Occasionally, the Patriots will empty their backfield and send a running back out wide in a spread formation. Given that BenJarvus Green-Ellis' passing-catching skills are unlikely to be confused with those of someone like Marshall Faulk, it's easy to wonder why the Patriots would even utilize him in such fashion. Sunday's game against the Jets showed exactly why.
Coming off a pass interference penalty, the Patriots came out with Deion Branch and Wes Welker to the left of Brady, while tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were to Brady's right, with Green-Ellis split out wide. The Jets had been mixing up their coverages trying to keep the Patriots guessing on who would be defending the likes of Branch and Welker, but it seems the Jets were so conscious of trying to find out where those two and the tight ends were, they completely forgot to get someone over on Green-Ellis.
Brady got the running back's attention and zipped him a pass that turned into a 13-yard gain. Two plays later, Green-Ellis capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. So what exactly happened from New England's perspective?
"We saw that in the San Diego game, a couple of times with [Deion] Branch," explained coach Bill Belichick. "A lot of times, defensively you get the call; you’re trying to get matched up. Depending on what the call is, you might have to match to a certain receiver or go to the slot or whatever it is. Sometimes defensively you leave those receivers or those guys get uncovered -- could be the outside guy, sometimes it’s the inside guy. You get a guy out there and somebody doesn’t adjust out. The quarterback should always do that when he comes out, looks over, sees the whole field and sees a guy uncovered. Or maybe a bad matchup, maybe there’s a linebacker on a receiver or something -- they just end up that way. Tom was able to take advantage of it."
Belichick went on to explain that, in noticing that situation, all Brady really has to do is be sure Green-Ellis knows the ball is coming.
"Really it doesn’t make any difference what everyone else does," said Belichick. "If that’s the situation, they could stand on their head. Just get the ball to the guy that is uncovered. I first remember seeing that, [Dan] Fouts did that, he was very good at it. They had a lot of, obviously, good receivers, in addition to their receivers with [Chuck] Muncie and [Kellen] Winslow and the rest of that group. He would do that. He had a call and it was just -- [snaps his fingers] -- snap the ball and give it to him. He was under center most of the time, so just get the snap and he would just zip it over to whoever. [If] the defense wasn’t lined up or if they had a guy uncovered, he’d just call for the ball and get it and fire it to them. It’s been around for awhile."