At second glance, this game wasn’t as close as it seemed to be live. Remove the tension of a “Brees carving our defense in a comeback win” and it was a pretty methodical strangulation by the Patriots. While I’ll await the Coaches tape before doing any real X-and-O deep dives, there was still plenty to digest here.
Here’s something that stuck out to me.
— If ever there was a picture to sum up how calm, cool and collected Brady was in the pocket check out the shot below. Brady completes this pass to James White (circled). Completely unfazed by Cameron Jordan literally right in his face. It was that kind of night for Brady.
— Cassius Marsh did provide some pressure as you can see him forcing an early throw from Brees on what was a pivotal third down in the first half. Marsh makes a nice stutter step inside and beats the tackle. Overall I was really impressed with the pass rush. Really the big plays felt like they came mostly because the secondary got tangled up or great execution by the Saints. It’s fun to see the front injected with some youthful explosion and it makes me wonder how Derek Rivers would’ve brought even more of it.
— Trey Flowers essentially moved to the Rob Ninkovich role in this game, dropping back into coverage from the left side far more than his usual spot on the right. He also stood up plenty more, allowing Adam Butler, Dietrich Wise and Cassius Marsh to be the primary pass rushers. It was a strategy that worked well. If it sticks we await Flowers’ first interception.
— The bunch sets again really gave the Patriots’ secondary problems, especially to Stephon Gilmore‘s side. Whether Gilmore was on the line of scrimmage or playing off it, the Saints had success attacking him. Here is is off, before a big play down the sideline.
— Here he is on the line, but gets effectively moved out of there by a larger wide receiver.
— This time Gilmore was just blasted out of there, resulting in a wide open big completion on third down.
— This one was at Malcolm Butler, who also got mixed up in the wash with Eric Rowe. The communication and execution on these plays has been a lot smoother in the past. It will definitely be an area of focus this week.
— Great to see the burst from Mike Gillislee as well as a couple nice fill-in runs by Dion Lewis. After some mention of “establishing a rhythm” for the running back rotation, they seemed to figure it out pretty well in this one. Though maybe Rex Burkhead‘s rib injury simplified it a bit for them? It would still seem Burkhead is the top choice on first and second down because he’s the best blend of power and catching ability.
— Here we see Burkhead’s touchdown, the play I’ll talk about in the Electro Breakdown Zone on Patshow tomorrow. He motions into the slot the runs right up the seam. Gronk pulls double coverage away from the middle of the field, leaving Burkhead open for a perfect Brady pass in the end zone.
— It really does scare me to become too over-reliant on Gronk. It’s a recipe for disaster and I’d be a fan of getting Dwayne Allen as many reps as possible.
This was a very good step forward for the Pats in all regards. Of course they still have things to work out, but the difference between week one and week two was night and day.
More breakdowns to come…