The New England Patriots had yet to score 30 points in a game this season entering Week 7. They jumped over that mark in spectacular fashion against the New York Jets, seemingly putting up points at will in a 54-13 rout.
Along the way, New England received contributions from every skill position player on their game day roster. Every active running back scored at least one touchdown; every active skill player touched the football at least once (the exception being wide receiver Matthew Slater, who is almost exclusively used on special teams). Whether it was on the ground or through the air, the Patriots offense got all of its talent involved.
At times, Josh McDaniels even used his players in non-standard fashion. The team’s first touchdown of the day is an example of that, with wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor hooking up on a 25-yard double pass to give New England an early lead.
Let’s take a closer look at that play.
1-10-NYJ 25 (12:49) (Shotgun) K.Bourne pass deep right to N.Agholor for 25 yards, TOUCHDOWN. backward pass from NE 10-Jones to NE 84- Bourne
Receiving the opening kickoff and taking out to the 35-yard line, the Patriots offense went to work quickly and efficiently. The unit gained 12 yards on its first play — a Damien Harris run up the middle — followed by a holding penalty against Shaq Mason and back-to-back touches by Jonnu Smith. It took New England only three plays to march from its own 35 to the New York 25.
On 1st-and-10, McDaniels used a standard 11-personnel group against a single-high coverage look. Quarterback Mac Jones (#10) was joined by Harris (#37) as well as tight end Hunter Henry and wide receivers Kendrick Bourne (#84), Jakobi Meyers (#16) and Nelson Agholor (#15). Bourne served as the motion man before the snap, whose movement showed his quarterback that New York was in a zone defense (Cover 3).
After the Jets rolled their coverage to adjust to Bourne’s motion, the two units aligned as follows by the time the football was snapped:
What followed was a New England staple, at least since the 2014 playoffs: the double pass. While the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick had followed a strict “don’t let anybody but Tom Brady throw the football” rule for the last decade up until that point, the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens saw the team use wide receiver Julian Edelman as a quarterback.
The play — a 51-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola — is one of the most famous in franchise history. It also paved the way to more plays such as this one being run even before Brady left the organization in 2020. While not all of them followed the double pass principle, the idea was the same: fool the offense by having a non-QB throw the ball.
The Patriots used such a play call four times in Year 1 after Brady, and they went back to that well two times already this season. Both times former college quarterback Jakobi Meyers was asked to throw the ball.
Against the Jets, Meyers served as a blocker. Instead, McDaniels trusted another member of his wide receiver corps to deliver the football. And deliver the football Kendrick Bourne did:
When the ball was snapped, the Jets did not fall for the fake hand-off to Damien Harris and stayed disciplined in their respective coverage zones. However, the quick out pass to Kendrick Bourne caused a reaction. The off-the-ball linebackers, play-side cornerbacks and safety Ashtyn Davis (#21) all charged forward towards the ball-carrier.
That reaction is only natural — defenders are trained to go where the ball is. However, it is also exactly what the Patriots wanted to happen.
The Jets aggressively pursuing Bourne, after all, allowed Nelson Agholor to get past the defense and into the target area for the pass that was to follow. For that to happen, Agholor needed to sell the play against cornerback Bryce Hall (#37).
The first-year Patriot did just that, and later was praised by head coach Bill Belichick for it.
“Nelly, it was just kind of the right timing of getting the defender to come up and then get behind him,” Belichick said in his postgame press conference.
Agholor engaged quickly as if blocking for a wide receiver screen when Hall turned around to move towards Bourne as the ball carrier. He did not full-on block the Jets’ defensive back, but he made contact just long enough to get a free release on his go route down the field. A full five yards behind Agholor, Hall never had any chance to catch up with the receiver.
With Agholor open, all that was left for Bourne to do was throw the pass exactly where he needed to. He did just that, and after the game spoke about how his experience in practice helped him pull it off.
“Through practice, I was kind of getting critiqued,” Bourne said. “I kind of threw it too high, floating it at practice and Josh kind of told me to put it on a rope so just practicing, executing at practice, making it feel normal in a game: ‘It’s just another practice play.’ That’s definitely how it felt when I got the ball.”
While Bourne and Agholor played the key roles on the play, the role of their nine teammates also cannot be left out. Jakobi Meyers, for example, held his block against Michael Carter II (#30) to give Bourne enough room to throw the ball. Furthermore, Mac Jones threw a good pass to make the transition from receiver to runner to thrower easier on the wideout.
One player deserves special mention, though: right tackle Michael Onwenu (#71).
Making his first start at the position this year — he opened the season as the starting left guard — Onwenu had to slow edge defender Tim Ward (#51) down. He did that by using a cut block that halted Ward’s momentum as he attacked the pocket from his 9-technique position:
Playing the “What if...” game, one has to wonder whether or not Ward might have been able to negatively impact the play had Onwenu not successfully brought him down with his block. This goes to show how not one or two players make a play successful: it takes the entire unit to carry out its assignment, and the Patriots’ right tackle and his teammates did just that.
“It was a very well-executed play,” Belichick said after the game. “That’s always the key. Timing and play calling are great, but it always comes down to execution, and those guys really executed it well.”