Recency bias and euphoria have led me to some Patriots takes that are a mixture of emotion and facts. Today, I’m leaning into them.
The Patriots boosted their record and confidence on Sunday with a blowout win. These “overreactions” are actually more so predictions on the optimistic side of reality, and if a number of things go in this trajectory, they could just end up being fact.
The Patriots Could Actually Be Better Than Last Year
This year and last year seem to be walking parallel paths. The first five games were of the pattern “Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win”. A number of winnable situations turned into losses with some foolish mistakes. However, the complete defensive clinic we’ve seen from the Patriots this year, especially today, and the positive week-to-week trajectory on offense wasn’t there last year.
The Lions were as far from a struggling offense as one gets, and they had just come off scoring 45 points. However, a consistently disruptive pass rush, combined with an impregnable secondary, completely shut out the Lions. On both sides of the ball, they’re ascending from week to week, and up comes a forgiving stretch, starting with the Browns, then the Bears, Colts, two games against the Jets, a tough one against the Bills, and here comes an opportunity for some wins and confidence.
More importantly than mere results, the Patriots are figuring out a complicated offensive framework and rounding out, while the rest of the conference is proving to not be the beacon of consistency everyone expected. How Mac plays upon his return, the overall health of players, and the ability to play disciplined football moving forward will all play into where the Patriots end up.
Matt Patricia Might Actually Have A Handle, Finally
On first glance, this reads as an overreaction for sure, given the defense that the Patriots went up against was statistically last place. However, with the injury to Mac Jones and Damien Harris getting injured in the middle of the game, the Patriots had their own obstacles to deal with, and overall showed a much better and cleaner game offensively than they had before.
To explain my point, I’m going to put on my scientist hat, call on my Chemical Engineering knowledge, and give the readers a little science lesson. For a rocket to lift off properly, a force commonly known as thrust acts against the rocket’s weight. To generate the thrust, a chemical reaction called “combustion” produces a significant amount of pressurized gases when rocket fuel is ignited in the presence of oxygen. That pressure buildup causes the gases to go somewhere with lower pressure, i.e. downwards towards the ground at a high speed, and the reaction force from that, thrust, drives the rocket up.
What’s particularly notable about this is that slight variations in the composition of the fuel, as well as the phase properties of the components, can significantly impact the amount of pressure generated as well as heat, and a flawed fuel can lead to an ineffective or even explosive rocket. An offense is the same way. Because of the way that the passing skill positions (QB, WR, TE), running backs, and offensive linemen need to work together in harmony, any glaring issues in any of these or problems in the way they’re directed can lead to an implosion.
Developing the perfect fuel for the offense takes multiple tries, and nothing short of a rocket scientist. I suppose, then, that it’s fate that the person spearheading offensive playcalling, Matt Patricia, is quite literally a rocket scientist, having an Aerospace Engineering degree from RPI. Patricia’s playcalling, early in the season, led to some ugly explosions, but it is obvious that the formula’s getting closer to a functioning rocket.
The offensive line is making fewer mistakes, both in terms of penalties and blocks, and held steady today. Ball security wasn’t an issue at all, and there was a healthy, effective balance of pass and run, used at the right times. For the inexperienced Bailey Zappe, Matt and Joe Judge called a conservative but effective game plan that made the equation quite a bit simpler for Zappe. The Patriots scored on five separate drives and overall were humming on offense.
Of course, to win against the best defenses, Patricia will have to call a more audacious game plan, which will be easier once Mac is back. Finding the right amount of aggression without sacrificing ball security is a hard balance to strike, as Mac himself is finding out with his arm. However, he has the weapons and talent to do it and is figuring out how to maximize the offense more and more with every game, so he can certainly do it.
Sooner Or Later, Rhamondre Is Taking The Number One RB Spot
The Patriots have done well by splitting running back duties between Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, and both are being used at the right times. But in big moments in bigger games, the team will inevitably have to have a number one back that they trust a little more. Rhamondre is starting to become that guy.
This isn’t a knock on Harris, who has been just as reliable and effective as last year, if not more. Rather it’s a statement of Rhamondre’s potential. At six feet, 229 pounds, Stevenson is huge for his position and is still quick on his feet. This allows him to run effectively both before and after contact, on the inside and on the edge. He also has sure hands and can be used in the catching game. This all served him well at Oklahoma and is translating quite well to New England.
Today, with Damien Harris out for most of the game with injury, Rhamondre showed his ability to take on a lead RB-type role with a monstrous 25-carry, 161-yard outing (6.4 yards per carry), and even caught two passes. Patriots fans can expect Stevenson’s role in the offense to expand, while still seeing the duo that has served them so well this year.
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