After 7 weeks, the Patriots are once again on the top of the NFL. Last year the Patriots started 5-2 after a sluggish 2-2 start that was capped by a MNF blowout in Kansas City. This year, no team has come out of the gate better than the Patriots this year. The 2014 season is reminiscent of the 2003 season and the 2015 season has followed the script of 2004 through the first 7 weeks. The Patriots don't continually beat teams because they can out-talent or out-scheme teams, they win with a fundamentally sound approach on the ball and being able to disguise their offensive and defensive looks.
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The biggest example of this would be how Rob Gronkowski tricks the Jets to not covering him on the Patriots final TD drive to put the team up by 10 with less than 2 minutes to go. With a 2nd and 3 situation from the Jets 15 yard line, the Jets dial up an Man Cover 0, overload blitz from the offense's left with the defensive back peeling off if the TE doesn't stay in and block. Gronkowski shows the Jets that he's in to block, but in reality he's trying to get Marcus Gilchrist to bite on that move and blitz. Gilchrist takes the cheese and Gronk sneaks behind him. Brady lobs a ball to him and Gronk has an easy TD run. It was a case where the Jets didn't poorly read their keys, but a case where the Patriots outsmarted the Jets with a perfect disguise.
Tecmo Bowl Version
Another example is when the Colts lined up for a fake punt. The Colts thought they could outsmart the Patriots with a fake punt formation to try to get the Patriots to illegally substitute a 12th player on the field. Unfortunately for the Colts, the Patriots didn't blink and countered the shift. After initially moving 10 players to the swinging gate, the Patriots then moved 3 players over the new center for the play. Griff Whalen wound up snapping the ball with Brandon Bolden and Jon Bostic on top of him and Colt Anderson and the play went about as well as you expected it to go. In an ironic twist of fate, the Colts not only epic failed on the play call, but they also did not line up properly. The Colts were flagged for an illegal formation penalty because there were only 2 players lined up on the ball, which was declined by the Patriots since they got the ball on a turnover by downs. That ultimately embarrassed the Colts on national television and now their locker room is in dysfunction.
This one goes back to the 2014 playoffs and the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots used the ineligible receiver wearing an eligible number formation gimmick that allowed the Patriots to put a TE at "left tackle", but was eligible because he was not covered up by another eligible number. That caused Harbaugh to lose his mind and the NFL to write a new rule in because Harbaugh and 30 other NFL coaches aren't creative enough to use that. In addition to that, the Patriots ran a TE screen with their starting left tackle who lined up in his normal spot. Solder reported as eligible to the refs, the ref announced it, and Solder pulled a similar play to what Gronkowski did against the Jets. After faking a block, he released into an open void where Brady threw him a pass and Solder was able to run it in for a 16-yard touchdown. Against the Cardinals, the Ravens tried to do the same thing, but were flagged for an illegal formation despite the fact that John Urschel tried to report his eligibility to the ref. If the Ravens could do that over, Urschel should walk over to the ref and tell him that he is eligible like Shane Vereen did in the playoffs along with the signal. Since the Ravens were dealing with an inexperienced ref, you have to prepare for that better.
The Patriots are the best team when it comes to handling situational football and Bill Belichick is not afraid to pull plays you only see in college, take ideas that other coaches come up with and improve them such as the Titans replacing their guards and tackles with skill players on a hook-and-ladder play, or even copy parts of Chip Kelly's No-Huddle Offense when the Patriots want to increase the tempo on offense. When other teams try to pull a Bill Belichick-esque innovation tactic, it blows up in their face in the form of either a negative play, a penalty, or both. The one thing that Bill Belichick does that puts him above the rest of the NFL coaches is that he actually reads the rulebook, understands how to use them to his advantage, and make sure his players are properly prepared to run that play if they need to during a game. While Belichick may not catch up to Don Shula's record for most head coaching wins since Belichick would have to coach until he's 75, his success in New England definitely one-ups Shula's success in Miami.