NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
Development takes time.
The New England Patriots’ passing game hasn’t afforded itself enough through the first four weeks of 2014. And it all came to a head for quarterback Tom Brady and the offense against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night.
Brady was behind center for only 38 snaps over nine series. He went 14-of-23 passing for 159 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and two sacks over that span, departing for the sidelines early in the fourth quarter with a 41-7 score.
There was nothing more the offense could do. The Patriots didn’t appear built to close the gap. Not defensively, and not through the air nor ground.
New England’s running game was turned to for 16 carries, 75 yards and two first downs, but it was unable to work symbiotically with an aerial attack that netted just 10 first downs. The Patriots went 2-for-9 on third down, and failed to establish a rhythm in between the Chiefs’ 36 minutes of possession.
There was a difference in calibration between the two sides.
The field was seldom spread by the patterns of the New England’s receivers during the Week 4 tilt at Arrowhead Stadium. And in an effort to get the ball out quickly, there were few elements of surprise between Brady and his connections.
That allowed the Chiefs to respond accordingly, transitioning from a two-deep to a single-high secondary, dropping a safety down into the box to congest the underneath. The front brought pressure with a four-man rush. And the Patriots, in turn, were tasked with beating them at their own game.
New England was not going to beat Kansas City solely over the middle on screens, slants and in routes. Brady and the Patriots route-runners were going to have to beat the defense vertically, down the sideline or deep over the middle.
But the tools weren’t there. The routes weren’t there. And the time in the pocket was not, either.
Over the course of Brady’s 26 pass plays versus the Chiefs, the seconds and routes mattered. The following is a breakdown of the results.
- Pass Play No. 1: 1st-and-10
- Result: Four-yard screen to Shane Vereen
- Time: 1.86 seconds from snap to pass
Brady and the Patriots started the game in the shadow of their own goal post. Though it was a three-wideout set with Gronkowski motioning into the flat, it was down to one read for Brady. And that read was receiving back Shane Vereen, who slipped left and picked up four yards after the pass expended less than two seconds.
- Pass Play No. 2: 2nd-and-6
- Result: Incomplete fly route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 1:98 seconds from snap to pass
Soon, though, the Chiefs put eight in the box and played Cover-1. The defense had reason to, as the Patriots shipped only two eligible receivers – Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell – on routes for the second pass play of the game. Both were deep patterns in single coverage situations. Both were low-percentage alternatives. Brady delivered a pass over the head of Edelman less than two seconds after he handled the snap. It hit the grass.
- Pass Play No. 3: 3rd-and-6
- Result: Incomplete out route to Brandon LaFell
- Time: 2.10 seconds from snap to pass
While the Patriots had four halfbacks and fullback James Develin suited up on the 46-man gameday roster, the first three plays called were passes. And on third down on the offense’s opening drive, Brady spent 2.10 seconds in the pocket before firing the ball beyond the hands of LaFell out left.
- Pass Play No. 4: 2nd-and-8
- Result: Eight-yard in route to Brandon LaFell
- Time: 2.00 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots returned to the pass for a 2nd-and-8 on the offense’s second drive of the game. Within it, there were only two elements for the Chiefs to account for: LaFell motioning to the left side for an in back over the middle, and Edelman veering left for and out route. While “22” personnel was on the field, both backs and both tight ends were in solely to block and sell the play action as Brady found LaFell for eight yards in two seconds. With that, the first quarter drew to a close.
- Pass Play No. 5: 3rd-and-4
- Result: 14-yard stab route to Brandon LaFell
- Time: 1.51 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots headed out for the start of the second and faced a 3rd-and-4. In which, Edelman, slot receiver Danny Amendola and LaFell were all orchestrated to run through the hashes while halfbacks James White and Shane Vereen carved into the flats. And against the Chiefs’ six-man “sugar,” Brady was able to connect with LaFell on a 14-yard stab route, cutting back to the ball after the QB had stood in for just 1.51 seconds.
- Pass Play No. 6: 2nd-and-3
- Result: One-yard screen to Shane Vereen
- Time: 1.39 seconds from snap to pass
New England may have been able to advance the ball, but Kansas City was getting acclimated to the offense’s intentions. The defense crept up for 2nd-and-3, as LaFell ran a fade and Vereen ran a screen out right. Brady hit the back after 1.39 seconds. It gained one yard.
- Pass Play No. 7: 1st-and-10
- Result: Seven-yard quick screen to Julian Edelman
- Time: 1.14 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots offense entered the field of play for its third series, and in a growing trend, only two potential pass-catchers were designed for routes. There wasn’t any hesitation on Brady’s part to angle right and throw to Edelman sinking back towards him on a quick screen. It took the quarterback 1.14 seconds to get the ball two him. It gained seven behind two blocks.
- Pass Play No. 8: 2nd-and-4
- Result: Seven-yard out route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 2.05 seconds from snap to pass
Combatting a short 2nd-and-4 on the following play, 2.05 seconds stood between Brady taking the snap, dropping back and darting a pass to Edelman out left. The play picked up seven. Yet with LaFell fading and Develin unable to shed coverage on his post, there wasn’t a viable backup plan had Edelman not separated.
