Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

by Ben Muth

The Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. New England needed to come from behind to win the AFC Championship Game, but to me at least, it seemed almost inevitable. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady simply did what it is they seemingly always do, and found a way to win a close game late.

For me, the story of the AFC Championship Game was New England's ability to protect Brady. The Patriots didn't have much of run game (and seemingly didn't plan to have much of one), so this game was going to come down to how well their offensive line could hold up in pass protection. They certainly did their part.

     

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This is just a four-man rush from Jacksonville (the Jaguars didn't blitz too much on Sunday), but that's as nice of a pocket as you'll see. I really like what left guard Joe Thuney (62) is doing here. He's going with a one-handed punch, which sacrifices power for accuracy. He sticks his inside hand right on the defensive tackle's inside number and stops his momentum before he can get going. After that he just has to shadow him side to side.

I also think left tackle Nate Solder (77) is playing smart here. He knows he has help from the back, so he can take a really conservative set and feel confident that the defensive end isn't going to be able to beat him to the outside. The end sees the back coming and tries to bull-rush Solder, but that's exactly what Solder set to prevent. Being effective in pass blocking is so much about using the protection scheme and teammates around you to make your job easier. Here, the veteran took full advantage of his help from the back to make his job as simple as possible.

Because the Jaguars didn't seem to want to blitz much, they ended up running a lot of games and twists. The Patriots were able to pick them up consistently, and with the exception of one sack, really didn't allow any defensive line stunts to hurt them.

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That's a really nice job by the right side of the line. I love Shaq Mason (69) here at right guard. He's really the one that makes the pick-up happen. He gets a very good punch on the defensive tackle without lunging at all. That widens the defensive tackle so right tackle Cameron Fleming (71) can slide in and take over the block. And because Mason didn't lunge, he's in good balance and can redirect inside on the looper. That's clinic tape. Fleming recognizes his man is coming inside quickly and makes sure to take advantage of Mason's nice punch. This is a nice job on the twist, especially considering they're the two-on-two here.

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This is a much easier twist to pick up because the Pats outnumber the Jags three-to-two, as they're sliding into the twist. Still, you might be surprised how often the center will still get beat by the defensive end (Yannick Ngakoue, 91) just because he's not used to blocking that type of athlete, particularly one with a head of steam. But center David Andrews (60) does a nice job of picking it up here.

One thing Andrews does really well -- that New England's whole offensive line does well, in fact -- is keep his head out of the block. I didn't see a lot of lunging going on last week, and as a result New England's entire line played with good balance. It certainly made picking up twists easier.

     

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The Patriots were just as effective against interior games, and once again Mason was a big reason why. A twist is comprised of two roles, a penetrator who drives into the offensive line to get them on separate levels (almost like a pick), and a looper who comes around. A key to stopping any twist is to flatten the penetrator (Malik Jackson, 97). One way to do that is to jack him up on one leg and knock him into his own guy. That is one helluva punch by Mason, and it stops the stunt before it can even get started. I came away from this game really impressed by Mason.

I know I said the Patriots running attack wasn't a big factor in the game, but there was obviously one big run that officially ended the game. I wanted to talk about here because it was a great play, but particularly since we ended last week's column picking on a skill guy.

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This is just an outside zone with a BOSS concept (back on strong safety), but holy crap is Dwayne Allen (83) good here. Actually, good is an understatement -- Allen is perfect here. First he knocks the defensive end (Jackson, 97) onto Solder, but he does it without getting his outside hand involved so he can still climb quickly to the outside linebacker (Telvin Smith, 50). Then he blocks the outside linebacker so well that the middle linebacker (Paul Posluszny, 51) can't get around the block despite being unblocked himself.

And that is not a hold on the linebacker. It just isn't. I am as tired of New England winning as anyone, but that simply isn't a hold. It's great blocking.

That'll do it for this week. Come back next week for a review of the Eagles' offensive line in the NFC Championship Game.

Comments

19 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2018, 6:57pm

19 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

Because he is responsible for "C" gap. With no tight end, he can play a bit looser to help maintain leverage to the outside and set up a better pass rushing angle. Once the tight end shifts to his side, he needs to slide down to maintain leverage on the gap between the TE and LT. The strong safety shifts over to the contain responsibility outside of the TE. Muth is right, a superb block by the TE is what makes the play go.

4 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

Because he's no longer the force player. The safety bumps out to be the force player so the DE shifts inside to play his gap squarely (if he's still tilted it would be very easy for the TE to wash him down on a downblock). He doesn't do a good job of it, but that was the idea.

7 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

I think this is the least talked about aspect of Ne. It looks like a total mismatch on paper given the pedigrees of both units, but the mismatch swung the other way. This is also a good example for why New England offensive coaches when they leave New England often fail

8 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

I think it's also one of the more complex attributes of the game to follow. One thing I noted when I watched the game was how the Jags DL seemed to run out of gas as the game wore on; I think one of the great by-products of the undersized Pats offensive line is better athleticism/endurance at that set of positions; It's hard to tell what should be attributed to fatigue, adjustments, or simply executing better blocks.

10 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

Also note how the inverse seems to happen for the Patriots pass rush. This may be entirely anecdotal - but I noticed their pass rush picked up in quite a few big games. Last year's sb, the 2007 sb, and teh 2006 afc title game.

In this latest Jags game, the pass rush was pretty silent for most of the night but on the penultimate and ultimate Jag drives, it stiffened and completely crushed the Jags offense.

Any pats fan want to comment> Maybe its all just anecdotal, but I'm curious how many others agree.

11 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

With respect to size, Andrews is the one who stands out, but I guess on the whole there not particularly undersized. I do note there isn't any one who is 330+ who you would really love in a 1-1 run block.

With respect to the Pats pass rush, the rotation they use so consistently appears to give them a clear late-game advantage. They are also quite disciplined as a coaching staff about getting the right personal packages in on passing situations late in games; it does a good job of getting great results out of a group that lacks high-end talent, especially late in games.

14 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

I think this is actually a really innovative response to the dominant front-4's that have given the Pats trouble through the years. If they had taken this approach more often in the 07-15 period, I wonder whether they would have been able to get one or two more of those game against the Giants, Ravens, Broncos, or Jets. A dominant front 4 is still going to "get theirs" early in the game, but they've definitely had some more success stopping teams like that taking over games in the past two years.

13 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

According to this deadspin article (which has some fantastic graphs, but is a couple years old), the medians are:

T - 310
G - 310
C - 299

So Andrews and Thuney are about 5lbs light, Mason is average, and the tackles are heavy.

For average offensive line weight, the Patriots are 13th in the league. (raiders are #1, and they have a 360lb OT - which is ridiculous)

18 Re: Word of Muth: Patriots Dominate

Ben,

What are your thoughts on Flemming on the third play you talked about? It looks to me like he gets beat by the looping DT and holds him, but it's hard to tell from this angle. Is that pretty standard OL hand/arm use, or should that have been flagged in your opinion?

That question (and minor anti-Patriots sour grapes) aside, great column, it's always one of my favorites on the site.