In his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Tuesday morning, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discussed the benefits of having a balanced offense, Rob Gronkowski’s value as a run-blocker and what he’ll do if the Jets decide to blanket Wes Welker with Darrelle Revis on Sunday.
The quarterback kicked off the interview looking back at the 31-19 win over the Raiders, which was highlighted by the team’s ability to run the ball effectively. It was the first time this season that New England showed any semblance of balance on offense. The Patriots ran the ball 30 times (for a season-high 183 yards) and threw it 30 times in Oakland.
“I thought we did a great job balancing the game out, for the first time in four weeks,” Brady said. “It was a big part of what we were trying to accomplish. We were able to run the ball inside, outside. All the different backs ran it and they ran it well. That’s how you become a great offense, you keep teams off balance. You run it when you need to run it, you throw it when you need to throw it. You’re able to do enough in both areas where you have to respect it, and we did a great job of that.”
In the previous three games, the Patriots focused primarily on the pass, which resulted in Brady putting up huge numbers but at the expense of the running game. When the ground game is a factor like it was against the Raiders, Brady said, it can have a trickle-down effect on play-calling.
“What happens is you are able to use your entire playbook,” Brady explained. “If it’s just a dropback pass game, there goes a lot of the play-action pass, there goes some of your specific game-plan-type calls that maybe you really like against certain defenses, it just ends up being drop back and throw it.”
A big factor in the Patriots’ success on the ground was the contributions of tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose run blocking Brady described as “awesome”. The majority of the team’s rushing yards came on Gronk’s side.
“That’s one thing that people underestimate from him. Because he’s such a good pass receiver, he doesn’t get a lot of credit for run blocking,” Brady said. “But when you turn the tape on and at the point of attack he’s knocking guys off the ball and sometimes getting a couple of guys, that’s what tight ends are supposed to do. It’s no good just to be able to catch passes at that position, because then they just treat you like a receiver.
“But when you can run the ball behind him and he can become a real threat, you can control the tempo of the game running the ball behind him. That really helps him to set up his opportunities in the passing game.”
While Gronkowski was a big part of the ground game’s success, he wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game. He was targeted five times and had just one catch for 15 yards. In fact, the passing game was rather one-dimensional, with Wes Welker nabbing nine of Brady’s 16 completions for 158 yards and a touchdown.
What happens on Sunday if the Jets decide to focus on taking Welker away?
“I’m sure other teams are going to focus on him,” Brady said. “Teams like the Jets, really a game-plan defense, are going to have certain calls for him. And that just means other guys get opportunities. Those other guys hopefully take advantage of those.”
“(The Jets) have their style of play, what they think they need to do to stop us. We’ve had five games against them since I’ve been here with that defense in particular. Every game has a few tweaks to it. I think there are some overriding themes that you see over the course of those five games. We’ll try to figure out what they’re going to do. It’s tough because they’re a game-plan defense. Whatever they think they need to do to stop you, based on how they evaluate your offense, that’s what they’re going to try to do. They’re going to try to take away your strengths as an offense. We’ll see if they can do that.”
Since joining the Patriots in 2007, there has only been one game against the Jets in which Welker has failed to catch at least six balls. In last season’s playoff game, Welker had seven catches for 57 yards. New York’s secret weapon in the secondary, of course, is Revis, the team’s shutdown cornerback. Will the Jets try to take Welker out of the game by blanketing him with Revis?
“It really doesn’t matter, because they have to cover everybody,” said Brady, who pointed out that the Jets chose to put Revis on Deion Branch in last season’s playoff game. "If Revis is on Wes and Wes gets opportunities on routes, Wes will get the ball. We’re going to approach the game like we always do: All five guys who are eligible receivers are going to have opportunities. We’re going to try to run the ball and stay balanced.”