Playoffs Jets vs Patriots: How to Stop the Jets Run Game?

We've looked at how the Patriots can beat the Jets by stopping their run game, but how can the Patriots accomplish that goal? Let's look at what the Patriots did in the Week 13 match-up.

The Patriots opened the game in a non-traditional heavy 4-2-5 sub-defense. Here's the line-up:

ROLB: Jermaine Cunningham
DT: Gerard Warren
NT: Vince Wilfork
LOLB: Tully Banta-Cain
RLB: Jerod Mayo
LLB - Gary Guyton
RCB - Kyle Arrington
NCB - Darius Butler
S - James Sanders
S - Brandon Meriweather
LCB - Devin McCourty

Looking at this line-up, it's clear that the Patriots had two focuses: 1) Stop the run with the front four and Mayo, and 2) Take away the pass with the five players in the secondary and Guyton. Of course, this time around the Patriots will most likely feature different personnel- so let's take a look at what happened the first time around and what should happen on Sunday.

Here's a fun fact from the Week 13 game: The Jets did not run at Cunningham the entire first half. In fact, the Jets ran to the left once the entire first half and they were stuffed on 3rd and 1 for no gain. They spent the whole time running up the middle and running to the right at Tully Banta-Cain. As Cunningham returns from his injury, look for him to have a solid role on the Patriots defense as the Jets run away from him. However, Banta-Cain remains a weak link in the defensive front, so don't be surprised if Cunningham plays LOLB and rising star Eric Moore slots himself at ROLB. A line of Cunningham - Warren - Wilfork - Moore would be extremely difficult to run against, especially with Mayo and Spikes clogging the lanes.

Normally, the Patriots would wait until later in the game to play this style of defense because a zone in the middle of the field opens wide. The defensive line of four are all trying to reach the back field and contain Sanchez, while the secondary of five are all dropped into coverage to prevent plays over the top. That leaves the two linebackers in the middle of the field- Mayo and Guyton/Spikes/Fletcher to watch the zone in the middle of the field and in the flats. I believe that Guyton and Fletcher will see a larger role than Spikes in order to cover these regions of the field.

Projected Defensive Line-up:
ROLB: Eric Moore
DT: Gerard Warren
NT: Vince Wilfork
LOLB: Jermaine Cunningham
RLB: Jerod Mayo
LLB - Gary Guyton
RCB - Kyle Arrington
NCB - Pat Chung (to keep him closer to the box)
S - James Sanders (or Jarrad Page to watch Dustin Keller)
S - Brandon Meriweather
LCB - Devin McCourty

This would be the optimum front four in terms of generating pressure on Sanchez and stopping the run. This would also be the best chance for the Patriots to take away the Jets passing game. Don't be surprised if the Patriots stay in this formation for most of the game because this is their typical "sub-defense" that they use for 50% of their defensive snaps.

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