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Patriots-Saints Gamechangers: A look at one of the plays that decided week 2

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Chris Hogan found his stride against New Orleans.

NFL: New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints USA TODAY NETWORK

Simply put, this game was a blowout. The Patriots came out with touchdowns on their first three drives, sprinting to a 20-3 lead (Stephen Gostkowski cost them a point, missing the PAT after the first score). It’s tough to highlight any plays that really swung this game since it never really felt in doubt. You could argue that Rob Gronkowski’s 69th career touchdown could be one, or the opening touchdown to Rex Burkhead. While Gronk’s touchdown was the biggest play of the game, and Burkhead’s touchdown set the tone, it’s tough to call either of those plays one’s that swayed the game since the blowout felt on from the beginning.

Instead, the real “one play” is really gonna be 6 plays. A second quarter drive ending in a 2 yard Mike Gillislee touchdown. After reaching a 20-3 lead, the Saints responded with a touchdown and a field goal—sandwiched by a Patriots punt—to cut it to a 20-13 game. For a moment, it felt like New Orleans might make a game out of it. Instead, the Patriots responded: 17 yard pass to Gronk, 7 yard run by James White, 24 yard pass to Chris Hogan, run for no gain by Lewis, 22 yard pass to Brandin Cooks, 2 yard touchdown run by Mike Gillislee. 6 plays, 75 yards, 3:31, touchdown. Game over.

Even in this drive, there wasn’t one play to isolate. It could’ve been the Cooks catch, but Tom Brady underthrew him to temporarily cost a touchdown. Instead, the biggest play of the drive will be highlighted—Chris Hogans 27 yard catch and run.

This is a well-designed play that almost gets blown up. The first part of a play is a run fake off tackle to White. The right side of the line down blocks, and to really sell the run, Joe Thuney pulls. Pulling a guard to sell the fake run is one of the most convincing things an offense can do, but it comes with a price. David Andrews can’t reach the Saints defensive lineman, leaving him with a nearly free path to Brady.

Luckily, the second and third parts of the play are designed to happen quickly. The second part of the play is a fake bubble screen to Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett motions into the backfield, then leaks out as if he’s waiting for the quick pass. Hogan and Cooks fake their blocks, then release inside on crossing patterns. This is the final part of the play. Brady hits an open Hogan, who takes it and runs for a 27 yard gain.

The run fake prevents the safety and linebacker from dropping into coverage, and the screen fake pulls Dorsett’s defender in thinking he’s receiving the ball. Hogan’s defender reads the screen as well, allowing Hogan a free release into a huge open area. Let’s look at each part in still frames:

Part 1, the run fake is set up.

Part 2, with the safety and linebacker biting on the run, the fake screen is executed and Hogans window has opened up.

Part 3, Hogan and Dorsett’s defenders bite on the fake screen, and Hogan has a huge window to himself.

This is one of the best-called plays of the season so far. If Cooks was receiving the pass instead of Hogan, it’s probably a touchdown. While there wasn’t one singular play to point to this week, this drive and this play captured the tone of the game perfectly.