Xs & Os: Coverage dictates sack

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
11:00
AM ET
One of the favorite weekly features is when Patriots coach Bill Belichick breaks down some of the key plays from victories on Patriots.com. There is often some solid Xs and Os insight to be gained from watching those "Belichick Breakdowns" and the latest is now posted (link here).

Belichick focuses on two plays from Sunday's win, starting with a third-and-6 stop in the first quarter. On the play, defensive end Andre Carter sacks quarterback Tony Romo, although Belichick points out it's a good example of how the coverage played a big role.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich drops into coverage on the strong side, where the Cowboys have three pass-catchers releasing into routes which "king of clogged" that area. Belichick points out that Romo looks in that direction before coming back to his left, where a safety has provided help and taken away that option.

"That gives the rush a chance to finish the play," Belichick says.

The second play Belichick shows is a 20-yard screen pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter, the first play on the team's touchdown drive. Belichick notes a few key aspects of the play.

First, Gronkowski sets it up nicely by motioning in to initially block DeMarcus Ware before letting him go and timing up the screen nicely. Gronkowski is set up to gain about 10 yards, but Belichick highlights nice blocks by offensive linemen Dan Connolly (on cornerback Mike Jenkins) and Brian Waters (on linebacker Sean Lee) to free him up for an additional 10.

"You have two big 300-pounders running out there in space against two very athletic players in Lee and Jenkins, doing a nice job of blocking in the open field and giving Rob some space there to turn up field and pick up 20 yards," Belichick says.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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