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Patriots Training Camp Report: Aaron Dobson Healthy and Contributing

3rd Year WR is making a case for himself

On Sunday morning, the play of the day for the Patriots 4th practice belonged to Aaron Dobson. He streaked down the right sideline during 11-on-11 drills with Malcolm Butler in tight coverage. QB Tom Brady arced a deep ball that it seemed that Butler had the better position on to intercept it.

But Dobson leapt up and pulling the contested ball down and made a fantastic play hauling it in as both players tumbled to the ground. This is the type of play that will not only win a player a roster spot but earn the trust of Brady. This is the Aaron Dobson that was missing last year.

Dobson is locked in a roster battle with Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson and Josh Boyce for the 4th wide receiver position on the team. The top three, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola are locked in and were successful especially down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Dobson after a good rookie campaign of 2013 where he caught 37 passes for 519 yards suffered a foot injury that required surgery in the offseason. He missed all of the spring OTAs and mini-camp. He also was absent for nearly all of training camp, finally making an appearance on the final day.

So not only was has conditioning not where it should have been, his skills were rusty and most importantly he missed a golden opportunity to work on his chemistry with Brady. In his stead, newcomer LaFell got a ton of reps and became a trusted member of the offense.

Dobson only played in four games and had 3 catches for 38 yards before blowing out a hamstring in Green Bay ending his sophomore season that truly never began.

“Last season was last year, this is a new year, so I’m just trying to do my best this year,” he told the media after Sunday’s practice.

Here is the video we took of Dobson’s catch on Sunday:

Now the tables have turned somewhat, and LaFell hasn’t been to practice yet, being on PUP and Dobson, feeling the pressure to perform, has been getting a ton of first reps and has had an impressive start.

“I feel that the longer you’re in a system, the more comfortable you’re going to get,” he said. “The more repetitions you get, the more comfortable you get. This is my third year being in the offense, so I’m just getting more comfortable as time goes on.”

Dobson knows that it is just a first, albeit important step and that being a trusted member of the offense with Brady means you’ll see the ball much more, especially at crunch time and in key situations.

“It takes time,” Dobson said. “Just being out here, gaining his trust, just out here making plays. Play after play. I’ve got to make a play for him to trust me.”

Dobson rededicated himself to coming in to this season in the best possible shape and spent the offseason working out in Arizona with Devin McCourty and former teammate Darrelle Revis. Not only getting in tip-top shape, but working against two of the better defensive players out there, has gotten him much more prepared for the competition this summer.

“We did a lot of work out there, so I feel like it benefited me a lot,” Dobson said.

So instead of watching from the sidelines, Dobson is out there working, and competing daily. He knows he has to keep making plays like the one of Sunday and has been doing just that. On Saturday he had a couple of big plays as well, catching a Brady pass in the corner of the end zone. He again out-jumped the athletic rookie corner Darryl Roberts and was able to haul in the contested pass. He added another similar play over Jimmy Jean later in practice.

These are the kind of plays that get the attention of Brady and the coaching staff. Right now Dobson is ahead of Tyms, Gibson and Boyce. But it is still early in camp and there is a long way to go. The best way for him to keep the other players at bay is to keep making plays and contesting everything thrown his way.

One interesting aspect of the camp thus far is that when the team goes into a Special Teams period, Brady works on some goal line work with the Twin Towers, (TEs Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler), as well as Julian Edelman. Dobson took part in some of those last week.

His presence gives Brady another big (6’3, 210) target along with the 6’7 Chandler and the 6’6 Gronk in the red zone that will give him plenty of options. Edelman remains the shifty tough to cover wide receiver that will greatly benefit having the big men drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

Dobson also brings in the extra element in that he has the ability to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally that the offense needs. With LaFell, Amendola and Edelman, the Patriots offense with the short to medium passing game is set. Gronkowski and Chandler can provide safety outlets and attack the seams. A healthy and confident Dobson can add an extra element to the offense that just makes a defensive coordinator’s job that much harder.

All it takes is hard work…and what do the coaches think? Back in June during mini-camp Tom E. Curran from Comcast Sports New England asked OC Josh McDaniels what to expect from Dobson this season after that injury plagued 2014.

“I know this,” McDaniels told Curran. “I am excited about him.”

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Great Plays Not Poor Play Call Sealed Deal for the Patriots in SB XLIX

Malcolm Butler copy

By now everyone in America knows who Malcolm Butler is; those of us who watched him all summer know that he earned his way onto the roster by making the kind of plays we saw on Sunday.

But first, by now the typical overreaction on Monday calling the Butler interception, “The worst call in Super Bowl History”, are just that. An overreaction, once the play is laid out using the NFL’s All-22 film, it is plain to see that it wasn’t a bad play call at all. It was open for just a split second before Butler and Brandon Browner made plays by the slimmest of margins that turned a Super Bowl victory over to New England.

Pete Carroll took the blame for the failure as all good coaches do but also explained his rationale behind the pass call. With under a minute to go and one time out left, the Seahawks wanted three shots at the end zone. A pass on second down if incomplete would stop the clock and they’d still have two shots at running the ball in from the one-yard line. And Carroll made it clear; they were running on third and fourth down.

But before we get to the interception, setting the scene is important because a lot of other factors went into making that play possible. And a few players that no one… outside of perhaps the coaching staff deserve great credit.

Chung, Hightower Set Stage: On first down, Seattle lined up in run formation with a two-tight end, two-WR set with the receivers stacked to the right. Marshawn Lynch is the deep back with a fullback to lead the way.

