Patriots’ offensive identity has changed, and it began Monday vs. Jets

Ryan Hannable
October 23, 2019 - 5:00 am

While the Patriots were off for 11 days between Week 6 and Week 7, it appears at some point during that mini-bye, someone had a long conversation with Tom Brady.

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Despite a 6-0 record to open the season, Brady was visibly frustrated with the offense each and every week, expecting more than what it was producing. 

For almost 15 years, the Patriots have been led by their offense, but that is not the case this year. The Patriots have the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL and conversely just an above average offense. It is a unit that lacks the pure weapons it has had in the past — most notably Rob Gronkowski. 

Speaking to Jim Gray on Westwood One Radio prior to Monday Night Football, Brady seemed to acknowledge the change in offensive identity.

“One thing we talked about this week was having reasonable expectations and not feeling like we have to go out there and score 50 points," Brady said. "We have to go out there and take care of the ball. We have to play a good, smart game and take advantage of our scoring opportunities when we get them.”

Brady hasn’t said anything like that since the early 2000s when the Patriots had one of the most dominant defenses in the league and the quarterback was considered more of a game manager.

So what do games now look like?

More of what we saw Monday with long, sustained drives that take time off the clock. Drives of lining up with three or four wide receivers and throwing the ball 20 yards down field every snap are a thing of the past. No. 1, because the talent isn’t there for that, but No. 2 because it increases the chances for turnovers and taking care of the ball is even more imperative now.

The opening drive against the Jets was exactly what the new offense is striving to be — 16 plays, 78 yards, taking 8:47 of the clock. It was the longest opening drive of a game resulting in a touchdown in the NFL this season.

“It was a good start. It was a good drive. Any time you can go seven or eight minutes, whatever that was, put the ball in the end zone on the road it kind of gets you a good feel,” Brady said afterwards.

The longest play went for 14 yards, and that was on third-and-10. For the most part it was running plays, or short, quick passes. The Patriots converted four third-downs on the drive, but besides the third-and-10, the other three were relatively manageable.

Also, six different Patriots offensive skill players touched the ball.

Some might look at the addition of wide receiver Mohamad Sanu and say the offense now has the ability to put up 30-plus points each week again, but that isn’t the case. 

Sanu isn’t a game-changer, he’s a nice complimentary piece for an offense to have.

Despite playing in a pass-happy Atlanta offense for the last four seasons, the most receiving yards he’s had in a season is 838 and for his career he’s never had more than five touchdowns. 

But, that’s OK.

Sanu is more of a possession receiver who lines up in the slot on the majority of his routes. He is not a burner who is going to stretch the field by any means, which fits what the Patriots are now looking to do offensively.

Brady is not expected to connect on a number of back-shoulder throws or passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air. Now, he’s expected to take care of the ball and not turn it over. It’s all of a sudden OK to punt the ball simply because of how dominant the defense is. Field position battles are now fine because the Patriots are built more than ever before to win those types of games.

While it took until roughly the middle of the season, it seems like the Patriots offense has finally figured out what it is.

Although it’s not anything like we’ve seen in recent years, the results have been the same.

It’s all about the W’s.

Related: Bill Belichick via OMF offers updates on Mohamed Sanu, Michael Bennett