Analyzing the New England Patriots’ final offensive play that set up the game-winning field goal to beat the New York Jets.
One play is all that separated the New York Jets from overtime action against the New England Patriots. One play is all Gregg Williams’s defense needed to ensure the night continued. One play is all that mattered at that moment in time.
By the time it was over, former Jet hero Nick Folk came trotting on the field to end the Monday Night Football affair with no time left on the clock.
Facing a situation in which Cam Newton and the New England Patriots needed 15-20 yards, in order to set up the game-winning field goal, the Jets defense choked it up. Newton found Jakobi Meyers for 20 yards as the Jets defense failed in a big spot.
Head coach Adam Gase said it plainly on his regularly-scheduled conference call Tuesday afternoon.
“We were in a zone coverage and we just weren’t tight enough,” Gase said. “We weren’t deep enough to discourage him from throwing that, and he threw a ball where the guy was able to catch it, get down and we weren’t tight enough on the back end.”
While Gase is correct, so much more needs to be covered.
- Ball on own 47-yard line
- Eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter
- One timeout left for the offense
- Score tied at 27
New England comes out in 11 personnel with a 2×2 look. The Jets are in their familiar nickel defense with a soft look from the start.
Meyers runs the most simplistic inn-cut of all-time. He stems it inside immediately and turns it in with ease. Nothing outlandish in terms of release or movement is required.
Note where Newton attacks: the inexperience. He fits the play in between rookie cornerback Bryce Hall and safety Ashtyn Davis, both of whom need to be highlighted.
The offensive play
Meyers runs the inn-cut at the spot needed to set up the game-winning field goal. The receiver on the field side (up top) runs a fade, the slot is tasked with a post, the running back delays before heading on an angle route and the tight end releases late as a quarterback’s last option.
The defensive call
Defensively, Williams calls a very vanilla three-deep zone with four underneath. Davis, Marcus Maye and slot corner Arthur Maulet (who was filling in for Brian Poole) take the deep-thirds, while Hall is part of the underneath four, coming into focus when Harvey Langi locks the tight end only to eventually drop.
Let’s first focus on the young safety. Although he flashed in this game, especially when rushing the passer, he didn’t play situational football on this final play.
The key to the entire play for the defense is drawing that imaginary line right around the 40-to-37-yard mark on the field. That represents the necessary yardage needed for the Pats to set up Folk for the game-winner. Therefore, it’s important Davis takes his deep-third drop to a point in which he can jump up to take something that doesn’t meet the necessary yardage required.
Watch Davis’s drop:
Davis is in another zip code. He’s practically playing in Queens as opposed to Maye and Maulet. The kid’s athletic ability is off the charts, but some of the nuances that come with situational football just aren’t yet present.
Newton wasn’t impressive in this game. For several weeks, he’s had trouble throwing the ball. Not only will the Pats not attack the end zone in this situation, but Newton’s throwing ability also creates severe problems when throwing it past 20-25 yards. With that in mind, there’s no reason for Davis to take that deep of a drop.
The other major issue defensively comes when analyzing Hall.
As the deeper curl-flat defender on that side, Hall has two concerns. His first read is Meyers, the No. 1 weapon on his side. Due to the situation, Hall needs to stick with this read and follow, unless his No. 2 read threatens his zone. (His No. 2 read is the tight end on his side.)
Instead, Hall allows Meyers to freely cut inside:
Hall puts himself in a decent position to start. He turns his hips inside and maintains a position that allows him to watch Newton. Why he doesn’t follow Meyers as he breaks inside is a complete mystery.
Hall’s No. 2 read, the tight end, engages with Langi, which means there’s no speed there. He cannot threaten his soft hook-curl zone, meaning Hall can quite literally play Meyers man-to-man on this one.
Not pattern matching is an unfortunate part of Gregg Williams’s defense. His linebackers take strict spot drops and his defensive backs rarely get into the match frame of mind when playing zone. Assuming defensive reads/responsibilities is by far the more effective way of playing the pass in today’s game, yet what Hall does here promotes an old-school defensive coverage feel.
Football, especially defense, usually boils down to situational play. With just eight seconds remaining, there isn’t enough time to attack over-the-top or dump it low. Langi’s actions also don’t make much sense. Why lock onto a tight end with four already rushing? Get him deeper, right around that imaginary line needed for the game-winning field goal.
In the end, the Pats took advantage of the Jets’ inexperience. Davis played it far too soft while Hall didn’t have pattern matching on his mind.
Welp.. if there was ever one play for the 2 rooks to mess up, they chose the right one!