Commentary

What a rush!

Patriots' hurry-up offense hits the next level with power running game

Updated: October 8, 2012, 1:40 PM ET
By Tedy Bruschi | ESPNBoston.com

Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A. There's a lot to talk about after the Patriots' 31-21 win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sunday. Let's get started...

Q. Tedy, is this no-huddle, up-tempo, take-what-the-defense-gives you Patriots offense what we're going to see the rest of the season? Is it a matter of them finally putting it together under Josh McDaniels? Was this win over Denver the official coming-out party? -- Roger (Fall River)

A. I agree, Roger. This wasn't your average hurry-up offense. The Patriots have taken it to the next level. To add a power running game to it is something defensive players will watch on film and shake their heads, and say to their defensive coaches, 'We better come up with something good to stop this.'

[+] EnlargeBolden
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesTom Brady showed confidence in his RBs on Sunday while running his trademark hurry-up offense. Here, Brandon Bolden gets the handoff and runs for some of his 54 yards.

Q. Hi Tedy, the running game has played a huge role in the Patriots victories this season. Do you see the Patriots continuing running the ball like this all season? -- Melissa (Long Island)

A. Good morning, Melissa. One thing you need to know about the Patriots' offense is that it's game-plan specific. Whatever they think will work against the opposing defense, that's what they will go with. This offense also is reactionary. During the game, if they find they are able to exploit a certain weakness, they'll stick with that. But last night, as a former defensive player, it was even frustrating for me to watch this running attack. I don't know how it can be stopped. Leave it to the Patriots to be trend-setters -- to have a running game that utilizes the zone concept and power running schemes, and do it in a hurry-up mode. I don't think I'm doing it justice by calling it a hurry-up mode. That's an offensive frenzy you saw yesterday. The Broncos couldn't even line up. They could not substitute, and that defense was looking to the sideline and asking to be taken out. I do see this continuing for the Patriots in the future.

Q. Hi Tedy, love the Q & A! My question is about Drew Brees. Don't you think he is getting carried away trying to break records? I remember last year, when he passed Dan Marino's record, the whole stadium was applauding and he was high-fiving everyone. That left a poor taste in my mouth. Even this year, he has been preoccupied with Johnny U's record and we saw the same response when he broke it. His postgame speech started with this statement:"It was awesome to break the record and get a win." Do you think a coach like BB would allow something like this? I mean, when Tom Brady and Randy Moss hooked up for the historic 50/23, I don't even remember hearing anything from them. Now that's being a pro. Your thoughts? -- Matt (Rhode Island)

A. Matt, let's take it easy a little bit on Drew Brees. He's one of the most respected players in the NFL. I don't think he's more worried about records than team victories, but in terms of the differences of how the Patriots would handle this vs. the Saints, I saw the TV broadcast last night and the game was stopped for the public address announcer to point out the record was broken. I don't think there would ever be that type of individual recognition in Gillette Stadium -- stopping the action. Then again, it was a record that had been held since Unitas did it from 1956 to 1960.

[+] EnlargeDevin McCourty
Stew Milne/US PresswireYes, it's getting frustrating watching Devin McCourty repeatedly lose sight of the ball while defending an opposing wide receiver.

Q. Wasup Teddy! Are you at all concerned that Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have no idea where the ball is while it is in the air? It's infuriating watching those two. Tayvon Wilson looks like he is a player. He has good ball skills, good tackler, and Alfonzo Dennard turns for the ball, good technique. Might as well let the rookies play. What say you? -- Mike (Tampa, Fla.)

A. I must say, I've seen better technique in my time. It is frustrating, Mike, to see a defensive back struggle when the ball is in the air. I was watching the TV last night, saying multiple times, "Just look for the ball!" Officials look to see if the defensive coverage player is making an effort to find the ball in the air. If the official recognized that effort by the defender, he won't throw the flag. Patriots defensive backs have trouble with this. Now the TD pass to Eric Decker, no one could have stopped that. That was unstoppable. But losing the battle for the ball in the air is something opposing offenses -- and opposing quarterbacks -- will see. Anticipate multiple jump balls in the future -- QBs just throwing it up and saying 'I'll either get the completion or the pass interference against these guys.' This has to be fixed.

