- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Given all the hype about the potential Darrelle Revis-Wes Welker matchup leading up to Sunday's Jets-Patriots tilt at Gillette Stadium, we honed in on the 1-on-1 battle. The end result? Revis did a really nice job limiting Welker's opportunities, but the Patriots found a way to generate offense overall, including one big play to Welker early in the second half. Let's put that play under the microscope:
It's the first play from scrimmage of the second half with the Patriots starting at their own 20 after a touchback. New England makes rookie tackle Nate Solder eligible, bringing in tackle Thomas Welch and bumping Solder to second tight end on the right side of the line. Sprinkle in Rob Gronkowski, in motion to that side, and all signs point to a rush over right tackle. Everyone thinks that's the call, including safety Eric Smith and Revis (green circle, matched up with Welker, yellow circle).
Here's where the play is made. Welker sells the run, giving the appearance he's preparing to block Smith at safety. Both Revis and Smith take a step toward the line of scrimmage as if preparing to go into run support while Tom Brady makes a play-action fake to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Welker doesn't even have to put a move on, he simply runs straight between Revis and Smith, splitting the zone coverage. Said Welker: "It was just one of those plays where the safety was a little over-aggressive. We ran a similar type play and ran the ball, so I kind of got a feel for what that safety was doing. I went down and then kind of acted like I was going to block him and then took off on it."
Welker creates instant separation going down the middle of the field, while Brady delivers a perfect ball over the safety's head. Said Revis: "We tried to switch it up on them a little bit. I was on him a couple of times and a couple of other people were also on him. We were just trying to give them a mixture of things. He made a couple of great plays today, especially with the big one. It was like he was going across the field and got us on a double move and he was gone up the field.”
As Wellker noted: "Tom [Brady] made a good throw; hopefully next time I can just finish that out." Indeed, the only surprise here is that Welker got caught from behind by Revis. New England players are clearly expecting a touchdown, but Revis is able to track him down. Here's some more reaction on the big play:
Patriots coach Bill Belichick: "[It was] a play action pass, he came over the middle, it looked like the safety dove – whether he was supposed to run or not, I’m not sure. And then he split [Darrelle] Revis and I think the safety was [Eric] Smith. I’m not sure whether they were comboing that because the tight end blocked, or somebody obviously got caught short. Tom put it out there. We had a couple other chances today where we were behind the defense and we just overthrew them by a yard or so. But I think we’ve got to keep taking those shots. You’re not going to hit all of them, you want to, but we hit one and we’ve hit them in other weeks. If they want to come down and clamp us, then we’ve got to be able to go over the top. It was a great throw and Wes made a heck of a play. That was a huge play in the game."
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan: "Kind of looked like one of those, ‘I got him, you take him’. Obviously in that defense, you know, we expect the runner to take a shot, but we never had anybody deep. I mean, that’s obvious to everybody in here."