Top Five Patriots Plays: X's and O's

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Top Five Patriots Plays: X's and O's
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Bubble Screen.

The Patriots' offense might have been the simplest in football last year with backup quarterback Matt Cassel playing instead of Tom Brady. One of the most common plays they ran was the bubble screen with Wes Welker in the slot and Randy Moss lined up outside. The Patriots often found a mismatch when a linebacker was covering Welker. If the opponent used their safety to help on Welker than Cassel would throw to Moss. If not, Cassell would throw a short screen to Welker who is tough to tackle in the open field.

"In some ways, it was like shooting fish into a barrel," said one agent whose client played against the Patriots last year.

Cassel could make a dual read out of this set. If he sensed a blitz when a running play was called, he could line up in the shotgun and throw a screen to Welker. Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, was the first to implement this play call, but the Patriots have perfected it with their talented offense.

Play Action: The Pats sell the play-action fake as well as any team in football according to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who is interviewed for this article. Brady uses play action to freeze the safety and create separation for his receivers. With a receiver like Moss, even a split second of separation, can be the difference between a deflected pass and a touchdown. Pats fans will fondly remember Brady yelling at Steelers' backup safety Anthony Smith in the end zone, who guaranteed a  victory, in 2007 after he threw a touchdown pass over Smith's head.

Direct Snap to the RB: The Patriots like to run this play on third down, most often with Kevin Faulk, because it confuses the defense. Opponents might think that the quarterback has the ball when, in fact, the running back is already across the line of scrimmage for the first down. The Patriots ran a lot of draws last year where Cassel made a direct hand-off to the running back after taking the snap.

Sub-packages: They will often bring in five or six defensive backs and run either a 3-3-5, or a 3-2-6 on third down. The advantage of these sub-packages is it allows the Patriots to cover the opponent's receivers well and confuse the offense, as they have trouble adjusting their protection schemes to incorporate the defensive backs who are blitzing.

Fox Blitz: This call is a signature Patriots' play where Tedy Bruschi might fake a blitz to draw the attention of an opposing offensive lineman so other linebackers or defensive linemen will only have one blocker instead of two. Bruschi might also fake the blitz and drop into the passing lane to make an interception, especially if he knows where the quarterback will throw the ball.

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