In the aftermath of the Patriots 30-7 victory in Minnesota, Tom Brady addressed the media with a less-than-thrilled look on his face. That was due to a lackluster performance by the offense that included just 16 points when you eliminate touchdowns created by the defense and special teams. That effort followed a second-half shutout in the opener in Miami in which Brady was sacked four times and hurried and harassed on a dozen others.
The difference between the two games in terms of game plans was evident. In the opener Brady dropped back to pass 60 times and in Minnesota that number was cut way back to 23. Instead of forcing Brady to deal with the pressure, the Patriots decided on a run-first approach with a lot of quick passes thrown in.
The results in each game weren't all that different in terms of production, but clearly the Patriots were able to enjoy much more success as a team against the Vikings using the more conservative approach.
Obviously there are a lot of factors still to be determined such as Rob Gronkowski's health, the further development of the young receivers and potential improvements along the offensive line, but we'll take this early-season moment to ponder the following for our weekly Samsonite Make Your Case question:
Should the Patriots become a run-first offense?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Whether it's pass protection or attempting to find complementary options in the passing game, we've seen Tom Brady and the Patriots have some aerial struggles early in 2014. While the talent and weapons behind Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski may be questionable, the guy lining up behind Brady in the backfield is more of a sure thing.
Stevan Ridley is a proven former 1,200-yard rusher. He's a guy that can carry the rock and wants to. While the passing game is working out the kinks early in the season, Ridley should get the chance to run the ball early and more often than might normally be expected.
Upcoming opponents such as the Raiders and Chiefs have questionable run defenses. There is no better way to take pressure off the quarterback or the passing game than by setting up some play-action passing. Running the ball will make life easier on Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman and the offensive line. It opens up more balance for Josh McDaniels to call plays. It's simply the right plan of attack for the Patriots as they are currently constituted at this early point in the season.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
It's way too early in the season to make any significant changes in philosophy, even if the early results haven't been all that encouraging. Rob Gronkowski is still working his way back to full strength, and the same could be said of Aaron Dobson. When both of those weapons are operating a 100 percent, along with Julian Edelman, I don't think we'll be having this discussion.
I'm not suggesting the Patriots abandon the run, but they don't want to take the ball out of Tom Brady's hands intentionally. He's still one of the best in the business and the Patriots need to find ways to accentuate his abilities, not diminish them by going conservative and potentially putting more stress on him and his offensive line by inviting more third-and-longs.
Clearly things need to improve but in order for the Patriots to emerge as potential contenders, the offense is going to need to be able to throw the ball consistently well and put points on the board. Moving to a run-first attack would be a step in the wrong direction.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.