This isn’t your father’s Patriots offense anymore. As New England opened up its 2020 season on Sunday by defeating the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, it did so by rolling out a brand new offense centered around new starting quarterback Cam Newton. By the looks of things, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels renovated the team’s playbook and specifically tried to highlight Newton’s mobility. 

That was apparent on the quarterback’s two touchdown runs — both of which were by design. On the day Newton led the team in rushing with 75 yards, which is more than his predecessor under center, Tom Brady, typically ran for in an entire season. New England leaned heavily on the run, using Newton’s red zone prowess to its advantage, and then picked its spots in the passing game. That’s different from what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from a Patriots offense. Brady had a history of slicing opposing secondaries up with pinpoint passes over the middle. 

As Belichick highlighted on Monday, New England is simply catering its offense to highlight the strengths of the man under center, just as it did with Brady for the past two decades. 

“We always try to do what’s best for the team to win,” said Belichick. “Everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, has been for Tom Brady. It was for Tom Brady. Everything was dedicated to him, other than the games that he didn’t play in, like when [Matt] Cassel played or Jimmy [Garoppolo] and then Jacoby [Brissett] when Brady was suspended. So there were times when we had to plan differently, but when your starting quarterback has things that he’s good at or things that you can take advantage of, then I think you try to take advantage of them.”

Newton’s 15 carries also led the Patriots backfield and was the second most of his career. The last time he hit double digits in carries came back in 2018. Of course, asking Newton to rush that many times on a weekly basis probably isn’t in the best interest of the club as it does expose him to a higher chance of injury. When asked about Newton’s high volume of carries, Belichick did note that the stat is a bit misleading because some of his runs were options. 

“Well, some of those runs were option-type runs, so we don’t know who’s going to get the ball,” he said. “It depends on how the defense plays. It’s not like handing the ball off to the halfback and running up the middle. When you run plays that have some type of an option to them, you don’t know for sure who’s going to get the ball. That’s just an unpredictable part of that play. It’s like running a pass play. Unless it’s a screen pass, when you drop back and throw the ball, you don’t know which receiver you’re throwing to. It depends on the coverage and the matchup that you get. So, it’s the same thing on an option-type run. The quarterback could keep it or the quarterback could hand it off. It really depends on how the defense defends the play.

“So I think those numbers are, with all due respect, I think they’re a little bit skewed. If they play it a certain way, they could put the ball in whoever’s hands they wanted to if they really want to declare who’s going to get the ball. So, we’ll see how teams play us going forward on those type of plays. If we run those again — I don’t know — we’ll do what’s best each week based on the team that we’re playing and how we feel like we can attack them.”

Newton was efficient as a passer, completing 15 of his 19 throws on the day, but he will need to be a little more prolific through the air for New England offense to live up to its potential. By showing that elite rushing ability, that should open things up in the passing game as the season progresses. 

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