In response to prolate0spheroid's comment:
In response to zbellino's comment:
#4 The *only* thing that matters is not execution, but it is 90% of football -- the rest is composed of strategy (game planning and adjustments), tactics, and luck. The vast majority of plays occurr in situations where the defense knows what the offense is going to do. The Giants were completely predictable that game... how many absurd 3rd and longs did they convert? How many third/second and shorts did they convert with runs? They scored a TD on a drive late in the game where everyone knew they were going to be passing, they were in a spread formation themselves, and what did they do? They passed the ball effortlessly on a woeful NE secondary. At will .... NE knew what was coming.
Z, listening to fans' criticisms of the Pats' offense (not just last year but also this year too), I think #4 is a point that needs to be stressed over and over, because I don't think fans get it. Simply put, "unpredictability" in play calling is overrated.
This is not to say that being unpredictable is unimportant. It is one way plays can work--if you disguise what you're doing or deceive the defense by showing one thing and doing another it can be highly effective. But teams don't win by trying to utlize disguise and deception on every single play. Many plays are designed to take advantage of match-ups--to force a weaker player to defend a better player, to get a slower LB on a faster wide receiver, to force a corner to cover two guys at once, etc. The defense may be aware what the offense is doing, but they're still at a disadvantage because they are forced into unfavourable match-ups by the play design. The Pats offense the past two years has used this strategy a ton . . . it's what they do, whether it's putting Gronk up against smaller players or against slower players, putting Welker against less agile players, or using the hurry-up to force the defense to play with the wrong players on the field. In addition to winning with match-up advantages, good teams employ a third strategy--which is simply beating the other team by taking advantage of the talent they have on offense and out-executing the defense. If you have big, powerful run-blocking linemen and a good running back, you can line-up showing everyone in the world that you're going to pound the ball down the middle of the field and dare the defense to try to stop you. If instead of powerful guys, you have fast, agile guys then you can use plays that take advantage of speed instead of power.
So deception is one strategy, but it's only one: match-ups and playing to one's strengths are also strategies that work and are often more important.
Fans seem to hate the shotgun offense and spread formations that telegraph passes. Sure, teams pass about 80% of the time when they're in shotgun. Despite offensive coordinators working on developing a running game from the shotgun, it's still primarily a passing formation and everyone on defense knows that. But teams use it all the time. Fans seem to hate it, but professional OCs continue to use it. Why? Because it creates lots of match-up problems and (for teams like the Pats) allows them to play to their strengths. Sure the defense knows what the Pats are going to do. But the important question is whether the defense can stop them. Usually, they can't.
The last thing I'll say about unpredictability is that a lot of fans think its a polarity--either run or pass. Really, unpredictability is more complex than that. You can show run, but are you running left, running right, running up the middle, using traps and different blocking schemes? All of these things keep defenses guessing and are part of "unpredictability" even if a run is fairly certain. Same in the passing game . . . what route combinations are you using? Are you challenging deep, the perimeter, or short? Which receivers are going to be challenging which parts of the field and which defenders? You can show pass, but still have the defense guessing where and how you are going to attack them.
The reason football is way more interesting (at least in my mind) than any other of the big team sports is because the strategy is so complex. When I hear things like "we shouldn't use the shotgun" or "empty backfield is dumb because the RB is wasted" or "we can't ever throw more than 40 times" or "we need to run at least 25 times a game" I just wonder if fans really appreciate what they're watching and just how good the coaches we have are.
Four things, first, there are statistical models of unpredictability in playcalling. The first thing that jumps out is that being predictable is the best way of being unpredictable. You don't want to get suckered into lining up ... run on first down, run on second, pass on third. The *most* unpredictable offense is the one that pases five times in a row, or runs four times in a row. Simply going one for one is not unpredictable, it's just an alternating pattern that is in fact very predictable.
Second, predictablity is always hampered, and people don't talk about this enough (except me), by context. Plays in a playbook are segmented by down-distance-quarter-time. Playbooks are situational. By the end of the season, almost everyone knows what you are going to run (basically) in any given down or distance, and furthermore common sense dictates the ratios in those situations. Success on first down, passing or running, allows you more options. a 2nd and 4 playcall is wide open, but a 3rd and 9 after a couple stuffed runs is not. Or a astuffed run and incomplete pass, is not.
