The New England Patriots are on the the way to another year without their star TE Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs. The Patriots now need to go to extreme measures to make a Super Bowl run. This includes their offense and defense.
1. Power run game
At this point the Patriots are left without any pass catching TEs. This does not mean that multiple TE sets should not be used. Matthew Mulligan, and a soon healthy Michael Hoomanawanui are above average run blockers. In addition, this could be further enhanced by playing Nate Solder as an eligible 3rd TE, something they did often last year to strengthen this play. Power runs off the edge with Blount and Ridley can establish the run early in the game and open things up for play-action, something Brady has utilized very well this year. This plan worked well for most of the game against Carolina and could be useful for the Pats in the red zone, having lost the leagues best red zone target.
(This next article is from last year but it remains relevant)
2. Dink and Dunk
We are now officially without a legitimate deep threat (Dobson and Thompkins are still incredibly inconsistent both with health and play on the field) so we will have to rely on the plays we get out of smaller players like Edelman, Amendola, and Vereen. Josh Boyce looked good after the catch so maybe he comes in exclusively on 4 WR sets on a side with 3 WRs and runs some screens. Vereen needs to become Brady's go to weapon out of the backfield. Splitting him out as a WR against slower linebackers should be utilized more ofter. An added bonus is the faster Brady throws these 5-10 yard outs, the less he has to worry about his inconsistent offensive line.
3. Bench Donta Hightower for Dane Fletcher
I know it is hard to bench a second year first-round pick, but enough is enough. Hightower has struggled mightily against the pass this year and after being benched for Fletcher in the Denver game, he has shown little improvement. It seems like he is always a step late in coverage and also struggles in QB contain. His run defense has been good but with Spikes being the shut-down run LB that he is, Hightower's role is almost superfluous. Fletcher has had a huge bounce back year after his ACL tear last preseason, contributing consistently in little action in the dime and nickel and on special teams.
4. Scrap the 4-3 for the 3-4
I was really impressed with the play of Sealver Siliga against the Browns. My front seven would be NT Siliga, DE Chris Jones, DE Chandler Jones, OLB Collins, OLB Ninkovich, ILB Fletcher, ILB Spikes with Carter, Vellano, and Sopoaga backing up the front 3 and coming in on sub situations. Against the Browns they gave up only 74 rushing yards minus the Gordon reverse in a game we were trailing for 59 minutes. The run D has been so bad this year that a change of scheme is in order, hinted at during the Texans game. In addition this seems like a good time to try to implement it seeing that our next two opponents are the Dolphins and Ravens who have struggled to run all year.
I don't think I've seen a single trick play or reverse all season other than the reverse that concussed Amendola. I'm not advocating for a gimmick offense by any means, but without their playmaker, they need to improvise a little. Isn't it strange that a college QB like Edelman hasn't attempted a pass in his career under one of the most innovative head coaches in history? I think a couple of reverses a game, maybe a flea-flicker if they are feeling frisky are plays that could loosen up the defense enough to better execute their other plays.
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