The New England Patriots are 2-4, and all their losses have come at home. Both of those numbers are not the kind we're accustomed to from a Bill Belichick squad. If a handful of plays end differently (the Damien Harris red zone fumble in Week 1, Nick Folk's missed 56-yard game-winner, Nelson Agholor's dropped slant in OT against the Cowboys), the Patriots could very well be 5-1. They could also easily be 0-6. It's one of those kinds of years.
What has been frustrating throughout the first six weeks of Patriots football has been the play-calling offensively and the larger decision-making on that side of the ball. Mac Jones is a rookie and the offensive line has struggled immensely in their task to protect him from large defensive linemen. Those two factors have led to conservative decisions, like screens every time it's third-and-10 or longer and a clear mandate to play not to lose instead of playing to win.
Which is awfully strange, considering the grumpy guy in charge of making those calls was at the forefront of aggressiveness in coaching decisions over the last 15 or so years. Mina Kimes addressed Belichick's conservative decision-making on NFL Live yesterday, and came to only one conclusion: it's holding the Patriots back.
She's right! The specific instance Kimes mentioned during OT against Dallas is just one example. Belichick chose to try a 56-yard field goal with an injured kicker in a monsoon when it was fourth-and-three against the Bucs. New England has made no effort to move down the field whenever they get the ball back on offense with less than two minutes to go before the half because Belichick does not trust Jones. New England made an epic goal-line stand against Dak Prescott on Sunday and received the ball with 90 seconds left before the end of the second quarter and one timeout. They ran out the clock, sacrificing possible points in a game where they obviously needed every one they could get.
There is, of course, no guarantee things would be different if Belichick made the aggressive call in any of the instances above. But the legendary head coach has apparently decided that trying for the improbable is not worth the risk. Maybe it's because he doesn't trust Jones, or has lost trust in McDaniels, or simply trusts his defense more since that's always been his expertise.
No matter which way you slice it, his conservative calls have cost the Patriots multiple wins already this season. Belichick plays not to lose. That was fine when he had the greatest quarterback ever doing everything he could to win. Now he has Mac Jones instead, and when you play not to lose with Mac Jones, you lose. It's as simple as that.