X's and O's: Read options/package plays

When the Patriots last took the field, they faced a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who has functional mobility to elude pressure but is at his best dropping back in the pocket and picking apart a defense.

This Monday, they'll take on Cam Newton, the centerpiece of the Carolina offense and a quarterback capable of throwing on the run and scrambling for big gains.

That stems from his athleticism and the creativity of the offensive system in Carolina.

One of the byproducts of Newton's athleticism is the incorporation of quarterback runs, a wrinkle the Patriots will need to be ready for. That includes read-option looks, which give Newton the ability to either hand the football off to an adjacent running back or keep it himself and aim to turn the corner on a defense.

The Panthers' plethora of unique backfield formations will be on display come Monday night, as will their use of package plays, a technique that is becoming more prevalent around the NFL these days.

A package play occurs when an offense breaks the huddle with multiple plays called, the resulting play which will be determined by the defense's alignment.

For example, the Panthers will break the huddle with both a run and pass play called, and it is up to Newton to determine which play to actually execute based off of the look of the defense. (For an in-depth look at package plays and a diagram of one from the Panthers, click HEREInsider).

The root of a successful package play is exposing a numerical advantage -- when there are two offensive players and just one defender, that's where the offense will attack. As a defender, it's important to be cognizant of potential package plays and maintain discipline.

The Panthers have innumerable variations of plays within their offense, many of which can involve counter or misdirection elements to them. On Monday, Patriots defenders have to be ready for the full pallet of looks from Cam and Carolina.