McDaniels had a package of plays for us that came out of a formation I called ‘Trips Bunch.’:
This is the 1st play of the game. You can see the bunch set of receivers to the top of the screen. The offensive line is going to double the defensive lineman in front of them and then work their way to the Linebacker (called inside zone). Gronk (lined up as an HBack from the bunch set) is going to block Murphy all the way down the line. This type of play is called a ‘split zone’ because the offensive line is blocking inside zone and the backs (Hback and Running Back) are going to split: go in opposite directions.
Normally a defense would defend this by having Murphy stay outside and play contain. The Inside Linebackers (Riley and Keenan) would play the gaps they are lined up over. But we came with a wrinkle in how we defended this, as shown by the red lines. First, Murphy did not play contain and shot up the line hard and fast. He was replaced by Riley. Riley was replaced by Keenan, and Keenan was replaced by Jarrett. All gaps are still accounted for and Murphy is allowed to run up the line and create havoc.
Now you can see Murphy working up the line hard. This really constricts how much cut back room the RB has. Meanwhile Riley is flowing over to replace Murphy and keep contain. Keenan has taken over Riley’s original gap. Jarrett is attempting to replace Keenan’s original gap–which is now a big hole that I drew a curved line over. Notice Trenton Robinson coming down to back up Jarrett.
Here the TE cracks down on Jarrett and drives him all the way back into Trenton. Trenton takes the worst angle possible and fills the same gap Jarrett was trying to fill which really helped out the TE’s job, who now has a 2 for 1 block. Meanwhile the arrow is showing you the RB running right through a wide open hole. Here’s the video:
Okay, remember that Riley-Murphy gap exchange? I think McDaniels either saw that and wanted to test Riley’s ability to contain, OR he saw how up field Murphy got and thought he had contain (normally he would) and wanted to test that. Because the next time the Pats come out and run Split Zone out of the bunch formation is on the 2nd Drive, 1st play:
Notice the same gap exchange between Riley and Murphy. McDaniels attacks this with an Amendola end-around. Video:
The very next play is another Bunch set but there is no Split. This is straight up Inside zone PLUS both WRs out of the bunch will be blocking our safeties. Both WRs win their blocks. New England WRs being more physical than our Safeties was a problem all game long:
The next Bunch set is a ‘trap’ play. Basically in a trap play, one offensive lineman does NOT block the defensive lineman across from him. He will run by him and work to the linebacker level. Another offensive player will come in–unexpectedly to the defensive lineman–and “trap” or block that defensive lineman. In this case the defensive lineman getting trapped is Baker:
Out of the bunch Gronk will “trap” Baker and Edelman will block Goldson. Baker is ready for the trap play and fights back Gronk’s block. Goldson is seemingly caught off guard by Edelman’s block. Note this is the 3rd quarter and the Pats have been blocking with their WRs out of the bunch set all game and Goldson is STILL like “oh wtf?”
Bottom arrow is Gronk trapping Baker and the top arrow is Edelman engulfing Goldson. Meanwhile, I have no idea who Culliver thinks he needs to cover downfield. All 11 Pats are on your screen and the run is in full progress. I think Culliver is making a business decision to not involve himself in blocking Blount. But you tell me:
Just…I mean, here:
What does this all mean:
We had no answer for the WRs and TEs blocking our DBs out of the bunch formation. I have to think shedding the crack/down blocks is not being drilled in practice for our DBs because we looked completely lost in how to handle it. Plus, guys that were playing deep coverage were not coming up to play the run either out of incompetence or fear (see: Culliver.)
In the NFL there are certain things you just can’t defend. Jameis Winston making pinpoint throws to a 6’5 power forward, Brady throwing darts underneath to Edelman against zone coverage, Gronk going up and getting one, etc. But to not be able to stop simple run concepts has really put us in a bind. By late 3rd quarter we were in a 4-4 defense trying to desperately stop the run game and left 3 guys outside the box to protect everything else. We were in the same predicament last week and Mike Evans made us pay. What happens next week versus Drew Brees?