FOXBORO — With the Patriots trailing 13-7 with 6:39 left in the third quarter Sunday against the Jets, and only totaling 61 yards of total offense on their first seven drives, they needed a spark, something to ignite the offense.
The team went to a no-huddle offense on their eighth drive of the game with Shane Vereen at running back, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end and Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola as wide receivers. The change up worked as the Patriots gained some momentum by going 81 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 24-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, cutting the Jets lead to 13-10.
Even though the Patriots didn’t record a touchdown, the change of pace gained the offense some much needed momentum.
“I guess it did. Guys got into a rhythm,” Wright said on Monday. “We’ve got great players in the locker room, great players that can step in and get the job done. I guess once they got the confidence going, it got going well for us.”
On the following Jets possession, Jamie Collins picked off Geno Smith and then the Patriots continued to utilize the up-tempo offense on their eight play, 38-yard drive capped off by a Jonas Gray 1-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, which put the Patriots on top, 17-13.
On the two scoring drives in the second half where they primary went no-huddle, the Patriots totaled 119 yards. This is compared to the other nine drives in the game where they totaled only 112.
“Sometimes there are different advantages that you may be able to gain based on personnel, what we have in the game, what they have in the game, how easy or difficult it may be to communicate at that point in the game, or if it’s a home game or a road game ‘ that certainly affects that, to be able to go at that pace,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Monday’s conference call referring to the Gray’s touchdown drive. “And sometimes you do it just to try to kick-start something if you’re having trouble sustaining drives or putting too many plays together. It’s obviously something we have done well in the past at times, and I think it did help us and our guys did a good job executing on that series.
“We actually did it in a few more series than the one in particular you’re referring to there — I think it was the second drive of the third quarter — I thought our guys did a good job of executing and communicating what we were trying to do quickly and playing as fast as we could.”
Wright played a major role in those two drives as after by our count getting just six snaps in the first half, he had 30 in the second half.
“It just changes the look for us,” Wright said of the no-huddle offense. “Like I said, we’re a very diverse offense. We’ve got things that we can fall on, so that’s what we did, and it came up big for us.”
With the win, the Patriots clinched a first-round bye and with a win over the Bills on Sunday, or with a Bengals win over the Broncos Monday night, they can clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Wright and the team are solely focused on getting a win Sunday against Buffalo.
“[They’re a] great team,” said Wright. “They’ve been playing well the second half of the year. We’ve really got to get going on them early, and it’s going to be a great week of preparation for us.”