The New England Patriots going into Miami on Sunday as historic 18.5 point favorites seemed to be a big storyline last week. The Patriots had all kinds of obstacles that could’ve stood in their way, like Antonio Brown’s first game plus the news about him, and the fact that the Patriots were going up against their former coaches in Miami. However, the team showed how good it really is, not letting any noise get to it as usual, and dismantling the Dolphins 43-0.
There’s some good stuff to unpack here, but like any blowout game, there’s not going to be too much important stuff to analyze since the Patriots had pretty much run away with the game by the 4th quarter.
Patriots on Offense
1. Utilizing Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown showed glimpses of just how explosive this offense can be with him on the field. He fits so many key traits needed to play receiver in this offense. Brown can get open versus zone coverage with his quick cuts and good understanding of where to sit against zone. Against man, he can separate using his feet as well as his hands and body as you’ll see in the back-shoulder fade clip where he scored his first touchdown. Brown can also make up for what the Patriots lost in Cordarrelle Patterson and then some by making plays in space off jet sweeps and screens.
Here’s every catch from AB in Miami:
How the Patriots used Antonio Brown:— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
AB takes this offense to a whole nother level. He knows how to break open vs zone, finding the open space, he can separate vs Man coverage, and he can make plays in space on things like jet sweeps pic.twitter.com/FONw8fzJFW
2. Run sets up the pass and pass sets up the run
The Patriots also tore the Dolphins defense up by way of their strong ground game coupled with realistic play action fakes. The Patriots are masters of disguise and are one of the best in the league at making their run look like play action and their play action look like run. As a defense, you’re taught to read your keys to determine if it’s pass or run, but New England takes that and turns it around. They pull a guard and still throw the ball. They have their fullback lead block a linebacker at the line of scrimmage and still throw the ball, so for a linebacker or safety, it’s hard to know what’s really coming when Tom Brady puts the ball in the running back’s belly.
Tight end off the line of scrimmage
First off, I noticed that when the tight end was off the ball, the Patriots ran their “Crunch” scheme, which is a trap running concept where the tight end “wham” blocks a defensive lineman. They also ran their counter play to the weak side when the tight end was off the ball.
I loved the Patriots run game vs Miami and the ways they used Play Action off of it to create big plays.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
When the Pats lined up with their Tight End off the line of scrimmage, they either ran Crunch where the Tight End "Whams" the 3 technique or Counter https://t.co/bdd1ZGMANX pic.twitter.com/RMOMjPSRSg
1 back power
If you read my Pats Playbook post about the Patriots’ favorite running play, 1 back power, you’ll know what’s coming up here. The Patriots double team the 3-technique on the strong side up to the weak side linebacker and pull a guard to block the strong side linebacker from 1 back.
When the Patriots go play action off of this run, they release the tight end who usually will run right past the linebackers who still think it’s run.
Here’s the Pats running 1 back power and then running play action off of that run for a wide open throw to Matt LaCosse.
Here's the Patriots running their typical 1 back power run.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
The first clip is the running play, the second clip is the play action pass off of the run action. pic.twitter.com/PS7fMTK7vk
The Patriots also ran a fantastic play action pass off of another one of their favorite runs: Lead Iso, which I also broke down in my Pats Playbook series. This play isolates James Develin as a lead blocker on a linebacker to create a two way go for the running back behind him.
Another fantastic Run/Play Action counter here:— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
The Pats love to run this Lead Iso BOB (Back on 'Backer) play that isolates James Develin as a lead blocker on a Linebacker.
Here they are running it in the first quarter: pic.twitter.com/HbFsPy8c4S
That run was not a very successful one but it did open up a play action pass later on in the game. The Patriots block the Lead Iso play the exact same way they did in the first quarter. Only this time, the tight end, Matt LaCosse, releases from his block on the outside linebacker and runs downfield where no one covers him because everyone in the box still thinks it’s run.
