Over the top: A think piece

Nancy Lane
As long as I can remember, Tom Brady and Patriots offense has been a dink and dunk operation. Short passes for a few yards with a high degree of success. It sets up third and short, and allows the offense to execute over a long period of time. The home run ball did not really happen all that often, and given the number of Lombardi trophies in my closet, I can say it has worked great.

Tommy Boy gets the ball out fast, finds the soft spot in the zone or hits a receiver in stride as he turns away from the man coverage. Receivers like Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman (quick, shifty guys) reign supreme. Screens often replaced the running game entirely, and running backs have been a big part of the attack out of the backfield. (Bonus points for anyone that remembers Larry Centers)

It really has always been like this. With the exception of the Randy Moss years. However, in that case, they still had Welker to move the chains while Moss was a boom or bust deep threat taking the top off the defense.

Over time, our opponents picked up on this, and have started to adjust. The ‘blueprint’ to stop the Patriots offense is to play man and press the receivers at the line. The hope is that the D-Line will get home before Brady can get the ball out. This is how we lost both Giants Super Bowls, the Jets game in the playoffs….and pretty much every other time we have lost.

Running this defense is easier said than done. You need to be DEEP at Cornerback because Brady will just attack your fourth string guy, and you need to have a diesel D-Line that can get the knock-down. The Ravens and Texans in particular have bought into this, and the playoff game against the Texans last year had us a little scared.

All that being said, I wanted to point out how the Patriots have been WAY better at attacking the intermediate part of the field. Without Edelman this year, they have not really had any other choice, but think about it. When its 2nd and 20 or 3rd and 8, I'm not particularly worried that we will throw short and get stopped. Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan are both running 15 yard routes at least. Gronk is a machine in the seam.

TB12 is currently averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, which is good for the second highest in the league. He's only behind Alex Smith, whose numbers are insanely inflated from throwing short passes to Tyreek Hill who then breaks them for 80 yard tuddies with 75 YAC. That will come back to earth, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if Tom leads the league in that stat this year. His 8.4 Y/A would be the highest of his career if the season ended today, passing his 8.3 in 2007 with peak Moss. Surprisingly enough (to me at least) his third highest total was last year at 8.2 but I think the addition of Hoags helped a ton on that front. We hadn't seen someone get behind defenses like that probably since Moss. Look no further than the AFCCG vs Pitt for proof.

I could throw a bunch more numbers at you, but I’m an eyeball guy. This development is potentially one of the most exciting in years. I certainly don't want to be in second and longs and third and longs often. The penalties are killing us. I'm just saying, holding calls on a first down run used to automatically spell P-U-N-T. Now every reasonable third down feel manageable. We can extend drives when the opposing defense feels like they should be getting off the field, and that will break more backs than The Rock in his prime.