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Time to Look Down-the-field: A Look at the Patriots Passing Game Since Randy Moss' Departure

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I've been waiting for a while to make this post. For those who are consistent readers of this blog, you will know that I wasn't a big fan of the Randy Moss trade last month. I felt that the mere presence of Moss opened up the field for the rest of the offense, especially those underneath routes that Tom Brady loves so much. There really isn't much debate to this. When the Patriots were winning games, it was easy to overlook the offense's struggles. So I think now is the right time to bring them up.

This team can still win without Moss. This team can still move the ball. But the thing that has been lacking since Moss' departure is the threat of the deep ball. The deep ball keeps teams honest. But it seems that since Randy Moss' departure, Tom Brady and the Patriots just haven't looked to throw down the field. We all know that the underneath routes are this team's bread and butter. But without the deep ball, those underneath throws become much harder to connect on.

A look at the numbers after the jump!

Lets go to the stats. Tom Brady's completion numbers with Randy Moss:

Cincinatti: 25/35, 71.4%

@New York: 20/36, 55.6%

Buffalo: 21/27, 77.8%

@Miami: 19/24. 79.2%

TOTAL: 85/122, 69.7%

Pretty impressive percentages. Without Randy Moss:

Baltimore: 27/44, 61.4%

@San Diego: 19/32, 59.4%

Minnesota: 16/27, 59.3%

@Cleveland: 19/36, 52.3%

TOTAL: 81/139, 58.3%

The numbers speak for themselves. Without Randy Moss, Tom Brady is completing 11.4% less of his passes. I think it's pretty clear that the team misses Moss from a talent-standpoint. But Randy Moss isn't coming back to New England, so where do we go from there?

For one, the Patriots need to look down-field. Brandon Tate may not be the deep threat that Randy Moss once was, but the Patriots need to try to exploit the deep area of the field. This year, the team has attempted just 33 attempts 31+ yards down the field, and are on track for just 66 this season. They had zero attempts today. In 2009, they had 113 attempts 31+ yards down the field. In 2007, they had 130. Essentially, this means that the team is throwing down the field less than half as much as they did in the first two Randy Moss/Tom Brady years. Also keep in mind that the 2010 number includes four games with Randy Moss. In fact, I can only remember four or five times that the Patriots have tried the deep ball since Moss has left.

My conclusion: Until the Patriots either test defenses down the field, and/or find a legitimate deep target that can draw attention, the current Patriots offense will continue to struggle.