Offensive tardiness has been a major issue for the 2020 New England Patriots.
Through 11 games, the Patriots have scored a grand total of 21 first-quarter points: a Devin McCourty pick-six in Week 2, a Cam Newton touchdown run in Week 9 and a Damien Harris touchdown run in Week 11.
How does that compare to the rest of the NFL? Poorly.
The Patriots’ first-quarter scoring average of 1.9 points per game ranks dead last in the league, a full point behind the 31st-place Chicago Bears (2.9). The Miami Dolphins rank first with 8.2 points per first quarter.
“We’ve been working on it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday when asked about these slow starts. “We work on it literally every day. So we’ll keep working on it and see if we can get better results there. We’ve had a few, but not consistently as a team. Not where we need to be or want to be. It’ll be important this week. It’s important every week.”
This is a new phenomenon for New England.
Even in 2019, the most offensively disjointed season of Tom Brady’s tenure, the Patriots ranked second in first-quarter scoring (7.1 points per game). They haven’t ranked outside the top 10 since 2013, when they were 12th. They were eighth in 2014, sixth in 2015, first in 2016, eighth in 2017 and third in 2018.
It’s extended beyond the first quarter, too. The Patriots rank 23rd in second-quarter scoring and 30th in first-half points per game, ahead of only the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. They’ve trailed at halftime in seven of their 11 games and haven’t held a halftime lead of more than four points all season.
Over the last 10 seasons, teams that led at halftime went on to win 78 percent of the time, according to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis. The 2020 Patriots are 3-0 when leading after the first half and 2-6 when trailing or tied.
“Honestly, if I had the answer, I would have done it 10 weeks ago,” Belichick said. “But right now, we’ve just got to perform better early in the game. Coaching, playing — find a way to be more productive than we’ve been. That’s definitely a priority.”