Mark Schofield begins his countdown of the five most important New England Patriots offensive plays of the year, with Tim Wright‘s catch against the Cincinnati Bengals. Click here for Play #1: The Pass, Play #2: Gronk’s Rumble, Play #3: Amendola’s Scramble, and Play #4: Edelman’s Dash.
Top 5 Patriots’ Offensive Plays of 2014 – Play #5 – Tim Wright’s 30-yard Reception – Week 5 vs. Cincinnati
To understand this play’s importance, a bit of context is necessary. In Week 4 the Patriots had been demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Tom Brady faced heavy pressure all night long and threw two brutal interceptions before being pulled for backup Jimmy Garoppolo. The veteran’s performance caused one media scribe to ask head coach Bill Belichick whether the quarterback position would be evaluated in the week leading up to the Sunday night tilt against the Bengals, while other members of the media simply declared the Brady Era over.
The Patriots responded with a 43-17 pasting of Cincinnati, with Brady completing 23 of 35 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. New England began the game with a convincing 10-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run by running back Stevan Ridley. As the team celebrated, one could feel the weight of a week’s worth of worry lifting from the collective shoulders of Patriots Nation.
But for this writer, an earlier play from that drive erased any nerves over Brady and the New England passing game.
Facing 1st and 10 with 13:41 left in the opening quarter Brady is under center with 12 personnel and a tight slot formation to each side. To the left, Brandon LaFell is on the outside and tight end Tim Wright is in a wing alignment. Wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski implement the same look on the offense’s right. The Bengals have their nickel defense in the game with Cover 3 in the secondary:
New England uses a three-vertical concept on this play. Both LaFell and Edelman run double-move routes, breaking outside first and then up on the vertical. Gronkowski blocks for a moment before releasing into the flat on the right as a decoy. Wright runs a vertical seam route from his tight alignment:
These three deep routes put tremendous pressure on the secondary, but it is the check-down route from Ridley that opens up the throwing window. The running back runs a short curl route over the middle that draws the attention of two linebackers.
Wright gains separation from the underneath zone defender (Leon Hall – #29) by selling him on an outside cut before breaking vertically. Watching the video gives you an appreciation for how the pieces all fit together:
The two outside routes pin the boundary defenders along the sidelines, while the check-down route expands the throwing window by moving the linebackers. Finally, safety George Iloka (#43) – the deep middle defender – backpedals in response to the deep routes and is over 20 yards from the line of scrimmage at the time Brady releases the football. Thanks to all these elements – and Wright’s excellent route – QB and TE connect for a 30-yard gain.
And a football writer’s inner fan breathes a sigh of relief. Brady was Brady again.
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.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.