A Look At The Patriots Six Play Surgical Scoring Drive Against The Steelers

When going back through the all-22 tape of the Pittsburgh Steelers 55-31 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots, I keep finding myself going back to the Patriots six-play scoring drive early in the second quarter as it really set the tone for the rest of the game.

The scariest thing about this drive is how the Patriots never used more than two wide receivers on any one play and never targeted them as well. They stretched the Steelers defense horizontally before finally popping them vertically for the touchdown.

On the opening play of the drive, the Patriots ran an inside wham play and the blocking was executed perfectly. At the snap, Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward is double-teamed and nose tackle Steve McLendon is whammed by the h-back. The Patriots center and right guard then get to the second level and swallow up linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams. It results in safety Ryan Clark and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley needing to make the tackle. It was only a four-yard gain, but it set the tone for the rest of the drive.


On the second play of the drive, the Patriots ran the outside zone to the left and once again the offensive line dominates the Steelers base front. Timmons overruns the play and once Heyward is cut block, running back Stevan Ridley has a huge cutback lane. A missed tackle by Clark allows for a 14-yard gain and a first down at midfield.


On the third play of the drive, the play call really catches the Steelers defense off guard. It looks like it is going to be an outside zone to the right this time, but instead, it is a misdirection pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who sneaks out right past Timmons for 17 yards. The play-action was a thing of beauty after two straight runs.


When something works, you go back to it and that is exactly what the Patriots did on the next play as they again run the outside zone to the left. This time, however, Heyward avoids the cut block and is in position to shut down the cut back lane.


On second and long, the Patriots do not panic as they stay with their 12 personnel which is countered by the Steelers base defense. I should also note that Shamarko Thomas is in the game at this point as strong safety because Clark was sidelined a few plays after being dinged up making the tackle on Hoomanawanui a few plays earlier. Do you think that the Patriots coaches up in the booth noticed this? This is stealing off of play-action as Thomas is no match for tight end Rob Gronkowsi on an out route in cover-3. Quarterback Tom Brady has the ball out in 2.5 seconds and the Patriots have another 13 yards and another first down.


Now for the dagger. This time the Patriots roll out their 13 personnel grouping and that screams run. This play is going to Gronkowski all the way. While linebacker Jarvis Jones does do a good job of carrying the big tight end up the seam, he allows a free release and Brady makes a perfect throw over the top of him before Troy Polamalu can get there.


That is as perfect of a drive as you will ever see and it all started with the Patriots being able to run the ball both inside and outside.


    As much as we detest Belicheat and our history with the Patriots, you have to give them credit for their game plan, play design for personnel, ability to make adjustments, and their execution. Always a great coaching staff.

  • k33ger

    I still don’t understand how polamalu got an unnecessary roughness penalty on that hit. I thought that was bs in the game, and I continue to feel that way.

  • steeltown

    Two pretty bad plays by Clark up there…I mentioned before I love Clark and in no way wish to be a Clark basher, but either he doesn’t have it physically anymore or he is no longer mentally committed

    On another note, Heyward continues to impress even on scoring drives such as these, he’s becoming a guy the OL will sometimes double Team which is awesome, guy has a motor!

  • Chris Wilkes

    Can’t believe Jarvis was asked to cover Gronkowski on that last play. We showed that guy zero respect and he gutted us on 9 of 10 pass plays, and I think the other one was a pass interference call.

  • HarryBackside

    That’s the offense dictating the match up. I don’t know what better options were available. The Patriots had 3 TE’s, 1 WR and 1 RB on the field. The WR is on the same side of the formation as Gronk, which forces the match up against a LB. Maybe the defense could have played nickel, but then you’re losing a D-lineman or LB against a formation with 3 TE’s. Brady would look at that, change to a run play, and probably would have gotten the same result.

  • HarryBackside

    That’s interesting. In the first GIF, it looks like the defense is using the same 1-gap front that they use on Georgia.

