Bedard’s Breakdown: First half proved Patriots don’t need a running game for effective play-action passing

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Since we already broke down how the Patriots got back on track offensively in the second half and the Redskins' porous offense was no match for the Patriots' excellent defense, I figured this might be a good time to talk about the team's play-action/run-action game.

If you're one of those people who screams that the passing game isn't working this season because the Patriots can't run the ball as well as last season (you probably blame the line for that as well, which is fine), the first half against the Redskins wasn't for you.

I think we can agree the running game was not good in the first half. The Patriots ran seven times for 19 yards (2.7 average). Sony Michel carried four times for 10 yards, and James White toted three times for 9 yards.

So, yeah, not good.

You'd probably be surprised to learn that 53.4 percent of Tom Brady's 206 passing yards in the first half (110) came on six of his 19 completions in the form of play-action passes (18.3 yards per completion). And when you consider that Julian Edelman's generous 40-yard pass interference penalty came via a play-action pass, you're talking about a bulk of the Patriots' offense coming on seven of those plays.

So how did the Patriots manage to pass successfully without the aid of a running game? Because the Patriots' play-action offense isn't about running the ball.

It started on the second drive, and back-to-back plays to Ryan Izzo (29 yards) and Matt LaCosse (22 yards). They showed off both forms of the Patriots' play-action plan. And they came after the Patriots didn't throw once on the opening drive, and after Michel went for zero yards on the first carry of the drive.

The Patriots have two kinds of "action" plays.