The Patriots lost to the defending champion Chiefs in an unexpected Monday night game this week. With Cam Newton out due to Covid-19, New England turned to veteran backup Brian Hoyer and only put up 10 points. It was a disappointing offensive performance but not an entirely shocking one once it was announced Newton was out. It wasn't all negative on the offensive side for the Pats, though.
The Patriots offensive line, despite missing two starters of their own, looked good. They weren't as good as when I saw them earlier in the year, but they played well. They protected the quarterback and opened up some nice running lanes. I wanted to start with the running game since there were some real highlights that led to New England's running backs rushing 31 times for 167 yards.
This is weakside outside zone, and as so often is the case with this play, it's the backside that makes it go. In particular, rookie right guard Mike Onwenu does a great job of sealing off a stunting 3-technique (Tershawn Wharton, 98) here. Once he sees that linebacker (Damien Wilson, 54) walk up to the line of scrimmage, he knows that there's a good chance that defensive tackle is slanting and that's going to be his man. Notice how he fights to stay square and work back into the defensive tackle when he feels the movement. He cuts off the stunt and creates the hole. Meanwhile, Justin Herron at right tackle shows how you treat linebackers that want to play on the line. He just swallows the defender up, runs his feet, and buries him.
The front side is a little messier. Backup center James Ferentz comes off the middle linebacker (Anthony Hitchens, 53) when he sees him work away, but that guy ends up making the tackle. Also, as was a common theme throughout Monday, Ferentz ends up on the ground. I've never seen a good offensive lineman who ends up on the ground as frequently as Ferentz did against Kansas City. That usually means your athleticism isn't where it needs to be and you're scrambling around trying to keep up. Ferentz wasn't awful, but I'm sure the Pats are anxious to get David Andrews back.
This was actually the very next play. I don't know if the Patriots had a key on this movement or if they just got lucky, but having the center reach a play-side 3-technique seems like a tall task if that 3-tech isn't slanting. But Wharton slants here, making Ferentz's block much easier. Still, it's well executed by Ferentz. Look at him club with his play-side arm and swivel his hips into the hole to put himself between his man and the ball. He falls down late because he always falls down, but this is a good rep.
Fullback Jakob Johnson does a good job on an in-line insert here. He wades through the bodies and gets his hat on his linebacker (Hitchens). That's tougher than it looks, to pick your way through a bunch of linemen cross-blocking and still have enough pop in your hips to make a decent block.
And finally, it doesn't really factor into the play but I'll always highlight a pancake. Onwenu pulls here and drives his man (Derrick Nnadi, 91) into the turf. Yes, he's assisted by the defender getting his feet tripped up by the opposite guard, but that only happens because Onwenu is pushing him across the field like an out-of-gas Honda Civic.
In fact, let's go back to Onwenu pulling, because jacking dudes up is what he does. Look at him lift Wilson off the ground on initial contact. Then he keeps on the defender and finishes him into the ground. Onwenu is naturally very heavy-handed. You can see when he hits you, you feel it. A very good trait for an offensive lineman.
On top of Onwenu's block, I love left tackle Isaiah Wynn here. We've talked about it before with the Patriots: the technique on the gap-blocking combos is so good. Wynn attacks the down defender's (Wharton's) hip, just as he's coached, and displaces him a gap before climbing up to his linebacker (Hitchens). That's what a coach calls "clinic tape" because when you go out to all these coaching clinics in the offseason talking about what you run and how you coach it to high school and college coaches, this is a play you use to illustrate how you teach this combo block.
Wynn played well all night in both the run and pass game. Where he really impressed me, though, were his play-action pass sets.
Wynn (76) is on an island here at left tackle, and his set is so good I could cry. He comes out aggressively but under control. Look at his feet -- short, powerful steps where he never loses the base from his stance. By firing out he's selling the run to the linebackers and the guy he's blocking. Then his hands are perfect too: inside hands, right on the defender's breastplate with no helmet involved. He locks the defender (Tanoh Kpassagnon, 92) out and dominates him. Brian Hoyer could've held onto that ball for another 10 seconds and Wynn's man wouldn't have beat him. Since it wasn't the end of the half, Hoyer didn't hold the ball. That's picture-perfect pass blocking from Wynn.
Joe Thuney (62) at left guard does some good things here as well. What I really like is how he settles and drops his hips once he pulls. He puts himself in position to do a little mirror dodge drill from the combine. It's not easy to settle into a pass-blocking stance after pulling across the formation, but Thuney does a fine job of it here.
The pass-blocking was generally good for New England. Right tackle Justin Herron probably had the worst night in pass pro but he wasn't awful or anything. He was just OK and gave up some pressures a little sooner than you would want.
Herron (75) is getting beat here, but not like a drum. And it doesn't help that his quarterback (Jarrett Stidham) drops to just about 10 yards and then doesn't step up in the pocket. Still, Herron is OK, he just has to get a little more push when he turns to run his man by the quarterback at the top of the rush.
Wynn is really good here again. I can't tell whether he snatched the defensive end down or if the end trips, but either way I love how the left tackle closes down on the inside move with square shoulders and a wide base. That allows him to redirect outside and pick up the looper. He basically picks up the end-tackle stunt by himself.
Another reason I included these last two GIFs is to help illustrate how an offensive line that played well could only score 10 points. Both of these plays are protected well enough, and both have receivers you can see open even from the end zone view, but both resulted in turnovers. You can block a team all night, but you still need some help from the guy with his hands under the center's ass if you're going to score any points.