Super Bowl XLIX Recap: Drive One ‒ Finding Tharold Simon

On the New England Patriots’ third drive of Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots made finding Tharold Simon their priority. With Simon replacing the injured starter, Tom Brady and his receivers went right down the field for their first points of the game by picking on the backup.

The Patriots open the drive on their own 35-yard line. With Tom Brady in the shotgun, New England lines up with their 11 personnel in a 1 x 3 alignment. Rob Gronkowski is in-line on the right with both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola split wide, while Brandon LaFell is a solo receiver to the left using a tight split from left tackle Nate Solder. Seattle responds with their nickel defense showing Cover 1 in the secondary:

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Amendola motions from right to left, setting up an inverted slot formation to the left. Cornerback Byron Maxwell trails Amendola, revealing man coverage:

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After the snap, Brady delivers the football to Amendola on the bubble screen with Solder and center Bryan Stork pulling toward the boundary:

TDDriveOnePlayOneStillThree

This play succeeds because of the blocking in the secondary.

First, Solder engages with Maxwell while LaFell locks up with Simon (#27). The left tackle predictably swallows the cornerback but, as Amendola cuts to the outside, watch LaFell turn Simon to the middle of the field and seal the edge:

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Earl Thomas runs the receiver out of bounds, but not before the Patriots have a 15-yard gain and a fresh set of downs.

Later in the drive, New England faced a 3rd and 9 on the Seattle 35-yard line – right on the cusp of field goal range. Brady aligns in the shotgun, this time with 12 personnel on the field. LaFell and Edelman are in a slot to the left while Gronkowski and Tim Wright use a pro alignment to the right. The Seahawks nickel defense is on the field showing Cover 1 in the secondary – and a double A gap blitz:

TDDriveOnePlayTwoStillOne

Just before the snap, Edelman motions inside, setting up a stack-slot look at the beginning of the play. This alignment forces Simon to shift into catch-man positioning, four yards off the line of scrimmage:

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Edelman runs a crossing route and, because of his pre-snap alignment (and Simon’s adjustment), the receiver begins with a head-start on the defender. Simon cannot close the gap quickly enough and Brady delivers a perfect throw. Edelman breaks away from the diving attempt by Simon and scampers a 23-yard gain:

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The catch-and-run gives New England a 1st and 10 at the Seattle 12-yard line. Following a one-yard run from LeGarrette Blount, Brady sets up in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field with LaFell and Amendola lined up in the left slot, #80 on the inside, while Gronkowski and Edelman are in a pro formation to the right. Seattle again uses their nickel defense, now showing their usual Cover 3. The Patriots will run a post/out combination route on the left side: Amendola breaks to the sideline while LaFell runs a skinny post route:

TDDriveOnePlayThreeStillOne

The out route from the slot receiver pulls Maxwell to the boundary as LaFell gets inside leverage on his post route against Simon. This gives Brady a big window to find his receiver, and the Patriots open the scoring:

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The Seattle secondary entered Super Bowl XLIX with a number of injuries, and the first quarter of the game added to that list. New England’s first scoring drive of the game was an example of a team attacking a reserve player pressed into action due to injury. On each of these plays, the Patriots exploited the situation by finding Tharold Simon in the passing game for a big play – or a score.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

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.

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