The New England Patriots' offense has shouldered much of the blame for the team's disastrous 2023 campaign, and rightfully so.
The Patriots entered Sunday's game against the Chargers averaging 13.5 points per game, barely ahead of the New York Giants (13.3) for second-worst in the NFL. They've scored 13 points total over their last two games and have topped 20 points just once in 11 contests.
New England's offensive ineptitude has put a strain on the defense, which essentially needs to play a perfect game for the team to have success. But as Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer explained Sunday on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Pregame Live, some in Foxboro believe the defense shouldn't be absolved of all blame for the Patriots' 2-9 record.
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"Some of that frustration is on the part of a defense that's felt the weight of having to carry the team through the last three months," Breer said, as seen in the video player above. "Now, there are people in the building who would say, on the flip side, 'We're not exactly fielding the '85 Bears on the other side of the ball.'
"Clearly there's a little bit of a disconnect there, and the way they finished practice (this week) probably won't help. Maybe (they can) channel some of that frustration going forward. But it certainly wasn't their best week of practice."
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The defense's frustration is understandable. NFL teams are 50-2 this season when allowing 10 points or fewer, and the Patriots own both of those losses -- a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany and a 10-7 defeat to the New York Giants last week. The defense is far from perfect, however: New England ranks 21st in the NFL in scoring defense (22.5 points per game allowed) and has allowed 30 or more points in three separate contests.
Breer noted the Patriots had a "very up-and-down week" of practice ahead of their matchup with the Chargers, reporting that quarterback Bailey Zappe -- who took over for Mac Jones as the team's starter this week -- didn't give the offense "much of a spark."
So, the defense probably isn't inspired by the anemic offense it sees every day in practice, while the offense might be resentful that it's taking all of the heat for the team's struggles this season.
Such are the issues that plague a 2-9 team hurtling toward its worst record in 30 years. If there's any upside, the Patriots are in the driver's seat to secure top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.