Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels praises Tom Brady's 'inherent courage' running the QB sneak

Josh McDaniels praises Tom Brady's 'inherent courage' running the QB sneak

During Thursday night's game against the New York Giants, Tom Brady became the de facto goal-line back for the New England Patriots.

Running the ball 7 times for 6 yards, Brady was able to bull into the endzone for two rushing touchdowns. It was just the third time during his career that he ran for two scores, and he became the oldest player in league history to achieve that feat.

In the wake of Brady's success, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke of Brady's willingness to perform the sneak and noted that few passers do it better than Brady.

"There's an inherent courage and willingness to send your body into a bunch of 300-plus-pound men and push, and not go to the ground and not lose the ball, have an awareness of where you’re at, and also find the sweet spot," McDaniels said, per ESPN's Mike Reiss. "Tommy does such a good job of just burrowing in there. His legs never stop moving, and he has a knack for knowing how far he needs to get."

There is a reason that Julian Edelman called Brady the "GOAT" of QB sneaks after the game on Thursday night.

Brady will likely continue to use the sneak as a weapon, especially if the team continues to need his expertise on the goal line. So far this season, Brady has three TDs on five carries from inside the five-yard-line. Other running backs on the team have a combined four scores on nine carries from that same distance.

Will Brady continue to be the leader in the Patriots' goal-line run offense? It's unlikely. But can he pick and choose when to use the sneak to his advantage? Surely. And that's what we saw happen on Thursday night.

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McDaniels on pressure to involve Antonio Brown: Patriots don't 'force' the ball to anyone

McDaniels on pressure to involve Antonio Brown: Patriots don't 'force' the ball to anyone

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have just imported one of the game's best talents into their offensive meeting room in Antonio Brown. He's also proven to be a migraine headache to coaching staffs in Pittsburgh and Oakland.

Concerns about his ability to create significant strife in the Patriots locker room seem exaggerated. There are strong personalities who stand as pillars for the culture Bill Belichick has worked to establish in New England, with Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, James White, Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower being among them. It's a long list.

But Brown has not been shy about bothering his coaches over the years. 

It was well-documented on HBO's "Hard Knocks" and on Brown's on social-media accounts that frustration reigned in Raiders offices when it came to Brown's unwillingness to play for the team. According to multiple reports out of Pittsburgh -- some which have only surfaced recently due to how his time in Oakland ended -- Brown hasn't been afraid to voice his displeasure with coaches ever since he signed his first contract extension with the Steelers in 2012.

In 2013, he reportedly confronted Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley about what he deemed to be a lack of targets. 

"Being a hungry playmaker on the team, I did what any good player around should do," Brown said at the time. "You talk to the person who controls the scheme of the game and see what he can do to get you involved, or see what you can do to get things going . . . I didn't think it was a big issue. We just have to find a way to win. I guess this is what happens when you lose."

In 2015, Steelers tight end Heath Miller asked Brown to stop complaining about a lack of targets. In 2017, Brown lit up a Gatorade cooler after Ben Roethlisberger didn't look in his direction when he was open for a big gain. Early last season, Brown got into it with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sidelines after having fallen behind the Chiefs.

Now the Patriots will try to figure out how to best acclimate Brown to their system while avoiding similar incidents.

Asked if there was any pressure on his part as Patriots play-caller to get Brown involved early on despite the lack of practice time he's had with the team, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said that wasn't an issue as far as he was concerned. 

"No. The goal for us is always the same," McDaniels said. "Have a really good week of preparation. Try to make sure our guys know what our plan is, and we've prepared them as best we can for the opponent. Then go out there and take care of the football and score as many points as we can playing complementary football. 

"We have a lot of good football players on our team. A lot of guys that have roles that they can perform well. We gotta go out there and put our guys in good positions, hopefully with a really good week of practice. We'll see how it goes as we go forward. 

"Certainly we've always had the same concept in terms of our run game, pass game, our offense in general. We're gonna try to throw it when we're supposed to throw it. We really, we don't try to force the ball anywhere or to anybody. Because that's not necessarily the way we do it."

