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Xs & Os: Penetration from ILBs

For those who appreciate Xs and Os and why plays work and others don't, coach Bill Belichick's weekly breakdown of plays after victories is a worthy time investment. In this week's "Belichick Breakdown" on Patriots.com, which looks back at a few key plays in Saturday's victory over Miami, penetration from inside linebackers is highlighted (link here):

1. Fletcher shoots through and good team defense. Belichick highlights a second-quarter run play in which the Patriots tackle Reggie Bush for a 4-yard loss. He says the Dolphins like to pull center Mike Pouncey to the outside, because he's athletic and can run, so the Patriots countered by running their inside linebackers through some of those openings. Belichick then shows Fletcher shooting through a gap as the run is forced outside. With Fletcher helping force the play outside, safety James Ihedigbo being blocked, and linebacker Rob Ninkovich setting the edge, it makes cornerback Devin McCourty the "replace player" in run force. Belichick highlights how each defender carries out his responsibilities and it's good team defense.

2. More pressure from Fletcher inside. Belichick fires up a second-and-10 play in the fourth quarter in which pressure from Fletcher blitzing through the "B" gap on a blitz leads to an incompletion. Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore is under center and when the running back steps away to block the safety, and the tight end releases with safety Sergio Brown covering him, it leaves Fletcher as a free rusher in a nicely schemed up call to force an incompletion. That incompletion leads to...

3. Mayo joins the pressure party. Belichick then follows up with the third-and-10 play. The Patriots show a different look, with a safety blitz that is picked up by the running back. When the offensive tackle blocks the defensive end, it frees up linebacker Jerod Mayo to shoot through the gap and record the sack. "That was a big stop for us on third down, to get the ball back for our offense and score to take a 10-point lead," he says.