|Randy Moss (81) is party to an end zone celebration with his teammates after the first of his two touchdown catches. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)|
This pattern is by design
FOXBOROUGH - They went no-huddle to open the game, electing to set a quick pace. Seven flawless plays later, the Patriots had marched 69 yards for a touchdown, opening the first wound in a bloody beating of the Chargers.
It was a case of an offense, going with a three-wide package, being the aggressor.
"We thought we could control the tempo of the game a little bit," said coach Bill Belichick. "We wanted to try to spread the field on them. It was good to be able to spread the ball around and get on top."
From a tactical standpoint, the Patriots wanted to see how the Chargers would defend the three-wide package, whether they would stay in their base 3-4 alignment or substitute an extra defensive back. The Chargers stayed with their base and the Patriots picked them apart, the drive culminating with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to tight end Benjamin Watson.
"We wanted to go out there and try to make some plays happen fast, to get into our rhythm and make them play to our strengths, which is getting the ball going and making some quick plays," Watson said. "That kind of set the tone for us, to get the ball out there and impose our will. That was big for us."
It was surgical precision, seven plays, six completed passes, just 2:46 elapsed.
The opening march was the catalyst for an overall solid offensive performance, as the Patriots kept the heat on, opening a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and increasing it to 24-0 at the half. That ultimately forced the Chargers to alter their preferred offensive script, which was to get running back LaDainian Tomlinson going.
Belichick often talks about complementary football, and this was a case of how even though offensive players don't make tackles, they helped shut down Tomlinson (18 carries, 43 yards).
"The score had a lot to do with it, that took away their ability to run the ball in the latter part of the game," Belichick said. "San Diego is a hard team to play from behind with their running game and pass rush. You're better off trying to play ahead, and fortunately that's where we were the whole game."
Part of the beauty in what the Patriots do offensively is that it never seems to be the same thing twice.
Against the Jets, the team ran 51 of its 63 plays with multiple tight ends. Last night, the team's first 10 plays came with the three receivers and one tight end. It was a significant change-up from what the Chargers might have seen on film.
And make no mistake, the offensive performance came against a solid unit, a defense that gave up just 3 points last week to Chicago. It's a defense that surrendered an average of just 18.9 points per game last year, the seventh-best mark in the NFL.
"We got off to a fast start, which we were talking about all week," said Brady, who finished 25 of 31 for 279 yards and three touchdowns. "This is a very physical team that plays with a lot of energy. Coming out there and putting a touchdown on the board on the first drive, it was great."
The Chargers were stunned.
"They jumped on us like a spider monkey," said San Diego fullback Lorenzo Neal. "They came out and scored 7, and offensively we didn't match their intensity."
Added tight end Antonio Gates: "We just started out slow and it's hard to beat them when you come out that flat."
Through two games, the Patriots' offense has been lethal, scoring 38 points in the opener against the Jets and putting up 31 of the team's 38 points last night. It's an offense that is ever-evolving, changing its plan from week to week.
Running back Kevin Faulk, now in his ninth season, has an insider's knowledge of how adaptable the Patriots have become. The team going to the no-huddle early last night - after hardly calling on that in the opener - was a prime example.
"Whatever we feel like we can attack the other team's defense with, that is going to make us successful that day, that's what we're going to do," he said. "That's the coaching staff just being them."
Faulk, one of the team's seven captains, knows the varied offensive approach means some weeks he could see the bulk of action one Sunday, while other weeks he might hardly see the field. Consider that Faulk was on the field for just 10 snaps against the Jets. Last night, he was on the field for the first 10 plays of the game, because he's a regular in the three-wide, no-huddle package.
"It's just being mentally ready, staying mentally sharp," Faulk said. "You just have to be ready."
The Patriots were ready from the start last night. And with their opening-drive touchdown, the tone was set for their dominating win.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.