Lynch 1

At the snap, Lynch takes the hand-off from QB Russell Wilson and is running over left tackle with a fullback in front. Safety Pat Chung lined up close to the line in the box, recognizes it and flies up to blow up the block in the backfield, which he does.

Lynch 2

That is significant, because it allows LB Dont’a Hightower who defeats his block two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, to move into the running lane and hit Lynch as he’s moving towards the end zone.

lynch gif

Hightower is just able to bring to Lynch to the ground with LB Akeem Ayers coming over in support and save a touchdown at the one-yard line. Without key plays by Chung and Hightower, Lynch scores right then and the Butler play never happens.

So Why Did Seattle Throw On 2nd Down: Take a look at the line-up on the field for the pivotal play. Seattle lines up with a three WR set with two, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette stacked to the right.

In contrast, the Patriots are in their heavy goal-line package with 8 men at the line of scrimmage and a ninth, Hightower keying on Lynch all the way, essentially daring a pass in this situation. They were totally selling out in run support on this play.

Interception Butler

This is a designed pick-play, Kearse is supposed to fire off and engage Browner two yards beyond the line of scrimmage. This will allow Lockette to slant just at the line and catch the pass from Wilson and gain just the one yard needed to score. The pick-play will force Butler to loop far around Browner and not get there in time. It is a bang-bang play.

A freeze frame at the time of Wilson releasing the ball shows how open this play seems at that exact second. But two things happened. Browner, reading the play, drives into Kearse and drives him back into the line of scrimmage, completely blowing up the play. Butler reads Lockette breaking inside and shoots into the now open gap and flies into the flight path of the ball and gets there a split second before Lockette and is able to intercept the pass and fall to the ground at the two yard line.

Interception Butler2

Browner

Something to keep in mind here is the preparation factor of Bill Belichick’s teams and their obsession with situational football. Here it paid off in spades. Butler told the press after the game that the Patriots had run this play numerous times in practice all week and the scout team offense had scored every time.

Butler recognizes the play and seems shot out of a cannon as soon as Lockette breaks inside. An interesting footnote is on the Patriots previous scoring drive, Julian Edelman showed a similar route but then broke it outside for an easy touchdown. If Lockette breaks back outside, he’s even more wide open.

Interception gif

This play illustrates not that it was a bad play call, but a great play by Butler and Browner and superb preparation by the New England defense. They weren’t fooled by this and illustrate the need for all 53 men of a roster to be all-in on game planning and preparation.

By the way, Butler is essentially the 5th cornerback on the Patriots depth chart, behind Darrelle Revis, Browner, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan. That kind of depth has been missing from the Patriots defense and shows how important the element of team building has become.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Offensive Versatility Makes Them Difficult Matchup For Indy, All-22 Look

Brady Patriots-Ravens5

With the Patriots facing the Colts in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, it rekindles a rivalry that reached its peak in the mid-2000s. It was supposed to be the Patriots and Broncos with Tom Brady facing Peyton Manning, adversaries since those halcyon Colts – Pats days but it didn’t come to that.

Andrew Luck, the replacement for Manning in Indy bested his predecessor in Denver. While the Patriots squeaked by against a tough Ravens teams facing Joe Flacco, who is the very antithesis of Manning. So-so regular season performer and stellar playoff quarterback.

Now the focus is beating a team much different than the team you faced the week before. But, whereas the Ravens exceled in areas that the Patriots struggle in, this week’s matchup doesn’t have that degree of difficulty for New England as they are able to take advantage of some of the weaknesses of the Indy defense. The Patriots offense has the versatility to attack in a number of different ways which will be a tough matchup for the Indy defense.

Recent Success Running: The Patriots have met the Colts twice in the last 12 months and beat them easily each time (20+points), and did it by pounding the ball right at the Colts defensive front seven. In the divisional round last January the Patriots rushed for 234 yards. In November in Indy, the Patriots rushed for 246 more, a whopping 480 yards combined. In those two games, the leading rushers for New England, LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray accounted for 367 yards and eight touchdowns.

The running game opened up play-action passing for Tom Brady, opening up wide passing lanes. While not putting up eye popping numbers, the efficiency for the passing game was high as Brady averaged 8.27 yards per attempt in those two games.

Does this mean the Patriots are in for a cake walk? No, this one promises to be much closer. The Colts since the November beat-down haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher and have gotten better overall defensively, bolstered by the return of Arthur Jones in the middle. They limited the Denver running game to just 88 yards on Sunday, which was a big win for them overall.

Versatility, Thy Name is Belichick: Where the Patriots have the advantage again, is that they can beat you in a variety of ways. Last week facing a Ravens front seven stout against the run, they passed, passed and passed some more. The only second half run was a sneak by Brady…discounting a few kneel-downs at the end of the game. By running only 14 times last week, to ground and pound? This time the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

We’ll look at some of the ways this offense can line up and beat the Colts using the All-22 film supplied by the NFL Game Rewind and show how difficult a matchup it will be for Indianapolis this week.

Extra OL Frees Gray: In this first look from the game in November, the Patriots line up with Brady under center. Jonas Gray is the deep back and the offense goes Jumbo with Rob Gronkowski lined up on the line to the left. Cameron Fleming is in as the extra OL on the right side.

Gray 1

At the snap, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer and Fleming crash down to the left. Gray makes a step left and counters to the right. Guard Dan Connolly pulls and seals the linebacker and Gray has a big opening to run thru.

Gray 4, 14 yd

The result: Gray gains 14 yards and had the opportunity for even more.

Jumbo Package Touchdown Pass: On a Red Zone opportunity from the Colts 2 yard line, the Patriots line up with a heavy 3-TE package, Gronkowski on the left, Michael Hoomanawanui on the right and Tim Wright in the slot to the left off of Gronkowski. FB James Develin was the lead back for Jonas Gray with Brady under center.

