Brady: Patriots don't have a set identity on offense


Brady: Patriots don't have a set identity on offense

FOXBORO -- Seven weeks into the season, and the Patriots are still dealing with a bit of an identity crisis on offense.

At points, they have focused on exploiting the advantages they have with their tight ends. They blew away the Broncos with their no-huddle. They ran all over the Bills. They threw like crazy in their loss to the Seahawks. And in the period of a couple of weeks early in the season, Wes Welker went from an afterthought to one of the league's most productive receivers.

Against the Jets it was a bit of a mix, and the Patriots got mixed results. They scored just one touchdown after the first quarter and watched a 10-point lead vanish as they punted on five of six possessions from the second quarter to the fourth.

They came through with two clutch drives to finish their AFC East rivals, though: At the end of the fourth quarter, Brady went 4-of-5 passing for 54 yards to set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-tying field goal. In overtime, they drove 53-yards for what proved to be the game-winning 48-yard field goal from Gostkowski.

Asked to describe his offense's identity after beating the Jets 26-23 in overtime on Sunday, Brady paused.

"It's tough to say," he said. "It's tough to say."

No team has scored more points, gained more yards or run more plays from scrimmage than the Patriots in the last two months, and their diversity helps make their offense so prolific. But as their losses this season have shown, there hasn't been one thing -- one set, one style -- that they've been able to turn to consistently in critical situations to put teams away.

"I dont know," Brady said when asked if he was concerned about his team's unclear identity.

"I'm sure if you asked teams and they said 'Yes,' it would probably change over the next nine weeks anyway. I think you continue to go do the things you're doing well. Youd love to figure those things out in spring camps, but it really doesn't play that way. You have some teams that you play and situations that you face and players that are healthy or not healthy, and schemes that you run. And you boil it down to what you're good at. It's only October."

It's early yet, and there's still time to figure things out. But no matter the identity of the offense, whatever shape it takes, Brady will be at its core and ultimately will be the deciding factor in its success. That much is clear, and the Jets were reminded of that fact on Sunday.

"He'll probably go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game," Rex Ryan said of Brady. "We're not the first team he's ever done that against. You have to give him credit, obviously. They did a good job, got a lot of weapons, some of their guys got open. Were we at our best? Maybe not, I wish we had a few things back, but you have to give them credit. They made the plays at the end, and in particular Brady."

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”