FOXBORO - The Patriots ran their hurry-up offense with a lot more giddy-up Sunday night.
The no-huddle offense is a staple of the Patriots' attack, and some would say they're a lot more effective than when they're in a more traditional mode. But against the visiting Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium, it appeared as if they had more spring in their steps and ran the offense at a near-breakneck pace compared to their normal no-huddle.
There was a method to their madness.
"We tried to up-tempo it a little bit to keep them from substituting," Patriots' coach Bill Belichick said after Sunday's 31-21 win over the Broncos. "They were able to substitute in at times, but I think at other times they couldn't get them in. It looked like they had to hold them.
"When they weren't substituting, then we could get a little bit better idea of what they were going to do with the group that was in there," Belichick continued. "When they start subbing, it's hard to tell exactly what group they're getting to. Are they subbing one for one or are they putting a different personnel group and all that? When they keep the same guys out on the field, then we can have a pretty good idea of what they're going to do from that package. They got in and out of some stuff, like we expected they would, but we felt like the tempo helped us control the game a little bit."
"We can go pretty fast at home if we can communicate really well," said quarterback Tom Brady, who performed very well in directing an accurate passing game and an effective running game, all at a fast pace.
"It takes a lot of concentration," said tight end Rob Gronkowski (four catches, 35 yards). "It takes a team effort for sure. You've got to have all 11 guys working at the same pace and you've got to make sure you're doing your own job out there.
"You've just got to focus during the week and you've got to focus at practice, so when it comes to game time I'm out there myself personally doing what I have to do and we're all working as a team," he said.
"We practice well," said wide receiver Wes Welker, "and I think it shows up on the game field whenever we practice the way we need to and the way we want to have a tempo in the game and do all those things. I think it shows up in the games the way we practice."
Welker, who has recovered his role as Brady's favorite target, caught 13 of the 15 passes thrown to him for 104 yards and a touchdown. When the stakes needed to be moved, Welker moved them.
"Every week you kind of go into it trying to understand your opponent and know who you're going against, and try to attack it the best you can and win at all costs," he said. "There were a few times where I didn't get open, but for the most part I feel like I got open a lot and was able to make some plays and do some good things out there."
The big difference in these Patriots and other recent editions is the ability to field a ground game that's almost equal to Brady's arm as a means of gaining ground. Sunday, the ground game won - 251 yards to Brady's 223.
"It's just been what we've chosen to do the last few weeks," Brady said. "I think that's more of what we're doing as opposed to what they're doing defensively. We're just trying to put a lot of pressure on those guys to get their calls in and line up and play against us.
"We're running the ball against some very advantageous looks and we're throwing the ball against some advantageous looks," he said, "and I think the important part is to be able to do both. You can't just throw it all day. You can't run it all day. You have to be able to do both. It's been pretty good the last few weeks."
Stevan Ridley's 151 yards on 28 carries were the talk of the day, and Brandon Bolden had a strong second half to finish with 54 yards on 14 carries. And lest he be forgotten, Danny Woodhead contributed 47 yards on seven totes, including maybe the play of the day for the ground game.
Facing third-and-17 at the Patriots' 43 with 9:05 left in the third quarter, Woodhead made a nice cutback against the grain and broke the run for 19 yards and a first down. The drive eventually produced Brady's 1-yard sneak for a score and a 24-7 lead.
"They were in a pretty light personnel grouping," Brady said, "and I handed it off to Woody and he found the crease. Once he gets going, he's got some blockers ahead of him, he's tough to bring down. You get an extra 18 on third-and-17 -that was huge. It ended up being a touchdown drive, too, and really propelled us there in the third quarter."
"That was a big play," Belichick said. "Danny ran it well. He's always been productive for us."