Wright 2 yd TD

Prior to the snap, Wright comes in motion to the right and Develin fires off at the snap as if to block for Gray. Brady fakes to Gray and Wright, who slipped into the corner of the end zone is open.

Wright 2 yd TD2

The result is an easy touchdown pass for Brady who fooled the defense into thinking run because of the success they’ve had running as well as the package on the field.

Wright 2 yd TD3

Gronk 26 Yard TD: On a fourth quarter play, a prime example of how difficult a Gronkowski matchup is for the defense is highlighted here. The Patriots are aligned in a passing formation with Shane Vereen as the running back, Brady in the shotgun. Gronkowski is in-line on the right side with Tim Wright in the slot left.

Gronk 26 yard TD

Prior to the snap Gronkowski comes in motion to the left, just inside of Wright. At the snap, the Colts rush five in an attempt to get after Brady. Gronkowski crosses Wright and goes into the flat for a six yard reception.

Gronk 26 yard TD2

The result here: With Gronk hauling in the pass, he’s able to shake off the initial tackler at the 20-yard line and begins shedding Colts as he cuts back inside and rumbles into the end zone for a 26 yard score.

Gronk TD gif

Gronkowski is very difficult to cover with a linebacker and defensive backs have issues bringing him to the ground. The Colts don’t have a proper matchup for Gronkowski and the mismatches he produces; open up other avenues for the offense if they choose to double him up.

The Colts defense faces a difficult challenge on Sunday against the Patriots, they’ve been run over for the past two meetings, but the versatile capability of the offense means they can’t just stack the box and dare Brady to throw. Using the heavy package with two TEs can still be dangerous with Gronkowski and Wright in the passing game.

An extra weapon at Brady’s disposal is Shane Vereen, Josh McDaniels has been good at splitting Vereen out wide as an extra wide receiver and forcing a linebacker to slide out and cover him which opens up extra room for Gronkowski and Julian Edelman to operate in.

Is this to suggest that the Colts have no chance? No, if you look at the job they did in Denver, there has to be hope that they can duplicate that effort again in Foxboro. But Brady is able to hit his receivers all over the field right now and the Patriots should have the advantage. However, if the Colts do win on Sunday, they will have earned their ticket to the Super Bowl, having beaten the top 2 seeds, not to mention Manning and Brady on the road. It should be a great game….Is it Sunday yet?

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Defeating the Ravens, All-22 Look At How the Patriots Can Advance

Tom Brady and LaGarrette Blount had plenty to celebrate about in the Patriots 34-9 win over Detroit. (USA Today photo)

Much of the talk this week leading up to the Patriots and Ravens meeting in the playoffs for the third time in the past four years has centered on Baltimore’s ability to disrupt Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game. Specifically, the Ravens pass rush with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil bringing the heat from the outside.

It has been something the Ravens have done well against Brady and the numbers prove it out. But as Tom Brady himself put out, these are two different teams than the ones who met in the AFC Championship Game in 2012.

The Patriots have a more physical wide receiver in Brandon LaFell; who can go into traffic and bring yards after catch, something Brandon Lloyd seemed loath to do then but the biggest weapon at the Patriots disposal on offense is TE Rob Gronkowski.

Gronkowski was lost to injury during the 2011 AFCCG where the Patriots beat the Ravens and hasn’t been available in the playoffs for the past two years. He gives the Patriots a tremendous matchup nightmare for Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees and the Baltimore defense.

When looking at how New England may attempt to target the Baltimore defense we looked at two games using the NFL’s All-22 film. That was the Ravens home game against San Diego where the Chargers utilized TE Antonio Gates and the Patriots game against Detroit, who also have a very effective pass rush.

Speed it up, Spread it out: San Diego, as New England should, spread out the Ravens defense. It forced them to commit and with a subpar secondary, there were mismatches to take advantage of. The Bolts at times used the up-tempo to stop the Ravens from changing their personnel, which helped tire out the pass rush.

A bigger part of this strategy is, that it gets the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly which again, helps negate the pass rush. If Brady is getting rid of the ball in 2 seconds or less, it is much more unlikely the pass rush can get to him.

The first play highlighted used Gates on a stick route down the right side. He was singled up on the right side. The Ravens are in a single high safety look.

gates 16 yd1

Gates runs 15 yards straight down the numbers and with his size advantage is given plenty of cushion by the defender. It is an easy pitch and catch for Philip Rivers.

Gates 16 yd 2

Near midfield the Chargers again spread out the formation, Gates again is aligned to the right. The Ravens play tight coverage and show blitz.

Gates 18 yd 1

At the snap, the Ravens come after Rivers, Gates runs a very short crossing route, Eddie Royal runs a pick play in the middle, which gives Gates just enough cushion to catch the ball and turn a 2 yard pass into a 18 yard gain.

Gates 18 yd 2

Patriots Detroit Parallel: In Week 12, the Patriots used a similar look facing the Lions stout rush defense and pass rush. And at times against Detroit the Patriots used their “12” package, 2 WRs, 2 TEs and 1 RB which I believe they’ll look to against the physical Ravens defense.

By spreading out the defense, Brady made many short throws which allowed him to complete 38-53 passes for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tim Wright and Rob Gronkowski combined for 10 catches, 114 yards and 2 TDs.

In this first highlighted play, Gronkowski lines up in-line with Wright, LaFell and Edelman split outside. Shane Vereen is aligned to Brady’s left and will remain in to block.

