The New England Patriots are 4-6, and that kind of record for such a successful franchise is bound to create criticism and suggestions.
One of the most common suggestions you’ll read–especially when it comes from members of the media and those of us who study the video and analytics attached to the sport–is the cries to expand the offensive scope.
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Go Down the Field
USA Today’s Henry McKenna ranks Patriots coaches and players after games based on their performance/impact on the previous game. Damiere Byrd finished No. 1 after a career-best performance in the loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.
However, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn’t lauded for his gameplan and play-calling. McKenna wrote this short synopsis and piece of advice for McDaniels moving forward.
“It’s time to get bolder with the play calling. The conservative decision-making isn’t working.”
As you might have guessed, McDaniels was fairly low on the ranking checking in at No. 34 of 54 Patriots evaluated.
“Let the Man Cook”
McKenna isn’t the only one calling for McDaniels to do something different with his approach. CLNS’ Evan Lazar sprinkled some statistics into a recent tweet before imploring McDaniels to “let the man Cook.”
#Patriots QB Cam Newton on passes of 10+ air yards yesterday: 8-of-8, 207 yards (25.9 YPA), TD, perfect 158.3 passer rating. Let the man cook.
Newton Has Been Effective Throwing Deep Throughout His Career
The short passing game may seem like a good idea for a veteran quarterback who came into the season with some injury and arm strength concerns. However, Newton has proven that he is not only capable of throwing the ball downfield effectively, but it’s something he still has in his bag. Case in point, the absolute dime he threw to Byrd for a touchdown on Sunday.
42-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Damiere Byrd. Newton’s longest touchdown pass since Week 2 in 2018.
Let Cam cook!pic.twitter.com/QsBd7uivTg
— Bobby Krivitsky (@BobbyKrivitsky) November 22, 2020
If the Patriots open up the playbook a bit, the team, its fans and a good number of fantasy football owners will be pleased. Newton’s penchant for scoring touchdowns in the red zone has made him a decent fantasy option all season, but if a more daring passing game is added, he’ll jump to the next tier.
The Best Answer is Balance
Quite honestly, the best approach is balance when it comes to playcalling. Yes, the Patriots should be a team with a strong foundation in the running game. It is still what the team does best. However, you have to keep a defense honest, and when the offensive gameplan is overly dependent on short passes and simple run plays with the occasional trick play mixed in, there isn’t enough variety to keep a defense guessing.
The run game should set up the play-action pass, and the occasional shot down the field prevents safeties from creeping up closer to the line of scrimmage in hopes of curtailing the Patriots’ run game. When the Patriots take on the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, you can bet the latter will be preparing for a heavy diet of the running game.
McDaniels would be wise to allow Newton to take two shots deep per quarter–preferably out of formations that are used for runs and passes–just to show some variation.
See you on Sunday for the final verdict.