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Ben Volin

Patriots Replay: Key plays in New England’s victory over Dallas

Here’s our weekly look at the key plays in the Patriots’ game after reviewing the film.

Defending the Patriots

The Cowboys actually had some success slowing down the Patriots. How’d they do it?

The Cowboys, usually a 4-3 defense, used an unusual 3-2-6 defense for much of the game, with two linebackers up on the line of scrimmage and press coverage on the receivers.

This allowed the Cowboys to get creative with their pass rush, and the Patriots’ offensive line had some issues identifying the correct defenders to block, as with this Rolando McClain sack. Also notice how tight the coverage is on all five receivers.

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Patriots adjusting

So how did the Patriots combat this tactic? They ran the pick play over, and over, and over ...

On the first play of the game, TE Michael Williams gave Julian Edelman a perfectly legal pick creating a ton of space for Edelman’s 21-yard catch-and-run.

The Patriots even ran a pick play for Rob Gronkowski, who usually doesn’t need help getting open.

But Edelman created space for Gronk, and he had an easy catch and moved the chains.

Defending the Cowboys

The Patriots’ game plan appeared to revolve around slowing down Jason Witten.

The Patriots brought free safety Devin McCourty down in the box to cover Jason Witten as soon as he got off the line of scrimmage.

McCourty got his hands on Witten to slow down his timing.

And just for good measure, the Patriots shadowed Witten over the top with a safety — in this case, Jordan Richards (37).

Offensive snap counts
Steelers (61) Bills (86) Jaguars (81) Cowboys (59) Total (287) Percent
C David Andrews 61 86 81 59 287 100.0%
QB Tom Brady 61 86 79 57 283 98.6%
TE Rob Gronkowski 61 81 54 57 253 88.2%
OT Sebastian Vollmer 52 49 63 56 220 76.7%
WR Julian Edelman 48 75 57 51 231 80.5%
WR Keshawn Martin 0 0 36 50 86 30.0%
G Josh Kline 54 86 54 48 242 84.3%
G Shaq Mason 36 57 61 42 196 68.3%
RB Dion Lewis 46 73 35 42 196 68.3%
OT Marcus Cannon 13 50 40 40 143 49.8%
WR Danny Amendola 34 36 54 36 160 55.7%
G Tre Jackson 36 27 46 32 141 49.1%
OT Nate Solder 57 78 70 25 230 80.1%
TE Mike Williams 18 21 32 20 91 31.7%
RB LeGarrette Blount 0 7 31 17 55 19.2%
TE Scott Chandler 25 43 32 10 110 38.3%
WR Matthew Slater 0 4 2 3 9 3.1%
RB James White 1 0 17 2 20 7.0%
QB Jimmy Garoppolo 0 0 2 2 4 1.4%
WR Aaron Dobson 30 70 44 0 144 50.2%
TE Michael Hoomanawanui 12 10 0 0 22 7.7%
RB Brandon Bolden 14 5 1 0 20 7.0%
WR Chris Harper 12 0 0 0 12 4.2%
RB Travaris Cadet 0 3 0 0 3 1.0%
Defensive snap counts
Steelers (73) Bills (72) Jaguars (57) Cowboys (72) Total (274) Percent
CB Malcolm Butler 68 72 57 72 269 98.2%
FS Devin McCourty 73 72 50 72 267 97.4%
LB Jamie Collins 73 72 47 72 264 96.4%
SS Patrick Chung 49 61 30 64 204 74.5%
DE Chandler Jones 71 62 33 57 223 81.4%
DE Rob Ninkovich 69 63 39 54 225 82.1%
CB Logan Ryan 4 50 57 47 158 57.7%
DE Jabaal Sheard 50 45 48 46 189 69.0%
CB Tarell Brown 64 53 0 45 162 59.1%
S Duron Harmon 57 22 19 41 139 50.7%
LB Jerod Mayo 11 16 17 29 73 26.6%
CB Justin Coleman 0 0 42 26 68 24.8%
LB Jonathan Freeny 0 2 13 25 40 14.6%
DT Malcom Brown 26 21 22 23 92 33.6%
DT Alan Branch 12 25 17 23 77 28.1%
S Jordan Richards 0 0 30 22 52 19.0%
DT Dominique Easley 7 0 32 19 58 21.2%
DT Sealver Siliga 22 44 23 18 107 39.1%
DT Akiem Hicks 0 0 0 18 18 6.6%
LB Donta Hightower 61 69 41 9 180 65.7%
DE Geneo Grissom 32 10 7 9 58 21.2%
S Nate Ebner 5 0 0 1 6 2.2%
CB Bradley Fletcher 49 19 0 0 68 24.8%
LB Rufus Johnson 0 13 0 0 13 4.7%
S Tavon Wilson 0 1 0 0 1 0.4%

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