Patriots

Patriots

ATLANTA -- Tedy Bruschi saw the transformation as it was happening. That doesn't mean the metamorphosis the Patriots offense has undergone from 2001 until now is any less remarkable. 

The second-year, sixth-round pick, little-known quarterback who relied on a talented defense and a clutch special teams unit to carry him at times has turned himself into the greatest player in the history of the sport. And the offense has developed as he has. 

"The changes I was still able to notice while I was there, all the way through the '07 and '08 seasons from the '01 team," Bruschi said Thursday. "I don't think any of us knew what we had back in '01. If I'm correct, Tom was responsible for two postseason touchdowns in that run. The defense and special teams were responsible for the rest. And Bledsoe threw a touchdown to Patten in Pittsburgh. 

"Tom had a scramble in the snow, and he also threw one to Patten in the Super Bowl. It was a team, the foundation was special teams and defense. 'We've got this young quarterback. He's learning as he goes, and so let's play like that.' That's how it started." 

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We know what's happened since then. The Super Bowls. The MVPs. The passing records.

    "Now it's sort of turned into 'The quarterback's gotta do a lot to get this team to be successful,' " Bruschi acknowledged. "He's been able to do that because in '07 we needed those 35 points a game at times. We had some good players, but it had just been taken to another level offensively, the progression of Tom."

     

    What's fascinating about this year's Super Bowl is not that Brady and the Patriots have reverted back to what they were in 2001. They're still able to post 30 or 40 points in a given week. But their offense more closely resembles schemes that would've been more widespread 20 years ago. 

    Brady can still chuck it, as we saw in overtime of the AFC title game. But right now the Patriots are at their best with two backs on the field and running play-action because they've established that they're an effective running team. 

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    "He's still there," Bruschi said of Brady. "That's what's so potent about the offense now. As they resort now the last few games, even the Buffalo game, the Jet game to finish, re-establishing the power run, the play action pass game. If it doesn't work versus the Los Angeles Rams, they still have another dimension to go to. If he has to throw it 40-plus times to win this game because [Aaron] Donald and [Ndamukong] Suh have stopped the inside run and the play-action pass isn't there, the backs to the flat and [Julian] Edelman over the middle, those types of precision passes and hurry up schemes, they can be implemented also."

      Bruschi added: "I think that's the brilliance of Bill [Belichick] and what he's been able to do. He's shown you those spread-out schemes with Tom Brady that he can have success with. He can also take it back a few decades and remembers how to coach that way. 

      "What you do is you're really putting the other team in a bind . . . That's what Bill has tried to do in my experience a lot of times. Not only just taking what you do best away from you, but almost forcing you to re-think and adjust who you are throughout a game. I think that's why he's morphed into this power-running, play-action pass game. Defenders, they're so used to going against spread-out teams, it's like, 'Do I even remember doing this as a player?' "

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