Patriots 'scrambling' performance deserves more kudos

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaTom Brady stands by head coach Bill Belichick while offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels offers instruction. The trio, says Bill Burt, deserve props for their efforts on Thursday night.

FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady will never be compared to Michael Vick. Especially when it comes to athleticism and scrambling ability.

But Vick never scrambled like Brady and the New England Patriots’ offense scrambled on Thursday night.

For 50 consecutive offensive plays in the second half the Patriots played the same 10 guys, subbing only the running back position.

And two of those guys, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olzcewski, were not drafted last April.

This incredible achievement was glossed over because of the semi-ugly win over a semi-ugly opponent.

The Patriots are not allowed to play semi-ugly football.

In the new NFL, somewhere upwards of seven to 10 “groupings” of players are used.

The Patriots had one group because of injuries.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Matt LaCosse both left the game midway through the first half with knee injuries. Fullback Jakob Johnson, a replacement for the injured James Develin, was lost around the same time with a shoulder injury and is lost for the season.

It meant that (OT) Marcus Cannon, (OG) Shaq Mason, (OG) Joe Thuney, (OC) Ted Karras, (OT) Marshall Newhouse, (QB) Tom Brady, (TE) Ryan Izzo, (WR) Julian Edelman were joined by Jakobi and Gunner, were playing the rest of the game without a substitution.

Maybe they did this in 1960. The don’t do it now, not even in Pop Warner football.

“I don’t think that’s ever happened in 20 years,” said Brady after the game.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explains it in a little more detail.

“You go into a game plan with an idea of what you want to do with the personnel that’s available to you,” said McDaniels. “Usually, that includes and encompasses multiple personnel groupings. As you saw at the beginning of the game, we used all of the ones that we had available to us last night early.

“It took out of a good chunk of what we had worked on in terms of our preparation,” he added. “All you can do at that point is focus on what you have left.”

That’s where the “scrambling” came in.

“So (we) kind of scrambled on the sideline, scrambled at halftime, scrambled on the sideline in the second half,” said McDaniels. “Credit goes to the guys that were out there … ten players that played about the last fifty plays of the game with no rest because we didn’t have a substitute.”

The fact that they didn’t come out is impressive, but not as impressive as their performance, controlling the football in the second half for 20:57 (out of 30 minutes) versus only 9:07 for the Giants.

The score was 21-14 at the end of the first half, which means the Giants had a chance to steal this game due to the Patriots playing undrafted free agents the entire second half.

Instead, the Patriots blew open the game, albeit methodically.

The Giants never had a chance.

Mind you, Brady and the Patriots’ defense, both among the best in the 2019 NFL, were still in service.

But this, one offensive grouping staying on the field the entire second half, has never happened in the Brady Era.

Even Bill Belichick, who throws compliments around like manhole covers, was impressed.

“We dealt with a few things offensively. We were just kind of down to one grouping there the whole second half,” admitted Belichick. “I thought Josh [McDaniels] and the offensive staff did a great job of managing the game.”

The Patriots have not faced a team over .500 yet this season, which opens the door for criticism in wins over a team like the Giants.

But the Patriots deserve more kudos than they’re getting for Thursday night’s win. 

You can email Bill Burt at and follow him on Twitter at @burttalkssports. 

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