How Brown comes to terms with that philosophy could dictate how well -- and how long -- he enjoys being part of the Patriots roster.

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Josh McDaniels' season-opening plan for Patriots left Steelers reeling

Josh McDaniels' season-opening plan for Patriots left Steelers reeling

FOXBORO — The players, the players, the players. Bill Belichick is the best coach of this generation and probably all the other ones too. Regardless of sport. But when it comes to doling out credit, he starts with the Jimmys and Joes before he gets to the Xs and Os.

And he should.

But the game plan thrown at the Pittsburgh Steelers last night by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was so varied, so perfectly designed that all the Jimmys and Joes had to do was show up in the spots they were supposed to and do their jobs. Which they did.

The result? A 33-3 rout of the Steelers.

The defense was brilliant. As expected. But the fact the Patriots just kept scoring — four times in five possessions in the first half after their first drive ended with a punt — meant the Steelers had to bail on their offensive game plan. That’s the complementary football Belichick’s always talking about. But it was jump-started by the offense.

“Josh always does a great job of utilizing the players that are available, putting them in great positions and attacking the defense,” Belichick said. “Every week is a little bit of a different challenge based on the scheme and the players that we're up against, but Josh does a great job of organizing the game plan, play-calling, making adjustments in the game. I thought he did a great job tonight. The players did a great job executing. We took care of the ball. We had a lot of positive plays. It was a good outing.”

Before the first quarter was out, the Patriots had hit Pittsburgh with almost every personnel grouping imaginable, starting first with heavy personnel and a ground attack before switching to an up-tempo, empty attack.

The Patriots will morph this season from being tight-end reliant to finding other ways to stress defenses. Sunday night, they were in 20 personnel (two backs, no tight ends, three wide receivers) 19 times through three quarters. They used that personnel just eight times in 2018.

They mixed running back combos — Rex Burkhead and James White; James Develin and Burkhead; Develin and Sony Michel. They ran a pony formation with two backs split next to Tom Brady. They ran a variation of the pony with two backs to the same side of Brady in the shotgun. They went five-wide with the fullback Develin split out to the sideline.

They ran out of 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end, two WRs) 17 times.

They had 11 personnel on 16 plays. They had 10 personnel once and that resulted in a dart to Jakobi Myers for his first NFL catch.

All those groupings and all those formations stress a defense to get lined up and matched up. It also allows Brady, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of what’s going to happen post-snap, to get it to the most favorable matchup whether that’s Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Meyers, James White, Burkhead … you get the idea.

It doesn’t necessarily make it “easy” for Brady because there’s still the execution end of things in the face of a defense trying to respond. But it makes it so that the offense is able to dictate when it’s all clicking.

“We’ve had a great relationship for a long time,” Brady said of his longtime OC. “I have so much trust in him and what he puts together every week. He works extremely hard, he’s diligent. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to keep forcing different things.

“I think over the course of the season, you’ve got to figure out a lot of different ways,” Brady added. “I think this team gets used to that. It’s not you’re going to win like this every single week. Some days it’s going to be more to the back, some days it’s going to be more to the receiver, some days it’s more tight ends, more it’s the run game — that’s the ebb and flow of the season.”

As it relates to Antonio Brown, it will be fascinating on two levels. One, how the Patriots deploy him and how often they go to a player that’s never been targeted fewer than 10 times a game since 2011. Two, how Brown responds when he begins to taste the reality of being a cog in the machine rather than the engine.

The skillsets of some key players on the Patriots offense are not off the charts. But the versatility they have and their ability to understand the concepts and subjugate themselves to McDaniels’ plan is what makes the offense potent. They see the bigger picture.

How willing Brown is to try and do the same might be the difference between this offense being really hard to defend — as it is without him — and impossible to defend as it could be if he buys in for the long haul, not just for a few weeks.

The Patriots don’t need Antonio Brown to be the answer to their problems. They’ve proven themselves to be damn good at solving those without him for going on two decades. All he has to do is show up in the spots he’s supposed to and do the job McDaniels lays out for him.

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