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Josh McDaniels on red zone woes: ‘We can do better, and we have to’

10.15.12 at 1:30 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels (white visor) are trying to figure out their red zone woes. (AP)

As ugly as the passing yardage allowed was in the final box score from Sunday, the stat that sticks out like a sore thumb to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was further down.

The Patriots were just 1-for-6 in the red zone. They were inside the 20 offensively six times and came away with just one touchdown, a 1-yard fade route from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez.

After the TD, the Patriots missed on their final five chances in the game, including the botched play just before halftime that ended with the Patriots going for a touchdown with six seconds remaining, only to have Brady throw the ball to no one in the back of the end zone for an intentional grounding call and the end of the half.

“Each possession is different,” McDaniels said Monday during a conference call. “Anytime you go down there and you end up with any negative type play, it can really hurt your opportunity to have success at the end of the drive, in terms of scoring touchdowns. We were down there six times and didn’t score enough. That’s obviously an area that we can do better in, have to do better in and get better in quickly.”

In the second half, the Patriots took their first drive and marched the ball down to the Seattle 17 but had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The second shot ended with Brady getting the Pats down to the Seattle 6 before trying to force a pass for Wes Welker. Earl Thomas picked off the pass, taking away the chance for any points that would have — as it turned out — sealed the game.

On the final chance — on their next possession — the Patriots got the ball down to the Seattle 17 before settling for another field goal.

“If we get the opportunity six chances down there to score touchdowns and only come away with one, certainly that’s not good enough,” McDaniels said. “There were a lot of different situations. Each drive was a different scenario there. We had a few third-and-shorts we didn’t convert on. We ended up with the [end of half] drive and were hoping for seven or three there and didn’t get it.

“But overall, I think your execution down there is certainly at a premium and whatever you’re calling is really at a premium. You have to do everything right down there because you really have no margin for error. We can do better, and we have to.”

So, instead of sitting at 4-2 and in control of the AFC East heading into their game with the Jets, the Patriots sit at 3-3 tied with the the rest of the division and the knowledge that their three losses are by a total of four points. In their loss to the Ravens, they led by nine with seven minutes left. In Sunday’s loss in Seattle, they led by 13 with eight minutes remaining.

McDaniels and Brady now must find a formula in the offense for converting first downs late and putting teams away.

“Ultimately, the end of the game is the most important part of the game and we need to do better,” McDaniels said. “I need to do better. We can prepare better and we can play better in those situations to try and finish the games out. I think it’s an important area that we improve in. Certainly, it can make a difference in any game. We just have to do a good job of trying to continue to coach and prepare for that situation better. We’ve been in that situation a few times and we have to be able to close out games when we get that opportunity.”

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