Gronk Det 16 yd

At the snap, Gronkowski recognizes zone and runs a stick route where he’s able to box out the defender easily for a big gain and gets him into open space where he is always a difficult runner to bring down.

Gronk Det 16 yd 2

On another highlighted play, the Patriots align with 3WRs (LaFell, Edelman, Amendola) and 2 TEs (Gronk, Wright) split wide. The Lions are in a Cover 2 look and are playing off coverage.

LaFell Det 15 yd

LaFell reads the coverage and runs a 13 yard route where Brady puts the ball a tad short but one where LaFell is able to haul it in for a wide open pass.

LaFell Det 13 yd2

NE Advantage Where Pittsburgh/SD Failed: One other advantage the Patriots have in this game is the big running backs, LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray. San Diego’s running game was virtually non-existent this season and in the Wild Card Round, the Steelers La’Veon Bell was out hurt.

The defense will have to respect the ability of Blount to run and can help slow down the pass rush. If they spread out the defense and Pees chooses to blitz, it opens up the middle to some traps and draws to Blount which can make the defense pay. Like Gronkowski, Blount in the open field is a dangerous, difficult man to bring down.

Shane Vereen is also a valuable member of the offense and could be another weapon in the passing game. One area that the Patriots could use him is to split him out wide and force the Ravens to split out a linebacker to cover him. It is a bit of a speed mismatch and removes a piece for the Ravens to double team Gronkowski.

They will probably opt  to not do that anyway, judging from the way they approached Antonio Brown last week, but it removes options. The Patriots will have a tough matchup this week but have the weapons for Brady to use to win this game. Brady has bigger, more physical targets this time around and with three receivers with over 950 yards in the passing game, he needs to use all of them.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Browner Hit, Penalty Underscores Need For Coaches To Challenge

Browner hit

With all of the tools available to NFL officials and coaches in 2014, why is there no provision in the NFL rulebook for officials or coaches to challenge penalties? Since every scoring play or change in possession is now looked at, once a penalty is called on such a play, it is then a non-challenge situation. It is time for that to change.

In what was a pivotal play in the  Patriots –  Chargers game on Sunday night, New England cornerback Brandon Browner was penalized 15 yards for laying out a big hit on the Chargers Ladarius Green as he bobbled a pass near midfield.

The play happened midway thru the third quarter with the Bolts holding a narrow 14-13 lead, Green ran across the middle and bobbled the pass from quarterback Philip Rivers. Browner came flying up from his corner position and leveled Green with a thunderous but legal hit with his shoulder to Green’s shoulder. The ball popped straight up and safety Devin McCourty intercepted it and ran it back 56 yards for what would have been a go-ahead Patriots touchdown.

Instead, a flag was thrown on Browner for a helmet-to-helmet hit that wiped out the New England touchdown. The flag was thrown as much for the way Green hit the ground as for the hit itself, something Al Michaels on the play-by-play for NBC alluded to during the broadcast. Green hit the ground hard and suffered a concussion on the play. Just five plays later, the Patriots Akeem Ayers intercepted a Rivers pass that ended the drive and the Patriots scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to wrest the victory. But it was a play that could have had far reaching implications.

Had the Chargers gone on to score on that drive, the fourth quarter could have had a noticeable change in momentum in San Diego’s favor and they may have won the game. With playoff seedings on the line, the play could have affected not just New England and SD but others as well. Referee Bill Leavy and his crew should have had the benefit to take another look at the play and review it.

Browner said in interviews that he was just trying to dislodge the ball and lead with his shoulder. He added, “That’s just a part of the game nowadays,” he said. “I think if you make a big hit nowadays, they tend to call a penalty. I felt it was pretty clean, though. I hit him, my shoulder to his chest. That’s just the nature of the game nowadays.” He offered this on his Twitter account.

Browner hit tweet

 

Bill Belichick has long advocated to the league for coaches to be able to challenge penalties, but for now at least, they cannot. Belichick and the Patriots players on the bench were livid on the sideline during the game, stating that Browner made a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. But on Monday he added his thoughts on the play.

“We coach it exactly the way that’s written in the rule book,” Belichick said. “What we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do, and that’s exactly the way we coach it. It was a close play. You should probably talk to the crew that called it. We coach whatever the rules are; we coach within the rules. That’s how we coach it.

“You can’t lead with your head, can’t him them above the shoulders. We coach what you’re allowed to do, what you’re not allowed to do. I think that’s the way the players play it. Sometimes it doesn’t always turn out that way, but that’s what we try to do.”

The live feed from NBC (via NFL Game Rewind) shows how devastating the shot was on Green but that in itself is not an illegal act. Could Browner have been flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver? Possibly. But that wasn’t the call. It could also be that Browner’s reputation for big hits as a member of the “Legion of Boom” prior to coming to New England may have had some hand in it as well.

Browner hit on Green

 

With the far reaching implications of the game, the opportunities for either coach to challenge a penalty should be there for the taking. Imagine a playoff game or Super Bowl being turned on a controversial call such as this one. This is a subject that the NFL Rules Committee should look at fixing this off-season.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

Patriots Red Zone Defense One Bright Spot Against Green Bay

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]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Beating The Colts, An All-22 Look At How The Patriots Can Defeat Indy


Tight Ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright may be big parts of the New England game plan against Indy this week. (USA TODAY Images)

War is 90 percent information”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Looking at the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts is an intriguing exercise this week. Both teams have explosive offenses that average over 30 points per game. And it pits the newest young gun of top QBs Andrew Luck against the wily veteran Tom Brady.

The rivalry between the Colts and Patriots reached a pinnacle with the battles between Peyton Manning and Brady, but with Luck in the fold, those days have returned and now Luck is leading the league in yardage as well as points per game.

