By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
Two rushing touchdowns of 20 yards or more, and two touchdown passes to tight ends?
These aren’t the 2009 Patriots.
The 2009 Patriots were entirely too reliant on passing to Wes Welker and Randy Moss, and while they had a decent running game, too many times they couldn’t get into the end zone. Outside of the opening night win over the Bills, when Benjamin Watson caught two late TD passes from Tom Brady, the tight ends were really not a factor at all last season.
Last night was encouraging from a play calling perspective, despite the tepid defense of the Falcons. While Brady did look to Welker early, it was to get him into the game and established. When Fred Taylor broke a 28-yard TD run, bouncing to the outside after a hit, he looked more like the Fred Taylor of the early 2000’s than he did the 2009 version. When Brady threw a TD pass to Aaron Hernandez in the exact right spot, and Hernandez caught it and got his feet down, he was more wide receiver than the brand of tight end we’ve become accustomed to here in New England in the Belichick era.
Later in the game, Sammy Morris broke free for a 20 yard TD run, and Brian Hoyer tossed an absolutely beautiful, perfect spiral to Rob Gronkowski, who caught it in stride and had a couple of defenders bounce off him as he entered the end zone.
Just four plays in all, (and in a preseason game against a pretty soft opponent) but they should encourage us that things might be a little different on the offensive side of the ball this season.