Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Sunday, September 27, 2009
How the Patriots stopped Tony Gonzalez


FOXBOROUGH -- A big storyline entering today's game was how the Patriots would defend Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was limited to one catch for 16 yards, and here is a look at how the Patriots did it:

Gonzalez said he faced bracket coverage, explaining that wherever he ran there always seemed to be two defenders around him.

He said it was Patriots safety Brandon McGowan who was the primary defender to engage him when he released from the line of scrimmage. Gonzalez also said that he faced consistent jams at the line, especially on third down.

"[McGowan] was pretty much going with me with man [coverage] and pretty much anywhere I would go he got help," Gonzalez explained. "I had someone in my face playing man and as soon as I'd go in someone else's zone, they would just be waiting right there.

"The way I feel is that you kind of better do that. For the most part, and I'd say this about anybody, you should be able to beat man-to-man coverage. The day I can't beat man-to-man coverage, I'll probably retire."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged how many resources the defense devoted to Gonzalez in the middle of the field, which meant there were single-coverage matchups on the outer edges, putting added pressure on the team's outside corners.

"We doubled him a lot. I thought our guys stepped up and did a good job on him," Belichick said. "Then we held up in some other spots as well. Terrence [Wheatley] and Shawn [Springs] and Leigh [Bodden], they did a good job out there and we didn't give them very much help. They stepped up to the challenge against a good group of receivers, and did a competitive job."

The Patriots ran a few different packages in the game -- a 4-3, 3-4 and a dime (six defensive backs). They did not play nickel.

The dime had a four-man line of Tully Banta-Cain, Jarvis Green, Myron Pryor and Derrick Burgess, with Gary Guyton the lone linebacker.

The defensive backs were corners Wheatley, Springs and Bodden, along with safeties McGowan, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders.

It was the dime that ultimately helped the Patriots cash in against Gonzalez.

"We contained him and contained the run," McGowan said. "We got the job done."