Beginning this week and continuing throughout the regular season and beyond, I will look at the TV film of a key play during the previous Patriots’ game and break down the key components of the play. This week’s key play is Wes Welker’s first touchdown of the game, which was also the team’s first TD. The formation itself was unique in that it was a trips formation with two tight ends and receiver in the trips part of the formation. This play highlighted some unique play-calling and the potential creativeness the offense will display this season with its new and improved tight ends. Let’s take a look at what the team looked like before the ball was snapped, how the defense lined up, and what happened at the snap.
The ball is on the 9-yard line and its 2nd and 5. Randy Moss is lined up wide at the bottom of the screen, and he essentially serves no purpose on the play other than to take the corner and possibly the safety lined up on his side with him away from the play. Kevin Faulk is lined up behind Tom Brady, who is under center. Alge Crumpler is lined up on the ball at the head of the trips formation while Rob Gronkowski is lined up behind Crumpler and to the far side of the screen. Wes Welker is lined up behind Crumpler closer to the ball. Here is what the play looked like:
The X’s represent the defense (with the exception of the center) and the O’s represent the offense. The football icon represents Wes Welker’s position in the lineup. I’m not sure if I have Moss’s route correct as he runs off-screen, but it’s not integral to see what happens on the side the play occurs. RT Sebastian Vollmer and RG Stephen Neal block the DE and DT, respectively, on their side. C Dan Koppen helps LG Dan Connolly play the DT on their side while LT Matt Light cut blocks the DE lined up next to him. The dotted line from the DB farthest to the left represents his movement after the snap. As you can see, he moves back and towards his right and Gronkowski moves up to block him, represented by the zig-zag line. Alge Crumpler moves up and blocks the man lined up near him. Wes Welker moves back and towards the sideline, catches the quick pass from Tom Brady, and runs in between the blocks created by Gronkowski and Crumpler. If there were wide receivers in the tight ends’ spots, this play may not have worked as well because wideouts simply are not as good at blocking as tight ends.
The Bengals defense did not adjust to the Pats’ formation. Had the LB to the play side moved over to cover Welker, or the safety moved down, this play may have been stopped for minimal gain. Instead, the Patriots execute the play perfectly and it scores a touchdown.