X’s and O’s disaster seems to be another result of a lack of proven experience throughout the coaching staff. Additions of experienced coaches have to be made this offseason, otherwise next year will play out in a similar fashion.