FOXBORO — The curious case of offensive play-calling continues to engulf the collective consciousness surrounding the New England Patriots.
Though New England’s offensive ebbs and flows have dominated the better part of 2022 training camp, the holder of the Pats’ play-calling sheet became a primary focal point for fans and media alike during Thursday’s 23-21 loss to the New York Giants in the team’s preseason opener.
However, Patriots coach Bill Belichick remains concentrated on building the offensive process, as opposed to appeasing the oftentimes squeamish masses.
"We did a lot of things in this game that will be beneficial in the long run," Belichick said after the game. “Whether it was on the coaching staff, playing time, players that played and so forth. That's all part of the process.”
Still, the identity of the Pats primary play-caller remained somewhat of a mystery. With starting quarterback Mac Jones remaining on the sidelines with most of the Patriots’ starters, offensive line coach Matt Patricia appeared to be calling plays during veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer's first two drives. When he turned the team over to rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, assistant Joe Judge handled the majority of the duties.
Could this be an indication of how the calling of offensive plays may be handled in the regular season?
“Don’t worry about that. We’ll work it out,” Belichick responded.
When asked if he had made that decision, Belichick firmly stated: “We’re going through a process. Just like everything else on this team.”
After much speculation throughout the offseason, Patricia appeared to have an inside track on securing the job. The 47-year-old had called the majority of plays during camp practices Much to the chagrin of his detractors, Patricia successfully called the Pats to their first scoring drive of the preseason ... an eight-play, 55-yard drive, culminating in a touchdown pass from Hoyer to rookie Tyquan Thornton.
Despite some early sputtering, the connection between Zappe and Judge seemed to strengthen as the night progressed. Judge guided Zappe’s first scoring drive, an 84-yard drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Kevin Harris. Zappe would once again lead the Pats 69 yards on nine plays, ending with a 20-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
Though Zappe seemed to find a synergy with his quarterbacks coach throughout the course of the night, he appears to be ready for all play-calling scenarios.
“To be quite honest with you, it really doesn't matter to me,” Zappe said. “I'm more focused on the play that's coming in, focused on communicating to my teammates what the play is, and then going forward looking at what the defense is giving us, and that's my main focus.”
Whether it be Patricia or Judge who is given the primary duties seems to be more of a concern to those outside the Pats’ locker room, as opposed to those inside.
Perhaps that is exactly how it should be.