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Some eye-opening Patriots stats ahead of critical stretch run

Sports Final: Is Thursday night vs. Bills a must-win for Patriots?
Sports Final: Is Thursday night vs. Bills a must-win for Patriots? 05:36

BOSTON -- From basically the moment that Josh McDaniels took the Raiders' head coaching job, the primary question regarding the New England Patriots revolved around who would be taking the reins of the offense and who would be tasked with progressing Mac Jones' career forward after the quarterback had a very successful rookie season.

As it became clear through the spring that the answer to those questions were Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, some concern obviously permeated the region. While Patricia had plenty of experience coaching defense, and while Judge had plenty of experience coaching special teams, entrusting them to run an offense in a rather fragile state was a tall task. Yet even the most skeptical left open the possibility that Patricia and Judge could surprise everyone by building a successful offense while working under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick.

So, with 11 games in the bag and six critical games left to play, how's it going?

In short ... not good.

While Thursday night's offensive performance had enough highlights to provide some encouragement going forward, it wasn't nearly enough to undo a season's worth of offensive struggles.

We can start with the positives, because there aren't too many.

The Patriots rank 18th in the league in scoring, just outside of the top half. They've gotten some help in that regard with three defensive touchdowns, a special teams touchdown (which won them a game), plus a couple of touchdowns scored on short fields after opponents muffed punts. But they all count, and the Patriots are at least OK in terms of scoring, with 21.7 points per game. (Around the division, Buffalo ranks second in the NFL at 28.1 points per game, Miami ranks sixth at 25.6 points per game, and the Jets rank just behind the Patriots, at 20.9 points per game.)

Another positive? The Patriots rank eighth in the league in yards per pass play. At 7.19 yards per pass play, the Patriots rank fifth in the AFC. In the division, only Buffalo (7.36) is better.

The positives, though, end there.

Perhaps most alarming of all the numbers is the red zone performance. The Patriots have scored touchdowns on just 38.7 percent of their red zone trips. That's second-worst in the league, better than only the dreadful Denver Broncos. And the gap between 31st and 30th is significant, as the 30th-ranked Texans are scoring touchdowns on 44.8 percent of their red zone trips.

Condensing the red zone down to goal-to-go situations, the Patriots are a little better at punching it in, scoring on 62.5 percent of their goal-to-go opportunities. That number ranks 24th in the NFL.

The Patriots also rank 31st in the league at converting fourth downs, with just a 25 percent success rate. Only Cincinnati ranks lower.

Third down isn't a whole lot better, with New England ranking 25th in the league at converting with a 37.1 percent success rate. The Chiefs lead the league in that category at 51.2 percent, followed closely by the Bills at 50.8 percent.

In terms of total yards per game, the Patriots rank 21st. In rushing yards per game, they're 26th, and in passing yards per game, they're 19th. They are tied for 27th in first downs per game.

With just 11 passing touchdowns in 11 games, the Patriots are tied for 28th in that category. At the top of the league, the Chiefs have 29 passing touchdowns, while the Bills and Bengals each have 23, with the Packers and Dolphins just behind at 22 apiece.

They're tied for throwing the seventh-most interceptions. The Patriots have the third-highest interception rate, throwing a pick on a tick more than 3 percent of their passes. Despite that, the combined 91.3 passer rating of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe (with a light sprinkling of Brian Hoyer) does rank 15th in the NFL. That's due in large part to the Patriots completing 69.9 percent of their passes this season. New England is also tied for allowing the 10th-most sacks in the league.

On the ground, the Patriots rank 26th in yards per carry at 4.02. They're tied for having the ninth-fewest rushing touchdowns with just nine of them. The Eagles lead the NFL with 21 rushing touchdowns, followed by the Browns with 18 and the Lions with 16.

In terms of average number of plays per drive, the Patriots rank 29th. In average yards per drive, they rank 23rd. And in average points scored per drive, they rank 23rd.

Penalties have been an issue, too.

The Patriots have committed 20 offensive holding penalties (second-most in the NFL), 13 false starts, four illegal formation penalties, four delay of game penalties, two intentional grounding penalties, and one offensive too many men on the field penalty.

Of course, as mentioned, the game on Thanksgiving was a much-needed positive step for the offense overall. They topped 400 yards for just the second time all year, and Jones set a single-game career high in passing yards.

At the same time, the Patriots were just 3-for-10 on third down, and they were 0-for-1 on fourth down. They were also 0-for-3 in the red zone and 0-for-2 in goal-to-goal situations.

It is, at best, a work in progress.

They'll now face a Bills defense that ranks 12th in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed, before facing a Cardinals defense that ranks 31st in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. The Raiders, likewise, have a porous defense, ranking 27th in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed. So if you're looking for more nights like Thanksgiving, the Patriots should be able to put together some solid showings on their two-game road trip out west.

They'll then return home to face the Bengals, whose defense ranks in the middle of the pack, before hosting the Dolphins, whose defense is a tick worse than Cincinnati's.

The opportunity for improvement is still there. But the body of work to this point in the year has certainly been substandard for a team that has seemingly moved backward from last year.

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