By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On an individual level, Bill Belichick is pleased with the performance and growth from Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. Belichick has likewise made it very clear that he supports Cam Newton as the team’s quarterback.
On the whole, though, the Patriots’ head coach admitted what is painfully obvious to anyone who’s watched the team play this year: the passing game just isn’t good enough.
“Our passing game still is not as efficient as we need it to be,” Belichick said Tuesday morning. “Really everything that’s involved: the protection, route distribution, which involves everybody — tight ends, backs, and receivers, timing, and the ability to execute and create separation in man-to-man coverage. So, we continue to work on all those things.”
The Patriots rank 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game with just 185.4. They’re also dead last in the NFL with just eight passing touchdowns.
Newton has offset some of that lack of production by rushing for 11 touchdowns, and the Patriots do have a top-five rushing offense.
Still, it’s an era of passing in the NFL, and the lack of production in the passing game is a major reason why the Patriots sit at 6-7 and will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“Our running game has been more productive than it has been in the past, so I think our receivers have a role in that,” Belichick said of the effort in the blocking game from the receivers. “We still need to — there’s a lot of things we can improve on in the passing game. Everybody’s working on ’em.”
The Patriots have had some strong passing performances this year, with 397 passing yards in Seattle and 349 passing yards in Houston. But the team has been held under 175 passing yards 10 times this season, including a season-low 69 passing yards in the win vs. Arizona.
Rather than focus on the players, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels opted to shoulder most of the blame for that inconsistency.
“I feel very comfortable with our preparation. Cam works very hard. We work hard to try to put him in the right situations. And there’s games where we get into a really good flow and execute well and are productive, and then there’s been games this season where we’ve been more limited and hasn’t done as well,” McDaniels said. “So I always take those things personally. It’s my responsibility and I’m accountable to the performance of the offense, and whatever we’re not doing well, I certainly need to do a better job and address those things with our unit and try to improve those things.”
McDaniels added: “As far as Cam is concerned, I couldn’t ask anything more of him.”