New-look Patriots, same old success

While covering the Bills/Patriots Week 3 matchup for CBS, I witnessed a team that may have found a new way of doing things.

After losing their do-it-all player — RB Kevin Faulk — to a season-ending knee injury, the Patriots found a new way to move the chains and convert third downs. Of Tom Brady’s 21 completions, 12 went to rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and second-year WR Julian Edelman. All three contributed productive plays in helping the Patriots beat the Bills for the 14th straight time, and in doing so added a new look to the Patriots offense.

Toss in the play of former New York Jet and “Hard Knocks” star Danny Woodhead, who gave the Patriots their first rushing TD of the season, and you’re seeing a team who continues to reinvent itself.

“You are really rebuilding your team every year,” said coach Bill Belichick. “It takes time to know what you’ve got, but by Week 6 you should have an idea of who you are.”

Belichick told me that the tight ends in his offense must bear huge responsibilities as they are integrated into the scheme. Hernandez and Gronkowski have learned quickly that their job is more than just catching passes, as they’re very involved in pass protection and run blocking. The Patriots entered Week 3 averaging 85 rushing yards per game, but then bullied their way to a whopping 200 yards on the ground.

Just when teams think they’ve stopped Brady by taking away Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the Patriots find new ways — and new weapons — to arm themselves for another title run.

— Solomon Wilcots

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