For the better part of two decades the Patriots were a pass-first offense far more often than not under Tom Brady’s leadership.
Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, New England ran the ball 42 times for 217 yards with three rushing scores in the 21-1 season-opening win over the Dolphins.
The Cam Newton era now well underway in Foxborough, the quarterback led the attack with 15 rushes for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was the most rushing attempt by a quarterback in team history. Sixth-most rushing yards by a Patriots passer, most since 1976.
So it was that Bill Belichick was asked during his Monday morning video conference with the local media about the different look of the Patriots offense to open 2020.
“We always try to do what’s best for the team to win. Everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, was for Tom Brady,” Belichick explained. “Everything was dedicated to him, other than the games that he didn’t play in like when [Matt] Cassel played or Jimmy [Garoppolo] and then Jacoby [Brissett] when Brady was suspended. There were times when we had to plan differently.
“But, when your starting quarterback has things that he’s good at or things that you can take advantage of then I think you try to take advantage of them.”
New England certainly did just that on Sunday with a healthy, rejuvenated Newton.
Now the question turns to whether the Newton-led, run-first offense is sustainable? The 15 rushing attempts were the second-most of Newton’s career and most since 2014. That’s certainly a big load for a 31-year-old quarterback who missed the bulk of the last two seasons with shoulder and foot injuries.
Belichick noted, though, that many of the runs in Sunday’s win over Miami were not necessarily designed simply for Newton to carry the ball.
“Well, some of those runs were option-type runs. So we don’t know who’s going to get the ball,” Belichick said. “Depends on how the defense plays it. It’s not like handing it off to the halfback running up the middle. So, when you run plays that have some type of an option to them, then you don’t know for sure who’s going to get the ball. That’s just an unpredictable part of that play. The quarterback could keep it or the quarterback could hand off. It really depends on how the defense, how they defend the play.
“So I think those numbers are, with all due respect, I think they are a little bit skewed. The defense, if they played it a certain way they could put the ball in whoever’s hands that they want to if they really want to declare who is going to get the ball. So we’ll see how teams play us going forward on those types of plays if we run those again. I don’t know. We’ll do what’s best each week based on the team that were playing and how we feel like we can attack them.”