Lucas Oil Stadium should be a loud place on Sunday night as the two teams do battle. At stake are not only divisional implications but conference ones as well. The Patriots (7-2) currently own the #1 seed, but haven’t been a good road team going back to last season. The Colts (6-3) want to climb into the role as one of the teams to beat and lost a chance to defeat Denver early this season. Now they’ll have the chance to beat the Patriots at home.

From a New England perspective, how do they beat Indianapolis? They’ll need a total team effort and the offense, defense and special teams will be tested in this one. Since Luck and the Indy offense have been setting the world on fire all season, we’ll start with Indy’s offense.

We’ll have a detailed breakdown of all the key matchups later this week but here are a couple of the most important ones looking at the NFL’s All-22 film.

Quicker the Better: Most casual fans look at the similarities between Manning and Luck being such prolific passers and think the Patriots will just utilize the same game plan this Sunday. But where the Patriots tried to get physical with Broncos WRs to disrupt their timing, the Colts have no such issue with that. The longer the play develops the better, Luck and his WRs love when the play takes on that aspect.

Luck is most dangerous when making plays with his feet, he can move around the pocket and either scramble for good yardage or find a receiver deep down the field. The Colts are always looking to push the ball deep. The best bet is to force Luck to get rid of the ball quicker, the quicker the better. Although he has thrown for over 3000 yards in just nine games, he has thrown nine interceptions and still at times suffers from making mental mistakes.

The Steelers looked to contain Luck from the edge and push the pocket from inside. On one play early in the second quarter, they showed pressure from the Double-A gap, one linebacker came straight up the middle, the other looped to the outside, crossing DE Brett Keisel who stunted inside.

Steeler A-gap pressure

The result was Luck having to get rid of the ball quickly and the pass was incomplete. Another quick pass in the first half was an ill-advised one and CB William Gay read the play perfectly and picked it off, returning it for a pick-six.

The Patriots utilized this same technique against Denver showing pressure and then mixing up their blitzes and coverages. In this aspect, they’ll look to continue with the same type of play. See the image below with Jamie Collins and Donta’ Hightower showing the same type pressure scheme. Collins was very disruptive in the playoff game against the Colts in January and could play another big role this week.

Double A-Gap look

Hilton/Wayne Aren’t the “Must Stops”: While much of the focus that you’ve been reading this week concerns WRs T.Y Hilton and Reggie Wayne, those aren’t the guys that you need to stop on Sunday. Regardless of whatever schemes the Patriots use, they won’t shut those two down completely. They are going to get their yards, but like our friend Kerry Byrne likes to say, they are “Shiny Hood Ornaments.”

Combined, Hilton and Wayne have just five touchdowns, once the Colts get to the red-zone, the guys who are the most productive are RB Ahmad Bradshaw as well as TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.  Bradshaw with 8 TDs, (2 rush, 6 receiving), Allen, 7 TDs and Fleener 4 TDs should be the focus. Bradshaw will be a tough matchup for the NE Defense.

Just a year removed from major neck surgery, Bradshaw the former Giants standout has had a quietly superb season. Averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the running game, he’s Luck’s most trusted receiver when things go awry. He’s caught 34 passes for 6 touchdowns on the season, all of them in the red zone. New England will have to account for him on every down.

Allen is their most productive receiver in the red zone and a very tough matchup because of his prowess at both blocking and receiving. Looking back at the Pittsburgh game, on a play in the second quarter, the Steelers showed max blitz with ten players in the box close to the line of scrimmage.

Allen 21 yard TD

Luck recognized that Allen was one-on-one with a linebacker with no help, and obvious mismatch. Allen ran a route straight down the seam and Luck hit him for an easy touchdown. One option that the Patriots may consider with either Allen or Fleener is move Brandon Browner over to cover them. Belichick said earlier this week, they consider Fleener a big wide receiver anyway and with Browner’s size and physicality, he could help in that regard.

Allen 21 yard TD2

Attack the Middle: This isn’t new, especially with Rob Gronkowski’s resurgence in recent weeks, but the Colts have really struggled to cover the tight ends with both their safeties and linebackers. A look at who they’ve faced and the production that has been given up includes:
Julius Thomas 7 catches, 104 yards, 3 TDs
Zach Ertz 4 catches, 86 yards
Delanie Walker 5 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD
Owen Daniels 5 catches, 70 yards
Heath Miller 7 catches, 112 yards, 1 TD

The Colts are one of the worst (29th) teams at defending the tight end position and Gronkowski is arguably a better target than any of the tight ends listed above. Colts coach Chuck Pagano called him a “Matchup nightmare” and he can stretch the seams of the defense and make athletic plays in bringing down the ball like this one against Denver.

Gronk grab

In an earlier game against the Colts, Gronkowski had 7 catches for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. They are sure to remember that and will be trying to slow him down. Another thing Gronkowski does is to draw a lot of attention away from others. In the Denver game, he drew three defenders in the red zone towards himself, leaving Julian Edelman with single coverage for an easy touchdown pitch and catch from Brady.

Edelman TD, gronk clearout, pass protection

TE Tim Wright could also play a bigger role this week, the Patriots could opt to show more of a 2WR, 2TE look (12 Personnel) and he and Gronkowski in the middle of the field could be a dangerous combination.

Vereen “X”-Factor: One other player to watch in the Patriots passing game this week is running back Shane Vereen. The wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman will be matched up with the Colts good corners in Vontae Davis and Greg Toler and will have their hands full. With Gronkowski in the middle, Vereen could further provide some matchup help in isolating him on a linebacker in the passing game.

