The Patriots’ offense was surprisingly ineffective for most of the night against the Chargers, but broke through once Julian Edelman got hot and never looked back.
Tom Brady hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders the last two weeks, and while the run game has been nearly non-existant after running wild over the Colts, they’ve still been making enough plays to win or keep it close.
Here’s what stood out reviewing the All-22 film of the offense against the Chargers.
The first drive of the game for the Pats went 17 plays for 89 yards and ended in a field goal. From that point they’d have just two more drives that lasted double-digits, and six that ended in a punt or a turn over. This is the kind of streakiness we became familiar with last year, when the Pats would go from being unstoppable one drive to not getting a first down the next.
After a run that lost yardage and an incomplete pass, the Pats faced a third-and-12 from their own 7 right off the bat. Chargers show Cover-2 then shift to Cover-1 at the snap. Brady rolls right as Vollmer pancakes his rusher, then finds Edelman who was freed up by the Chargers shift in coverage. Good for 24.
Just not a lot of push in the run game early on, blocks aren’t going very far. I don’t love Blount when the OL stinks like this, he’s great with a head of steam and can sometime make something out of nothing, but generally his explosion out of the backfield isn’t something that stands out. Usually if they hit him in the backfield, he’s going down.
Third-and-1 from the 36 and the Pats use misdirection and play fake to Develin up the gut, then toss it to Blount who goes for 9. The Pats have struggled in third/fourth-and-short this year, ranking 26th in the NFL in first down percentage. Misdirection like they use here is becoming necessary. Will this be an issue in the playoffs? I know I’ll be extra tense on every third or fourth down of two yards or less.
Jonas Gray gets two carries back-to-back and I’d like to see a little more of him. He has good explosion out of the backfield. He may be a better fit early on in games than Blount wiht the way this OL struggles to get push.
Third-and-goal from the 1 and Brady takes the sack, good coverage by the Chargers. Disappointing end to a long, plodding drive. Pats liked their power personnel in this game but it wasn’t all that powerful. Less Hooman please.
Second quarter now, Pats move to their spread offense and Brady finds LaFell for 19. A great catch in traffic by LaFell.
Blount for no gain on the next play as Ingram blows Solder back with a shot to the head. Coming in to the season I wondered if the Pats would extend Solder, but now I’m thinking his sub-par season will allow them to let him test the market then sign him to a far-more affordable deal than anticipated. This is good and bad. Is he the LT for the long term, or is it worth considering an upgrade? Regardless, with Vollmer’s age/injury history, Cannon’s regression and Solder’s play this year, they should be on the lookout for tackles in the draft. Or maybe Cameron Fleming has potential worth looking at.
LaFell fumbles and it goes for six. LaFell’s earned some good will this year so I’m not even mad at him. Let’s just hope he’s getting that out of the way now and it doesn’t continue.
Back to the spread after the Pick-Up Six and the Pats run the same play on back-to-back plays (they do this alot), first goes to Edelman on an dig for 8, then Gronk on an out for 35. The difference was on the second Te’o is showing blitz, while he was covering Gronk on the first one. This signals Freeney will have to drop and cover Gronk, thus a big gain.
Same spread formation for a the third snap in a row, just with Gronk on the other side now, but different play this time as Brady tries to hit Wright on an out-and-up from the slot. This shows some of the Patriots offensive strategy. Same looks, sometimes different plays. Sometimes the same play.
This spread formation moved the ball well, with no running back on the field. For the most part it was LaFell/Amendola on the left, Edelman on the right, with Gronk/Wright being moved from the wing to the slot.
They move Amendola into the backfield to open space for LaFell in the red zone but it falls incomplete. This formation could be deadly if they can run no huddle out of it, great combination of quickness and size.
They bring Vereen in for Amendola on third down inside the 11 yard line and Brady finds Edelman for a first-and-goal. The red zone struggles defined this game, because the offense moved the ball, at least through the air.
Brady does miss Wright on second down. Tries to force it into Edelman.
