One of the keys to New England’s 28-21 Week 1 win over the Steelers was their red zone success, where they were 4/4 with 4 TD’s. Three of the touchdowns came from a unique formation: Four Tight Ends and One Back– or “Aces.” Using a four Tight End set in this manner is difficult because it requires all four Tight Ends to be capable run blockers, and at least two of the tight ends to be above average receiving threats. The Patriots personnel fits; #47 Michael Hoomanawanui is a solid run blocker and #85 Michael Williams played Tackle for the Lions but Tight End at Alabama. Meanwhile, #88 Scott Chandler is an average run blocker and a massive target at 6’7 260. And of course, there’s all-world Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Let’s further analyze how the four Tight End set was used in Week 1 and how it will be used by New England going forward.
Shane Vereen Sets Up Rob Gronkowski’s 2nd Quarter TD
The Patriots Super Bowl 49 game plan began as expected, with New England lining up Tight End Rob Gronkowski extremely far out wide in order to see how Seattle would respond. The Patriots then motioned Julian Edelman across to the slot. This first play would give New England a ton of coverage information for a Touchdown later in the game:
Like the NFC Championship, the AFC Championship features a regular season rematch, with the Colts visiting the Patriots. The Patriots won the regular season game 42-20, but the Colts now have a different set of key players. New England will have to deal with a whole host of new players and schemes:
WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL
The Colts are almost a new team on the offensive side of the ball; since the 42-20 loss to New England, Boom Herron (#36) has replaced Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw at Running Back, Donte Moncrief (#10) has emerged as a go to Wide Receiver, Tight End Dwayne Allen (#83) is healthy, and future Hall of Fame WR Reggie Wayne (#87) has become severely hampered with a torn triceps and hobbled groin. Additionally, the Colts have swapped and replaced two new offensive lineman into the mix.
The Colts did an excellent job last week of protecting Andrew Luck against Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, while the Patriots pass rush was abysmal against the Ravens, recording 0 sacks on 45 pass attempts. The Colts do not have a strong running game, so look for them to spread it out in Empty formations and use QB Andrew Luck as a run threat. Continue reading →
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.