- Pass Play No. 9: 1st-and-10
- Result: Play action, incomplete corner route to Rob Gronkowski
- Time: 3.53 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots turned to a post-corner concept out of play action for the ninth pass play of the contest. And while Brady had upwards of four seconds to get rid of the football to Gronkowski past the 50-yard line, the results were not there. Incomplete.
- Pass Play No. 10: 2nd-and-10
- Result: Seven-yard shovel pass to Shane Vereen
- Time: 1.32 seconds from snap to pass
On the subsequent 2nd-and-10, the Patriots aligned four of five skill players at the line of scrimmage. All of whom were there to detract from Vereen, splitting the void in front of Brady for a shovel pass that gained seven. Brady took all of 1.31 seconds to toss it to him.
- Pass Play No. 11: 3rd-and-3
- Result: Five-yard pivot route to Danny Amendola* – Chiefs penalty
- Time: 1.84 seconds from snap to pass
On 3rd-and-3, Brady took 1.84 seconds to link up with Amendola as the receiver cut out of the press on a pivot route. The play gained five yards, but flags were drawn following a penalty against the Chiefs for illegal use of hands. It took away Amendola’s lone catch of the night, yet it took the Patriots into a fresh set of downs.
- Pass Play No. 12: 2nd-and-9
- Result: Play action, incomplete in route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 1.85 seconds from snap to pass
Two plays later, on a 2nd-and-9, the Patriots returned to two designated patterns in what was a levels concept. LaFell and Edelman cut in at similar depths, but the Chiefs were there to collide after 1.85 seconds.
- Pass Play No. 13: 3rd-and-9
- Result: Six-yard drive route to Brandon LaFell
- Time: 1.95 seconds from snap to pass
From there, the Patriots offense found itself up against a 3rd-and-9. In the aim of extending the drive, the two-back set was back in the fold, twin receivers stood right, and LaFell stood left for a drive route. Yet as Brady harnessed the snap and completed a pass to LaFell 1.95 seconds later, it became apparent that the only receiver beyond the marker was Vereen. New England landed three yards shy of a conversion, and the punt team came on.
- Pass Play No. 14: 1st-and-10
- Result: 18-yard post route to Rob Gronkowski
- Time: 2.15 seconds from snap to pass
After beginning the game with a string of close-proximity passes, the Patriots expanded the playbook on 1st-and-10 inside the 10. A two-tight end set late in the second quarter, both Gronkowski and Tim Wright were called upon to run post and corner routes, respectively, while three others sprinted rightward. And although Wright was unable to gain separation against the safety shadowing him, the spacing thinned the defense. Gronkowski was able to find a vacancy deep over the middle for an 18-yard gain. Brady took 2.15 seconds to find him.
- Pass Play No. 15: 2nd-and-4
- Result: Incomplete flat route to Stevan Ridley, throwaway
- Time: 3.74 seconds from snap to pass
After a six-yard run, the Patriots encountered 2nd-and-4. Two tight ends were sent off the left side of the line to block, while tailback Stevan Ridley as well as Edelman and LaFell were sent right for a combination of flat, out and curl routes. Brady dropped back and scanned them, but none of the options were able to disconnect from coverage. The QB drifted 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and away from the blocking tight ends, throwing the ball over Ridley’s jurisdiction and out of bounds after 3.74 seconds.
- Pass Play No. 16: 3rd-and-4
- Result: Incomplete in route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 3.82 seconds from snap to pass
And there it was, 3rd-and-4 late in the first half. From “11” personnel, the Patriots sent two into the flat, two across the middle and LaFell on a deep corner. Brady took the snap opposite the teeth of the Kansas City defense and waited. The defensive line divided in half and pressure swarmed the edges, but Brady had room to run for the first. He climbed the pocket, shuffling with his left shoulder leading the way. But after 3.82 seconds, Brady threw a pass against his forward momentum and unset feet. Edelman was unable to reel it in.
- Pass Play No. 17: 1st-and-10
- Result: Four-yard curl route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 1.68 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots commenced the second half with a sense of urgency, down 17 points. Three receivers shipped out for deep patterns, while Amendola was gearing up for an in and Edelman was doing the same for a curl versus off coverage. Brady took the shotgun snap and found No. 11 for a gain of four after 1.68 seconds.
- Pass Play No. 18: 2nd-and-6
- Result: Incomplete out route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 3.03 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots stuck with the pass on the next play, as LaFell assembled for a fly route with Edelman planted left for a deep out behind him. Brady dropped back and watched the progressions unfold. Edelman ran through the seam uncovered, while LaFell drew attention down the sideline. But Brady waited too long to pull the trigger. After three seconds, that late decision provided the Chiefs cornerback time to retreat from LaFell and break up Edelman’s near reception.
- Pass Play No. 19: 3rd-and-6
- Result: Sacked for loss of five yards, fumble and recovery
- Time: 2.89 seconds from snap to sack
The Patriots consequently faced a 3rd-and-6. And with both running backs in to work the flats, only five stood in the way of the Chiefs’ four-man rush. Brady took the snap from shotgun and was met by edge-rusher Justin Houston after 2.89 seconds. Kansas City notched a sack and the ball jarred free. New England recovered, only to punt.
