Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday’s Patriots game against the Bears and offers some of his first-quarter observations:
1. The Patriots’ first outside run of the day was stopped for a loss after blockers had a hard time getting position on their defenders. In particular, LG Logan Mankins could not get into the second level before MLB Brian Urlacher was already in the backfield. RT Sebastian Vollmer could not execute a backside cut block on DT Tommie Harris, and WR Deion Branch was overpowered by SLB Nick Roach.
2. Bears WR Devin Hester's 17-yard punt return that gave the Bears the ball at their own 46-yard line to start their first drive should have been negated by a penalty. As Patriots S Patrick Chung was squaring up to tackle Hester after he received the punt, Bears RB Garrett Wolfe came from behind and pushed Chung to the ground. It should have been a block-in-the-back penalty, but the only effect was field position as the Bears later punted.
3. The Patriots used Ron Brace at nose tackle in their base defense, shifting Vince Wilfork out to defensive end. The move, which has been made at times this season, was likely based on matchups. If Brace could handle the undersized C Olin Kreutz inside, then Wilfork would be freed up for a one-on-one with RT J'Marcus Webb outside.
4. Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 12-yard run on the Patriots’ second drive of the game came on a “trap” play, which has been successful when used this season. The play relies on NT Anthony Adams over-pursuing into the backfield after being released by C Dan Koppen. With Koppen and Mankins sealing the two closest linebackers to the outside, Green-Ellis’ hole opens once TE Rob Gronkowski is motioned inside and blocks Adams out. It is a classic, well-designed play that has been well executed on many occasions by the Patriots.
5. The Patriots defense opted against a blitz-heavy scheme to start the game and instead used OLBs Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham, as well as Chung, in outside zone coverages. This helped CBs Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty on shorter routes, allowing them to focus on the vertical routes seen in Mike Martz’s offense. In addition, ILBs Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton were frequently used in some of the deeper zones they’ve played this season, protecting against crossing patterns in the intermediate level.
6. Patriots DE Gerard Warren’s late first-quarter sack of Bears QB Jay Cutler was forced in large part by Cunningham, who beat Webb around the corner and pressured Cutler. It was Cunningham who wrapped his arms around Cutler before Warren came in to finish the deed.