Look for Brady to try to work that into the game plan, split Vereen out wide and take a shot with him down the field.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Beating The Broncos, All-22 Look At How The Patriots Can Buck The Odds


Here we go again, Manning and Brady will face off the 16th time on Sunday in Foxboro. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos will face each other for the third time in less than a year on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro. As it always seems to be, this is a big game for both teams in both divisional and conference standings.

Denver presents some great challenges for New England; their offense has plenty of weapons to bring to bear and it all starts with QB Peyton Manning. Manning shows little signs of slowing down at age 38 and has 22 touchdown passes and just 3 interceptions on the season.

Having DeMaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Ronnie Hillman gives Manning plenty of options to utilize offensively. DeMaryius Thomas is the most talented and has the ability to beat opponents in the short, intermediate and deep passing games. Sanders has seamlessly transitioned into the Broncos passing attack, and Julius Thomas remains a matchup problem for defenses.

The Broncos defense is #1 in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing only 74.3 yards per game and they’ve upgraded their pass defense by signing CB Aqib Talib, Safety T.J. Ward and DE DeMarcus Ware.

How Does The Defense Stop Manning: So with their work cut out for them, how do the Patriots defeat the Broncos? First they’ll need to get an excellent game from their secondary with no mistakes made. Darrelle Revis will probably draw DeMaryius Thomas, Brandon Browner will probably draw Julius Thomas, that’s what they were brought here for. Julius Thomas missed the first game in Foxboro last year and was missed. But he was a big factor in the AFCCG in Denver. The corners will have to play tight, press man coverage and disrupt the timing of Manning and his receivers.

That would put Kyle Arrington on Wes Welker in the slot and the difficult job of covering Sanders? That un-enviable task will fall to either Alfonzo Dennard or Logan Ryan. That matchup on Sanders more than any other will bear close watching.

New England did well last November, and challenged Manning to throw deep, the elements, which should be similar on Sunday, didn’t loan themselves to being accurate throwing down the field. QB pressure will be key, and no Chandler Jones isn’t a good thing for the NE defense. Manning like Tom Brady, destroys defenses when they blitz, he’ll recognize it quickly and make you pay.

Stopping the Bread and Butter:Here are a few examples that Denver has shown using the NFL’s All-22 film. This is how they attack opposing defenses; they’ve been very successful using these plays multiple times.

Throwing crossing routes, Peyton Manning has a perfect QB rating 158.3 in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Broncos operate it to perfection and it is a staple of their offense.

On this play versus Arizona, the Broncos line up with Trips (3WR) left and Sanders wide right. Manning is in the shotgun and the Cards defense is showing blitz with the LBs sneaking up to the line of scrimmage.

Sanders cross AZ

At the snap Sanders cut across the formation just beyond the line of scrimmage. Welker in the slot crosses with Andre Caldwell who runs across the formation to the right, crosses over Sanders and rubs (knocks) Peterson who is trailing Sanders off the route. The result is a 16 yard gain.
Sanders cross AZ2

In the red-zone the Broncos, Julius Thomas has been very successful this year scoring nine touchdowns in just seven games. The Broncos have isolated him in single coverage on a safety and it is an easy mismatch for them to exploit.

Against the Jets they aligned in the Trips right (3WR) with Thomas split wide right singled up on a safety, who was playing off, about 5 yards deep allowing a free release.
Manning Thomas3JPG
At the snap, the three wide receivers stay on the left side of the field; Manning glanced at Welker running a corner route, drawing the deep safety to that side of the field. Thomas runs a slant and easily beats the defender to the end zone for the touchdown.
Manning Thomas2

They ran a similar play against the Colts on the 2-yard line with Thomas beating LaRon Landry on a slant where Landry was shading to the outside after having already been beaten there for a touchdown in the same game. This time he cuts inside and Manning hits him for an easy six.
Thomas 5 yd TD indy
Thomas 5 yd TD indy2

NE Offense This Week Must Attack The Middle Again: If there is a weakness to the Denver defense, it is defending the middle of the field, especially against the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski torched the Bears defense last week doing the same thing but this week’s matchup all-around will be much tougher.

I would expect to see more of the 2-TE sets this week with Gronkowski and Tim Wright as the Patriots will attempt to attack the middle of the field. Wright has been gradually getting more in sync with Brady and the offense and should see more snaps this week.

Against the 49ers Vernon Davis had success attacking the seams of the Broncos defense. On this particular play at the Niners 35 yard line, Davis runs a deep hook about 15 yards downfield and has good separation between the LBs and safety.
SF Davis 15 yds

Colin Kaepernick delivers it for a big gain out to midfield and also had Brandon Lloyd also at the numbers on the left side. The Niners ran this same play again later in the game but Davis dropped the ball for an incompletion.
SF VDavis 15 yds2

Last week against the San Diego Chargers, the Bolts faced a 3rd and 20 from the Denver 33 yard line. The Chargers were going spread with Antonio Gates lined up on the left side.
Gates 3rd 20

Gates just runs a straight post down the seam and beats the single deep safety easily for a gain of 31 to set the Chargers up at the 3-yard line for a first and goal. Philip Rivers delivered it perfectly and Gates hauled it in and nearly scores on the play.
SF VDavis 15 yds2

The Patriots will have to do much of the same things to beat the defense and the keys to stopping Manning are nothing new. This has been the blueprint for the past decade. But executing it and getting it done is another thing. If they are to be successful, they’ll need a big effort on both sides of the ball to defeat a more talented Broncos team on Sunday.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Defeating the Bears, Some All-22 Film Looks At How The Patriots Can


The Patriots will need a big game from Darrelle Revis to slow down the Bears offense on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 1p.m. in Foxboro. The game will be televised by Fox with Sam Rosen and John Lynch on the call. For New England, they’ll be facing an opponent with a diverse attack on offense and with a defense that is very good at rushing the passer.

