Had a chance to see the Pats play the Redskins Sunday and have a few observations.
First, Brady is truly one of the greatest QB's of our time. He seems to have a sixth sense about where defensive pressure is coming from, and can make small adjustments with ease to make completions very few other QB's would be able to make. It was like watching Houdini get out of traps. He makes it look so easy. Very impressive!
Second, when the Patriot offensive play-callers give up on the run too early, Brady tries to get big bunches of yards by letting plays develop a second or so longer. The O-line senses it and does a pretty good job of extending his protection in those situations. Net result: lots of yards, lots of scoring but not too much time off the clock.
Third, when the Pats lead, the defense plays very conservatively. Lots of DB cushion, not too much pressure by the D-line, focus on tackling after pass completion rather than preventing the pass, giving up 4-5 yards to a decent running game. Net result: opponents make a lot of plays to march down the field and eat up a lot of the clock.
Fourth, Pats' red-zone defense is actually completely different from the rest of their game and they rely on it to stop the bleeding. So the opponenets rack up a lot of yards, take a lot of time off the clock and don't score as much as their yardage would have you expect they would. This does not always work, and with a couple of trick plays, the Redskins almost tied the game at the end.
Fifth, the overall game planning leads to a gassed defense and a rapid-fire offense. It's a low-risk strategy as long as you have a super-efficient passing game and can stay ahead of the opposition. You win more games than you lose but it takes a toll on the defense with more likelihood of injuries because of the time it's asked to be out there.
Last observation: this strategy works during the regular season because opponents cannot afford to commit hugely to one game and play every down chasing the QB and harassing him non-stop (unless it's the Ravens), but come playoff time, teams know each game could be their last game and their level of commitment to the pass rush increases. The Pats might not have the advantage of a highly efficient offensive machine in the playoffs.
It feels like the team has to commit to clock-eating game planning for the next few games to get ready for the playoffs. Otherwise, it will be another tough post-season. If that happens, it would be a tragic waste because we won't always have the great Houdini of QB's playing at this level of pefection.