Sunday, January 05, 2014 New England Patriots Offense Adapts Again for Postseason

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The New England Patriots have become one of the most difficult offenses to prepare for in the NFL.  Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is effective at devising game plans based upon the matchup and personnel healthy enough to play that week.  The Patriots offense going into the playoffs is very different from the one that started the season. In fact, it is also very different from the one that put up big passing yards after the bye week. This is the third distinct phase of the offense as they have now moved to a power running offense reminiscent of the Corey Dillon era Patriots teams.

The 2013  NFL season was a challenge for New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the two-tight end offense of 2012 was decimated in the offseason by surgeries and an off-field arrest.  Even when top tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to action, he soon suffered another devastating injury to end his season and take away the offense’s most dynamic weapon.

Without tight end Rob Gronkowski the New England Patriots not only were missing a key component of the passing game, but also a huge cog in the running game. At 6-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski was a big part of the run blocking prowess of the offense. Without him, in addition to losing the mismatch in the passing game, the Patriots offense has to substitute Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan, neither of whom are as effective run blockers as Gronkowski.

In the absence of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offensive game plans have leaned heavily on the running game. Some games, the running game was still reduced as the team fell behind and was forced to spread the field and throw the ball to catch-up. In November and December for five straight games the Patriots were forced to come from behind leaning on quarterback Tom Brady and the passing game. While ultimately losing to Carolina and Miami with chances to win on the last drive of the game, the Patriots passing game thrived in the absence of a consistent running game.

Purely based on year-end total statistics the Patriots offense looked balanced in 2013 as they finished tenth in average passing yards per game and ninth in average rushing yards per game.  A closer examination instead shows that New England has gone through an evolution on offense in three distinct phases... New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

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