For the Patriots' offense, it's time to dumb it down

Jim Hackett
December 05, 2019 - 8:29 am
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It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Patriots' offense. You’ve heard all of the storylines. ESPN’s Max Kellerman has been mouthing off about Brady’s 'decline' since well before his most recent MVP season in 2017. Now that things aren’t functioning well for the Patriots offense, Mouthy Max is spewing his ill-informed, incomplete, lame, tired, boring and ratings-destroying trash with more confidence than ever. 

Locally and more accurately, a more complete story has been told time and again, from the incomplete team-building of the off-season, citing Brady’s lack of weapons at wide receiver and tight end, to the inconsistencies driven by injury to the offensive line and at fullback. Add in the rotating personnel from all sides of the offense and you have what we saw on Sunday night in front of the nation, which was a hot and confused mess. 

I think we know the story. So today, rather than revisit the dead horse Rolodex again, I’m taking a more solutions-based approach. Based on what I’ve been seeing, I think it’s time to dumb things down a bit. Jakobi Meyers looked more like Corey Haim in the movie Lucas than an NFL wide receiver on Sunday, aimlessly running exactly where he shouldn’t be as Tom Brady’s passes found dust and tumbleweeds where #16 was supposed to be operating. 

He along with most of his pass-catching teammates looked confused. The cameras couldn’t even find these guys half the time and I watched the game twice!

Inspired by the great coaches of the past like Vince Lombardi, Henry Winkler in the movie The Waterboy and Patches O’Houlihan, I’ve outlined some plays that this Patriots offense may find less confusing and easier to execute. But first, let’s take a break from that lead-based paint and gain some insights from Patches O’Houlihan.

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge.

For the Pats, I think we should start with Block, Run, Pass, Catch and Block (and yes I wrote block twice.)

Brady’s pocket has been under duress since day one. First consistently collapsing from the left side due to the presence of human dreidel Marshall Newhouse. That was certainly a problem but it was a predictable issue and the team could game plan around that to a degree. They did so successfully for ten games. Unfortunately matters became more complicated when heavier pressure started coming from the right side due to a sick Marcus Cannon and then from his replacement, a still spinning Newhouse. The line of scrimmage has been a big problem all year but it doesn’t end there. On Sunday, heavy pressure unpredictably came from the middle of the field, thanks to more injuries on the interior to their already second-string center, Ted Karras. 

Luckily, Newhouse can’t be cloned (I don’t think), so most of his damage should be behind us. 

The pressure has been there all season long, but over the last two weeks it’s literally come from all angles and as a result, the Pats’ offensive boat is taking water. So getting back to basics must be this Sunday’s calling card. 

Block, run, pass, catch and block. 

Below, I designed a few plays to help the Patriots offense remember that they actually do know how to play football. Neither Lombardi, Paul Brown nor Patches O’Houlihan are available to help any longer sadly but thankfully, their innovation lives on in the Jedi scrolls of text found in the book, Football for Dummies where these plays were sourced.

Blast or dive:

The simplest of carries. Usually led by a blocking fullback, the running back takes a quick handoff from the quarterback and hits a hole between an offensive guard and a tackle. The offense calls this run when it needs a yard or two for a first down. The runner lowers his head and hopes to move the pile before the middle linebacker tackles him.

Seems like something the Pats can execute.

Looking for something more innovative? How about this?

Counter: An intentional misdirection run on the part of the offense. The quarterback fakes a lateral toss to one back who’s heading right, running parallel to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback then turns and hands off to the remaining runner in the backfield, generally a fullback, who runs toward the middle of the line, hoping to find an opening between either guard and the center.

Darn. The Pats don’t have a fullback. Scratch that. How about this one?

Draw: 

A disguised run, which means it initially looks like a pass play. The offensive linemen draw back like they’re going to pass-protect for the quarterback (QB). The quarterback then drops back and instead of setting up to pass, he turns and hands the ball to the runner.

“Disguised.” Yes. I love the deception. The defense will never see it coming and I think I’ve seen the Pats execute this one before.

Run left. Run right. Draw play.

This feels like a good place for our beloved Patriots to restart and get their confidence back. I’m not saying it will work, but I’m quite certain it’s a simple enough plan to at least execute and right now, execution is something I’ll happily take. That feels like a win for this sputtering offense. 

For now, I think the mantra "Keep it simple stupid" could be the smart move for the Patriots after watching receivers like Meyers, N’Keal Harry and even Phillip Dorsett and Mohammed Sanu roam the field like zombies on Sunday.  

To bring it all together I’d like to paraphrase the immortal Bobby Boucher, the socially challenged Water Distribution Engineer"/defensive end for the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs after a big season clinching win. "Coach, you got your manhood back."

For Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense we can only hope.