Anyone catch the Oregon versus Washington game last weekend? If you did then you might have noticed how similar the Patriots offense looks as compared to the Ducks. Fast paced no-huddle with tons of running out of the shotgun formations and short quick passes.
Just compare the Ducks 52-21 waxing of Washington to the 31-21 victory by the Patriots over Peyton Manning and the Broncos last weekend.
Team A: 497 total yards, 299 rushing, 198 passing, 32 first downs.
Team B: 444 total yards, 251 rushing, 193 passing, 35 first downs.
Pretty identical right? Team A is Oregon. Team B is New England.
Guess what? It’s not a coincidence. Oregon coach Chip Kelly worked with the Patriots’ staff this offseason and yet again Bill Belichick, with the help of Josh Mcdaniels has transformed the offense. In 2007 they were like Texas Tech with the air raid. Last season it was tight end city in a more Pro-Style. This season seems to be a move to spread run attack which is very college-like.
So while every team was ready for Gronk and Hernandez to rip it up it has been another two guys; Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden.
Ridley piled up 151 yards against Denver for his third 100-yard game of the season. He is ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing. Who is the last Patriot running back that really produced like this? Perhaps in the one-year revival of Corey Dillon’s career? If not that then its Curtis Martin. Now that’s not to say that five games is enough to compare him to a Hall of Famer (or former Jet) like C-Mart and a big part of it has been the system but what Ridley has done has been very impressive.
Then there is Bolden who was undrafted out of Ole Miss. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping (206 yards, one 100-yard game) but they don’t need to be. He spells Ridley and runs hard. Also still in the shuffle is the versatile Danny Woodhead who picked up the two biggest third downs of the game against Denver.
Also got to throw a ton of credit to the offensive line. With Matt Light and Brain Waters gone the unit had more question marks than a team would care to have and yet the line has held up. You have to have a skilled and conditioned line to run and offense like the Patriots did last week and it never looked like the guys were staggering down the field gasping for air/water/death.
Do the Patriots have the best running back group in the NFL? Probably not. However as the third best rushing squad so far, they certainly have the best system.
Wow, 373 words into a post and we haven’t even touched on the passing game. That has to be some kind of record. With the Patriots seemingly able to run the ball at will Tom Brady didn’t really have to be unbelievable. He completed a good amount of his passes (23-for-31) for a good amount of yards (223) and didn’t turn the ball over. (By the way he’s right behind that Brees fellow on that consecutive games with a touch down streak after another last week). However the numbers belie Brady’s most important contribution. There aren’t that many quarterbacks that could actually run the offense like the Patriots did. The amount of reads he has to make, the audibles he calls all while keeping everyone on the same page. There isn’t a stat for that but it needs to be said, this new system doesn’t work without No. 12 under center.
Sunday also officially put to rest the Wes Welker is being phased out rumor. 13 receptions, 104 yards and a touchdown. He’s had at least 100 yards and eight catches in each of the last three games. Sit down, shut up. Wes is just fine.
One of the victims, at least in terms of statistics, of this new power run offense is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had just four receptions and 35 yards. He’s had a few good games but is not at the level he was last season. Only three Gronk-spikes? Can’t say I’m not disappointed by that. However it’s coming with the offense playing a balanced and seemingly unstoppable style of ball so I also realyl can’t complain. Wins over fantasy points and stats all day erry day.
(Yes I just tossed out an erry).
Now let’s talk about the defense. It’d be awesome if the Patriots also looked like a college defnese like say Alabama. That’s not the case. Peyton threw for 337 yards on a bunch of passes that really wobbled and floated. At times it looked like a strong wind would just carry the ball away like the plastic bag in American Beauty. Still 337. The Patriots also had a open and shut game turn a bit more intriguing. That just seems to be the defense’s M.O. It can’t defend the pass very well (30th) and will let team’s back in the game if there is a top-line quarterback on the other side.
If it wasn’t for some fortunate miscues by Willis McGahee, that game could have ended up being even tighter.
Speaking of top-line quarterbacks have to take some time to mention the Manning-Brady rivalry. Brady is now 9-4 against Manning so its nice to see that the Patriots still own at least one of the Mannings. A few too many Papa John’s adds probably slowing No. 18.
So the secondary is weak but the front seven. Ahh, the front seven. Chandler Jones is a beast even if his numbers don’t always show it.
He’s the only pass rusher that seems to get after the quarterback ferociously every down. Jerod Mayo still piles up tackles. Vince Wilfork clogs the hole as well as ever and I mean the line of scrimmage not his arteries. Brandon Spikes has had a great bounce back season thus far. Also Rob Ninkovich, with a pair of forced fumbles against Denver, needs to be given more credit. He’s a return of the Bruschi/Vrabel type linebacking corps of the early 2000s.
The Patriots will take on Pete Carrol (remember that failure of a Patriots coach?) and the Seattle Seahawks this coming weekend. Carrol has some experience against an Oregon-type offense with his tenure as the USC head coach. Guaranteed Carrol will go back to some of that knowledge to game plan for the Patriots. Another guarantee is that the Patriots offense will probably adjust accordingly. This week they’re running but with so much skill on the roster, it seems like the Patriots will just keep switching things up while very other team in the NFL tries to catch up.
Will the Patriots stick with this offensive plan all season? Are the defense’s weaknesses too much for New England to overcome or can the front seven make up for it? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.