LANDOVER, Md. — The defense already plays with an attitude. It’s time for the offense to start doing the same. And that starts with being dedicated to the run game and blowing the defense off the ball.
No more cute direct snaps on 4th-and-1. No more feeling your way through a game and turn on a switch like the offense did in the second half.
It’s time for these 2019 Patriots to start doing what they did in the final two weeks of the 2018 season. Come out and set a smash-mouth attitude in the run game.
Last season, the Patriots were reeling after back-to-back road losses to Miami and Pittsburgh. They were 9-5 and very inconsistent on offense, relying more on Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. They looked out of sync.
Then they beat Buffalo 24-12 and blew out the Jets in the season finale turning back to basics in the run game. Josh McDaniel said as much in “Do Your Job III”. It carried over to the Chargers, Chiefs and Rams in the playoffs and the rest was history. The mentality was set in Week 16 and the Patriots never looked back.
Sunday, the Patriots defense, except for one major 65-yard hiccup allowed to Washington’s Steven Sims, showed up from the get-go, led by Dont’a Hightower. The offense? Well, except for a six-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter, they looked like they did against Miami and Pittsburgh.
Leading 12-7 at the half, the Patriots came out and ran the ball four of five times to Sony Michel and then once to Brandon Bolden. That took the Patriots to the Redskins 29. Brady, with the Redskins on the heels, lofted a perfect pass to Bolden for the touchdown. Next drive, it was again a heavy dose of Michel, three carries for 39 yards, including the game-clincher for 14 yards off right tackle for the score that made it 26-7.
“The game is easier when you’re running the ball,” Josh Gordon told me. “The routes become easier, not nearly as tired and morale is high. We’re just happy the offensive line was pushing down field and the running backs were running hard. It’s good ol’ fashion football and when you’re playing the game, you love to see it.
“When we get to this juncture, it depends on how we want to see things develop. In the second half, we were able to start the run game up, get the guys going in the run game and with everything else – downfield blocking, offensive line. Tremendous effort.”
Anyone who watched Tom Brady throw the pick in the end zone last week in Buffalo and the interceptions Sunday at the Redskins 1 knows that he’s making some throws that he never usually makes. In both cases it looks like he’s forcing things. With a career-high 31 passing attempts in the first half, that changed in the second half when the offense line came out firing forward.
“I’m not sure I’d be guessing if I said something now, but it was good to see,” Brady said of the second half uptick in the run game. “I think one thing that did help was the play count got up there pretty high. We had quite a few plays by halftime. Anytime you feel like you do that, you feel like you’re going to wear the other team out and those three-yard runs become six and then finally, you can break one and Sony did one, Sony broke a long one going with down our sideline for a touchdown run. It was great to see he ran hard and ran his butt off, so I am proud of him.”
Yes, this year they don’t have Gronk. Marcus Cannon has been banged up. James Develin is on IR. And the offensive line in general has been as fluid as it’s ever been. But Sunday’s second half proved that attitude alone can go a long way in setting a solid running tone.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 6, 2019
Including the postseason, the Patriots are now 11-0 when Michel reaches the end zone by a run.
“Good, we are going to start him off and just give him the ball and put him in the end zone in the first quarter and everyone can go home,” Brady joked.
Or maybe he wasn’t. Brady has been very good at times throughout the first five games but there’s been inconsistency that even he acknowledges. But Brady has been supported by a defense that’s allowed just two touchdowns in five games.
“They got a lot of great players on the field whether offense or defense they are going to be helpful to us scoring points,” Brady told me. “We obviously have a great strength in our defense. [They] turn the ball over and they just make it so hard to complete every pass. And we realized that in training camp, and it’s just amazing to watch those guys play right now. So we just gotta keep it going. And hopefully we can we can pick up on offense.”
This season, with Brady still struggling at times to find any consistent rhythm in the passing game, especially in the red zone, it couldn’t hurt to set the tone now and not wait until Week 16.