The old cliche is that football is a game of inches, and this was still true Sunday evening when the New England Patriots squared off against the New York Giants. Danny Amendola‘s move he put on the Giants defense allowed the Patriots to get in prime field goal range. Mark Schofield shows how the play developed and why the move after the catch worked.
It was by no means pretty, but Tom Brady and the New England Patriots found a way to push their record to 9-0 with a 27-26 victory over the New York Giants late Sunday evening. In another tight and thrilling contest between these two teams, the outcome hinged on a New England drive in the final seconds, and a crucial connection between the Patriots’ signal-caller and receiver Danny Amendola.
Facing a 2nd and 10 at the Giants’ 45-yard line, New England sets their offense with Brady in the shotgun and 11 offensive personnel on the field in a 2X2 alignment, with slot formation to each side of the field. Running back James White (#28) is in the backfield with Brady. On the left Brandon LaFell (#19) and Amendola are in a slot formation, with Amendola to the inside. Rob Gronkowski (#87) and Aaron Dobson (#17) align to the right, with the TE in a wing just outside the right tackle. The Giants have a 3-2-6 dime package on the field, but they show blitz before the snap:
Cornerback Trevin Wade (#31) lines up across from Amendola, but is shaded inside of the receiver with his head in the offensive backfield. Linebacker Kevon Dennard (#59) sets up in the B gap between right guard Josh Kline (#67) and Bryan Stork (#66), in the game at RT. Rookie safety Landon Collins (#21), who missed what would have been the game-ending interception earlier in the drive, is cheating down into the box, along with fellow safety Craig Dahl (#43).
Wade does blitz off the edge but the rest of the linebackers and defensive backs drop into coverage as the Giants send four after Brady. The defense drops into a Cover 4 look here:
Take note of the situation, and the “field goal target line” provided by CBS. The Patriots trail by two, are out of time outs and only 19 seconds remain. They need to get the ball into position for Stephen Gostkowski to even have a chance at the game-winning field goal.
At the snap, Wade blitzes off the edge, vacating Amendola. Watch where Brady looks immediately – and how quickly he gets the ball out:
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The QB sees the blitz, and understanding the presnap alignment of the defense, knows that Amendola will have room to run if he gets the ball quickly. This may also have been a hot read by the quarterback and receiver, with Amendola cutting off his route when Wade blitzes. Brady did signal in the direction of Wade pre-snap:
Brady delivers a quick throw to his WR, and from there Amendola makes the move of the game:
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As the receiver hauls in the throw, linebacker Jonathan Casillas (#54) and safety Brandon Meriweather (#22) close in. Amendola pulls in the pass and shrugs his right shoulder and hip to the outside, as if he will cut toward the sideline and try to get out of bounds. In response, both the LB and the S angle to the outside. But then, Amendola snaps back toward the middle of the field. As both defenders overrun him, the WR angles to the inside, past the “FG target line” and near the first-down marker.
Here’s another view of the move from Amendola:
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This is not the first time that Amendola has made a sudden move like this to help seal a victory against a New York team. Last year on a Thursday night game the receiver cut upfield on a scramble drill situation for a critical touchdown in a Patriots’ victory over the Jets, in a route that Rex Ryan – likely in jest – called “the greatest route of all time.” Here, the fake cut to the outside gave the Patriots enough yardage to send Gostkowski onto the field for the game-winning kick. This one play, like so many throughout football each week, illustrates just how crucial the “two inches in front of your face” are in this sport.
Editors’ Note: Jonathan Casillas was previously mis-identified as Jasper Brinkley. Big thanks to Matt Monitto (@DNOMN8R314) for pointing this out. Give him a follow on Twitter.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.