There's two different versions of the Patriots offense. The one where the Patriots function at an optimal efficiency, and there's one where head coach Bill Belichick smells blood to take down a record. One leads to wins. The other leads to head scratching.
That's not to say that record chasing is bad- it humanizes Belichick a little as we see how he understands the importance of football lore to individuals- but it can seriously hurt the "team". We saw that first hand on Sunday.
We've gone over how the Patriots red zone offense is producing at historic lows. I believe that's because Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were helping Tom Brady to chase down the consecutive games with a passing touchdown record (read the note at the end regarding this statement). With that carrot gone, the offense can start producing. I know that Brady cares for records since he's a competitor who wants to be known as the best. I also know that he's a competitor who would go out every single game and not throw the ball if it gave the team the best chance to win.
This year, the Patriots have had 51 (non-kneeling) plays inside the opposing red zone, with only 6 touchdowns to show for it for a touchdown rate of once every 8.5 snaps. Last season, the Patriots posted 49 touchdowns on 211 plays, for a rate of around one touchdown every 4.3 snaps. They're running at half efficiency.
And you know why? They're trying to force feed the record to Brady. You know how Brady loved to pass the ball in the red zone last season, with his wide array of weapons? And you know how he's playing in a new offense, surrounded by rookies and depth players? Is there any reason why he would be passing the ball more now, than last year? For some reason, the coaches think that makes sense.
Of the 51 snaps in the red zone, 31 of them have been passes, for a 60.8% passing rate. When 59.7% of plays are passes this year, that seems like par for the course. Patriots pass just as much in the red zone as they do everywhere else on the field. What's the big deal?
Let's compare to last year. Of the 211 red zone snaps in 2012, the Patriots threw the ball 90 times, or 42.7%. Re-read that. The Patriots opted to run the ball nearly 50% more than pass it in the red zone. They're passing it at a 18% greater rate and doing so with such a depleted receiver corp. How does this make sense?
And let's go deeper. When focusing on plays within the 10 yard line, the Patriots have passed 66.7% of the time, compared to the 40.2% last season. And on plays within the 5 yard line, Brady has thrown 70.6% of the time. In 2012? 28.3%. The offense has flipped. Where they used to run, they've decided to pass the ball. By abandoning what has worked, the Patriots red zone offense has entirely sputtered.
And that's why I'm happy the streak has ended. Brady doesn't need this streak on his mantle to show that he's the best quarterback of all time. He needs his victories. And without this streak, the offense will right itself and the victories will keep coming.
NOTE: Marima and dmrstorm22 made me do my homework. Some additional facts:
Playcalling has been 8 passes, 7 runs in the red zone prior to Brady's first passing touchdown. Within the 10 yard line, it's a 5:5 split. It seems that a lot of the passes come after the Patriots score their first passing touchdown. Their play calling bloats from 1:1 pass:run to 2:1 pass:run.
So the narrative that the Patriots were passing the ball for Brady's touchdown streak is probably incorrect.
The fact that they've entirely changed their red zone offense? That remains a point of concern.