One of the packages that I thought could help offset the loss of Julian Edelman was the use of both James White and Dion Lewis coming out of the backfield. While the Patriots did employ this package against the Chiefs it wasn’t all that effective, but it really should’ve been.
In today’s film study I pulled a third quarter play to take a bit of a closer look at why the offense seemed to get off track without Amendola. At this point the Patriots are up 17-14 with just under 10 minutes left in the third. This is a third-and-12, the kind of tough down Edelman lived to convert. In this situation the Patriots didn’t have much to work with, but the direction of the offense should be obvious going forward.
From the presnap read, it appears to be man coverage, though it’s not clear if it will be a two-deep look or just a single-deep one. Either way, with Lewis and White in the backfield this should be a pretty good matchup underneath with Cooks, Hogan and Gronk pulling the coverage downfield.
Post-snap the coverage becomes clear. It is man with Eric Berry rolling into single safety deep coverage and Gronk getting double teamed up the seam by the other safety. Both Cooks and Hogan are running comeback routes along the sideline, while Lewis and White are both chipping the pass rushers off the edge then going out into routes. Part of the problem on this play was Allen Bailey’s penetration spooks Brady, perhaps that’s why he missed Dion Lewis matched up against 34-year-old linebacker Derrick Johnson in coverage.
Brady never looks in Lewis or White’s direction and that allows the coverage to converge on both of them. Instead he tries to hit Hogan’s comeback, which at the point of release is probably the second-worst option after Gronk getting double teamed in the middle. It’s also a bad throw that is too high from Brady. The lack of a quick underneath crossing route that Brady could hit in stride, or a deep Dig like Edelman loves to run on these downs, is clear.
Going forward Brady cannot pass up these matchups underneath for Lewis and White. With all the coverage being pulled down the field, exploiting the matchups Lewis and White get will be key.How many teams are equipped to cover two backs like that? Not a lot. It’s easy to see a more successful play where the ball gets out quick to one of them, they cause the first tackler to miss and then they’re home free to a first down. Something to watch for against the Saints.