Do not ignore what the Jets defense did to the Patriots on Sunday. They held New England to just 17 points and 231 total yards. Yes, the Patriots were without Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly and LeGarrette Blount, but their struggles were more a result of how the Jets were able to break them down. You can be sure that potential playoff opponents took notice.
The biggest thing the Jets did was figure out ways to get pressure on Tom Brady without sacrificing coverage. On 4 of New York’s 5 impact plays (4 sacks, 1 INT), they used a 4-man rush. On 3 of those 5 plays (2 sacks, 1 INT), they were able to get a defender clean to Brady with just a 4-man rush. The play below is a great example.
This was the Patriots’ third offensive play of the game, a 3rd-and-3 from the Jets 47-yard line. Brady used a hard count to try and see where a blitz might come from. Initially, the potential pressure looked like it would come from the right side.
So Brady elected to slide the protection to the right.
At the snap, linebacker David Harris moved to the left of the center.
The Jets were only rushing 4, but they were rushing away from where the protection was sliding. This left 4 rushers against 3 blockers to that side.
Brady initially wanted Shane Vereen out of the backfield, but defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and linebacker Demario Davis (who initially looked to be rushing the quarterback) dropped out to the right, taking away Vereen as an option.
By the time Brady came off of Vereen, he realized he had free rushers coming at him from the left side.
The pressure scheme won and resulted in the first of 4 Jets sacks on the day.
Rex Ryan has made a career out of these types of blitzes, but there are also some defenses in the AFC capable of generating pressure using similar schemes. The Broncos, Steelers and Bengals come to mind. San Diego and Baltimore are two more teams (currently fighting for a playoff spot) that can do the same type of thing. Protecting against these types of pressures will need to be a point of emphasis for New England’s offense this postseason.