Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday’s game against the Lions and offers some of his third-quarter observations:
1. The flea-flicker run by the Patriots on the second play of the second half came against a Lions defense with a safety in the box, something they used to start the first half as well. That safety, Amari Spievey, wasn’t accounted for in the blocking scheme, and the initial run by RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the play did little to fool Spievey. It did fool, however, CB Alphonso Smith, who had to chase down WR Wes Welker after releasing him; WR Deion Branch also got behind the defense, but Spievey hit Brady before he could get off a clean throw.
2. Just as they did early in the first quarter, the Lions were able to open up a large hole in the running game early in the third quarter for RB Maurice Morris. Over-aggressive play by ILB Brandon Spikes looked to be at fault, with Spikes reading a run to the left side and then getting sealed inside by TE Will Heller as the run came back to the right side, with DE Ron Brace caught upfield on RT Gosder Cherilus.
3. One play later, the Lions’ problems began to show up again, this time in poor quarterback play from Shaun Hill. After WR Calvin Johnson broke to the inside off a jam by LCB Devin McCourty, Hill looked to throw to Johnson, but had to be wary of S James Sanders playing on the near side of the hash marks to Johnson. Hill displayed poor mechanics by "patting" the ball before passing it, and then throwing behind Johnson towards McCourty, afraid of Sanders coming over the top if he led Johnson too much. McCourty stepped in front of the pass and made a game-changing interception.
4. One of the best play-actions of the game for the Patriots came on Welker’s touchdown catch in the third quarter, with the fake to RB Danny Woodhead to the right drawing in Spievey, CB Brandon McDonald, and all three Lions linebackers. This left WR Deion Branch open in the end zone, but Brady pump-faked to him and turned left, finding Welker open towards the far pylon.
5. The first safety blitz for the Patriots came from Sanders, on second-and-8 from the Patriots’ 30-yard line. That left S Brandon Meriweather in a single deep zone and RCB Kyle Arrington outside on Johnson without immediate safety help, something the Patriots noticeably tried to avoid in the game. RB Aaron Brown picked up Sanders’ blitz, giving Hill time to find the ideal matchup and hit Johnson for a 21-yard gain.