Pressure breaks down the third down play as Freeney’s patented spin move beats Solder. Pats kick the field goal and it’s 14-6.
Pats get the ball back off the Ayers inteception at the 25 yard line. This is New England’s bread and butter, making teams pay for turnovers.
Brady finds Gronk for the touchdown four plays later, is there any question where the ball is going here?
Pats force a punt with 1:32 and have a great chance to take the lead before half. They go spread with Vereen, but it takes an 11-yard gain to Gronk on third-and-9 to get things moving.
A questionable DPI call gave them 17 yards and then a screen to Vereen put them in the red zone. Two plays later comes an ugly Brady interception.
Here’s how things look just before Brady throws it. Protection is okay and Gronk is single-covered, but the pass is going to be way short and easily picked.
Of course Amendola is WIDE OPEN…
On to the second half…Let the three-and-outs begin!
After having success with the spread, the Pats go back to the their power lineup featuring Hooman/Gronk. And Tyms is on the field which signals to the defense that here comes a deep shot. The Chargers’ Cover-3 takes Tyms away.
Gronk gets 9 on second down, setting up a third-and-1, aka the Pats offensive kryptonite this year. Stork can’t seal his guy off, meaning Blount has to overpower two guys and he can’t. Punt.
Same power personnel on the next possession. Questionable. Chargers don’t bite enough on play action and the first pass falls incomplete. Wright comes in and they run out of it, but only four yards as Gronk’s block isn’t enough.
Third-and-six, Pats go spread but the pass gets tipped. Would’ve been incomplete anyway. Good coverage by Chargers and the Pats go three-and-out for the second straight possession.
Pats back on the field, still down 14-13. They first try a screen to Gronk that loses 6 yards. Then a short dumpoff to Vereen picks up 7. Great coverage by the Chargers. Pats went back to the Vereen/Wright package but everyone is covered.
Third-and-14, Chargers in a Cover-2 shell leaving no one open again. Good pressure from the right side forced the throw too. Another three-and-out (not counting the initial false start penalty that backed them up 5 yards). Gross third quarter here.
Problems continue on the next possession as Blount loses 2 yards on first down with the left side of the line being overhwhelmed, especially Solder.
Gronk picks up six on second down to set up a third-and-6. Gronk was alone on a corner out wide but it looks like he started his comeback just a little too late. Rare that that happens with Brady and Gronk. Punting again…
End of the third quarter as the Pats start to find a rhythm. Passes to Gronk go for 9 yards back-to-back as we enter the fourth quarter. An end-around to Edelman might’ve gotten more if Gronk doesn’t get blown up block at the left edge. Pats had problems over there all game.
Edelman stepping up here, with gains of 14 and 10 to get the Pats to the Chargers’ 30. But the drive stalls on third-and-3. They go spread but Brady seems to force a throw to LaFell down the sideline that is off the mark. Good coverage.
Pats take the field goal and the 16-14 lead.
Pats get the ball back after another punt and here comes the play that defined the game, Edelman’s 69-yard touchdown. Reminded me a bit of Jordy Nelson’s catch and run TD against us last weekend. Just great quickness by Edelman, and one of those kind of plays that defines a big game.
Now comes the final real possession of the game, with the Pats needing to drain the clock, they do just that. Possession starts at 6:18 and they take it all the way down to just before the Two Minute Warning.
It was a plodding drive, picking up just enough yardage to keep the chains moving, but the one big play was a 23yard run by Blount. Which was just a broken play that he cut back to the left side.
On paper this drive looks great, but it certainly wasn’t a dominant as one might think. These are drives that are critical in the playoffs and I still am a little under-confident that their run game can turn one of these in with everything on the line. It’s an area to monitor over the last three games.
Negative plays on first down certainly were a big part of this game, along with the Pats inability to run the ball out of their preferred power personnel. Was it an off game? Are the Chargers just a good run defense on this night? Or is this a real problem? We’ll see…