Patriots Red Zone Defense One Bright Spot Against Green Bay

Steve Balestrieri
December 02, 2014 at 08:46am ET

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The Patriots disappointing loss to Green Bay did have a bright spot, the play of the red zone defense which was very good. (Photo NFL Game Rewind) The Patriots disappointing loss to Green Bay did have a bright spot, the play of the red zone defense which was very good. (Photo NFL Game Rewind)

 

Sunday's 26-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers was a tough one to take for the players and coaches of the New England Patriots. They prepared hard for a tough game and felt like they let a big opportunity slip thru their fingers to beat one of the best teams in the NFL.

They knew going into this game that Green Bay was notorious for putting teams away quickly by getting off to a quick start and hoped to avoid that. And the Packers did just that, jumping out to a 13-0 lead before the Pats could get their offense moving. Aaron Rodgers was his usual very sharp self as he passed for 368 yards and two touchdowns completing 24 of 38 passes on the day.

Particularly galling was the defense's play on third down, a source of pride in recent weeks. On Sunday, the Patriots couldn't get off the field on third down as Rodgers and the Packers converted 10 of 17 third down chances to keep the chains moving and keep the NE offense off the field. Rodgers completed 10-13 passes on third down, something that is unacceptable for the Pats defense. But there was plenty for the team to build upon if (and with a quarter of the season to go it is still a big "IF") the teams meet again in Arizona. And that is the play of the Red Zone defense.

Playing with a shorter field, the coverage by the secondary was outstanding with Darrelle Revis, not surprisingly leading the way. The Patriots held Green Bay 0-4 in red zone attempts,  Rodgers was only 1-7 for 5 yards inside the red zone, only completing a pass to Eddie Lacy. This was the biggest reason they were still in position to win the game on the drive with three minutes to go.They also picked up one of their three sacks in the red zone.

Here are a couple of highlighted plays in the red area for the Defense. All GIF clips are clipped from NFL Game Rewind.

In the frst quarter with the Packers knocking on the door, Rodgers goes up top on the right hand side for Davante Adams on Logan Ryan. Adams fakes to the inside and breaks to the corner of the end zone. Ryan has tight coverage but on this play but it is the pass rush of Chris Jones on this play that forced Rodgers to get rid of the ball early and the pass went out of the end zone.

Red Zone Adams Ryan

 

 

Later in the first quarter Rodgers goes up top down the middle of the field in the end zone for Randall Cobb. The Packers were facing a 3rd and nine from the Patriots 17 yard line and Cobb, lined up in the slot tries to beat Revis down the seam. Once again, the coverage was really tight but on this play, Vince Wilfork and Akeem Ayers put just enough pressure on Rodgers to force him to get rid of the ball without putting his usual touch on the pass.

Red zone Randall Cobb Revis

Still in the first half with Green Bay knocking on the door again leading 13-7 with just under eight minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, Rodgers attempts to go deep to the end zone on a pass to Jordy Nelson. Facing a 2nd and 12 from the Patriots 20 yard line, Nelson lines up wide right and runs deep into the end zone. Revis has blanket coverage on the play and Rodgers puts the ball up where Nelson can fight for it in the right corner of the end zone.

There is a lot of hand fighting in the end zone but Revis' coverage is strong and he's able to keep Nelson from coming over the top of him and bring the ball in. It was a great play by Revis who has really notched up his play in the second half of the season.

Red Zone Revis Nelson deep 2

Revis had another very solild play when Rodgers would go back Nelson at the six yard line. Nelson lined up in the slot, faked a route to the outside and ran a skinny post. Revis shading inside played it perfectly and with Hightower also providing inside support,had the play sealed. He timed it perfectly and was able to knock Rodgers pass away at the two yard line.

Red zone Nelson short Revis

The Patriots were also able to get a rare sack of Rodgers in the red zone when Dont'a Hightower came on an "A-Gap" blitz on the following play when he shot the gap between the center and guard and untouched was able to get to Rodgers before he was able to scramble away. Chris Jones also had pressure on the play and again, the coverage was tight.

Another factor in the red zone defensive play was the rush defense which was much tighter once Green Bay got inside the 20 yard line. The Patriots were really able to stuff the run which was a big factor in holding the Packers to field goals. Green Bay attempted five rushes inside the 20 yard line and was only able to gain 3 yards on those plays. Coupled with tighter coverage down low, it was a successful attempt by Bill Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia to limit the Packers scoring opportunities.

There are no silver linings to losses, nor such a thing a "good loss" but while disappointing, there were some positives to be gleamed from this game if they get the opportunity to play the Packers again. There will be plenty of film for the coaches to go over and dissect what needs to be fixed and what they did right. Now....its on to San Diego.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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