The New England Patriots entered Sunday’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals as comfortable 13.5 point favorites, most likely due to the Patriots being at home and having a powerful offense that should have been able to easily outscore the visiting Cardinals. As the game progressed, however, it soon became apparent that the offense many thought the Patriots would field in the contest was simply not going to show up. Therefore, without the prolific offense the Patriots are accustomed to, it is unsurprising that the team fell to the Arizona Cardinals by the score of 20-18.
How the New England Patriots struggled on offense went beyond what their final statistics tell us. No, Tom Brady did not have a great day throwing to his group of receiving targets. For the afternoon, Brady only completed 28 of his 46 pass attempts, throwing for 316 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That passing line translates to a completion percentage of 60.9 percent, 6.9 yards per pass attempt, and 6.3 adjusted yards per pass attempt. Since Brady was also sacked four times for 19 yards, he was only able to post 5.9 net yards per pass attempt and 5.4 adjusted net yards per pass attempt.
None of those statistics come anywhere close to the level of passing efficiency and brilliance we have come to expect from Brady, and the lackluster day he had was a big reason why the Patriots did not score more than 18 points for the game.
The rushing game also failed to live up to expectations as the Patriots combined to gain only 90 yards on 28 carries for an anemic average of 3.2 yards per carry. A team, even one that is so predicated on passing success to score points, at least needs the semblance of a rushing attack, but the Patriots could not even lay claim to that on Sunday.
Yet, as unimpressive as the Patriots final offensive statistics were, it was really the poor performance of the Patriots on second and third downs after superb production on first down that really spelled the doom for the team and kept them from winning the contest.
On first down, the Patriots played like the offense people expected to show up on Sunday. For the game, the Patriots played 37 first downs and had an average of 10.0 to go to get a first down. Since a team needs to gain 45% of first down yardage to have a successful play on first down, if the Patriots had only averaged around 4.5 yards per first down, it would have been a good day for the offense. Instead, the Patriots actually averaged 6.3 yards per first down on Sunday, meaning they were spectacular on first down. Unfortunately, the Patriots were unable to carry that over to their other downs.
In the case of second downs, a team needs to gain 60% of the second down yardage to have a successful play. The Patriots failed to do so against the Cardinals on Sunday. They had an average of 8.3 yards to go on their 25 second downs and only gained an average of 4.4 yards, which meant they averaged gaining 53.0 percent of second down yardage. The Patriots’ second down performance was not horrendous, but it was also not good enough.
Mostly it was not good enough because by not gaining more yards on second down, the Patriots made it much harder for themselves on third down as evidenced by the fact the Patriots had an average of 7.8 yards to go on their 15 third downs. The offense only gained an average of 2.9 yards per third down on the way to only managing to convert five of their 15 third downs into first downs.
Without better production on second and third downs, the Patriots were unable to sustain drives for long enough to score touchdowns. Instead, the team had to settle for field goal after field goal, attempting five field goals for the contest, converting four of them, to only one touchdown scored.
Going forward, the Patriots will need to find a way to gain more yards on second and third downs so as to avoid having their drives continually stall. Otherwise, the team will see themselves defeated on other occasions as the offense fails to score more points.