Last week, we wrote about how a seemingly minor change to the Patriots’ gameday operations actually might’ve played a huge role in New England’s Week 2 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since the start of the preseason, assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates had been starting games up in the booth instead of down on the field. Yates then would go down to the sideline after halftime and work with linemen in person. Those skeptical of that setup claimed there was no way that primary O-line coach and offensive play-caller Matt Patrica had enough time to handle all of his responsibilities — despite him and quarterback Mac Jones claiming the awkward arrangement was working just fine. Bill Belichick also indicated that the Patriots were benefitting from Yates being up in the booth.
But the results in New England’s Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins suggested otherwise. The Patriots’ offensive line looked like a disjointed mess and multiple first-half breakdowns put New England’s offense in a bad spot. However, things changed in Week 2.
Yates began the game on the field and, wouldn’t you know it, the O-line played much better and essentially won the game for the Patriots. A few days later, Belichick, through a wry smile, said “possibly” when asked whether the change was permanent. Center David Andrews later said the switch “helps out some of the gameday operation” and “allows (Patricia) to be able to do some different things.”
So, case closed, right? Well, not so fast.
While speaking to reporters Tuesday, Patricia confirmed the benefits of Yates being down on the field but also indicated the change might not be permanent.
“Billy, he does a great job helping me out in practice,” Patricia said during a zoom call. “I’ve known Billy a long time. … And I think that, on gameday, as things are moving along, he’s been really valuable for us to be down there and talking to the offensive line. As you go in between series, especially as we play teams that have, maybe, some different looks, some different fronts, some different kind of adjustments or pressures or whatever it might be — that availability for him to be able to kind of attack some of that stuff right away if I’m working in a different area during the game, it does help kind of the overall part of it.
“So, we’ll probably just keep that fluid based on game-by-game need, whatever we think is more important. Certainly, eyes in the sky are very important, too, because it’s just a different perspective up there. You can see a lot of different (things). You can see coverage, you can see front, you can see how they kind of work together — the combinations of rotation with pressure, from that aspect of it, too. So, just whatever we think week by week is the best thing to do to help us communicate in between series is critically important.”
Time will tell whether the Patriots move Yates back to the booth. He did spend all of last Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens on the sideline.
New England’s O-line was far from perfect — some late-game pressure resulted in Jones severely spraining his left ankle — but again excelled in the running game. The results of Yates being on the sideline seemingly speak for themselves.
We’ll see if anything changes when the Patriots visit the Green Bay Packers this Sunday.