The New England Patriots have been a passing team for years now. They relied on the arm of future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady to put up the points they needed to win games. They didn’t really worry about defense and they certainly didn’t worry about having a dependable running game.
Well, times have changed in Foxboro. Today we have to wonder if Brady is still the dominant passer he once was. He certainly hasn’t looked like it so far this year, although that can be attributed to the lack of playmakers at his disposal.
The good news is that the Patriots now have a reliable defense at their disposal. As crazy as it sounds, the Patriots are clearly better on defense than they are on offense this year. I certainly didn’t think that would be the case until Brady was winding down his career in another uniform.
Instead, Bill Belichick and the Patriots should take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize what kind of team they are. And, mostly they need to realize what kind of team they aren’t.
They aren’t the kind of team that is going to beat people by throwing the ball twice as often as they run it. They’re not going to beat anyone in a shootout like they used to. I know that’s the way good teams win now, but sometimes you have to realize when you just can’t do it anymore.
Instead of being stubborn and still trying to air the ball out all the time, the Patriots need to rely on the running game more. Running the ball might be old-fashioned, but it does have some distinct advantages. It shortens the game and keeps the score low, something a team with a good defense can take advantage of.
New England has been at the vanguard of offensive NFL thinking the last decade or so. They won lots of games by being the best passing team in the league, but this year they just can’t make that happen. They need to understand what gives them the best chance to win, and that’s to run the ball early and often.