Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday’s game against the Lions and offers some of his fourth-quarter observations:
1. After Lions QB Shaun Hill had some big gains on the ground during an earlier drive, the Patriots moved LB Dane Fletcher from an edge rushing position to a “spy” role, still as the third linebacker in the nickel package. This meant the Patriots were rushing only three for much of the Lions’ first drive of the fourth quarter, but it took away that phase of the Hill’s game which had shown to be effective.
2. One of the Patriots’ better-designed plays of the game came on a third-and-2 from their own 24-yard line. Out of the shotgun, TE Alge Crumpler came in motion to the right side, creating a receiver “bunch” with WRs Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Brady faked a high snap and RB Danny Woodhead took it directly, with Crumpler and Edelman turning inside to make the key blocks on DE Andre Fluellen and MLB DeAndre Levy. With RT Sebastian Vollmer pulling outside as a lead blocker, Woodhead was able to turn the corner and gain 9 yards, extending the drive.
3. Two plays later, the Patriots continued to open up the playbook, using a play-action end-around to WR Brandon Tate. In for an injured Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lions DE Turk McBride bit inside on the play-action and opened up the back side of the field for Tate on the handoff. LT Matt Light was able to keep WLB Julian Peterson out of Tate’s way, while WR Deion Branch blocked RCB Nathan Vasher. Tate’s run went for 17 yards and put the Patriots past midfield.
4. In the first quarter, when the Patriots were at the Lions’ 43-yard line on their second drive of the game, they lined up in a shotgun set with Woodhead and TE Aaron Hernandez next to QB Tom Brady, and Welker and Branch split out to the left side. Woodhead took the handoff to the right side, but notable was CB Brandon McDonald playing the run as Welker slipped outside, ready for a screen pass. Quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien tucked this one under his hat, and from the Lions’ 16-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Patriots flipped the formation and ran the same play. However, this time the Lions neglected to even put a defender on Welker in the slot, and instead of handing off to Woodhead, Brady just threw to the open Welker for the touchdown.
5. Patriots CB Devin McCourty’s second interception came on perhaps Hill’s worst throw of the day. On the play, WR Nate Burleson was released on a seam pattern to a deep zone by S Patrick Chung, and Hill threw to him, “patting” the ball and over-throwing it considerably in the process. McCourty was in coverage on a deeper route by WR Calvin Johnson and simply broke off to catch the errant pass from Hill.