Third, formations in New England (and the NFL in general, though less in some offenses) are used to "tip the hand of the defense" and not necessarily vice versa. Three or four posters here are irate that NE motions their RB out. When they do this ... it's already a pass, it was a pass when it was called, it will still be a pass. But they do it because it lets the passer know immediately if he is expecting man coverage or zone coverage on the interior. And they use other formations likewise, for instance motioning Hernandez in and out of the backfield as a blocker, etc.
As far as retaining the player, it doesn't immediately declare which side of the field he will be on, so there is that advantage. But in many situations, they need the information about whether the defense is in zone or where they are in zone to set up how the WRs and TEs are going to run their routes, or even which routes they will be running. All of that changes at the line of scrimmage.
Lastly, people in general don't know how to critique execution. Period. You never hear about it because no one even knows where to start. For instance, people constantly criticized BB's soft defenses, saying the players are too far off the ball, a lot of the time it's the CBs job to judge how deep his drop should be based on down and distance and perceived pattern. Likewise, running routes, how deep etc, choosing the zone to run through, lunging at defenders, geting your pads turned around. Etc. Etc. Moreover, the kind of strategic adjustments that surface as tactical adjustments ... for instance, using the slot WR and TE to force Aldon Smith to declare whether he was blitzing against SF. The offense didn't even start moving until they started spreading it out and doing this. Just lining it up and banging at SF got them nothing but an epic amount of fumbles by their running backs. Or in the SB ... the overly discussed Welker pattern ... it's always a discussion of threethings here:
a.) if they had run the Giants would not have been expecting it. False, the Giants were not prepared for that pattern. The sheer amount of room around Wes indicates that.
b.) Welker should have executed by not dropping it. Partially true, it as probably catchable, though it would have been a plus catch ... it was statistically labelled a drop.
c.) Brady overthrew it. Partially true if we accept the miscommunication.
In reality, it was mental execution. The safety was in single deep, and he was motioning toward Hern's side of the field at the snap, probably expecting Wes to cut his route short, or in, or run a pick. Either Brady was hoping for Wes to head up field where he would have been able to catch it in stride, or Wes was expecting to "sit" in the large soft spot. My guess is just that ... Brady wanted a deeper route in stride. He yelled at Wes afterward. And in fact, if Welker had waitd to slow down by a few more yards .... it would have been 6 points, because Brady threw the ball, as he should have, away from the safety to daylight.
And at any rate ... the play was anything but "predicted" but if it were "predictable" it would have been based on the fact that it was immediately preceeded by a -1 yard run by BJGE.
That drive went:
pass, pass, pass, run, run, run, pass, pass, run (for -1 ... essentially a sack of the RB) pass, pass.
It immediately puts them into a portion of the playbook with calls meant to make up for losing yardage on first down... so immediately the prospect of running is reduced by virtue of the fact that 2nd and more than ten yards has less run plays to choose from than 2nd and 6/7/8/9 or below or however NE breaks down those sitations depending on where they draw the line.
Poor execution on the BJGE run, poor execution on the pass to Welker. Neither play was "sniffed out" or predictable. They just needed to block better, read the safety better, etc, etc.
That is an example of execution. And again, the first play of the game, as you have discussed in depth. On that play, with max protect, Tuck simply owns Vollmer, Connolly, and Mankins (the latter two shouldn't be expecting him from all the way on the other side, btw). If Vollmer sticks his block, Brady has time for his checkdown. It's likely a 4 yard completion unless there is a nice RAC.
Vollmer a.) lunges at his defender, which is when you commit your center of balance to one side or the other in pass blocking. It's bad execution. b.) allows himself to get stood up by Tucks punch, really a result of being out of position in the lunge. c.) is then shed by a rip move that allows Tuck to run across the double block.
If Vollmer enters his block with a lower center of gravity, and squats into it, getting low in his stance, *his* punch will be enough to redirect Tuck, and he can change directions and seal off Tuck's avenue.
That doesn't even address the route running. Which was subpar on that play. Gronk, for starters, should have cut it outside likely ... it's the first place Brady looks, and he isn't there.
It's just execution. It wasn't predictable ... a run would have been predictable because that is the exact play, exact formation they started the first Giants' game with. They ran a play action pass instead.