Quick quiz for everyone!
If you are facing an above-average run defense, you should:
a) Run MORE!
b) Run about the same as before.
c) Run less and invest your resources in a more rewarding play call...?
Running more would make no sense at all, unless you are running one of those "arrogant" teams we hear so much about. Running the same as before would indicate that you manage your team the same way every week, regardless of opponent. Running less would imply that you are able to adjust your game plan based upon the team you are facing, because it's important to be flexible in this NFL.
Inside oppnt 5yd line: NFL avg 51% run Vs top 1/2 run D: 51% run Vs bottom: 52% run #Patriots v top 1/2 run D: 39% run NE vs bottom: 61% run— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) June 16, 2015
It turns out, the league as a whole would have answered "B" to the above quiz. The Patriots, with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, would have answered "C" and laughed all the way into the end zone.
To rephrase our friend Pat's tweet, the league average will call a running play inside the 5 yard line 51% of the time against good run defenses, and 51% of the time against bad run defenses. The Patriots will run the ball 39% of the time against good run defenses, and 61% of the time against bad run defenses, or a deviation of roughly 10% from the league average.
Belichick and McDaniels don't waste their precious snaps rushing the ball on the goal line against good run defenses, and they take full advantage of running the ball against bad ones.
It's not just the play calling that's different, either. It's the Patriots personnel and that's why they will never have a workhorse running back. In 2014, the Patriots featured Shane Vereen far more heavily against the top defensive lines in the league, and then countered with Stevan Ridley, Jonas Gray, and LeGarrette Blount when facing the weaker teams.
The Patriots thrive on versatility and that's why the team is able to stay ahead of the competition every season.