- Pass Play No. 20: 1st-and-10
- Result: 10-yard slant route to Brandon LaFell
- Time: 1.71 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots headed out for a sixth series, but the unit did so at its own one-yard line. Edelman motioned right and Brady dropped back. After 1.71 seconds, he completed a pass to LaFell slanting left. It gained 10 yards behind the teeth of the Kansas City linebackers and in-the-box safety.
- Pass Play No. 21: 2nd-and-7
- Result: Play action, sacked for loss of five yards, fumble and Chiefs recovery
- Time: 2.28 seconds from snap to sack
Following a three-yard run, the Patriots went to play action with two curls and two vertical routes down the seams. Yet, as Brady set his eyes down the field, right outside linebacker Tamba Hali set his eyes on the football, knocking it out of the quarterback’s hands after just 2.28 seconds in the pocket. This time, the Patriots would not recover.
- Pass Play No. 22: 2nd-and-5
- Result: Interception on out-and-up stop route to Julian Edelman
- Time: 3.27 seconds from snap to pass
The Chiefs’ lead continued to swell before the Patriots got the ball back. And after a five-yard run, the Patriots looked to the air on 2nd-and-5 out out of “12” personnel. Edelman and LaFell dispersed out left, but by the time Brady took the snap and looked their way, something went wrong. Edelman’s out-and-up patterned turned into a fade stop. After 3.27 seconds, Brady threw a fade down the boundary instead. Edelman wasn’t open; LaFell was, and outcome was an interception for Chiefs corner Sean Smith.
- Pass Play No. 23: 3rd-and-1
- Result: Fake jet sweep, 28-yard screen to Shane Vereen
- Time: 1.81 seconds from snap to pass
The Patriots’ eighth series of the game revealed deception, as Edelman ran through the backfield on a fake jet sweep. And that misdirection allowed Vereen to curve into real estate and snare a screen pass from Brady after just 1.81 seconds. With Kansas City hovering six defenders at the line, the play gained 28 yards.
- Pass Play No. 24: 1st-and-10
- Result: 44-yard slant route to Brandon LaFell, touchdown
- Time: 1.58 seconds from snap to pass
After the misdirection screen proved lucrative, New England sent Edelman in motion again on the next play. With trips left, LaFell loomed as the lone receiver right. And he was the lone receiver running a route as well, eclipsing single coverage on a slant. Brady took 1.58 seconds to get the ball to him. The catch and run ended 44 yards later in the end zone.
- Pass Play No. 25: 2nd-and-5
- Result: One-yard screen to Shane Vereen
- Time: 1.90 seconds from snap to pass
New England’s offense returned for its ninth series. And on a 2nd-and-5, Brady took 1.90 seconds to get the ball to Vereen on a screen out right. But the Chiefs weren’t biting, ending the back’s scamper after a gain of one.
- Pass Play No. 26: 3rd-and-4
- Result: Interception on post route to Danny Amendola
- Time: 2.68 seconds from snap to pass
The next play, a 3rd-and-4, stood as Brady’s last. The Patriots went to five-wide and placed Amendola inside for a post pattern. Brady spent 2.68 seconds looking for him before letting the ball go, and it did go. Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted it for a touchdown.
Then, with the score 41-7, second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo took over behind center and brought offense down the field for a score not long after. But tight end Rob Gronkowski had no reason to spike the ball with more than indifference.
There was no true significance to those final minutes. The damage had been done. The Patriots were going home 2-2.
BY THE ROUTE
- Screens: 5-of-5 for 41 yards
- In Routes: 1-of-3 for eight yards
- Out Routes: 1-of-3 for seven yards
- Slant Routes: 2-of-2 for 54 yards
- Post Routes: 1-of-2 for 18 yards, interception
- Corner Routes: 0-of-1
- Out-and-Up Routes: 0-of-1, interception
- Fly Routes: 0-of-1
- Drive Routes: 1-of-1 for six yards
- Stab Routes: 1-of-1 for 14 yards
- Curl Routes: 1-of-1 for four yards
- Flat Routes: 0-of-1
- Shovel Passes: 1-of-1 for seven yards
- Pivot Routes: 1-of-1 for five yards* – Chiefs penalty
BY THE SECOND
- Average Time from Snap to Pass: 2.19 seconds
- Under Two Seconds from Snap to Pass: 14
- Under Three Seconds from Snap to Pass: Seven
- Under Four Seconds from Snap to Pass: Five
Part of it was because the New England condensed the wide receiving corps down to three names, taking the semblance of a vertical threat out of the equation with both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins inactive. Part of it was because the offensive line was starting two rookies in center Bryan Stork and right guard Cameron Fleming, an offensive tackle at Stanford, in light of the collective struggles in pass protection.
Part of it was because of Brady.
It was a culmination of factors for head coach Bill Belichick and coordinator Josh McDaniels. It was a culmination that shortened the field in order to mitigate deficiencies. And, perhaps in an unintended consequence, New England’s own mitigation stripped variables away from the Kansas City defense.