The Patriots entered Sunday Night’s game against the Packers short handed on offense. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined and Julian Edelman compromised with a bad ankle, the Patriots needed to find ways to manufacture offense. Did anyone really think they wouldn’t be able to?
Right out of the gate, the Patriots went after Green Bay’s young defense. In typical New England fashion, they went no huddle, used a pick play (which may have been more of a blatant block than a pick), and got running back James White on the perimeter against a linebacker. Each of these concepts are core components of New England’s offensive attack.
Below you can see the “pick” play. Keep your eyes on the bottom of the screen.
Notice a wide-open James White and that Packers defender on the ground? That was the man who was responsible for White.
Two plays later, you can see the matchup of James White on the perimeter against rookie linebacker Oren Burks at the bottom of the screen. That’s a mismatch. Watch Brady recognize that this was man coverage and signal to White.
The Pats also mixed in some misdirection and had the Packers completely on their heels. On the below touchdown, you can see the jet-sweep action go from the left to the right, and the flip to James White go back to the left.
The result was an easy early score.
The purpose of the no-huddle was to make the defense reactive instead of proactive. All the Packers could attempt to do was identify where Patriots personnel was and try to quickly matchup. Sometimes, they didn’t even have enough time to do that.
Between the no huddle and the misdirection, Tom Brady did not need to put a ball in harm’s way. After taking a shot downfield in Josh Gordon’s direction for an incompletion, Brady completed his next five passes. The air yards from the line of scrimmage on those throws is as follows: 0, 6, 6, 1, -3. Life as a 41-year old quarterback is pretty nice when you can do that and march downfield easily.
The Pats weren’t done manufacturing offense after that first drive, though. A flea-flicker set up a field goal early in the 2nd quarter. Then, after James White came off the field due to an injury (he would return), the Pats put wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the game at running back. He proceeded to get the ball on the next 4 plays, which resulted in 40 rushing yards and a touchdown. Three of those four plays came on runs between the tackles. Were the Packers caught off guard? Did they not expect inside runs with a wide receiver aligned in the backfield? Who knows. Regardless, their defensive line was blown off the line of scrimmage by New England’s offensive line on all four plays.
The fourth quarter saw even more manufactured offense. The Packers were driving and looked ready to take control of the game. Then running back Aaron Jones fumbled and New England recovered. A few plays later, Josh McDaniels called a double-pass running-back screen. This resulted in Julian Edelman throwing to James White for a 37-yard gain to set up the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown.
Also of note here, the Patriots were in no huddle on this drive. The Patriots utilizing no huddle and misdirection creates absolute chaos in opposing defenses.
On New England’s final drive, we saw more misdirection. A fake handoff end-around to Julian Edelman picked up 17 yards. Two plays later, the Patriots once again went no huddle. Tom Brady fired a 55-yard touchdown pass after faking a bubble-screen.
Below, you can see the two defensive backs to the side of of the fake bubble-screen bite hard and attack the line of scrimmage. This left Josh Gordon wide open in the void behind them.
The Patriots didn’t have all of their weapons at their disposal on Sunday, but they did have a fantastic game-plan. They scored 31 points without a great Brady performance, and should have had more if not for a 3rd quarter goal-line stand.
New England can win in so many ways – a staple of a Bill Belichick team. It’s fun to talk about Brady and Gronk and GOATS, oh my! But the Patriots’ offensive scheme deserves more attention, because it has been arguably the best in the NFL for nearly a decade.