FOXBORO — Wes Welker and Randy Moss aren’t walking through that door, fans.
That might not stop Bill Belichick from turning back the clock to 2007, the Pats record-setting 18-1 season in which Tom Brady and the passing game made history and came within a Giants’ February miracle of perfection.
Forget for now what we’ve seen on the field to date from this offense. Belichick opened the game with Nate Solder at tight end for 10 of the first 13 snaps on Friday night. That’s not happening when it counts.
It’s a ruse.
In this case, let’s assemble the preponderance of evidence left by the coach through this offseason and camp.
In the end, I’m sure you will agree, this football team is ready to spread it and throw it like no other Pats team ever has.
Yes, more than the 50-TD pass performance of ‘07.
Spread it and fire. Why?
Well, first and foremost is the edict passed down to the officials in the game to allow zero contact in the defensive secondary. Flags have flown from Foxboro to Glendale and every league venue in between.
This will tail off as the regular season rolls in, but the rules still benefit teams that chuck it. And Belichick’s club will.
Pats fans bellowed about Bill and Nick Caserio losing it in May when they bypassed the tight end position in the draft.
This roster has one pass-catching tight end, Rob Gronkowski, and nobody else. And if you’ve surveyed Gronk’s past performances, his dependability could be considered a question.
The Pats chose not to draft or find help through free agency.
Instead, it’s Gronk, blocking specialist Michael Hoomanawanui and a couple converted offensive linemen as potential help if the Hoo-man’s camp injury woes linger.
What if Gronk can’t go? Like New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, Gronk is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. His place in the slot, if injured, could go to Brandon LaFell or Danny Amendola — maybe even Brian Tyms.
Remember when the coach test-drove Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller? Again, a ruse.
This team is looking to the purest form of run-and-shoot.
Tight ends just are not needed here.
Belichick’s lone major offensive free-agent acquisition, Brandon LaFell, is a versatile type, who can play inside and out. He could replace Gronk in the slot, too.
Can it work? The Broncos spread things out and let Peyton Manning carve up defenses surgically. It worked perfectly, right up until the Super Bowl. Sound familiar?
And remember, Belichick did little to keep his top running back home.
LeGarrette Blount’s contact in Pittsburgh is under $2 million a year for two years. He’s a kid who decimated the Colts in the playoff opener a year ago. Belichick didn’t blink. He had no second thoughts. He let the kid walk to Steeler country for a song.
It’s because the running backs aren’t going to matter here.
Four and five wide sets will be the norm.
Finally, something tells me that Tom Brady has his sights set at one more record-setting kind of run. Topping Manning’s 55-TD season of 2013?
What a way to punctuate the career.