clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trent Dilfer actually has a good Patriots take this time

The guy who declared the Patriots D.O.A. in 2014 just might have the best explanation for Tom Brady’s play this season.

Uber And Bai Present ‘QB Legends On Demand’ Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Bai

Sometime earlier this year, a couple of the other writers and I were goofing off and said we should change the official slogan of the Pulpit to something like “Pats Pulpit: Cut the Sh*t”. The idea being that we’re not here to insult your intelligence with everything from “Brady’s arm is a noodle” to playing armchair Dr. James Andrews and throwing guesses out there about a torn MCL to whether or not Danny Amendola was apparently the glue holding the GRIT and FIGHT and HEART of the Patriots together all along.

Everyone knows that’s James Develin’s job.

Lunch pail fullback jokes aside, there haven’t been many takes in history that immediately hit freezing cold faster than Trent Dilfer burying the Patriots in 2014 after they got thrown out of the club in Kansas City, so fortunately, this time the one-time Super Bowl champ has something notably more useful to add to the convo than he did last time around.

And while the idea that Brady’s even on some sort of downward spiral this year is kinda debatable in and of itself...

....there’s at least been those two games with the Titans and the Steelers lately where the offense just hasn’t been able to go scorched-earth-spread-and-shred at will like so many Brady-led offenses have this decade. And that’s where our frenemy Trent comes in with his assessment of this year’s McDaniels offense compared to some of the last few offenses the Patriots have used to set back-to-back Super Bowl passing records, among other things.

From NESN:

“It’s been a different Patriots offense,” Dilfer said on The Ringer’s “Dual Threat with Ryen Russillo” podcast. “It’s been more two-back, run-centric, play-action, extended drops downfield stuff. A lot of perimeter throws. More perimeter throws being outside the numbers than I’ve ever seen by the Patriots.

“Again, none of this is bad, it’s just different. And if you go back and you put on — pick a year — when (Brady) is on fire, one of his stretches where he throws 13 touchdowns, no interceptions, he’s throwing for a 75 percent clip. I mean there’s countless stretches of offense he’s had like that. It’s different than what they are doing this year. It was more spread out, almost always single-back offense with three receivers and a tight end on the field or multiple versions of that. Formationally spread you boundary to boundary, more motions and shifts to create matchups, and more of him at the line of scrimmage in five- and six-man protections directing traffic, exposing a defense that was going to try to attack them in some new flavor of the week. And his M.O. was he’d kill you by 1,000 cuts in the middle of the field, throwing the ball short to intermediate, getting out of his hand in 2.3ish seconds.

“So they’re not doing that as much this year, and I think it’s not allowing him to at this age and with his skill set to be the best he can be. I think their approach at the start of the season was, ‘let’s play this model to protect our defense a little bit. We’re going to have to protect our defense and have longer sustained drives and be more physical in the run game. We have bigger offensive linemen than we’ve ever had before so let’s utilize that personnel.’ And again, it hasn’t been bad, but I don’t think it suits Tom Brady the best. Where he is the greatest of all-time is in what I said: Getting the ball, making the quick decision and accurately throwing to a guy in the five- to 12-yard area in a position where he can run after the catch. I’ve seen less of that this year than I think I’ve ever seen, except for maybe his first couple of years in the league when that was kind of their M.O. They want to dumb it down and just it’s simpler. More James White, more (Rob Gronkowski) spread out, more (Julian) Edelman, (Chris) Hogan, (Josh) Gordon on the field at the same time. Do that and you’ll see the old Tom Brady here down the stretch.”

And while we all can agree that only targeting Josh Gordon twice when he was by and large single-covered without safety help against the Steelers should be a Cone-of-Shame-worthy offense, I did have to take a bit of offense to the idea that the Patriots were just pounding the rock like a freshman with tequila last month, and not much has changed, honestly:

As of this week after the Steelers game that we don’t want to talk about and yet can’t stop talking about, the Patriots passing play percentage is chilling at...wait for it...57.16%.

And that’s AFTER New England only ran the ball 19 times against Pittsburgh, mostly with Sony.

If anything, Dilfer’s point that Bill and Josh are calling more two-back sets and more boundary-type throws may be the coaches trying to figure out how to use more of the field and avoid over-relying on over-the-middle catch-and-runs like in years past, both because 1) smarter teams have figured out that clogging the middle by dropping players into coverage can at least beat that sometimes, and 2) for as tough as some of the Patriots’ skill position guys have been over the years, you’re still more than likely taking big shots and potentially big damage on those slants and option routes.

That’s just a guess, but that’s pretty much what we’re all doing, right?

Meanwhile, maybe this is an awkward time to bring up that the Buffalo Bills defense is currently ranked 3rd in DVOA and somehow still ranks right in the middle of the pack when it comes to surrendering points, and they’re coming to the Razor bright and early on Sunday.

You know what, whatever, that’s why they play the games.