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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Hot Button: Patriots' offensive game plan

By ESPNBoston.com

Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount
Are the Patriots better off committing to the run (as they did in the past two games with great success) or airing it out against a vulnerable Colts defense? That’s the topic of this week’s Hot Button question as the Patriots prepare for Saturday night’s matchup against the Colts.

Here are snippets from our arguments for each one. Vote for yourself in the poll to the right.

* Commitment to run critical: There is a common thread to some of the Patriots’ most devastating losses in Bill Belichick’s coaching tenure, most of which were of the season-ending variety: The offense was so focused on letting it fly in those games that it struggled to control the line of scrimmage.

There’s a decisive way to ensure that doesn’t happen Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs.

Run it. Run it some more. And then run it some more.

This is what the Patriots did in their final two games of the regular season, identity-shaping victories over the Ravens and Bills. The power-running commitment was there from the start, seldom wavered, and we saw the end result -- decisive control at the line of scrimmage, where games are most often won and lost. -- MIKE REISS

*Matchup calls for airing it out: The players around Tom Brady have changed over time, but for much of his career, the Patriots have run the same offense, albeit one that is constantly evolving.

A linchpin to their offensive success has been a game plan approach. One week they beat you through the air, the next week on the ground. Or perhaps they beat you on the ground in consecutive weeks, as was the case in Weeks 16 and 17, followed up by an aerial attack.

The Patriots' approach is dictated by attacking an opponent's weaknesses, no matter if that's a poor secondary, a poor front seven or something more specific within the defense.

So while the rush-heavy attack that carried the Patriots down the stretch has been key, this Saturday night is an opportunity for Brady to rely on his arm to pinpoint throws behind, beyond and through a weak Colts secondary. -- FIELD YATES