It was another one-and-done for the Patriots when the playoffs came around this season. Their 14 regular-season wins showed they have what it takes to compete with the best — but just competing won’t cut it around here.
Here are five improvements they need to make to go even further.
1. Rushing it
Look no further than the last game the Pats played against the New York Jets to see what they may need most of all: a pass rusher. Mark Sanchez stood and stood and stood in the pocket … and wasn’t sacked once.
A little pressure on the quarterback goes a long way. Maybe we’ll actually see some next year.
2. Third and long
The Patriots were the worst in the league when it came to stopping the opposition on third down. They allowed a third-down conversion 47.1 percent of the time, and gave up a league-worst 226 passing first downs.
They’ll need to shore up the safety position for next season to fix that.
3. Man(kins) up
He only played for half the season, but you could see the impact Logan Mankins made on the sketchy offensive line.
The Pats absolutely must find a way to get him back next season (and beyond), whether that means a new contract or the franchise tag.
4. Backing up
The Pats look relatively set at wide receiver and running back, but they could use a solid third option at each position.
They don’t need superstars, but it’s important to shore up those positions heading into next season to go with their emerging tandem of tight ends.
5. Killer instinct
This isn’t a position, but it could be their biggest need: Attitude. Sure, they show it in the regular season, but the Pats are 0-3 in their last three playoff games. They lack a killer instinct when it counts, and it starts with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.