Let me rewind you to this time last year. The New Englans Patriots were coming off back to back losses to non-playoff teams Pittsburgh and Miami, and were locked in to have their lowest win total in a regular season since 2009 all while their dynastic run was deemed ‘over’.
Compare it to this year; Despite the Patriots sitting comfortably at 12-3 with the lowly Miami Dolphins in their way of wrapping up the second most regular season wins of the decade with just the 2016 team topping them. Similar to last year, the New England offense struggled to really find its identity as an offense until Week 16 at home versus the Buffalo Bills.
However, just like any other year, if you listen to the local or national media, the Patriots are done and won’t be able to make another run in January to hoist a league record seven Super Bowl titles.
With the defense being the backbone of this team and showing up once again with big time plays against Buffalo, however, the offense took a major step forward and was able to establish a run game early on in the game that allowed for Tom Brady to get everybody involved.
Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead had their best games all season as we saw them run with some bounce and attitude to lead the Patriots to a second straight game where they were able to total 140+ rushing yards, this time versus the league’s number two defense in points allowed.
This balanced rushing attack finally allowed for the Patriots to settle into the passing game but primarily executing play action over the middle of the field to guys like Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers and Benjamin Watson. Last year around this time the Patriots transitioned into a running team that was going to bully you upfront, and rely on its defense to get the job done.
The Patriots were able to total 18 more minutes of possession than the Bills, which is something they really used to their advantage during the run they went on towards the end of last year. Brady honed in on gaining trust in his guys by hitting Matt LaCosse for a touchdown, and continuing to give the ball to N’Keal Harry in space and allowing him to make plays with his speed and athleticism.
The rushing attack mixed in with the offensive line getting healthier and more experienced along with Brady’s recent sharpness, this Patriots team may not be as scary as they used to be but they’re proving they are still going to be a tough out come January.