  • chris ward

    McDaniel had the Steelers defense completely off balanced with good play design.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Its real simple. The Patriots know that the LB are the ones that makes the plays on defense. If you are able to get your OL on our LBs, its a field day for the RB. Field day for the RBs will equal open TE and Recievers.

    Lebeau got outschooled, outcoached and couldn’t figure it out. Bottom line. I really don’t blame the players as much (though they deserve blame). As a coach you have to put you players in the best position to make plays.

    Its clear Bellicheat/Josh was doing just that but Lebeau did not. As you can see in all of these GIFs, the defense looks confused and just reacting rather than dictating. They seem to be on their heals. Poor coaching.

  • cencalsteeler

    His missed tackles this season alone has cost our defense points, first downs, kept them on the field longer, and have caused momentum swings. No disrespect to Clark either, but he is causing our team more negatives than positives. Something needs to be considered.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Sorry, I don’t give credit to cheaters. Is he one of the better coaches in the league, yes but this butt whipping game was all about Lebeau (whom I like alot).

    You have got to make adjustments on the fly with Bellicheat. Its a chess game with those guys and they are looking to exploit you unlike most coaches like Lebeau who just runs his scheme.

    I’ll be honest, I think the Patsies saw a number of things prior to this game that I noticed as well. Our pressure have been coming from the edges. Big mistake. To get Brady, you must have constant pressure up the middle. He gets rid of the ball to quick for that.

    Our LB and Safeties love to over-pursue. Look at the Raiders game and its clear. Brady was having a field day with those guys going one way and then making the play the other direction.

    Lastly, the DL isn’t that physical and can’t clog holes except for Heyward.

  • Virdin Barzey

    The key to the Patriots is keeping them off-balance which we were never able to do. Pressure up the middle. You have to mix it up and disguise some of these formations. The goal isn’t to stop them, it to contain them especially in the RedZone. This defense did absolutely none of it and it was a butt-whipping.

    The D-coaches need to take this one on the chin. Oh my bad, they already have taken several against Bellicheat and still have not got it figured out even though teams like the Jets and Giants have. Shameful.

  • Johnny Vicars

    No credit for cheaters huh? O basically you are not giving any credit for your entire 70’s superbowl runs? How has it been since your HGH doctor left in 2010? It seems players got old after that…Maybe you should go listen to your former coach about spygate, you learn a thing or two about who was doing it and what they were doing….

  • Virdin Barzey

    Now we have Patsies on our sites trolling. Only happens when your team sucks. Amazing.

    Guess the Patsies weren’t doing HGH in 70s, 80, 90s? Really?….ever heard of Rodney Harrison?

    Seems like our cheaters never get caught but yours do. Wonder why? Hmmmmmm…..Isn’t there a Patsie site for you to discuss this on?

  • Bill Molinaro

    It’s not Lebeau, he doesn’t play: It is about the controlling the line of scrimmage and the Steelers do not do that. Running the football is the life blood of the game! You run to set up play action. The old Steeler defensive line controlled all members of the offensive line and kept the linebackers free to make the play and thus teams could not run against them. Against the present line, multiple O-linemen get to the second level and that’s trouble! Did you ever see an H-Back Wham Big Snack like that? When an offense runs the ball effectively the backers have to bite and that frees up the play action pass and nobody I’ve seen in this league matches up with Gronk/Brady. We just don’t have the horses!

  • Bill Molinaro

    Anybody who thinks Belichick, et all are NOT one of the great staffs in the NFL IS A FOOL.

  • Johnny Vicars

    Trolling? LOL, no just educating, its sad you cannot be as intelligent as your fellow fans on here, but I am sure you hear that a lot.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Educating? Looks more like ignorance. Who comes on a Steelers board with a Boston Strong logo, then try to defend the Patriots on that Steelers board. And I’m not intelligent? Okay….your right. LOL.