For most teams, winning 11 games is cause for celebration.
Not for Coach Belichick’s New England Patriots.
After finishing 11-5 last year, but missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the Patriots will look to meet lofty expectations. Only two seasons ago Coach Bill and the Gang completed the first ever 16-0 regular season and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.
With a healthy Tom Brady back in the pocket, New England hopes to get back to its winning ways.
New England’s biggest offseason move wasn’t made in the draft room or in the weight room, but in the operating room. After New England’s incredible recent run of success, all Pats fans want to see is Belichick roaming the sidelines looking like a hobo and pretty-boy Tom Brady manning the huddle.
This year—knock on wood—all will be right in Foxboro.
The 2008 season was both impressive and disappointing. Ten minutes into the season, when it was clear that Brady’s injury was severe, all hope seemed lost. Though Matt Cassel filled in admirably, the differences between the record-setting '07-'08 offense and the '08-'09 offense are striking.
In 2008, the offense gained over 1,000 fewer yards, completed almost 50 fewer first-downs, and scored almost 200 fewer points.
Certainly, the 2007 campaign featured a historically good offensive unit. However, that is the bar to which Brady, Moss, Welker and Belichick will forever be compared.
With Brady back in the saddle, the Patriots hope to replicate another record-setting year.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had to slightly dumb-down the Patriots’ playbook when Cassel stepped in to the starting role. This year, the Pats will employ a full complement of offensive plays and will be able to take more chances on fourth down (a Belichick staple) with their No. 1 quarterback controlling the game.
With Brady, the team will be able to stretch the field again. Brady to Moss will go down as one of the best quarterback-receiver pairings of recent years.
Wes Welker will be coming off a Pro-Bowl season and will look to duplicate his success.
With Welker running underneath routes and finding diagonal holes throughout defenses and Moss wreaking havoc downfield, this year’s New England passing game will be impressive.
Not to knock Cassel, but Brady will be better. In 2007 Brady threw for over 4,800 yards, completed 69 percent of his passes, and notched an astounding 50 touchdowns.
In 2008 Cassel, though still impressive, recorded 1,200 fewer yards, threw only 21 touchdowns, and still threw three more interceptions. Brady and company scored an astounding 589 points, good for first in the league.
On the defensive side of the ball, not much has changed.
The departure of outside linebacker Mike Vrabel, especially without an immediate replacement evident, hurts. However, the defensive backfield is much improved, even without starting cornerback Ellis Hobbs who was traded to the Eagles on draft day.
Adding free-agent cornerbacks Shawn Springsand Leigh Bodden, as well as drafting safety Patrick Chung, will improve New England’s coverage abilities.
Last year the Patriots’ defensive backfield often looked outmatched. In truth, they were often left out to dry by a lacking pass rush and improvements at safety and cornerback will allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to blitz more without fear of giving up big plays.
This year’s edition of the New Patriots look strikingly similar to the 2007 squad.
If you’re a Pats fan, that looks mighty good.