The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots traded blows for over three quarters in Super Bowl XLIX, but the outcome was still in doubt heading into this final drive. Earlier in the game, New England used creative schemes to attack Seattle’s Cover 1 and Cover 3 concepts; however, the Patriots fourth TD drive is characterized by players simply winning their one-on-one matchups. When the lights are brightest the schemes go out the window, and a team turns to its marquee players to deliver the win.
Yet Another Free Release
With 4:47 remaining in the game, Tom Brady stood alone in the offensive backfield against a 3-3-5 nickel defense showing Cover 1. The Patriots deployed 11 personnel on the field, with trips to the left of Brady and slot formation to the right. Julian Edelman is the outside trips receiver, with running back Shane Vereen in the middle and tight end Rob Gronkowski inside. On the right, Danny Amendola is the inside slot receiver while Brandon LaFell splits out wide. Gronkowski stands in a wing alignment, with strong safety Kam Chancellor lurking a mere four yards across from him:
The outside receivers ran deep curl routes, while the slot receivers broke off short cuts to the right. The TE used a skinny post, cutting inside while the safety tried to lock Gronkowski down in man coverage.
On this play, Gronk won the battle:
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Linebacker Mike Morgan (#57) aligned in a wide-9 alignment outside Gronkowski. This permitted the tight end to escape from the line untouched, and Gronkowski was given time to build momentum before his break. Chancellor attempted to jam him, but Gronkowski brushed through the contact and accelerated away:
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Brady hit his target in stride, and the tight end rumbled into Seattle territory before free safety Earl Thomas and Chancellor managed to get him to the turf:
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If At First You Don’t Succeed
Six plays later New England faced a 2nd down three yards from paydirt with 2:22 remaining. To truly appreciate this next play we must return to the previous scoring drive. At that time the Patriots faced a 1st and goal on the five-yard line, but Brady’s throw sailed past Edelman on a pivot route:
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While the offense scored on the next play, Brady wanted another crack at that throw.
Returning to New England’s final drive, Brady got his wish:
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Seattle blitzed Brady on this play, leaving the secondary in man coverage. As he did on the earlier incompletion, Edelman wrangles free from reserve cornerback Tharold Simon by selling the defender on the slant route before cutting outside:
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Edelman secures the throw from Brady and the Patriots put the go-ahead points on the board.
Given two weeks to prepare, the New England Patriots entered Super Bowl XLIX with a scheme to attack Seattle’s talented defense and their Cover 3 concepts. But in crunch-time, Josh McDaniels trusted his core players to win one-one-one matchups. Brady, Gronkowski, and Edelman rewarded this trust, and New England earned their fourth Super Bowl title.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield knows play action, the free release, spectacular plays and how to throw on Cover 2, Cover 3 and Cover 6.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.