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Film room: Patriots defense shines again, and we get our first look at Antonio Brown

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Related: Film room: How the Patriots used Antonio Brown in his debut against the Dolphins

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

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.

Lead Iso

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.

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.


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:

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.

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:

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).

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.

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.


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...