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Upon Further Review: 3 key play vs. Bears

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  December 15, 2010 02:38 AM

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A look inside three key plays from the Patriots' 36-7 victory over the Bears on Sunday.

CHANGING YOUR TENDENCIES

Who: Patriots offense
Score: 0-0
Time: 7:10 1Q
Down and distance: First and 10
Yard line: Chicago 34
Personnel: 1-2-2 (RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, TE Alge Crumpler, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Tate, WR Wes Welker)
Formation: Offset I-formation with Crumpler as the fullback.
Defense: Base 4-3 with man-to-man coverage and a single high deep safety.
Result: Tom Brady 24-yard pass to Welker down to the 10-yard line.

What happened: This wasn’t a huge play by any stretch but it was just a neat football play for a couple of different reasons.

I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that in the Bears’ pre-game scouting reports it says the Patriots are predominately a run team out of this formation. In fact, the Patriots ran a similar play like this against the Jets – and it was a run.

Patriots had Tate wide left, Gronkowski wide right and Welker in the right slot. Gronkowski motioned into the line and safety Danieal Manning motioned with him. At the snap, Crumpler pulled across the formation like he was going to wham block like he often does on running plays (usually in conjunction with a pull from Gs Logan Mankins or Dan Connolly). And the left side of the line, which is where a run would normally goes, went through the beautifully orchestrated motions associated with a run play. At the same time, Brady executes the playfake with Green-Ellis. Both actions hold the linebackers and Lance Briggs commits to the run more than Brian Urlacher, who is very sharp. The Patriots offensive linemen then resume their pass blocking technique after just a few steps. But by that time the ruse had worked.

With the linebackers held, it gave a huge hole for Welker to execute a slant on cornerback Zachary Bowman. Welker caught the ball after 14 yards, made safety Chris Harris miss to get another 10 yards after the catch.

Three plays later the Patriots score an important touchdown to get the early lead in a game with deteriorating weather conditions.

TEAM WORK

Who: Patriots offense
Score: 7-0
Time: 10:55 2Q
Down and distance: First and 10
Yard line: Chicago 20.
Personnel: 2-2-1 (RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, FB Sammy Morris, TE Alge Crumpler, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Wes Welker)
Formation: Double tight end I formation.
Defense: Base 4-3.
Result: Green-Ellis 17-yard run to the Chicago 3-yard line.

What happened: Patriots were starting their offensive roll on this third drive as they went 67 yards in nine plays (five rushes) to get to this spot. The Bears tried to be a little bit more aggressive as they had nine players in the box (the open corner came down on Crumpler and the safety came down on the other side).

As the flow of the play drifted right to the open side of the field, Crumpler immediately blocked down on the left end. On the other side, LG Logan Mankins got to the second level like he was shot out of cannon to take out weakside LB Lance Briggs, a premier playmaker in pursuit.

RT Sebastian Vollmer pulled and had CB Charles Tillman in his sights. This was the block Morris and Green-Ellis would read. Tillman made a mistake going inside and lost contain. The play was designed to go between the right tackle and the TE’s block, figuring Tillman would stay to the outside and Morris started into that hole. When he saw Tillman going inside, Morris adjusted his angle and went outside and Green-Ellis followed.

Morris’ false step actually worked for the Patriots because it made Urlacher hesitate, giving Green-Ellis the room needed to burst through the line as Morris took out strong-side backer Nick Roach. The deep safety, Harris, took a bad angle and that allowed Green-Ellis to gain another 6 yards after contact. Briggs should have been there to clean up the run after a modest gain but Mankins had long ago taken him out of the play.

Just great execution, some of it on the fly, by the Patriots, who scored one play later to go up 14-0.

GAME, SET, MCCOURTY

Who: Patriots defense
Score: 14-0
Time: 10:09 2Q
Down and distance: First and 10
Yard line: Chicago 38.
Offensive personnel: 2RB-0TE-3WR
Formation: I formation with WRs in a 2x1 set.
Defense: Base 3-4
Result: Jay Cutler 1-yard pass to Johnny Knox. Forced fumble by CB Devin McCourty, returned for a TD by Gary Guyton.

What happened: Bears run play action and the Patriots secondary is in man-to-man. Patriots rush only four but make Cutler, who takes a long seven-step drop (something they’ve struggled protecting), uncomfortable as LB Jermaine Cunningham works RT J’Marcus Webb and RE Brandon Deaderick walks LT Frank Omiyale back towards Cutler.

Cutler throws awkwardly into the left flat to Knox and he’s met immediately by McCourty. As Knox is going down, McCourty gets his right hand on the ball and rips it out as both go to the ground. Guyton picked it up and ran uncontested for a touchdown and the rout was on.

It was just a phenomenal, instinctive play by McCourty, who has increasingly shown a knack for coming up with big plays. It’s the kind you can teach but it takes natural instincts – and strength -- to actually pull off.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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