Cosell’s Watching: In 2nd Half, Patriots D Thrived by Not Thinking

From the Desk of Greg Cosell, Greg Cosell, Inside the Game, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

NFL Matchup’s Executive Producer shares notes from his study of Week 16 coaching tape: the Patriots defense vs. the Dolphins offense. 

  • Jones was again the nickel slot corner for the Patriots, He’s filled that role over the last month
  • Hartline 39 yds on 3rd + 9 came on double move v. McCourty; Patriots “man free” behind a 5 man rush, They had S Ihedigbo matched on Bush
  • Patriots predominant 4-3 fronts, Ellis and Deaderick played significant snaps at DE

  • Long hurt and out for the game in the 1stquarter, Jerry replaced him at LT

    Brandon Marshall (AP)

  • Dolphins went after McCourty, as many teams have done in recent weeks: Hartline 39 yds in the 1st quarter, Marshall 47 yds in the 2nd quarter
  • Fletcher played both in the base 4-3 and in the nickel sub-package, He flashed with instincts and awareness; Excellent play recognition
  • Bush more decisive running inside, Hit the point of attack with conviction – A different runner now than he was earlier in the season
  • Marshall had success working out of the slot on seam routes: 19 yd TD and 26 yds on 2nd quarter TD drive
  • Best Patriots defender in the 1st half was LB Fletcher – White and Guyton did not play any defensive snaps in this game
  • Patriots more man coverage concepts in the 2ndhalf, Took away quickly defined throws for Moore – Ninkovich sack and forced fumble result of man coverage, Moore held the ball in the pocket

    Matt Moore fumbles after getting hit by Rob Ninkovich (AP)

  • Majority of Bush runs were inside, between the tackles; Bush ran downhill very well in this game
  • Patriots increased blitz frequency in the 2nd half, including a number of snaps of “cover zero blitz” – Mayo sack in the 4th quarter came on “cover zero blitz”
  • Moore average arm strength, Not much velocity on intermediate and deeper throws
  • Marshall 41 yds on Dolphins final TD drive came v. “cover zero blitz”, “Sluggo” v. McCourty
  • Patriots 2nd half defense totally different from 1st half defense: More man coverage, more blitz – A more challenging and aggressive approach that decreased thinking and focused on playing
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