- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday’s game against the Bears and offers some of his second-quarter observations:
1. One of the few blitzes the Bears brought in the first half came on a second-and-10 early in the second quarter, with the Patriots in a shotgun, three-receiver set. In a zone blitz, CB D.J. Moore rushed off the weak side, with DE Julius Peppers dropping into coverage on the strong side. A play-fake to RB Danny Woodhead drew MLB Brian Urlacher away from QB Tom Brady’s ensuing screen pass to a wide-open WR Wes Welker. After the catch, solid downfield blocks by LT Matt Light and WR Deion Branch sprung the 19-yard play.
2. As the Patriots continued to move downfield on their first drive in the second quarter, their running game built momentum despite the Bears stacking the box with an extra defender on some plays. WR Julian Edelman threw a key block to spring RB Danny Woodhead for a first down, while on the next play FB Sammy Morris had the key outside block on SLB Nick Roach on a 17-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis run.
3. After both Patriots touchdowns in the second quarter, the Bears were able to start with good field position after kick returns of 33 and 40 yards by Danieal Manning. The first was sprung after a number of Patriots in kick coverage either slipped or had trouble stopping as they raced downfield at full speed. The second should have been stopped for a short gain but OLB Rob Ninkovich could not take down Manning after wrapping him up.
4. The main pressure on the strip-sack of QB Jay Cutler late in the second quarter came from Patriots DE Eric Moore, who split RT J’Marcus Webb and RG Roberto Garza. Meanwhile, LG Chris Williams first checked to see if ILB Jerod Mayo was blitzing, which he did not initially, leaving RB Matt Forte to pick up DE Ron Brace deep in the backfield, which also contributed to Cutler being flushed out of the pocket. Once Forte committed to blocking, Mayo then came in and squeezed Cutler back into Moore for the strip-sack.
5. The two key blocks on Edelman’s nullified punt return for a touchdown were made by CB Darius Butler on CB Corey Graham, who had just run over Welker, as well as CB Kyle Arrington on RB Garrett Wolfe further up the middle of the field. LB Dane Fletcher’s penalty on the play occurred at the line of scrimmage and had little effect on the return itself.
6. WR Deion Branch’s 59-yard touchdown reception at the end of the half came against a cover-2 defensive look from the Bears, something they are known for but strayed away from earlier in the half. The Patriots used four vertical routes, including one up each seam, putting stress on the two-deep safety zones. In this situation, with seconds remaining in the half, CB Charles Tillman playing a short zone did not make sense.
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