Patriots Find Success In Passing Game

One of the keys to the Patriots recent success has been their passing game. Teams watching tape on New England's season from 2004 saw an assortment of plays, many of which focused on Corey Dillon and the running game. With Dillon's career year and single-season rushing record in the books for the Patriots, teams try to focus on stopping the run. That has enabled Tom Brady to open it up through the air. Brady's success through the air has him on track for a career year.

Patriots Find Success In Passing Game
By Scout.com Staff

Fantasy football fans, take note. Tom Brady might be a wise investment.

Through three games Brady has thrown just three touchdown passes. But he has thrown a lot. With 123 attempts, Brady ranks second in the league behind only Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb (126).

Last year, when Corey Dillon rushed for a franchise-record 1,635 yards, Brady tied for 12th in the NFL in pass attempts. The Patriots' running game is sputtering now, ranking 30th in yards per game (64.0) and dead last in yards per carry (2.5). Until Dillon gets his game in gear, expect Brady to keep airing it out.

Last season the Patriots were almost perfectly balanced on offense. They threw 485 passes and ran 477 times, not counting carries by quarterbacks. This season they have run only 77 times.

Coach Bill Belichick said he isn't worried - yet - about being pass-heavy.

"What we're interested in doing is trying to win a game," he said. "So, if the game plan or what is successful for us is running, then we're going to run it. If it's throwing, we're going to throw it.

"You certainly want to have some kind of balance, but I think it's important in the end to move the ball and score points. That's what our offensive philosophy is and so however we can do that, then that's what we're going to try to do. Some games there will be more running than others. Some games there will be more passing than others and some games there will be more deep balls and some games there will be more inside runs or more outside runs.

"I think a big part of it is going to be how we think we can attack the team."

Going to the air would seem to be the right way to attack the Chargers, who visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Opposing quarterbacks (Drew Bledsoe, Jake Plummer and Eli Manning) have combined for five touchdowns and one interception against San Diego and have completed 63.7 percent of their attempts.

The last time the Patriots and Chargers hooked up, Sept. 29, 2002, the Patriots were running a lopsided offense, too. Through three games that year, Brady had attempted 132 passes, en route to a career-high 601 for the season.

Asked if this year reminded him of the 2002 campaign, when the Patriots finished 9-7, Brady said, "I hope it doesn't end like 2002."

"You're right," he said of the comparison. "I think we were over 600 pass attempts. I'm sure we're on schedule for that (this season), throwing as much as we have. You never want to be throwing the ball as much as that. You'd like to have much more balance. Last year was kind of where we wanted it to be. A couple of the games this year we've been forced to throw the ball."

Brady was 12-for-12 passing in the fourth quarter last week against the Steelers as the Patriots rallied in the fourth quarter and then won it after Pittsburgh had tied the game in the final two minutes.

However, the Patriots' offense still hasn't hit its stride. They have scored only two offensive touchdowns in their last seven quarters, although they have faced two very good defenses in Pittsburgh and Carolina.

SERIES HISTORY: 33rd meeting. Patriots lead series 17-13-2. Patriots earned second win in franchise history over then-Los Angeles Chargers in AFL's inaugural season of 1960. In latest meeting, Sept. 29, 2002, San Diego snapped 10-game losing streak to Patriots, winning 21-14 at home for first victory over New England since 1970.

NOTES

--With SS Rodney Harrison out for the year with a knee injury, third-year FS Eugene Wilson will see his role reversed. He called Harrison a "big brother" to him, but if Guss Scott, a 2004 draft pick, replaces Harrison in the lineup, as he did for the remainder of last week's win in Pittsburgh, Wilson will be the more experienced one of the two safeties. He will make his 33rd career start; Scott would be making his first.

"Just try to keep him positive," Wilson said when asked how he could ease Scott's transition from backup to starter. "If he does make a mistake back there, not get on him, not harp on him, just build on (the positives). But (Sunday) he went out there and did a great job. He didn't even need too much advice. He just stepped right in there."

--LB Matt Chatham came oh-so-close to blocking a Chris Gardocki punt last week against Pittsburgh. That would have been an accomplishment since Gardocki has punted 1,099 times in the NFL without having one blocked.

"I was trying to keep my guy honest who I was holding up," Chatham said of the Steelers player who was matched up against him on the line of scrimmage. "My guy had been trying to run away from me the whole day. To try to keep him honest I switched it up and tried to go get one. It's tough when I'm coming from the left side and he's a left-footed punter. He's probably got one of the best get-off times. It was more or less to scare him."

--RB Corey Dillon was a 34th-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1993 Major League Baseball Draft. At the time, Dillon was a senior outfielder at Franklin High School in Seattle.

Another former baseball player, FB Patrick Pass, had his first catch of the season last week. It was a big one - a 14-yarder on the winning drive that brought the ball down to the Steelers' 31.

Pass was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 1996 and played three summers of minor-league ball while he was on a football scholarship at Georgia. Pass advanced as far as Class A ball in Utica, N.Y. Asked if baseball helped his football skills, Pass said, "I couldn't say that. Two totally different sports. I can say it kept me in shape. We did a lot of running in the minor leagues."

--The Patriots will wear their alternate silver jerseys this week. They are 3-0 in those shirts with all of the wins coming at home. The Patriots wore silver twice in 2003, beating Dallas and Miami, each by 12-0 scores. Last season, they made a fashion statement in a 35-28 win over Cincinnati that clinched their second straight AFC East title.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 of 16 - The Patriots' success on converting on third down last week against the Steelers. They had converted just 10 of 30 third downs in their first two games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You're watching this guy who's just like Fonzie. It's a pleasure to watch. He's just a cool cat. He doesn't get rattled. The clock's ticking, no timeouts, he says, 'Here's what we're going to do. It's cool. We're fine.' He runs the plays, it works out fine. Immediately after the game, what does he do? Gives credit to everybody else on the planet Earth." - P Josh Miller on QB Tom Brady's late-game heroics.


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