Develin Leads the Way
While pull blocks and traps were a staple of the run offense throughout the game, the extended use of the fullback also stood out. The Patriots utilized Develin as a lead blocker on 18 of Gray’s runs, gaining a total of 97 yards for a 5.4 average.
Continuing with New England’s first possession of the game, the Patriots deploy 22 personnel (Fleming tackle-eligible) and set up in the i-formation with a balanced line on a 1st & 10. The Colts regroup into their 3-4 base defense. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calls for a power run — a strong-side concept that combines a pulling guard from the backside and a kick out block from the fullback. The blocking design will create a five-on-four advantage at the point of attack outside of Fleming:
At the snap, Wendell will again pull from left to right, which creates a one-on-one matchup between Stork and nose tackle Montori Hughes (#95). With Stork able to anchor the 350-pound defender, the rest of the blocks are allowed to develop.
Connolly and Solder double-team defensive end Zach Kerr (#94), turning his back to the play. Rookie outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome (#91) makes a rookie mistake as he aggressively shoots the gap inside of Fleming, relinquishing contain duties. Fleming simply angles the defender into the mass of bodies formed along the line of scrimmage. As Gray presses the run wide of tackle, Wendell and Develin almost deliver synchronized blocks, with the guard pancaking Jackson and the fullback forcing Freeman toward the sideline.
Bursting through the running lane, Gray utilizes a subtle jab step to the inside to fool safety Mike Adams (#29), causing the defender to spin himself out of position. Adams regains balance and pursues Gray, but the ball carrier wards off the safety with a stiff arm before eventually being gang-tackled by three Colts after a 16-yard gain.
After a slow start to begin the season, Gronkowski’s return to form in the passing game has generated a collective sigh of relief among Patriots fandom. And while ridiculous grabs and jaw-dropping runs after catch always receive the headlines, Gronkowski’s presence in the run game as a blocker was on full display against the Colts.
On a 1st and 10 early in the second quarter, the Patriots use Fleming and Gronkowski on the same side of the formation to create an imbalanced line to the left of Brady. The Colts respond with their 3-4 base defense but again elect to stick with just seven-in-the-box. In the one-back power run shown below, Gronkowski delivers a crucial kick out block to help create a crease for Gray:
As Brady turns to handoff the ball, Gray flashes a first step toward the weak-side. The deception is slight but it’s enough to draw the inside linebacker (Jackson) a couple of steps toward the center. Wendell, who was a standout run blocker among the offensive lineman throughout the game, pulls from right to left as Gray receives the ball.
Instead of Stork taking the nose tackle head on again, the run blocking scheme calls for Connolly to engage Chapman at a more advantageous angle while the center does the same on the backside defensive end. Fleming and Solder work a double-team on Redding, flattening the defender to the ground.
As Gray dashes toward the line of scrimmage, it appears that Jackson has a bead on the ball carrier as he looks to plug the gap. However, Wendell hops into the path of Jackson, beating him to the point of attack — perhaps Gray’s intentionally misdirected first step bought Wendell just enough time to sneak in for the block.
Now free of the inside linebacker, the running back need not worry about the outside linebacker (Walden) either. Using proper technique by jamming and extending his arms high and inside the shoulder pads of the defender, Gronkowski drives Walden wide of the play before tossing him to the ground as Gray picks up 7 yards.
In Da Club
Of course, Gronkowski’s most memorable block of the game, which came against former Patriots safety Sergio Brown, needs no introduction. Let the video speak for itself:
Per post-game comments from Gronkowski, the tight end chose to treat his former teammate like a broken tackling sled in response to the safety’s constant trash-talking throughout the game. As an added bonus, the block helped pave an open path for Gray to cruise into the end zone.
Goal Line Fun
The New England offensive line dominated the Colts defense on runs near the goal line. On five attempts within five yards of the end zone, Gray scored four touchdowns and converted a first down.
While Gray followed his blocks on most plays in the game, a little ad-libbing was required on occasion. Midway through the second quarter, the Patriots deploy a jumbo set with 23 personnel on the field (Fleming tackle-eligible). On this power run designed to follow the lead block of the fullback outside of tackle, Gray deviates from the plan.
Instead of following James Develin into the intended point of attack on the right, Gray exhibits great vision and cuts back to the middle behind center Bryan Stork, who has driven his defender parallel to the line of scrimmage. With the two backside blockers (tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and left tackle Nate Solder) disrupting three Indy defenders on the left and an effective second level block by left guard Dan Connolly on linebacker Andrew Jackson (#54), Gray has a sizable hole to dive through for the 2-yard TD run.