Defenses scheme many ways to get to the quarterback. Sometimes the offense succeeds in thwarting their attempt. Mark Schofield looks at how, on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots failed.
The New England Patriots lost a tough road test Sunday in Green Bay. After falling behind by 13 points, the visitors battled back into position to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Patriots, they saw quarterback Tom Brady sacked by the Packers on a crucial third down before placekicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the ensuing 47-yard field goal try. The sack effectively sealed the outcome, so we reviewed that important third down to determine what the offense sought to accomplish with the play call and understand how the protection broke down.
Here’s The Plan
Examining the pass routes called by Josh McDaniels provides insight into New England’s mindset in this situation. With 3:25 remaining, the Patriots face 3rd and 9 at the Green Bay 20-yard line. Brady is in the shotgun with 12 personnel on the field. The defense counters with a dime package consisting of four down linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs:
Brady has Rob Gronkowski split wide left and Shane Vereen next to him in the backfield. The Patriots deploy trips to the right with Julian Edelman out wide, Tim Wright in the middle, and Brandon LaFell tight to the formation.
Just prior to the snap Edelman motions towards the football. To the left side of the field Gronkowski will run a curl route while Vereen executes a short out route:
From the trips the Patriots execute a variant of the stick concept. Edelman will run a snag route, which is a combination of a slant and a curl. He will break inside on a slant route and stop over the middle of the field. LaFell runs a delayed out route to the flat, while Wright runs a deep corner route:
The Packers are in Cover 3 on this play and the deep outside corner and the deep middle safety thwart Wright’s corner route:
Every other receiver runs a route short of the first-down marker, and the Packers’ zone coverage has defenders in position to hold those receivers to minimal gains. A still taken from the moment Brady is first hit shows the depth (or lack thereof) of the pass routes:
The plan was to get it out quickly, cut the distance to a first down in half or more, and take another chance on 4th down.
And This Is How The Protection Crumbled
Off the snap Neal bursts upfield and gets by left tackle Nate Solder, stretching his right arm towards the QB. Meanwhile, left guard Daniel Connolly initially makes solid contact with Daniels, but the defensive tackle has another trick up his sleeve:
Here is a still from the end of that clip. While Neal reaches out for Brady, Daniels is extricating himself from the LG:
Neal gets to the passer first with that big right arm:
As Brady desperately tries to escape Neal’s grasp, Daniels completes his “push-pull” move on Connolly and closes in for the kill shot:
The two defenders finish off the play, and effectively end the game:
New England’s offense relies on a short and intermediate passing game. The routes utilized on this play suggest a dual goal: to gain at least a modicum of positive yardage while putting the offense in position for a manageable fourth down conversion. In this instance, the pass protection failed to provide Brady enough time to execute a short three-step drop and get the ball out. Gostkowski then missed the longer field goal try, forcing the Patriots to contemplate what might have been as they move on to San Diego.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.