In his season debut, Brady played like he hadn’t missed a snap all season. The performance of Brady was impressive, but the Cleveland defense did very little to help prevent the offensive explosion by New England.
This first play comes from the New England’s opening drive and was the first third down they faced in the game. The Patriots line up with trips on the right and isolate playmaker Rob Gronkowski to the far left. The Browns defense is showing blitz and man coverage on the play.
At the line of scrimmage, Brady picks up on the matchup he wants to exploit. Gronkowski is in man coverage against Browns safety Jordan Poyer to the far left. Brady calls an audible at the line to take advantage of this matchup. The Browns defense should never have allowed man coverage to occur on Gronk, and should always have double teamed him or played him in zone coverages. The Browns defense has no one defender big enough or athletic enough to cover Gronkowski.
On the play, two receivers from the trips right side run crossing routes across the middle of the field and the other runs deep to clear out the entire right side of the field. Meanwhile, Gronkowski runs a shallow crossing route from left to right to the area the Patriots receivers just vacated. In the man coverage, Poyer can’t stick with Gronk running through traffic across the middle and it becomes a huge play to New England’s premier playmaker.
On this next play, Brady and company take advantage of the Browns young secondary for a big gain down the field. Brady is operating under center in a single-back formation and the call is a play-action pass that is executed to perfection. Brady’s play fakes are the best in the game and he catches the Browns defense on the fake to the running back LeGarrette Blount. On the fake the linebackers bite run and go with the play flow toward the running back.
In the secondary, safety Ibraheim Campbell is fooled on the fake and, with his eyes caught looking in the backfield, begins to break on the run. When he realizes it is a pass he gets his feet crossed up and his direction turned around and is in no position to make a play on the receiver.
The receiver, Chris Hogan, is running a deep over route and is able to blow by the out-of-position Campbell for a big play down the field. This is the value of how a solid run game can open things up for the passing game and how important good play fakes can fool a defense.