He wasn’t expected to start yesterday’s preseason contest against the Chicago Bears but despite having to do just that on short notice, New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played a very encouraging game. He displayed poise in the pocket, moved well to elude pressure and made a mostly mistake-free game.
Garoppolo played the entire first half and the initial drive of the third quarter and led his team to two touchdowns and two field goals. He attempted 21 passes, completing 16 for 181 yards and a touchdown. The 24-year old was at his best late in the second quarter, with his team trailing 11-9.
Following New England’s first touchdown of the day, the Patriots’ defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back at their own 43-yard line with 1:42 left on the clock and three timeouts in the fold. While Tom Brady, who was originally supposed to start the game, has been in this situation dozens of times, Garoppolo has not.
And it did not matter.
1-10-NE 43 (1:42) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short right to A.Derby to NE 45 for 2 yards (D.Hall; J.Timu).
The Patriots opened the drive with 11 personnel on the field. Garoppolo lined up in the shotgun with running back James White next to him; the receivers were in a 1x3 set with Chris Harper on the quarterback’s left side and A.J. Derby, Chris Hogan and Aaron Dobson to his right.
Chicago employed a zone defense with the defensive backs across the board playing off their respective men. This allowed Derby to get open in the right flat and Garoppolo, who recognized the coverage quickly and made a quick, low-risk decision, to hit him for a two-yard gain:
The offensive line (left to right: Solder, Thuney, Andrews, Kline, Cannon) did a good job of giving the young passer enough time to go through his primary reads and find Derby, who himself could have done a better job of getting out of bounce to stop the clock.
2-8-NE 45 (1:22) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short left to C.Hogan to CHI 47 for 8 yards (D.Hurst).
From the moment Derby was whistled down until the next ball was snapped, only 14 seconds passed. The offense did a good job of lining up quickly and getting everyone on the same page. On the play, the skill position players lined up in a 2x2 set with White again in the backfield next to Garoppolo. Harper (boundary) and Hogan (slot) lined up on the left, Derby (two-point stance next to Cannon) and Dobson (boundary) on the right.
This time, White did not go out on a route but instead stayed in to pass-protect. He did a good job of blocking linebacker John Timu, giving Garoppolo the time needed to hit Hogan on an 8-yard curl. Despite Timu getting close, the quarterback did not rush his decision making and mechanics and delivered a perfectly placed pass to give his team a new set of downs:
1-10-CHI 47 (1:00) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short middle to A.Derby to CHI 36 for 11 yards (J.Anderson; C.Prosinski).
The offense again hurried to the line of scrimmage quickly, lining up in the same formation as on the first play of the drive. This time, 17 seconds passed until the snap. The Bears defense played a two-deep zone and Derby did a nice job of sitting down in a soft spot to get open underneath.
As they had done all drive long, the Bears rushed four but the offensive line did a nice job of keeping the pocket clean. Garoppolo in turn did a nice job of climbing the pocket to buy additional split-seconds. His very good footwork allowed him to smoothly slide forward and deliver another precise pass for a first down:
After the completion, the Patriots took their first timeout.
1-10-CHI 36 (:54) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass incomplete deep left to C.Harper.
Coming out of the timeout, New England kept the same personnel on the field and lined up in the same formation as on the previous play. The Bears initially rushed four but Timu blitzed delayed and very timidly to apply additional pressure on the offense line, which absorbed it well, after Derby stayed home to block.
Still, despite the solid protection, Garoppolo threw the football away as no receiver was able to gain enough separation. Harper was the closest in the area of the pass – and might be the intended target on a comeback instead of a go-route – but never had a realistic chance of catching it.
2-10-CHI 36 (:48) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short middle to C.Hogan to CHI 16 for 20 yards (J.Anderson).
After the incompletion, the Patriots again came out in a 1x3 set, with White in the backfield but having protection responsibilities. New England’s offensive line – in this case Marcus Cannon – did a nice job of picking up Chicago’s corner blitz. The blitzing defensive back was originally in coverage of Chris Hogan in the right-side slot, which allowed the receiver to get a free release.
With Garoppolo having enough time in the pocket, he was able to find Hogan on a post route for a 20-yard gain. Another good decision and nice job of recognizing the play development by the young quarterback:
1-10-CHI 16 (:26) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass incomplete deep middle to C.Hogan.
Despite Hogan getting tackled in bounds, the Patriots did not call a timeout and instead hurried up to the line of scrimmage in their standard 1x3 formation. White again did not go on a route and instead was asked to pass block for Garoppolo. The quarterback again had a relatively clean pocket and did a nice job of climbing it to elude the pressure by Leonard Floyd, whom Cannon could not get off his rush lane enough.
Garppolo again threw towards Hogan, running a seam into the end zone, but this time the Bears played cover 2 man-to-man and the wide receiver was unable to gain significant separation from safety Demontre Hurst. As a result, he did not have enough space to operate and go for the slightly overthrown but otherwise probably catchable ball.
2-10-CHI 16 (:21) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass deep middle to A.Derby for 16 yards, TOUCHDOWN
On the next play, the Patriots came out in a different look with Derby in a three-point stance next to left tackle Nate Solder and Hogan in motion on the right side. The offensive line again did a good job of picking up Chicago’s four-man rush – particularly left guard Joe Thuney. The rookie was originally part of a double team but quickly slid over to stop stunting linebacker Sam Acho with one arm, giving Garoppolo all the time needed to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a pin-point pass to Derby:
The tight end did a nice job on the top of his seam route, turning around at the exact same moments he had gained a little separation between two Bears safeties. Garoppolo placed the pass exactly where it needed to be placed and despite getting hit immediately after catching it, Derby was able to hang onto the football for his first touchdown catch.
(Pass formation) TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. J.Garoppolo pass to C.Hogan is complete. ATTEMPT SUCCEEDS. pass left
After the score, the team went for two with the same personnel on the field, ableit in a slightly different formation. White was originally flexed out to the left with Dobson in a 2x2 set but moved to the quarterback’s right side to pass protect. After the snap, Hogan, originally lining up in a stacked set, ran a shallow crosser from right to left behind the defensive line.
Garoppolo once again displayed a lot of patience in the pocket and gave his receivers the time to get open. Hogan did just that, and Garoppolo delivered a quick strike for two points:
Overall, the entire drive was very well executed. The players lined up quickly, the offensive line held up well and Garoppolo looked very calm and in control. While it is only eight plays, it is definitely encouraging to see both the young quarterback and the offensive line perform at this level in a stress situation.