Every week following a Patriots victory, coach Bill Belichick details a few plays that highlight what he felt was a big part of the team's performance. The "Belichick Breakdown" is posted on Patriots.com, and for those with an interest in X's and O's, it is often informative.
This week's breakdown focuses on the running game, which produced 162 yards on 35 carries (4.6-yard average) against the Titans.
"In the running game, it comes down to two things," Belichick says, before writing the words on the screen. "Number one, we have to block the line of scrimmage. And number two, the running back has to make some yardage on his own."
Belichick then highlights two plays in which those two things come to life:
1. Stevan Ridley 17-yard run. Belichick spotlights a third-and-1 off-tackle run to the left, with 7:43 remaining in the first quarter. It features zone blocking up front against a Titans blitz, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez deliver solid blocks on the edge -- Gronkowski sealing back inside and Hernandez taking care of the edge. The blocking up front ensures a 5-yard gain, and then it's up to Ridley to make safety Michael Griffin miss, which he does to produce a bigger gain. Hernandez's work as a blocker stands out here, as that is an area in which his play is not often noted.
2. Ridley 15-yard run. Belichick spotlights a first-and-10 off-tackle run to the left with 7:17 remaining in the second quarter. Gronkowski motions from right to left before aligning to the left of tackle Nate Solder. The handoff to Ridley is a nice counter to the nickel personnel the Titans have on the field (against the Patriots' base personnel of 2 WR/2 TE). The play features zone blocking up front, and with the safeties slow to come down to support, there is opportunity for a big play. Solder and Gronkowski clearly establish the edge to ensure at least a 5-yard gain, and interior linemen Ryan Wendell and Logan Mankins are solid with a combination block inside, before Ridley makes the safety miss for a bigger gain. The play is well-blocked so Ridley has two clear lanes from which to choose.