Do formations make Patriots predictable?
September, 21, 2012
By Doug Clawson | ESPN.com
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesTom Brady walked off the field Sunday following a rare loss at home.
The Cardinals stifled the New England Patriots in a 20-18 win in Week 2. For Brady, it marked just his second loss at home in 37 regular-season games.
According to Horton, the Cardinals’ staff picked up on the Patriots' offensive tendencies, especially after Aaron Hernandez left the game with an injury. Specifically, Arizona looked at Brady’s positioning to determine if the Patriots would pass or run.
So, was Horton correct? After Hernandez was injured with 7:03 left in the first quarter, the Patriots called a pass play on 37 of 46 snaps (80.4 percent) with Brady in shotgun. When Brady was under center, the Patriots called a run on 18 of 29 snaps (62.1 percent).
While Horton may have exaggerated, the Patriots did have some clear tendencies after the Hernandez injury.
“Whenever Tom Brady was under the center they were gonna run the ball and whenever he was in shotgun they were gonna pass the ball,” Horton said. “So we told our players, ‘Hey, make the run check if Tom Brady is under center, if he’s in the gun, go to the pass check,’ and they handled it beautifully.”
However, looking at the Patriots’ total play-call percentage last season suggests an even closer correspondence. In 2011, New England was even more likely to pass in shotgun (85 percent) and run the ball from under center (65 percent).
Whether Horton was on point or not, the Cardinals did slow down the Patriots’ offense when they were more likely to pass or run.
The Patriots averaged fewer pass yards per play (-2.6 difference) with Brady in shotgun, and fewer rush yards per play (-2.6 difference) with Brady under center.
The Patriots may need to vary their tendencies on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Recent history suggests Baltimore is all over it.
Since the start of 2008, Brady is averaging 5.7 yards per attempt in shotgun against the Ravens (four games), tied for his third-lowest average against a single opponent.