There’s been a lot of changes in the New England Patriots Tom Brady led offense over the years, going from mainly a short passing game and a clock killing style running game to facilitate an elite defense during the 2001-2004 seasons to the advanced powerful passing game offense from 2005 to today. As the defenses in New England started to slowly be exposed without the veteran talent who dominated the NFL during the Patriots 3 Superbowl championship runs, the team adjusted.
Brady led the NFL in passing for the first time in 2005 with 4,110 yards, the running game struggled under aging and declining veteran RB Corey Dillon after the team signed him to a 5-year, $25 million contract extension in the off-season. The team shifted to a more open passing game under Brady who was taken off his leash as far as play calling went for the first time in his career.
In 2007, after back-to-back seasons in which the Patriots exited the post-season early and gave Brady what was possibly the worst WR core in NFL history to work with in 2006, head coach Bill Belichick decided to evolve his offense with the acquisitions of WRs Wes Welker from the Miami Dolphins and WR Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders via trades. Belichick started to run much of the offense with a 3 WRs set, something that is used commonly today but back then using a 3 WRs set over 50% of the time as your basic offense was not something the league has seen before.
In 2010 the Patriots decided it’s time to run their offense through exploitation of miss-matches by drafting big, athletic TE targets with Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd round and Aaron Hernandez in the 4th round. Guys that regular size LBs can’t run with and regular size DBs can’t out muscle. The adjustment in the offense created record setting numbers who also helped Tom Brady become a 5,000 yard passer.
This season in 2012, the Patriots are looking to cash in their investment after two seasons of running the two TE offense by going back to pounding the ball on defenses. The league has adjusted over the past two seasons against the Patriots by running a “light” defensive personal, undersize LBs who can run well and cover because teams know that the Patriots prefer to pass and struggle running the ball due to lack of commitment to the run. This season the Patriots have re-committed to smashing the ball against the nickel packages they face and have found great success by using the no-huddle and keeping the light personal on the field.
The running game produced nearly 600 yards rushing the past two games and set an NFL record for 3 games in a row with 30+ first downs. In addition Tom Brady has only thrown one INT all season [which came off a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage] and is tied for 3rd in the league in highest passer rating, ahead of guys such as Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.