When you look at the way the Patriots beat the Oakland Raiders, you understand the importance of depth in the NFL. Football is won by a team effort. Superstars cannot guarantee success and all the teams that have emphasized the accumulation of impressive playmakers above all else have found that out the hard way.
Here’s the problem with football. Like most contact sports, football makes players vulnerable to injuries. So while it might make sense today to invest in superstars, you will be left scratching your head tomorrow when all your big names are sidelined with injuries.
New England knows this well. The Patriots Injuries for 2017 have been somewhat worrisome because of their significance. However, New England faced the Oakland Raiders on Sunday and, despite the many injuries, came out on top.
And they won because of their incredible depth. How else would you explain their ability to forge on in the absence of six of their core players? New England was able to avert disaster in all three phases of their Sunday game by looking to their backups for assistance.
Belichick went to the Sunday game knowing that the likes of Ted Karras and LaAdrian Waddle could be trusted, deploying them to replace Marcus Cannon and David Andrews. As such, there wasn’t a significant weakness to be observed in New England’s running and passing game throughout their Sunday match.
And that wasn’t just because of the competency of the players. You also have to credit the coaches whose job it was to get the backups ready for the field. Some teams would have crumbled under the uncertainty.
The Patriots, on the other hand, seem to understand the importance of nurturing backup talent. Just last week, Waddle kept Von Miller off Tom Brady in the Denver game. His performance on Sunday merely built upon the momentum he had gathered in the Denver game.
Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones also did a hell of a job replacing Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe who were sidelined due to injuries. This was on top of Ricky Jean-Francois, Adam Butler and Trevor Reilly stepping in to contend with the absence of athletes like Malcolm Brown.
New England would rather not deal with so many injuries. But if their Raiders game showed one thing, it proved the necessity of emphasizing depth above all else. Every aspect of the New England machine worked almost seamlessly to compensate for the absent talent and, as a result, they won.
And do not get too comfortable just because the team your support always escapes significant injury. You do not pursue depth just so you can prepare for injuries. Added depth also makes you a more flexible team.
Depth gives you more options to deploy on the field. Just look at the way the Patriots dealt with the Broncos and the Raiders. New England beat both teams but they used relatively different methods to achieve victory.
With Denver, the Patriots looked to their running backs to bring their opponent’s run defense down. Against the Raiders, the Patriots saw fit to deploy a pass-oriented battle plan. And as the Patriots approach the final games of the season, their ability to use their depth to adapt to different teams could make them an even more deadly threat.