The day after each Patriots game (late game, late arrival for this), we’ll take a closer look at three key plays. Here’s the installment from the 45-3 victory over the Jets:
2-MAN ROUTE EQUALS 7 POINTS
Who: Patriots offense
When: First quarter, 1:07 remaining
Score: Patriots 10, Jets 0.
Where: Jets’ 25-yard line
Personnel: 12 (one back, two tight ends, two receivers – Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Deion Branch)
Formation: Shotgun empty. Tight trips to the field side (Welker, Hernandez, Gronkowski). Woodhead in left slot, Branch wide.
What happened: The Patriots got to this position when Tom Brady hit Branch for 19 yards on third-and-22 as the Jets only rushed three and Brady picked apart the zone in 3.40 seconds as the linebacker cheated to Welker running a seam route.
The Jets showed a all-out blitz as safety Eric Smith came up and filled the right outside linebacker spot, leaving no deep safety. Even with no back in the backfield after Woodhead motioned out early, the Jets rushed six bunched in the middle – almost like it was a run blitz. The Patriots kept all three of the trips – Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski – in to block (max protection of eight), leaving just a two-man route with Woodhead and Branch.
Branch gave himself room for the route by faking a go-route along the sideline. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie correctly played outside leverage on Branch toward his help. The problem was Smith dropped straight back two steps instead of into the flat to help on Cromartie. Smith may or may not have been held by a quick look to the middle of Brady (difficult to tell).
Things were made worse for the Jets as Branch broke the tackle of Cromartie (safety James Ihedigo also had a shot) as Branch got 20 of the 25 yards after contact.
PERFECT PLAY CALL
Who: Patriots offense
When: Second quarter, 12:06 remaining
Score: Patriots 17, Jets 3.
Where: Patriots’ 33-yard line
Personnel: 11 (one back, 1 tight end, three receivers – Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate)
Formation: Off-set I. Welker motioned from the right slot into the fullback position, revealing the Jets were in man-to-man with a single high safety as Darrelle Revis motioned with Welker.
What happened: On the first play of their first possession of the second quarter, the Patriots went play-action as they did for the seventh time in 12 pass plays to this point. In a beautifully designed play, both Welker and Woodhead went into the same hole at left guard and Welker sold the run fake by charging hard into the hole at linebacker David Harris. The Jets must have been under orders to get a body on Welker if he’s in the middle of the field – wise since he’s great at those plays – because Harris took on Welker even though Revis was behind him ready to pick up coverage.
In reality, Welker is picking Harris, who has coverage of Woodhead. The pick allows Woodhead to flawlessly leak out to the right as the Patriots’ seven-man protection has little trouble picks up a five-man pressure by the Jets. Brady draws the safeties to the deep left by looking hard at Branch. He was just buying Woodhead time to release. With Harris picked and the safeties moving to the left side of the offense, Brady dumped it down to Woodhead, who picked up all 35 yards after the catch. Jets end Mike DeVito, who had dropped into a fire zone tried to run with Woodhead, but that wasn’t his man. It was Harris’ – and he was finished at the line off by LG Logan Mankins. DeVito was only supposed to play the short zone. Seven plays later the Patriots scored to go up 24-3. Tip your cap to offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, it was a terrific play call against the perfect defense.
SANCHEZ MAKES UNFORCED ERROR
Who: Patriots defense.
When: Third quarter, 9:23 remaining
Score: Patriots 24, Jets 3.
Where: Patriots’ 9-yard line
Personnel: Base 3-4 with a personnel twist – Jarrad Page at safety for James Sanders.
Formation: Basic Cover-2 (two deep safeties) zone. Jets were in a single-back set with two receivers in tight on both sides.
What happened: This drive represented the final chance for the Jets to get back into the game. Page had been a situational substitution on a few occasions during the course of the game. Patriots seemed to favor this substitution against Jets TD Dustin Keller, and against the Jets’ “Tigercat” formation when Brad Smith was at quarterback (which happened three plays prior).
The Patriots only rushed three linemen as the Jets ran a weak play-fake to LaDainian Tomlinson. LB Rob Ninkovich got a nice jam on Keller off the line and LB Jerod Mayo carried WR Braylon Edwards up the field as he ran a post. Page had over the top coverage of Edwards. Both were in perfect position.
A more experienced QB like Tom Brady would have held the other linebacker (Brandon Spikes — normally replaced by Gary Guyton in coverage situations) and the other safety (Brandon Meriweather) with either a play fake or glance to one side. Sanchez didn’t look at anyone other than Edwards and threw into triple coverage. Spikes read Sanchez’ eyes perfectly, and was probably aided by Sanchez not seeing him behind LG Matt Slauson. That’s one of the drawbacks of having a 6-2 quarterback, as opposed to one at 6-4 like Brady.
If Sanchez had read the coverage better (it was pretty obvious), he probably would have anticipated Santonio Holmes breaking open on a flag route to the left corner of the end zone. It was there between Kyle Arrington and Meriweather.