Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday night’s game against the Steelers and offers some of his third-quarter observations:
1. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was assigned to block out Steelers OLB James Harrison on some running plays, including one late in the second quarter. On that play, Harrison put a swim move to easily get around Gronkowski, but wasn’t able to get to the runner. On a first down run by RB Sammy Morris early in the third quarter, Harrison put the same move on the Gronkowski, sending the rookie to the ground and this time making the stop.
2. The Patriots lined up WR Wes Welker in the backfield with RB Danny Woodhead on a second-and-8, which added a new wrinkle for the Steelers defense to contend with. Welker was motioned into the left slot at the snap, where two Patriots receivers were already covered by two cornerbacks. However, the third cornerback, who began on the right side, was slow to follow Welker over, and an outside linebacker blitz from that side opened up the flat for Welker to gain 13 yards and put the Patriots in the red zone again.
3. The running play which followed, where QB Tom Brady ran into RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis after the handoff, was a trap play where TE Alge Crumpler was motioned inside to block NT Casey Hampton. However, Hampton read the play and beat Crumpler to the outside, causing Green-Ellis to anticipate the pressure and instead cut inside early. Hampton still went for Brady, giving Green-Ellis room initially, but RG Dan Connolly could not control ILB James Farrior in the second level, and Farrior held Green-Ellis to a 1-yard gain.
4. The Patriots were able to work the play-action well on the 9-yard touchdown catch by Gronkowski. CB William Gay was assigned to cover Gronkowski, who initially blocked down on the play. Gay stayed inside and did not even notice Gronkowski release into the flat after the play-action.
5. The Patriots' offense sputtered on its second drive of the third quarter. On second down, pressure from DE Ziggy Hood, who stunted around OLB LaMarr Woodley and beat RT Sebastian Vollmer, forced an early throw from Brady. On third down, Brady led Welker on a crossing route too far, forcing an incompletion and a punt.