Patriots masters of disguising defensive looks

Duel In Dallas: New England at Dallas, 4:15 p.m. ET

New England defense working 9 to ?
If Tony Romo thought Buffalo was confusing, wait until he gets a load of what New England can do on Sunday. The Patriots will put nine guys in the box, maybe five yards off the line of scrimmage. That's when the fun begins as Romo and the offensive line are left wondering who's coming and who's dropping back in coverage. It's a guessing game and one that always favors the Patriots thanks to their versatility. They have so many players able to do so many things, it enables New England to disguise exactly what its doing right until the last second and makes it tough to read this defense.

New England: From 9 to Cover 2
Who says everything has to be difficult? From the nine in the box presnap, the Patriots will simply move into a Cover 2, leaving the four down linemen to rush and dropping seven in coverage -- five underneath and two deep. It's a basic defense, but still can force bad reads. And the threat of blitz often keeps backs in to block instead of releasing out, so the Cover 2 is that much more effective with fewer receivers out.

Cover 2 From 9 to Cover 2

New England; From 9 to Overload Blitz
From nine in the box, New England will drop off to a Cover 3 (with the CBs and S splitting the deep part of the field into thirds) and bring an overload blitz over the left side of the offensive line. The Patriots will bring a safety and outside linebacker and drop the defensive end into a zone-blitz look. This puts a lot of pressure on the left side of the line and the backs in blitz pickups. The QB may think he has a hot hole in the area the OLB vacated, not realizing the DE dropped back into coverage, which could lead to an interception.

From 9 to Overload Blitz From 9 to Overload Blitz

New England: From 9 to ILB Delayed Blitz
Tedy Bruschi (54) does this extremely well. He shows outside coverage responsibilities, seemingly following the running back out in the flat before reversing back and shooting through to the QB. A key here is the pressure on the left side of the offensive line. With the defensive end taking an outside rush, the nose tackle shooting the A gap and the outside linebacker acting likes he's coming, the O-line is forced to make tough decisions. The left tackle goes to handle the apparent blitzing OLB while the guard slides out on the end and the center deals with the nose tackle. That leaves Bruschi unaccounted for as he shoots through leaving the O-line wondering where he came from.

From 9 to ILB Delayed Blitz From 9 to ILB Delayed Blitz

New England: From 9 to Coner Fire Blitz
The Patriots love to bring a corner off the edge and he is usually unblocked. A safety will rotate over to the left with the other one in the deep middle. The OLB comes inside and the ILB acts like he's blitzing before dropping off into coverage. This is a tough defense to figure out because the holes that look like they're there really aren't. It looks like there's a hot spot where the OLB was, but the ILB actually shows up there. Or it looks like there's the receiver open on the left, but the safety is over there. This is another example of the Patriots' versatility making it impossible to get a read since there are so many interchangeable parts. They safety can be just as good in coverage as the corner. The linebackers looking like he's rushing is covering. It makes it tough for the QB and O-line to get a good read.

From 9 to Coner Fire Blitz From 9 to Coner Fire Blitz

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