Looking back at a couple of the Bears’ recent games on the NFL Game Rewind All-22 film, we’ve picked out a couple of plays that show how the Bears offense can hurt an opposing defense and a few that show where the Patriots should attack when they have the ball.

First the Bears’ offense, the guy that is arguably the most dangerous is RB Matt Forte. Forte has nearly 450 yards rushing and leads the NFL in receptions with 52; he’s capable of turning a two-yard pass into a 70 yard one and taking it to the house.

Against the Dolphins in the red-zone at the nine yard line, QB Jay Cutler lined up in the shotgun with Forte to his left. At the snap, Forte appears to stay in to pass block and just slides past the defensive end into the flat all alone on the left side.
Forte 10 yd TD

All of the Bears receivers pull coverage away from Forte, who was lost by the linebackers. Cutler flips an easy pass to Forte who scores easily. The Miami linebackers failed to keep track of Forte, something the Patriots should note. They may provide a linebacker to “spy” Forte wherever he goes on the field.

Forte 10 yd TD2

Against the Carolina Panthers, the Bears came out with their wide receivers spread wide. The Panthers were playing tight, press man coverage with 10 men in the box and only one deep safety. Recognizing single coverage with no safety help, Cutler immediately knew he was going to WR Alshon Jeffrey who was split wide to the right.
Jeffrey 31 yd

Jeffrey ran straight down the sideline and Cutler just flipped a pass about 25 yards in the air and hit Jeffrey with pin-point accuracy. He put the ball up high where only Jeffrey could get it and he made a superb leaping one-handed grab for a gain of 31 yards.
Jeffrey 31 yd2

New England’s corners will be tested in this one and even when they have tight coverage, they will still be hard-pressed to make a play. The key will be to play tight and not allow the big Bears’ receivers a free release.

On defense, the most obvious place for the Patriots to attack is the middle of the field. The Bears’ LBs and safeties are banged up and as of the Friday injury report both Lance Briggs and Jonathan Bostic are doubtful to play on Sunday.

Opponents have been targeting the Bears LBs and this is an area where Rob Gronkowski could be in-line for a huge game. Gronkowski possesses a unique ability to stretch the defense in the passing game and be a devastating blocker in the running game. The Patriots may use a lot of 2-TE sets on Sunday with Gronkowski and Tim Wright trying to work the middle of the field.

Having Gronkowski line up in-line and then take on a linebacker is something some of the Bears’ most recent opponents have down quite well recently.

The Panthers had the ball on the Bears’ nine-yard line and TE Greg Olsen lined up to the right side of the formation. QB Cam Newton was in the shotgun and at the snap the Bears were in good shape with two linebackers covering the middle.
Olsen 9 yd TD

But Olsen took a step inside and then broke on a slant to the right side. The LBs were out of position and Olsen had an easy catch for the touchdown.
Olsen 9 yd TD2

Later in the same game, the Bears were in zone-coverage and Olsen who lined up on the left side ran a post, perfectly splitting the linebackers and under the safety help over the top and had a big 19 yard catch, finally being brought down around the Bears 40.
Olsen 19 yd gain

Against Miami, the Dolphins had the ball on 13 yard line, the Bears were in a one-deep safety look, playing softer coverage. Miami was in a 2-WR/2-TE (12 pers) set with TE Charles Clay lined up in-line to the left of Ryan Tannehill who was in the shotgun. TE Dion Sims was split to the right.
Clay 13 yd TD

At the snap, Clay ran a corner route and was wide open beating the Bears’ LBs in coverage. Tannehill hit Clay for the touchdown pass as WR Mike Wallace pulled his coverage deep and to the middle of the field.
Clay 13 yd TD2

Also against the Bears, Clay lined up to the left side of the formation and ran a deep slant towards the right sideline in single coverage on a linebacker. An obvious mismatch, Tannehill hit Clay for a 25 yard gain.
Clay 25 yard gain

The keys for the Patriots will be to get QB Tom Brady the time to throw and recognizing the mismatches that Gronkowski creates and hit him with accuracy to create yards after catch. Once the Bears bring more help to the linebackers for Gronk, it will create single coverage elsewhere and the Bears CBs are also hurting. Peanut Tillman is out for the season and rookie Kyle Fuller is expected to play although he has a hip injury as well as a broken hand.

It doesn’t guarantee victory, but if they are able to take advantage of these mismatches and slow down the Bears offense, it should go a long way to having a successful day on Sunday against a talented team.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Poor Run Defense Against Jets Fixable, All-22 Film Study

The Patriots run defense was gashed by the Jets on Thursday, now can it be fixed? (USA Today photo)

The Patriots run defense was gashed by the Jets on Thursday, now can it be fixed? (USA Today photo)

The Patriots survived a scary finish against the Jets to win 27-25 on Thursday night to improve to 5-2 on the season. Although this game won’t go down as one of the team’s best efforts.

Looking at the All-22 game film on NFL Game Rewind, some things stood out. We’ll look at a few of the key plays of the game and take a closer look.

Offensively,the Patriots much maligned offensive line did a pretty decent job of protecting Tom Brady. Considering that both Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were out. The Jets did get pressure on Brady but he was still able to look to his second and third receivers. The worst games were reserved for Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon who were beaten fairly regularly.

