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Belichick has two weeks to prepare and perhaps the best redzone weapon in football.
With reports that Cam Newton will rejoin the Patriots in practice today, all signs indicate he will start at quarterback against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. There are a number of ways that presents issues for the Fangio defense, but chief among them is how it has a transformative impact on Josh McDaniels’ redzone offense.
When healthy, Newton’s always been a migraine in short yardage situations. He’s never scored less than four rushing touchdowns in a season he started 14 games and averaged just over 116 attempts a season. He’s on pace to shatter that pace in his first season with New England.
One way the McDaniels has molded his offense around the skills of his signal caller is to deploy more shotgun runs. It didn’t make much sense to do it back when Tom Brady was tromping though molasses, but now? It’s a huge problem for opponents. The Patriots are among the best five teams in football in power situations.
In week one against Miami, the Patriots came out in a 3X1 set with blocking tight end Ryan Izzo lined up in a close split to the right. Newton motioned James White out to the left in motion to draw the safety away and create a numbers advantage at the point of attack. On the snap Newton follows what amounts to a pin and pull block by Izzo and right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. He’s untouched as he jogs into the endzone.
Against the Seahawks, Newton’s prowess in short yardage were a focus. He carried the ball 11 times and scored two rushing touchdowns. Time and again McDaniels called the concept you see above. What makes it so hard to stop is that Newton not only fakes the handoff to his tailback, but the space between he and the line allows him to scan the defense and look for cracks. His back acts as a lead blocker, but if the design doesn’t open a hole up to the left he has a chance to ram his way to the daylight elsewhere.
The Patriots will bring in extra offensive linemen often, which makes concepts like the ones above even worse for opposing fronts. It could be especially problematic for the Broncos if Jeremiah Attaochu can’t suit up as it’d force Malik Reed to try and fight through blockers 70+ lbs. heavier than him.
Believe it or not, there are matchups on Sunday that lean the Broncos way. None of it will matter if Fangio can’t figure out a way to challenge Cam Newton in short yardage.
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