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New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots stands under center during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

One of Bill Belichick’s hallmarks as a coach is to not overcomplicate things. Keep it simple when possible, and make sure players are in a spot to succeed. It’s an approach he used once again on Sunday in the Patriots 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

When it came to play calling, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did the best they could to simplify things for first-time center Joe Thuney. The 2016 third-round pick has played nothing but left guard in New England, but moved over one spot to his right following a hand injury to starting center David Andrews.

To compensate, McDaniels flipped the usual ratio of traditional to shotgun snaps (under-center snaps are usually considered easier than shotgun). Through the first two games, the Patriots were in shotgun 56-percent of the time. On Sunday, that number dropped to 41.9 percent.

It was a consistant change too. Here’s how the snaps broke down by quarter:

Patriots snaps broken down by type and quarter, excluding kneel downs.

While that limited some of what the Patriots could do offensively, such as read options and designed quarter back runs, it had an overall positive effect. The team established the ground game with a traditional power style. Sony Michel was the main beneficiary, with 117 yards on nine carries.

Michel’s performance opened up the play action, specifically with screens. The Patriots threw early and often to Rex Burkhead in those situations. Burkhead was New England’s leading receiver with seven catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Given how effective going under center was for the Patriots this week, expect the strategy to continue when they face the Kansas City Chiefs and All-Pro nose tackle Chris Jones next week. Thuney and the Patriots will have their hands full, and working from traditional offensive sets should give them the best chance to capitalize.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.