The Patriots broke a fourth-quarter tie with the Green Bay Packers after a trick play involving wide receiver Julian Edelman throwing to running back James White picked up 37 yards and put New England at the 2-yard line, in position for the go-ahead touchdown. The Patriots would go on to win 31-17.
Here's how the double-pass play worked, how White got open, what happened on defense and more nuggets to know from NFL Next Gen Stats, with some help from ESPN NFL writer Matt Bowen.
The play: On second-and-6 at the Packers' 39-yard line with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 17-17 contest, Tom Brady took a shotgun snap and threw a backward pass to Edelman wide right. Edelman then threw back across the field to White, who sped up the sideline behind blockers for a 37-yard gain, putting the Patriots on the 2-yard line.
Three plays later, White scored on a 1-yard touchdown, putting New England up 23-17. The Patriots would hold on, winning 31-17 to move to 7-2 on the season.
What happened: With 11 personnel on the field (1RB, 1TE, 3WR), the Patriots showed the double-pass concept to set up a backside RB screen. The Packers were set up in a split safety alignment with six defenders in the box and sent three pass-rushers. When Edelman caught the ball from Brady, there were 6.2 yards -- not to mention receivers Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan -- between him and the nearest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. But that paled in comparison to when White caught the ball a few seconds later and had 9.8 yards between him and linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who was the nearest defender at the time and was off to White's right. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Edelman had 24.8 yards of air distance on his throw.
White reached 16.7 mph on his run down the left sideline, which is nowhere near his top speed. He reached 20.1 mph as a ball carrier following a reception in Week 4.
Linebacker Antonio Morrison originally ran toward Edelman following the first pass but turned around and eventually chased down White. Morrison covered 61.2 yards of ground from the snap to the tackle, temporarily saving a touchdown.
Why it worked: Pre-snap, Edelman motioned to the core of the formation out of a trips set with Brady swinging the ball outside. That forced the Packers' defensive linemen and second-level defenders to flow play-side to Edelman, with tight end Dwayne Allen releasing vertically down the field to occupy the top of the secondary. Edelman has an option designed into the play: Throwback screen or take a deep shot to Allen if he has an opening.
With the defenders now removed, White slipped to the backside of the formation with the offensive line in a position to run the screen pass. That allowed Edelman to throw the ball back to White with blockers out in front. And then it was just off to the races. It was a great example of the Patriots building off a double-pass concept that had already been put on film, as shown in the animation from NFL Next Gen Stats below.
Stat to know: Edelman might not be an NFL quarterback -- it was his first regular-season pass attempt of his NFL career, despite playing quarterback in college at Kent State -- but the defense was such a nonfactor on this pass that he surely had faced far tougher throws back in his college days. The pass to White had a 90 percent completion probability after considering factors such as the lack of pressure on Edelman and the distance between White and the defense.
Edelman has had two other NFL pass attempts, going 1-of-2 with a touchdown in the playoffs.
Win-probability swing: 16.7 percent. The Patriots were favored to win (64 percent) before the double-pass play, but they had an 81 percent chance afterward.
Next up: The Patriots move to 7-2, as this play helped seal the win. Following the victory, the Patriots have a greater than 99 percent chance to reach the playoffs, while the Packers' chances fall to just 34 percent. The Pats go on the road to Tennessee next week to play the Titans, while the 3-4-1 Packers get the Miami Dolphins at home.