The run defense, which was gashed for 218 yards was certainly bad, but is eminently fixable. While the Jets offensive line was winning the battle upfront, one of the main issues seemed to be that the Patriots defensive ends were crashing down too soon, especially Rob Ninkovich and were then swallowed up, allowing Jets running backs to bounce outside for big gains.

Much of the problem areas were blamed on communication issues with the defensive linemen. Given that the team had lost Jerod Mayo only three days before the game, it is understandable that they’d struggle with that. So there is no reason to panic over this performance just yet. The team does need help in the middle however, Jamie Collins is best suited for playing on the outside, and he seems to be uncomfortable and a tad slower inside.

Dont’a Hightower continues to have nice year, he’s a thumper in the running game and is a relentless blitzer. His play in the first half coming on a blitz of Geno Smith, drew a flag, saved a touchdown and forced the Jets to go for three.

A couple of the key plays include:

First TD A Flashback To 2013: Much like the start of the 2013 Week 2 game against the Jets, the Patriots took advantage of a Jets defensive breakdown to take an early lead on their first possession. On just the Patriots fourth play from scrimmage (compared to 7th last year) the Jets totally blew a coverage allowing Shane Vereen to score an easy 49 yard touchdown.

Vereen was split wide right and was supposed to be a decoy to clear out room for Tim Wright running a short pattern along the sideline. CB Phillip Adams passed off Vereen to safety Antonio Allen but Allen, misread the play and ran hard towards Wright leaving Vereen all alone down the sideline.

Vereen TD 1

Brady had all the time needed to throw but nearly overthrew Vereen who made a great leaping catch for the touchdown.

Ivory Big 13 Yard Run: On the Jets first possession of the second half, Chris Ivory took a Smith hand-off up the middle and finding it blocked, did a nice bit of running and bounced it outside for a nice run. At the snap, Ivory takes the ball from Smith and finds nowhere to run. The Jets get a decent push at the point of attack but the linebackers Hightower and Collins are in good position to support the run.

CIvory 13 yard run

Vince Wilfork is fighting off his block to the inside, but DE Rob Ninkovich crashes down hard inside and is easily sealed off, allowing Ivory to easily bounce to the edge and turn a 2 – 3 yard gain into a 13 yard big gain. Chandler Jones and Pat Chung are coming hard from the backside and if Ninkovich sets the edge, they’ll be there to support it from the backside.

CIvory 13 yard run2

Ivory 16 Yard Run: Once again, Ivory takes a Smith hand-off and finds the middle blocked. Wilfork has stood up and blocked the point of attack. On the outside WR Eric Decker has taken CB Brandon Browner deep down the sideline clearing out help on the perimeter.

civory 16 yd run

Wilfork is in good position to support Ninkovich but he again crashes down and is rolled up. Collins on both plays is in good position but is a tad too slow to react. Once Ninkovich is sealed the Jets are in great position to break to the outside and McCourty as the deep safety is the only player in position to stop him.

civory 16 yd run2

Smith 7 Yard Scramble: Facing a third and five in the second quarter at the New England 39, Geno Smith is able to scramble for a big third down conversion. The run kept a Jets drive alive that eventually ended up with a field goal to give them a 9-7 lead. The Patriots are in good position in the secondary and Smith is flushed from the pocket.

GSmith 7 yd scramble

But Chandler Jones who was disruptive and active all game, loses containment and then his balance inside. Smith is able to easily gain the edge and runs 7 yards for the first down on the right sideline before Tavon Wilson can get there.

GSmith 7 yd scramble2

Chris Johnson Stuff: In the second half, the Patriots did a little bit better job of adjustments and setting the edge. On this particular play, again the Jets offensive line does a nice job of getting a push at the point of attack.

Ivory stuff

But Wilfork fights off a double-team and stands them up, Hightower on the strong side is in perfect position to support either hole. This time Ninkovich defeats Cumberland’s block and sets the edge giving Johnson nowhere to run. Wilfork strings the play along and hits Johnson and brings him down after a gain of two.

Ivory stuff2

Gronkowski 16 Yard Conversion: Facing a third and seven from the NE 34 in the second quarter Brady and Gronkowski are able to convert on the way to the Pats second touchdown. The Jets dropped seven into coverage and had four defenders right across the sticks at the first down marker.

Gronk 3rd7 16 yd

Gronkowski runs a dig about 10 yards downfield, Calvin Pryor had coverage with an inside shade, but Gronkowski beat him to the middle and separated as he was coming across the middle. This made Brady’s job much easier for a big third down conversion.

Gronk 3rd7 16 yd2

Amendola’s TD Catch: After re-watching the play numerous times, it is no wonder Rex Ryan was so furious after the play. The Patriots were facing third and goal from the 19 yard line, the Jets dropped eight into coverage and had a wall of players lined up at the five yard line.

DAmendola TD

Brady was flushed out of the pocket and drifted to his left, Amendola  adjusted his route and came back towards Brady. The throw was across Brady’s body and wasn’t perfect, Amendola had to go up and twist back to snag the ball and somehow came down with it and was able to roll into the end zone.

DAmendola TD2

DAmendola TD3

There were plenty of other plays that stood out in the game, and while the Patriots defensive deficiencies seem daunting, they can be fixed. The defensive line should and must play much better. The Jets offensive line pushed them around at the point of attack. With the trade deadline approaching, the team could use some help at either the DL or especially at linebacker. But on a short week with their captain  going down with an injury, they’ll get the benefit of doubt here, but not much.

The Bears will present a difficult opponent to match up with and with 10 days to prepare, there will be no excuses for not playing better. The offense however was pretty much a bright spot putting up 27 points with only 19 minutes of possession. That too will have to improve not only against the Bears but down the stretch as well.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.