The Patriots ran 1,191 plays from scrimmage during the 2012 season, which was just nine short of the all-time NFL record (1994 Patriots). It will be difficult for them to mimic that speed again this season.
Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez are gone and Tom Brady is working with an almost entirely new cast of characters at wide receiver — most of whom are rookies. So, even if speed remains a big part of the offense, it’s unlikely Brady will be able to get everyone to the line and the ball snapped in 10 or 12 seconds like he did at times last season. Even Brady seems uncertain if this new offense would be capable of such speed, which he addressed during his weekly appearance on the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show on WEEI on Tuesday.
“Yeah, we [played fast], and we definitely used that as an advantage, as a strength,” Brady said. “I think we’ve learned a lot from that, both the positives and the negatives. And that’s really something that evolves over the course of a season for a team. Every team has tempo offense, whether that’s a two-minute offense, whether that’s a strictly no-huddle offense — Chip Kelly, that could be [the Eagles'] entire offense.”
The fast-paced attack was a major benefit for the Patriots over the last few seasons, giving Brady and the offense a distinct advantage by forcing the tempo and keeping defenses constantly on their heels. The personnel then fit that scheme, though, as Welker, Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and even Brandon Lloyd had the skills necessary to run a high volume of short routes at a rapid pace. Now, the Patriots will feature a bigger, more vertical receiving corps with the likes of Danny Amendola (5-foot-11), Kenbrell Thompkins (6-feet) and Aaron Dobson (6-foot-3) as the headliners.
Brady knows that, as things typically do in the NFL, the Patriots’ offensive philosophy may change this season. And he’s fine with change, as long as it’s for the better.
“The most important thing, and I think I’ve said this before, there’s no gimmicks in the NFL that work for an extended period of time,” Brady said. “Ultimately, what wins football games is execution. And it’s the same basic fundamentals that have won football games for decades.
“I think that is a trend to try to go fast, but ultimately it’s the execution of the play. Great, if we run a play in 10 seconds, great. Well, if we lose three yards on the play, it’s not great. What you need to do is move forward. You’ve got to move toward the opponent’s goal line and you’ve got to get the ball in the end zone. There’s lots of ways to get that done. For our particular team over the last years, yeah, that has been something that we’ve done a good job of. We’ll see if that’s a strength for us this year.”
Whether it’s speed, power or something else altogether, the combined genius of Brady, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels should give the Patriots all the resources they need to find success in one way or another.