Bucky Brooks
Monday November 5th, 2007

• The Patriots' favorite play in clutch situations appears to be Wes Welker on a quick out from the slot. Twice in the fourth quarter (Welker's touchdown and third-down conversion), the Patriots spread the formation out of their three-receiver set and hit Welker on option routes. Even though defenses know the route is coming, they are unable to take it away in two-deep zone due to Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss taking outside releases to expand the zone. And nickel corners are unable to challenge Welker in press man due to his quickness.

• The Patriots used multiple looks to disrupt Peyton Manning's rhythm in the second half. One of those looks included a two-man front with five linebackers and four defensive backs. By taking advantage of their linebackers' versatility, New England was able to confuse the Colts' protection calls and generate pressure through an assortment of stunts.

• The Colts attacked the Patriots by running Joseph Addai on the edges. The off-tackle zone runs took advantage of the upfield rushes of Rosevelt Colvin and Mike Vrabel, while giving Addai several cutback options. Addai took advantage of those cutback lanes on his way to 77 rushing yards in the first quarter. Though New England resolved the issue in the second half, other teams will try this plan against the Pats in the future.

• For all of the hype surrounding Adalius Thomas' signing with New England in the spring, he had virtually no impact against the Colts. Thomas was supposed to provide pressure on Manning off the edges or cover Dallas Clark in the slot. Thomas failed to do either effectively and only registered two tackles on the day.

• Indianapolis' secondary did an outstanding job of limiting New England's big-play opportunities for most of the game, but fell asleep at two key moments, which allowed the Patriots to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. Randy Moss' 55-yard completion came against two-deep coverage, but he was able to get easy access (no jam) off the line of scrimmage, which left Antoine Bethea alone with Moss down the field. On Donte Stallworth's crucial catch in the fourth quarter, New England flooded the Colts' two-deep zone by sending a receiver down the seam to occupy the safety long enough for Brady to hit Stallworth. Both throws came against the Colts' two-deep zone

• The injury to wideout Anthony Gonzalez severely limited the Colts' playbook late in the game. With only two healthy receivers, Indy was forced to use double tight end sets during the second half. Without the threat of the long ball outside, Manning had a tough time finding open receivers against the Patriots' zone and was held to only 80 passing yards after the half.

Ryan Grant's emergence as the Packers' top running threat allowed the Packers to overcome a pair of Brett Favre interceptions in the first half. Grant's running steadied the offense and created some downfield opportunities for the Packers off play-action. Grant, often compared to former Packer Dorsey Levens, gives Green Bay a workhorse between the tackles and that will be needed since the Packers play several cold weather games down the stretch.

• Green Bay's game-winning touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Greg Jennings came off a play specifically designed to defeat two-deep coverage. Using a slot formation that put Jennings inside, the Packers were able to work one-on-one down the middle on Donnie Edwards. With both safeties occupied on outside routes, Favre was able to lob an easy toss to Jennings down the middle of the field.

• The success of the Chiefs' two-deep scheme has been keyed by the effectiveness of their defensive line generating pressure. Jared Allen and Tamba Hali are consistent off the edges, but the pressure up the middle by Alphonso Boone is allowing K.C. to successfully use four defenders to bear down on the passer. Boone's penetration led to a big interception right before the half.

• Minnesota's Adrian Peterson continues to find success on the ground by running off tackle. With Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie paving the way on the left, Peterson often gets to the second level before being touched. Though the Vikings mixed in more runs up the middle and to the right, Peterson, who set the single-game rushing record today with 296 yards against the Chargers, continues to gain the bulk of his yards on runs that start to the left.

Brooks Bollinger only passed for 95 yards, but he did enough as a passer to open up the Vikings' offense. He completed seven of his 10 attempts and his 40-yard touchdown strike to Sidney Rice gave Peterson more room to run.

J.P. Losman's re-insertion into the lineup ignited the Bills' offense as they incorporated deeper routes into their offense. By calling more digs (18-yard square in) and comebacks, the Bills were able to get receiver Lee Evans involved early and he responded with his best performance of the season. It remains to be seen if Losman did enough to secure the quarterback job for the rest of the season, but its clear that his presence in the lineup means more production for Evans in the passing game.

• Detroit's offense has quietly become an effective smashmouth attack behind the running of Kevin Jones. His ability to run effectively between the tackles is allowing the Lions to lean on the rushing game when teams make a concerted effort to take away the pass. As Mike Martz is showing more patience with the run, Detroit is building an offense that is able to move the ball against a variety of defensive looks. That versatility allowed the Lions to score on their first four drives against Denver despite a slow start from Jon Kitna.

• The Redskins got back on track by calling more zone runs with Clinton Portis in the game. Though Joe Gibbs favors a power running game featuring the counter and "power-O", zone runs maximize Portis' skills as a one-cut runner and gives him more freedom to bounce or find cutback lanes. After watching Portis rush for 196 yards on 36 carries, including five runs over 10 yards, look for the Redskins to continue to call more zone runs to ignite their struggling offense.

• Carolina's lack of confidence in David Carr is apparent in its play-calling. After watching Carr struggle with his decision-making and accuracy, the Panthers basically took the game out of his hands by calling conservative short passes and draws on long yardage situations. By doing so they took their top playmaker, (Steve Smith), out of the game.

LenDale White is becoming the workhorse that Jeff Fisher envisioned when the Titans selected him a year ago. Though White appears to be overweight, his skills are a perfect fit in the Titans' zone blocking-based running scheme. He has a nice blend of strength and power with enough quickness to make defenders miss in the hole. He has put up three consecutive 100-yard performances and his steady running has carried an offense that has sputtered due to inconsistent passing and turnovers.

• The Browns' Kellen Winslow continues to pose a serious matchup problem for defenses. His speed makes it impossible for linebackers to stay with him in space and his size puts nickel corners/safeties at a disadvantage. The Browns exploited those mismatches against the Seahawks by using Winslow on a series of scissor routes.

• The critical screen pass completion to Jamal Lewis took advantage of the Seahawks' WHAM blitz. With both linebackers blitzing through the "A" gaps, Lewis was able slip past the first wave of defenders on the way to a 34-yard gain.

Sage Rosenfels game-clinching score to Andre Davis was the result of Houston taking advantage of single coverage on the backside of trips. The Texans used front-side motion on the formation to draw the backside safety to the middle of the field, which allowed Davis to run past Stanford Routt on a "go" route for a 42-yard touchdown. The decision to call the vertical route on third-and-short was a gamble, but it allowed the Texans to work against man coverage.

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