Bad Passing: Patriots Play Action

New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray tallied 201 yards rushing against the Indianapolis Colts, repeatedly gashing a defense that couldn’t slow him down. The success on the ground should have opened up the Patriots play action passing game but Tom Brady was unable to take advantage, starting the game 0-for-7 with two interceptions when faking the run. Mark Schofield breaks down the tape to find out what went wrong.

Tom Brady’s first interception of the night occurred while trying to go deep to wide receiver Brian Tyms off of play-action in the first quarter.

In the wake of a Jonas Gray 20-yard run the Patriots face 1st and 10 at their own 49-yard line. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels sends the QB under center with 12 personnel on the field. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui are in a wing alignment to the right with Tyms split wide. The Colts have their nickel defense on the field showing Cover 2:

Tyms motions inside a few steps just prior to the snap:

The WR runs a deep post route. Notice that the secondary has rolled their coverage from Cover 2 to Cover 6, with Tyms aiming to split the two defensive backs utilizing Cover 4:

As Brady releases the football his WR is in great position. Tyms has inside leverage on defenders Greg Toler and the angle on Sergio Brown. Mike Adams, the safety to the top of the screen, is vacating his Cover 2 deep outside responsibility and breaking toward Tyms. If Brady delivers a decent throw this play can go the distance. Sadly for Pats fans, he does not.

To understand why, we turn to the end zone view. Prior to the snap defensive end Erik Walden is head-up on Gronkowski:

The Patriots fake a stretch run to the right side and pull right tackle Sebastian Vollmer outside to help sell it. But notice Walden on this play. Determined to deny Gronkowski a free release he lunges his head and shoulders at the TE:

Gronkowski brushes past him, but Walden’s whiff is about to pay himself an unexpected dividend ‒ because he barely moved he now has inside leverage against Vollmer:

The RT tries to slow Walden but the DE has the upper hand:

Walden has a free shot at Brady, who is anticipating the hit and leaning slightly away from contact as he uncorks the throw:

The result? Adams is able to break on the underthrown ball and secure the interception:

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With another second, Brady could have stepped into the pass and delivered it on target. Then there would be no reason to cite his “0-for-7 with two interceptions” stat line on play-action. Walden failed to execute his assignment ‒ jam Gronkowski ‒ and still found himself with a free release of his own to the quarterback. The elapsed time on all of this is “One-Mississippi”, making it difficult to completely fault Brady for this bad throw.

In Part 2, we will look at a truly awful, ugly play by the quarterback and how play-action contributed.

All video and images courtesy 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.

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