Super Bowl 52 was the most prolific offensive game in NFL history with 1,151 total yards and countless records broken. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were spectacular; both designed creative schemes and were able to repeatedly create favorable matchups for their respective offenses. Let’s take a look at how the offenses were able to score at will:
The Eagles used running back motion, the wheel route, and the mesh concept repeatedly to take advantage of the Patriots decision to predominantly play man to man coverage. The Patriots were weak against pass catching running backs all year, particularly wheel routes. In the AFC Championship, Jacksonville missed their opportunity multiple times to hit an open running back against a linebacker or peeling defensive end; but the Eagles cashed in.
2nd Quarter, 1:46, 3rd & 3 on Phi 37 (Phi 15 NE 12)
Late in the first half, the Eagles make a huge play using both the mesh concept and the wheel route. Defensively, the Patriots are in Cover 1:
As Rob Gronkowski works back from his ACL & MCL tear, his snap count has steadily risen in every game for the Patriots. The area of the field he is most valuable for the Patriots is unquestionably the Red Zone. This was highlighted in last week’s match-up with the Raiders. The Patriots used a “Mesh” concept from inside the 10-yard line for a Touchdown. A Mesh concept refers to two Receivers crossing in close proximity to create a “rub”, or as defenses call, a pick. Mesh concepts work better against Man-to-Man coverage compared to Zone because zone defenders can see what is going on around them as opposed to chasing Receivers in Man-to-Man. Given this, how can the Patriots ensure they are running a Mesh concept against the defense they’d like? The Patriots have a built in mechanism: Motioning Shane Vereen.
In the picture below, Shane Vereen (#34) starts as the outside most Wide Receiver and motions in to the backfield. A Raiders Linebacker (#50) chases him all the way across the formation; this is a tell-tale sign of Man-to-Man coverage. This is highlighted by the squares in the freeze frame.