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Monday, November 4, 2013
Picked-up pieces from 4th-quarter review

By Mike Reiss

Picked-up pieces from fourth-quarter review of the Patriots' 55-31 victory over the Steelers:

1. Continuing the game-long theme of having success throwing the ball against the Steelers' base defense, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson's 17-yard touchdown grab on a back-shoulder throw came out of a grouping with two receivers, one tight end, one fullback and one running back. It was a straight-up one-on-one matchup with Dobson on cornerback William Gay up the left side. Solid execution by Tom Brady, Dobson and the protection up front (against a five-man rush).

2. Along the same lines, Dobson's 81-yard touchdown with 5:15 remaining came out of a one receiver, three tight end, one running back grouping. That's a run-based look which the Steelers matched with their base defense, and the Patriots hurt them all day in the passing game in those situations. One aspect of the play that we didn't pick up on at the game -- it was a quick snap. Given how the Patriots utilized the quick snap in the run game in the third quarter, it was a perfect set-up for this dagger of a pass play in which Dobson, a la Randy Moss, raised his hand to let Brady know he had left the defensive back in his wake.

3. It was a challenging day for cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan as they played a lot of man coverage and were beaten on some plays. At the same time, Arrington had tight coverage at times, including what might have been his best play of the day in swatting away a pass along the left sideline with 13:35 that was intended for Antonio Brown. I think that's what the coaching staff appreciates about Arrington -- he never stops competing, even when things might not always go his way. Dennard also broke up a long pass down the right sideline in the final quarter.

4. The dime package had rough patches in the game (third-and-30 play, Cotchery 20-yard TD pass) but also some highlights, one of which came on linebacker Dane Fletcher's sack of Ben Roethlisberger with 13:31 remaining in the final quarter. Third-down defense has been spotty at times this season for the Patriots (entering with a No. 23 ranking), but Fletcher nicely executed a “hug” technique on the sack, as his primary responsibility appeared to be covering running back Felix Jones if he released out of the backfield. When Jones stayed in to block, doubling Chandler Jones, Fletcher had a free path to Roethlisberger and did what many struggle to do -- bring him down with a one-armed tackle.

5. It was mentioned in the third quarter review that it didn't feel like a big blitz game for the Patriots, and the breakdown from ESPN's Stats & Information department reinforce that thought. On 53 dropbacks, the Patriots blitzed just nine times. Roethlisberger was 3-of-8 with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions and a sack on those plays. The touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter as receiver Jerricho Cotchery shook linebacker Brandon Spikes and made a beautiful one-handed grab on second-and-goal from the 6.

6. There aren't too many plays where you see the right tackle pull across the entire formation, but that's what happened on LeGarrette Blount's 12-yard run that preceded Dobson's 81-yard touchdown grab. Cannon showed his athleticism by coming right to left and blocking linebacker Lawrence Timmons to create an opening for Blount. The Patriots sometimes would use former left tackle Matt Light in that capacity and it always caught the eye because it's generally unusual to see.