X's & O's: Fourth-down stops

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
9:00
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For those with an interest in X's and O's, Bill Belichick's weekly breakdown on Patriots.com after victories is a worthy time investment. This week's breakdown focuses on some big defensive plays from the win over the Jets, including an offensive play that Belichick calls one of the best of his 13-year head coaching tenure:

1. Motion from offense aids defense on fourth down. Belichick calls up the fourth-and-1 play from the second quarter in which linebacker Brandon Spikes stops running back Shonn Greene for no gain. The ball is on the 31-yard line, as the Jets pass up a 48-yard field goal at a time New England led 7-0. The Jets bring a player in motion, from left to right, which Belichick cites as a key part of the play. "If you can anticipate where the motion is going to stop, which you kind of can on a play like this, it gives the defense an opportunity to sort of get off on the snap and time it up," Belichick says, before highlighting how Spikes does just that. Strong penetration from stunting lineman Vince Wilfork inside is cited, which forces Greene "over the top" to the outside. Linebacker Jerod Mayo taking on fullback Lex Hilliard in that gap is a key, as Mayo fills and forces Greene upward. Finally, Spikes swats at the ball as Greene reaches it out, which Belichick calls an alert play because it could have been close to a first down.

2. Spikes inside surge at the goal-line. Belichick highlights the Patriots' second fourth-down stop, this one coming with 6:56 remaining in the third quarter and the Patriots leading 35-3. Unlike the prior fourth-down stop, the Patriots are in their bigger goal-line defense. Belichick envisions that the Jets were attempting to run a trap up the middle, as the blocking of the interior linemen tip it off. That plays into the Patriots' hands as it opened a lane for Spikes to charge through, as the ends (Vince Wilfork & Kyle Love) are called on for an outside charge. Mayo then finishes it off. "Really well executed play defensively," Belichick says. "We were able to use up the blockers, free up Spikes, and Brandon times it up nicely. That's a nice looking play."

3. Ridley's late 9-yard TD draws raves. "This is probably one of the best looking plays we've ever had here, to be honest with you. It's an outside zone play. You love to see this," Belichick says of the touchdown that made it 49-12. Belichick then points out a strong block from tight end Daniel Fells, who comes across in motion left to right. Receiver Wes Welker also delivers a nice block. Right tackle Marcus Cannon has a crunching block, while Donald Thomas executes a reach block. "That's a beautiful picture for a running back to see -- 3 guys on the ground, a nice soft edge, it's a jog-in touchdown," Belichick says.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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