Q. Some say otherwise, but I believe Jerod Mayo is an elite player. Tedy, how about you? -- MarkJ (Japan)

A. Jerod has already been a Pro Bowler. I believe the Patriots' linebacking unit has the potential to be elite. Brandon Spikes is a monster. Mayo is that rare every-down player. And Dont'a Hightower has a ton of potential -- and I love his number (laughing).

Q. Tedy, one thing that bothers me is the Patriots' inability to close out games. This is a problem both offensively and defensively. I would appreciate your thoughts. -- Don (Marlboro)

A. I know some of you can look at this game and say 'The Patriots should feel fortunate.' Willis McGahee's drop on fourth-and-1. McGahee's fumble to help the Patriots close things out. The Demaryius Thomas fumble on the opening drive. But I don't see it that way. There is a flip side to those plays. Sterling Moore forced a fumble from a guy who has obvious ball-security issues. Rob Ninkovich took the ball away from McGahee, and as much as you can say that the Patriots didn't close out the game, the defense won the game by taking the ball away. There is also a flip side to the Stevan Ridley fumble. Von Miller forced that fumble. Great plays are made on both sides of the ball. The bottom line is that the Patriots made more.

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaDue to his recent fumbles, Stevan Ridley may see a lighter workload in the games ahead.

Q. Hi Tedy. Does Belichick sit Ridley because of what is now a history of ball-security issues? He's fumbled three weeks in a row (at least fumble No. 1 went out of bounds), after fumbling twice last year in limited reps. -- Tedy (Belmont, Mass.)

A. Why do you think you've seen Brandon Bolden more? You don't have to remind Bill Belichick about the tendencies of his players. The tendency of Ridley right now is that the more carries you give him, the more likely he is to fumble. Belichick knows this and I'm sure he has let Ridley know this. How do you fix this? You lighten the load for a fumble-prone back.

Danny Woodhead will continue to get his handful of carries. Bolden too. They will continue to lighten the load on Ridley as the year goes on.

And Ridley may need the lighter load, because the book is starting to be written on him. He may not be able to handle the load. Defensive coaches know that hits on offensive players take a cumulative effect. The more you hit players, some of them have the tendency to wear down. Ridley is starting to develop a reputation of spitting the seed. It isn't a reputation you want throughout the league.

Q. Hope you are still playing saxophone. Dennard seemed to have some good coverage, knocked down a pass. Difference maker in the secondary down the stretch or too soon to know? -- Bevan (Oxnard, Calif.)

A. Yes, I still play my sax, and I've also statred to play guitar. But let's talk football. My fellow chatters, all of the questions I've been getting from you, I've come to a conclusion -- you're football educated. You're recognizing a pattern with Ridley, just like Belichick, and that's why you've been introduced to Brandon Bolden, and you've continued to see Woodhead at critical times. And now you're asking about Dennard. You like what you've seen early on. But also, you're wondering why the Patriots' DBs are having trouble with the battle for the ball when it's in the air. In a way, you're answering your own question. Bill Belichick recognizes the same problems you are, which is why he continues to put in new players to see what they have, and if they can remedy some of those problems. If Dennard shows he does a better job in the air, he'll continue to play more. Just as if Ridley continues to fumble, other RBs will get playing time. It's the way Coach Belichick works. He's not only trying to find an answer to problems, but he's sending messages to players. The message is this, and you've heard it at all of his news conferences: He continues to try to do what's best for the team, and if it's shaking up the personnel, he'll do that.

Q. Tedy, what is your take on this quote from Wes Welker after the game: "It's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face every once in a while," Welker said with a smile and a wink, "so this is definitely a good one." Is he just joking around or do these two really hate each other? -- Kevin (Maine)

A. Kevin, I wouldn't take this too seriously. If you know Welker the way I know him, he's a joker. I'm sure he was in a good mood last night and he was just messing around. Just think back to last week, when he was giving Tom Brady a hard time on the bench in the middle of the game, which provoked a "unique" response from Tom. Wes keeps things loose. If you ask me, he was a little too loose to his response to that question, but let's chalk this one up to being a big win and Wes just having a little bit of fun.

Tedy Bruschi

Columnist, ESPN.com
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round out of Arizona. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three. He retired prior to the 2009 season.

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