Over the past few weeks, many columnists have drawn comparisons between the 2007 and 2010 Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
The two, however, could not be more different.
Aside from the obvious difference that the ’07 offense put up 589 points, while this years has managed “only” 415, there’s plenty of other things that make this offense different, though not necessarily worse.
Let’s start with Tom Brady. His numbers over the past five weeks have looked strikingly similar to numbers he put up in 2007 in that record-breaking season. What’s different? No true “deep threat” and no tendency to lock in on one target (and of course, I mean Randy Moss). He’s gone back to the days of old, spreading the wealth like it’s 2001-2004.
In 2007, it’s pretty obvious who his two favorite targets were: Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The two accounted for 210 of his 398 completions. The third-highest receiver on the list, Kevin Faulk, didn’t even manage half of Moss’ receptions.
The Patriots offense, as dynamic as it was, wasn’t extremely diverse in 2007. It was deep bombs to Randy Moss, or underneath passes to Wes Welker, and almost always from a spread formation. Stopping them was as easy as creating intense pressure right up the gut, preventing Tom Brady from stepping into his passes and forcing him to make imprecise, off-target throws, while taking away the deep threat of Moss.
It’s easy to see the difference in 2010, though. With the exception of Wes Welker, who leads the team with 80
receptions, the rest of the top five receivers are separated by just 14 receptions. Two of those guys are tight ends Aaron Hernandez, with 41 receptions, and Rob Gronkowski, with 31. Danny Woodhead rounds out the group with 30.
This year, the Patriots offense is a veritable swiss army knife. They can both spread the field with various receiving options, or plug extra men on the line and run it down the throat of the opposing defense.
An offense that was once accused of being too finesse pounded the rock right at the Jets and Bears defenses, both ranked in the top five entering their match-ups. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was carrying around the likes of David Harris, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, while little Danny Woodhead simply ducked and dodged his way through traffic.
The most important thing? The 2007 offense hit its peak in the first eight weeks, while it seems the best is yet to come for the 2010 version.
Which leads me to my next point: the playoffs.
As I mentioned earlier, the offense is fully capable of running hard. With home-field advantage almost a certainty at this point, the Patriots will need that power running game in the harsh conditions of Foxboro.
Of course, it will also help that they have the best cold-weather quarterback in NFL history on their side if the playoffs make their way to Foxboro in January.
Even the best defenses don’t have enough depth across the board to contain the Patriots’ offense, which is so versatile, diverse, and unique.
Yep, this offense is certainly different from the 2007 version, but there’s one constant: No. 12. And though his numbers may not be mind-blowing, this season has been almost as magical.