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Film room: Fullback by committee sparks the Patriots’ ground game while the Jets get confused by Cover 0

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A look at the film behind New England’s win in New York.

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New England Patriots took down the New York Jets on Monday night in another dominating performance. New York came into this game with some upset aspirations coming off of a surprising win against the Dallas Cowboys. This was nothing like Dallas, however, and the Patriots showed why their defense is so good right from the start of their 33-0 domination.

Like you saw on the broadcast, the Patriots lit the Jets up with Cover 0 pressures and confused quarterback Sam Darnold, who had a rough night. Bill Belichick sure does like to confuse young, opposing QBs and he did it again on Monday. Le’Veon Bell, meanwhile, provided some upside for the Jets with a strong performance on the ground, but the Jets could never string together a drive.

On offense, New England used a number of different position players at fullback to spark the running game, and Tom Brady kept the chains moving with his 31 completions for 249 yards. However, the Jets collapsed the pocket a number of times and New England made some bad errors in pass protection. Let’s take a look at the coaches film to see how it went down...

Patriots defense

1. Matching personnel

Dime 2-3-6

The Patriots matched up well with the Jets Monday night. They used different personnel groupings based on how many receivers New York had on the field. If the Jets had four receivers on the field, for example, the Patriots matched that with dime personnel (2-3-6 = two defensive linemen, three linebackers, six defensive backs).

Nickel 3-3-5

If the Jets had three receivers on the field, the Patriots matched that with nickel personnel (3-3-5 = three defensive linemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs). They went to two fronts from this personnel grouping. One front had four defenders on the line of scrimmage with two inside linebackers behind them. Notice, that this can also be called a 2-4-5 because defensive end John Simon is lining up as an outside linebacker edge rusher in this front (shoutout to Paul Swanson on Twitter for pointing this out).

The other front they used in nickel was a 3-3-5 personnel group that had five defenders on the line of scrimmage — three down-linemen and two ends in a two-point stance — with one inside linebacker behind them.

Base 3-4

Finally, if the Jets had less than three receivers on the field, the Patriots matched that with base personnel (3-4-4 = three defensive linemen, four linebackers, four defensive backs).

2. Bell leads the charge on offense with an impressive running performance

The Jets’ lone bright spot on offense was Le’Veon Bell getting carries. The offseason signing had 70 yards on 15 carries as the Jets finished the night with 82 total rushing yards on 18 attempts (4.5 yards per carry). One way the Jets had success on the ground was by running inside zone out of spread formations:

Another way they ran the ball well was out of bigger personnel groupings with one or two receivers where they could do some power running (duo and counter).

From 11-personnel, the Jets had success pulling linemen by running GT Counter (back-side guard and tackle pull-blocks) and power (back side guard pulls):

3. Patriots confuse Sam Darnold and the Jets O-Line with Cover 0

As noted above, Sam Darnold had a rough night against New England while completing just 34.4% of his passes on 86 passing yards and four interceptions. Part of the narrative that Darnold was “seeing ghosts” came from the Patriots’ Cover 0 pressure and disguise packages. Cover 0 typically works because the defense will blitz more defenders than the offense has pass protectors, so at least one rusher will always come in unblocked.

However, this means that the defense must cover the offense’s receivers one-on-one with no help deep. A simple completion can turn into a touchdown against Cover 0. New England was able to get pressure while still providing their defensive backs with help, though. They did this by lining up on the line of scrimmage as if they were sending everyone, and outnumbering the pass protection before dropping one or two defenders off the line and into coverage after getting an offensive lineman to commit to blocking them:

Patriots Offense

1. Not much success on the ground

New England did not have a great day on the ground. Their runners finished the night with 56 yards on 29 carries (1.93 yards per carry). This is not so surprising, though, considering the Jets are sixth in rushing yards allowed this season (553) and second in rushing yards per attempt at 3.3. What was surprising, however, was that when the Patriots had success running the ball, it was usually with a fullback which they don’t have on their roster.

Tight end Eric Tomlinson did a great job leading the way for the Patriots’ runners on Monday night, running lead draw and counter:

The Patriots also had success running the ball with a fullback at the goal line as all three of their rushing touchdowns came from such an alignment. This time, however, New England used tight end Benjamin Watson, offensive lineman James Ferentz, and even linebacker Elandon Roberts at fullback to lead the way for Sony Michel into the end zone. They used a toss crack, a goal line G lead, and a goal line Wide Zone BOSS call to get Michel his three touchdowns:

2. Pass Protection problems continue

New England struggled yet again in pass protection. Although Tom Brady had 249 yards and completed 68.9% of his passes, the Jets did a good job of taking away his quick options and collapsing the pocket, something the Bills also did in Week 4. Marcus Cannon had a rough day at right tackle, as he got beat quickly a few times by the Jets’ edge rushers, and it seemed like the interior of the O-Line had some communication issues, as they made some errors that led to quick pressure up the middle:

Conclusion

Overall, this was another great, all-around performance by the Patriots. Their defense remains the best in the league and their offense leads the league in points. However, they will face much tougher opponents in the coming weeks like Cleveland, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City. Each team packs more of a punch in areas that New England has shown weaknesses in.

Number one has to be pass protection, as it seems like the offensive line is having trouble blocking some simple four and five-man rushes. They have faced some good pass rushing teams so far, but it will get even tougher. They also are still struggling on the ground, as they’re not the same 2018 team that had David Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, and James Develin. It will be interesting to see who gets major snaps at fullback next week of if the fullback-by-committee approach continues.

Out of all of these weaknesses and leaks though, the Patriots certainly look like they are the best man coverage defense in the league, which allows them to crank up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, while Tom Brady continues to distribute the football where it needs to go.