"Balance" is the word of the week, and it's what the Patriots' coaches are hoping to achieve from the offense. After two weeks, the results have been mixed; the offense looked sluggish and out of sorts in the season-opening loss to the Dolphins, but had little trouble against the Vikings last Sunday (though most of Minnesota's wounds were self-inflicted; Matt Cassel threw four interceptions).
With the Raiders coming to Gillette Stadium this week, there's no better time to work on getting better.
“I think, offensively, we could stand to get a lot more balance into our attack overall, period,” coach Bill Belichick said during Tuesday’s conference call, via ESPN.com. “We didn’t have the run-to-pass ratio in Miami and didn’t really have enough of it in the passing game last week ... so we have to do a better job as a coaching staff.
“I have to do a better job to create a little more balance on our team offensively with our personnel, our play-calling, our plays and so forth. Because we have a lot of good players. We have to be more effective,” he said.
After two games, one concern is that quarterback Tom Brady doesn't fully trust his pass catchers, many of whom are new to the team.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of communication or a lack of being on the same page,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Tuesday. “First of all, we only threw the ball 21 times or whatever it was the other day. And many of those were in two-receiver type settings or came out quick in three-step drops, and a lot of times the coverage dictates where the ball goes.
“I don’t think it was a case of Tom misreading the coverage or looking even at a specific direction. We have all our guys in the pattern, and Tom is capable of reading the coverage out and throwing it to the right guy, and he does a great job of that. Sometimes that means the ball is going to go certain places more than others, and there is always a place to start with your read. And sometimes, if the guy happens to be open right away, then you don’t need to go any further.
“We always will try to be balanced and distribute the ball to all of our skills players. We feel like we have capable tight ends, capable receivers, capable backs. And it never is our intention to go into the game and say only throw the ball to one or two guys in a particular situation.”
One player Brady does trust: Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is being eased back into playing time after offseason knee surgery.
“I think Rob is making strides each week in terms of what he’s been able to do for us in practice and on the field during the game. I think a little bit of it last week was situational,” McDaniels said. “We used Cameron Fleming a little bit more in last week’s game in some different situations. We did that because we wanted to add a little size and so on and so forth. That dictated some different personnel groupings on the field. But I think Rob is doing a good job. These are his first two opportunities to get out there in a game this year, and I think every opportunity that we have is just a better day to improve on where he’s at and where we’re at offensively and get him involved in different things.”