Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Jets and offers some of his first-quarter observations:
1. The Patriots began the game with regular offensive personnel on the field: two receivers, two tight ends, and a running back. The Jets countered this package with their own nickel package, lining up their fifth defensive back, CB Kyle Wilson, against Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, which shows how much the Jets were afraid of Hernandez’s potential impact in the passing game. However, this left LB Bart Scott to square up against WR Wes Welker in the slot, and Welker beat Scott on the play for a first down. This was a prime example of how the Patriots have been able to use their offseason additions at tight end in order to create favorable matchups for other receivers on the field.
2. On the second official play of the game, the Patriots continued to diversify their offensive looks by using WR Julian Edelman in the backfield with QB Tom Brady under center. Edelman went in motion on the snap and released into the flat, but Brady threw to TE Rob Gronkowski for a 14-yard gain instead. It was a formation capable of creating matchup problems for the Jets but one that was not seen again by the Patriots in the game.
3. While the Jets generally did not pressure the Patriots offense nearly as much as they did in the teams’ Week 2 matchup last season, the Patriots still faced a blitz when trying to convert a third-and-9 on their opening drive. Out of their dime package, the Jets brought somewhat of a zone blitz, with LB Bryan Thomas dropping into coverage and CB Dwight Lowery blitzing off the edge. TE Alge Crumpler was assigned to Thomas, and so when Thomas did not come in, Crumpler was not quick enough to pick up Lowery outside. Brady was pressured into a dump-off pass to RB Kevin Faulk, who was tackled shy of the first down.
4. Later in the Patriots’ opening drive, inside the Jets’ 30-yard line, the offense was unable to come away with a first down and was forced to attempt a field goal. Again, the Jets varied their pressure, bringing only three rushers on second down before bringing an overload blitz on third down. The added coverage on the first play took away Brady’s passing options, while a Wilson blitz on the second play forced Brady to avoid the pressure before hitting a check-down option for only a short gain.
5. After blocking for a 38-yard Fred Taylor run early in the quarter that was nullified on a Brandon Tate illegal formation penalty, the Patriots’ offensive line struggled as the quarter progressed. Despite some early success with Taylor, the Patriots transitioned to a more outside-focused running game, using RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead of Taylor. However, that approach yielded similar results, as seen on one stretch run to the left late in the quarter, where unblocked Jets defensive backs were able to read and meet Green-Ellis before he could turn the corner. Later in the drive, a first-down run in the red zone was stopped in the backfield by Jets DE Mike DeVito after he split RG Stephen Neal and RT Sebastian Vollmer when both linemen targeted the same linebacker in the second level.