After a Sunday that saw New England go three-and-out on their opening series, three-and-out to start the third quarter, and three-and-out on their last meaningful drive, there is no disputing that the Patriots struggled to keep drives alive against the Oakland Raiders. However, on a crucial 3rd and 15 play with 9:48 left in the game, Tom Brady and the Patriot offense were able to extend a drive thanks to a 22-yard reception by tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England would finish the drive with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and extend their lead to 16-9, completing the scoring for the afternoon.
The previous play saw Danny Amendola look to convert a 3rd and 5 with a nice catch and run up the field. Unfortunately, for the second week in a row, what looked to be a big conversion from the receiver was called back due to offensive pass interference. New England, clinging to a four-point lead in the 4th quarter, now faced 3rd and 15 from their own 29-yard line. Brady lined up in the shotgun flanked by Brandon Bolden on his right and Shane Vereen to his left with Kenbrell Thompkins split wide to the right. Also to his left, Brady had Julian Edelman wide and Gronkowski in the slot. Oakland countered with their dime personnel, utilizing their NASCAR front of LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith, and Khalil Mack, which had frustrated the Patriots all day.
As this play unfolds, watch the little chip block that Vereen executes on Mack. This subtle move changes the course of Mack’s rush and brings the rookie linebacker inside, where he and Tuck get swallowed up by the Patriots’ interior offensive line. This allows Brady time to step up in the pocket, set his feet, and deliver a strong throw over the middle. Downfield, Gronkowski is able to find the soft spot in the Raider Cover 2 ‒ over the middle between the safeties and behind the linebackers.
(Video Courtesy of Patriots.com)
Eight plays later, Gostkowski drilled a 36-yarder, his third three-point kick of the day, to extend New England’s lead to seven. While the Patriot offense failed to produce the fireworks New England fans had hoped for, their ability to do the little things in big situations ‒ Vereen’s chip, Gronkowski’s route, and Brady’s throw on this play ‒ was enough to carry the day.
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