The New England Patriots have struggled with blitzes over the past four weeks, giving up 13 sacks in that span.
They can't afford to have lapses in protection as they have in the past few weeks, and though some of the struggles on offense must fall on Brady for making poor decisions with the ball and holding onto it too long at times, he's certainly not getting the comfortable cushion he's used to getting in the pocket.
Situation: 1st-and-10, ball on the Patriots 30-yard line with 2:00 to go in the first half.
Jets Defensive Formation: The Jets line up in the nickel package with three linemen and three linebackers. Safety Eric Smith is lined up on the line of scrimmage. He's not lined up over a receiver, but instead stands free. This should be an immediate clue that the defense is blitzing.
Patriots Offensive Formation: New England comes out in the shotgun with 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers). This is a rarity, as New England loves their 12 personnel with two tight ends enough to use it STATS percent of the time this season so far.
The Jets love to play the number when they blitz, winning matchups based on how many players are rushing and where they're coming from. The overload blitz doesn't just win the matchups by the numbers, though, as it also causes confusion as to who is blocking who and allows the defense to attack a particular player on an offensive line.
The Patriots are actually lined up appropriately to handle the rush, with just the right number of players blocking. It's a three-on-three, but Light gets double-teamed by Smith and Jamaal Westerman.
Light gets stretched out by the oncoming charge of the two Jets defenders. This is one of many examples of how talented the Jets defense is and how effective they can be when they blitz, and though they deserve credit for taking advantage of the matchups, Green-Ellis should shoulder some blame, too. He doesn't come up for the assist until it's way too late and Light is already overwhelmed by both Smith and Westerman.
This is where blocking savvy comes into play. A lot of people think that simply putting back there in protection should do the trick, but a guy like Kevin Faulk who has become the Bounty paper towel of the quicker blitz-picker-upper.
For this reason, the positive impact of Kevin Faulk's return can't be diminished. That being said, it will take much more than Kevin Faulk alone to fix the Patriots' problems in protection.
Light could have let Smith get by him with Green-Ellis waiting in the backfield, but it's that type of communication error that has become the kryptonite for the Patriots' offensive line.
It's no coincidence, then, that these problems which never existed before have only become a big issue as of the season-ending injury to Dan Koppen in the first game of the season.
The exotic blitz packages of the Jets not only creates a problem simply by the numbers, but also creates confusion among the pass protectors. It's easier to lose track of who has who when so many players are coming from such a confined space. That is what the Jets blitz is predicated on: overloading specific gaps and winning the matchups both by the numbers and by confusion.
The Patriots know it's coming, but can they stop it? Brady has historically struggled against Rex's defense, specifically the exotic blitzes. That, coupled with New England's struggles in pass protection the past few weeks, and the Patriots could be in for a long Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
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