For those with an interest in X’s and O’s, Bill Belichick’s weekly breakdown of plays on Patriots.com (after victories) is a worthy time investment. This week’s breakdown, from Sunday’s 37-31 win over the Bills, covers all three phases of the game:
1. Kickoff coverage solid. Belichick highlights one of the two kickoff returns in the game, early in the fourth quarter (Brad Smith for 18 yards, penalty moves it back to 6). “That’s one of the areas that I thought we really did a good job in. Of course, Stephen [Gostkowski] kicked the ball great, had a lot of touchbacks,” Belichick says. “Overall, our coverage was real good.” Belichick highlights how Julian Edelman, from the “2 position”, draws a holding penalty. There is also “good coverage inside” with Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner and Co. “They do a good job in there of creating good field position for the defense,” he says. Part of what makes the play successful is Gostkowski’s hang time and directional kick. Good leverage by Patriots coverage players.
2. Brady-to-Woodhead connection, with Gronkowski assist. Belichick then calls up a big third-down conversion from the second quarter – Tom Brady to Danny Woodhead for 15 yards. The ball is on the Bills’ 37-yard line and Brady is in the shotgun. It would be a 55-yard field goal from there. Woodhead runs an “angle” route, with Belichick noting how tight end Rob Gronkowski takes some coverage with him to clear out space underneath. A nice catch-and-run, and Belichick lauds Woodhead’s pass protection and punt protection at the end of the segment.
3. Ridley turns the shoulders and gets up field. Belichick then picks out Stevan Ridley’s long run of the day, a 24-yarder at the end of the third quarter. It’s first-and-10 at the New England 37. “We did a good job on some of the running plays of just trying to get right into the defense – attack them and get downhill. ‘Rid’ does a nice job of hitting this,” Belichick says, pointing out key blocks by tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Ryan Wendell and right guard Donald Thomas. Once the running lane is created, Belichick touched on Ridley being able to turn his shoulders and get downhill. “That helped set up play-action for us,” Belichick notes.
4. Coverage pairs up with rush in red zone. On third-and-12 with 12:42 remaining in the second quarter, the Patriots came up with a red-zone stop, as Rob Ninkovich is credited with a sack. Belichick points out how it is good coverage in the secondary against receiver Stevie Johnson (who is double-covered) and others. That forces quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to step up in the pocket, and all four rushers (Jermaine Cunningham, Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich) are there as he does.
5. McCourty’s game-ending interception -- scissors route denied. On the game-ending interception by Devin McCourty, Belichick says, “This is really the play of the game.” The Patriots are in a two-deep zone with safeties McCourty and Steve Gregory covering their respective halves of the field, and linebacker Jerod Mayo drops back to the middle. Belichick points out how it appears the Bills want to run a “scissors” play (inside receiver breaks out, while the outside receiver breaks in). Belichick opines that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was probably looking to the other side of the field, didn’t have it, and thus was coming back to his second option. “That was a big one for us, another red-area stop,” Belichick says.