N'Keal Harry may have had a touchdown taken away from him by game officials wrongly believing he had stepped out of bounds during the Chiefs loss Sunday. But in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' mind, that doesn't change the effort made on the play by the rookie, and the need to get him more involved in the offense.
In McDaniels' mind, there's definitely something to build off, after seeing Harry compete and fight for the end zone during the 12-yard fourth quarter completion.
* Certainly he made a great individual effort, broke a tackle, then had good balance to finish the play and give us an opportunity to score,” said McDaniels. * He's a big guy that's not easy to get to the ground. Certainly, when you have players like that … it comes back to, how can you get them the ball in those situations?”
McDaniels indicated Harry was much further along than he was three months ago because he has a broader foundation. He also lauded him for * working his butt off” in practice trying to close the gap.
* I need to do a better job of finding ways to get him in space,” said McDaniels, * get him the ball and let him have an opportunity to do some of those things.”
Harry was only targeted twice in the game. He left with a hip injury, so his status going forward will be monitored.
Along with Harry, McDaniels also said he needs to create more opportunities for fellow rookie Jakobi Meyers, who had an issue with drops on Sunday against the Chiefs.
* I got to find more ways to use the things that they do well, so they can help produce more in their roles,” said McDaniels. * That's what my job is with every player on the offense. I need to do a better job of that.”
The Patriots converted just 2 of 12 third-down chances. It's been a problem most of the season. They can't sustain drives, or even get them started.
* There's no small detail, there's nothing that's unimportant on third down. That's why it's so difficult,” said McDaniels. * Every play you call, everything you design needs to be well thought out, well designed. Your players have to feel good about what you're doing. Then we've got to go out there and execute it under pressure against a multitude of different looks, pressures, coverages, variations.”
McDaniels explained the Chiefs doubled multiple players — Julian Edelman and James White — on third down on Sunday. With those players usually Tom Brady's first or second reads, it's been tough getting the ball to others, especially with opposing teams blitzing and providing pressure.
* It's a tough down. Our guys are working real hard at it,” McDaniels said. * We're going to work real hard at it to try and improve in that area. We need to take advantage of the opportunities we have, and we need to continue to do the fundamental things right pre-snap, and post-snap on that down to give us the best chance to have success.”
Rookie Chase Winovich has been able to contribute in multiple roles, whether on defense (5.5 sacks), or in the kicking game.
During a conference call Tuesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked how rare it was for a rookie to be such a significant contributor in different roles.
* Well, I think you saw that from (Dont'a) Hightower and (Jamie) Collins when they were younger. I'm not going to put Winovich in their class yet. I mean, I think all of them are good football players,” said Belichick, * but I saw Jamie come in here, play inside, play outside, play on all the kicking units. Hightower played linebacker and defensive end in sub-situations and played in the kicking game, as well. So, they're all a little bit different, but we've been fortunate we've had some players come in here, and be able to do multiple things and contribute in different ways for us defensively fairly early in their career. And that's a big advantage. It's hard to do, but those guys have done a good job of it.”