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The Sky is the Limit for the New England Patriots Offense

Is this the Patriots best offense in the Brady era?

With the amount of weapons the Patriots have on offense, this will be a common occurrence.
With the amount of weapons the Patriots have on offense, this will be a common occurrence.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

For the first three games, the Patriots offense has scored 28, 40, and 51 points. The 119 points is the most in a three game stretch to start the season, beating the 115 mark in 2002 and 114 in 2007. Over that span, the Patriots are averaging about 3.83 points per drive. That's incredibly efficient for the offense, who in their most recent game never had to send out the punt unit. Brady's best regular season came in 2007, when he threw for 4806 yards and 50 TD. As good as the offense was back then, this year's offense has the potential to be even better.

Comparing the 2007 Patriots to the 2015 Patriots, the 2007 offense attacked defenses vertically and the 2015 offense attacked horizontally. The 2007 offense was having Moss run downfield to attract the attention of the safeties while Wes Welker attacked underneath from the slot. Moss caught 23 TD and Welker caught 112 passes. There were notable contributions from Kevin Faulk, Jabar Gaffney, Donté Stallworth, and Benjamin Watson, but none of them could take over a game. The offense sent 3 offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl (Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen), but the fatal flaw was that if the opposing defenses can get pressure with only 4 down linemen that the offense would struggle. That really turned it's ugly head when the Giants ran 3+ defensive end packages to put quick pressure on Brady and led to the game that should never be mentioned again.

In 2015, the Patriots run more empty sets and attack the opponent's weakness. Not many defenses have the talent to match-up with all 5 eligible receivers the Patriots have on the field, most are lucky to be able to match-up with 3 at best. Rob Gronkowski has replaced Moss as the game-changer and Julian Edelman has replace Welker as the chain-mover. The Patriots offense has taken more of a college look, where the Patriots spread out their opponents across the entire width of the field. In 2007 the offense depended more on WRs in the passing game, but this year the TEs and RBs are more involved. As a result, the Patriots have been able to exploit linebacker and safety coverages with their receiving backs and tight ends.

Perhaps even being more refocused than ever, Tom Brady has completed the best 3-game stretch of his career in the regular season. Brady is 96-133 for 1,112 yards with 9 TD and 0 INT through 3 games. That's a completion percentage of 72.2% and a YPA of 8.4. While this receiving corps isn't the most talented Brady has played with, this may be the deepest and most diverse group. The Patriots can throw five potent receiving threats on the field to stretch every inch of the field horizontally and vertically, which makes a difficult cover for opponents if Brady can have time to throw. The Patriots offense is designed to get the ball out quickly, although the offensive line has done a good job of giving Brady time if he needs the extra time. The Patriots are 2nd in the league in points scored per game, only because the Arizona Cardinals scoring defensive touchdowns. Ranking by a per drive basis, the Patriots offense is better than the Cardinals.

In the backfield, which I'm dubbing #BlountForceLewis, the Patriots have two styles. They have the quick and shifty Dion Lewis who makes people miss with his superb lateral quickness and cutting ability. The likely plan is to start Lewis in the first half to wear down the defense as they're trying to chase him down in the open field. Then with the lead late, the Patriots can turn to LeGarrette Blount to close out the game. Blount is a big back who needs a bit of a surge from the offensive line, but turns into a freight train if he can pass the line of scrimmage without contact. His size makes a difficult arm tackle, which allows him to gain yards after first contact. In the Jacksonville game, the Patriots opted to use Lewis mainly in the first half and Blount in the 2nd half. We'll probably see the usage of the two backs vary depending on the game, but I would not be surprised if both players each exceed 1000 yards of scrimmage this season.

The scariest part is the offense is still not clicking on all cylinders, although the Jacksonville game would make you think that. The receiving corps is not at 100% strength with Brandon LaFell still recovering from offseason foot surgery along with Scott Chandler still trying to get integrated into the offense as well. The Patriots still haven't figured out what they have and what they need for a successful playoff run on the offensive side of the ball yet. I believe they've figured out 4 of the 5 eligible receivers on the field. Gronk and Edelman are every down players, the Patriots will always keep a RB on the field, and the 4th spot is rotated between Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, and Chandler. The 5th eligible player will likely come down to Aaron Dobson and LaFell, although LaFell is still on the shelf and unable to practice for another 3 weeks. The offensive line combinations still haven't been decided, as the last guard spot is still undecided. I'd bank on the OL being Solder-Kline-Andrews-Jackson-Vollmer for now, but Shaq Mason is not making this an easy decision because he's done a solid job himself.

The Patriots offense is difficult to stop not because of the star power they have on offense, although they have plenty on that side of the ball, but rather because they can attack opposing defenses in multiple ways. In the NFL, predictability is a weakness and the Patriots know that very well. Gronk, Edelman, Lewis, LaFell (when he comes back), and Blount are all capable of taking over a game and being the star skill player on any given week. With too many weapons and formations to best utilize those weapons to defend, that gives Brady the edge in the pre-snap phase which is when he's at his best. With the mismatches that the Patriots receivers can throw at opposing defenses, it's more difficult to disguise coverages and it makes Brady's job even easier. The Patriots 2014 offense was good enough to win the Super Bowl, but the 2015 offense may be even better.