Cam Newton made his New England debut in a new-look offense designed to suit his skills. He ran the ball 15 times, a number that coach Bill Belichick has downplayed by attributing the output to option runs that sometimes get kept by the quarterback, and that sometimes get handed off.
Here’s the reality: Seven of Cam’s carries were designed runs; only six came via an option play. (Cam’s longest run of the day happened on a scramble. He also took a knee for his final carry of the day.)
On six occasions, Newton handed the ball off on an option play. Once, he pitched the ball from an option look.
So that’s seven designed runs, six option runs, and seven situations in which he opted to get the ball to the tailback.
On Sunday night against the Seahawks, the question becomes whether the Patriots will use the quarterback option more or less than the 13 times it was used on Sunday against Miami. Also, will Newton have more, less, or the same number of designed runs?
He stayed out of harm’s way for the most part when running, with the most intense contact coming on New England’s final touchdown drive, as Newton tried to convert a third and six and then a fourth and one.
The use of the option play often kept defenders close to the line, opening up underneath zones for short-to-medium throws that can help keep the chains moving. Once, the Dolphins seemed to anticipate another option play, but Newton handed the ball to receiver Julian Edelman on a jet sweep. Edelman picked up 23 yards after sprinting past the Miami defenders (and as one of them in particular — safety Eric Rowe — seemed to be lollygagging to the ball).
The new offense ended up looking very diverse, and being extremely methodical. The Patriots outplayed the Dolphins by more than the 21-11 final score would suggest, fueled by 217 total rushing yards. But for a fumble through the end zone, the Patriots would have had another touchdown, pushing their score to 28 points.
With Russell Wilson looming, the Patriots may need 28 or more to prevail on Sunday night.