And here's the Play Action off of it. The Patriots are masters at making their runs look like their play actions and vice versa. This initially looks like the same exact play, but the Tight End releases from his block and is wide open pic.twitter.com/0mZsjhSUm9— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
Patriots on Defense
1. Stopping the run from 3-4 and 2-4-5
The Dolphins continued their running game woes against New England. The Patriots were far less aggressive in their run defense this week than they were last week against Pittsburgh. We saw plenty of run stuffs from New England even when they had two safeties deep, compared to the Steelers game where Patrick Chung was almost always in the box as the extra hat with only one safety deep.
The Patriots went to their 3-4 defense on most base downs and shut down the run from it. They rotated Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, Michael Bennett and Chase Winovich as the three interior defenders with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and John Simon rotating snaps at outside linebacker. They also rotated through Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley at inside linebacker. Here’s some pictures of the front:
Miami post game notes:— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
The Pats went to this 34 front on base downs and did a great job stopping the run with it
They rotated Guy, Shelton, Butler, Bennett & Winovich as the 3 interior defenders
Rotated Hightower, Roberts & Bentley at ILB
Rotated Van Noy, Collins & Simon at OLB pic.twitter.com/qvv2lzRM6q
The Dolphins had six carries for three yards against this front and it was important, as Miami quickly abandoned the run game. The Dolphins again showed some versatility by throwing different types of zone and man runs at the Patriots, but the results were all the same. The Patriots’ defensive linemen stacked and shed well and freed up the rest of the defense, which made some great tackles in space.
Here's clips of the Pats playing the run from this front.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
The Dolphins had 6 carries for 3 yards against it. pic.twitter.com/y3ySoh8gPM
New England also went to a 2-4-5 look on base downs, similar to what they employed against Pittsburgh. They used this front in the second half and towards the end of the game, so a bunch of guys played different positions in this front, but again, Miami had no success in getting their ground game going. Here’s some pictures of the front:
The Patriots also stopped the run from this 2-4-5 look, similar to the front they employed on base downs against Pittsburgh last week: https://t.co/e3K1dNSkdO pic.twitter.com/H70koZLcY3— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
And here’s clips of the Dolphins running it into this defense. In the later clips, you’ll see Patrick Chung in the role of an inside ‘backer in this 2-4-5. He’s so versatile, I treat him like a safety or a legit linebacker if he’s lined up in that role (personnel wise).
Here's the Dolphins running the ball into this 2-4-5 look pic.twitter.com/23Cdk7asmk— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
2. Third down defense is great again
On third downs, the Patriots played the same defense that they did last week against Pittsburgh: 3-man lines with one or more linebacker(s) hovering over the guard(s). It’s a flexible and confusing defense because the offense has no idea who’s coming. However, they do know that the Patriots will probably be in cover 1, although that doesn’t really matter because the Patriots are so good at running it. On Sunday, coupling the Patriots elite man coverage skills with various rushes and stunts on third down meant the Dolphins were coming off the field.
They rotated Chase Winovich, Kyle Van Noy and Shilique Calhoun as the edge rushes with either Adam Butler or Michael Bennett at the nose tackle spot.
On 3rd downs, the Pats went to their typical 3 man line with Winovich, Van Noy and Calhoun rotating as the edge rushers and Adam Butler/Bennett at the Nose Tackle.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
They ran tons of cover 1 behind this front as they usually do and got Miami off the field consistently pic.twitter.com/icDyZQAMii
As you’ll see from these clips, the Dolphins receivers could rarely shake free from the Patriots defensive backs, and the Patriots pass rush quickly collapsed the pocket, making life miserable for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Here's some clips of the Patriots on 3rd downs where you'll see their sticky man coverage (cover 1) that the Dolphins never really broke free from + the variety of straight rushes/stunts they sent pic.twitter.com/zecPpS45kh— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 18, 2019
Overall, the Patriots performed the way they should’ve and blew out the Dolphins. The Dolphins never really looked like they were in this game, but there are still plenty of things to take away from the film. Antonio Brown performed great early and should do even better as him and Brady get used to each other. The Patriots ground game continues to roll and their play action game is really confusing second level defenders.
On defense, they shut down the run for the second week in a row, this time from a 3-4 and 2-4-5 defense. The Miami quarterbacks combined for 186 yards, four interceptions, and zero points, as the Patriots’ third down defense shined once again, getting Miami off the field almost every time (Dolphins went 2-of-15 on third down).
On to New York...