Are the Patriots changing their offensive approach?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts September 12, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

In the first two weeks of the season, the Patriots threw the ball a combined 71 times against the Bengals and Jets, compared to their 43 rushing attempts.

In their last two games against the Bills and Dolphins, the Pats threw the ball a combined 59 times compared to 62 rushing attempts.

Four weeks is too small of a sample size to make any definitive statements about the direction of New England’s offense, but considering the team traded their No. 1 receiver on Wednesday, it would appear that Bill Belichick is changing his approach on that side of the ball.

Now, it would make sense that the Pats would call more running plays against the Bills (whose front seven has been banged up) and Dolphins (whose pass defense ranks in the top 10 and whose run defense ranks in the bottom half of the league). But the Bengals and Jets both have solid pass defenses, so why throw on them?

Granted, the flow of the game dictates how plays are called for an offense. If a team were successfully moving the ball on the ground, it would make sense to keep pounding runs at a defense in order to wear them down. Making adjustments is a vital component in football.

That said, Tom Brady has completed 72.2% of his passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns when the Patriots have used a two-tight end set this year. And if the public knows that, so does Belichick.

Maybe Belichick came to the realization that as the season wears on, he could throw the ball just as successfully with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as he did with Moss. And maybe that’s why he didn’t hesitate trading Moss, who some believe is in decline and who was mentally starting to fade without being offered a new contract.

Either way, without Moss taking away double teams from Wes Welker, Belichick will have to change his strategy going forward. He can’t continue to use three-receiver sets like he has the past couple of years and think he’s going to be as successful without Moss. He’s going to have to adjust.

And knowing Belichick, he will.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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