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Jets-Patriots: The Small Edge of Film Study

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New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

NFL coaches are legendary for being workaholics. Stories of coaches dissecting film late into the night and sleeping in their offices are commonplace. What do they get out of it?

Sometimes they figure out a matchup or a weakness they can exploit once or twice against the next opponent.

Pro Football Focus’ numbers show that the Patriots did not have a cornerback blitz once in the first five weeks of the season. That changed in Week 6 against the Jets.

It might have had something to do with this play the Jets ran late in the first half of their Week 5 game against Cleveland.

Jason McCourty blitzed off the corner for Cleveland.

The Jets don’t have anybody to pick it up. Having a blocker isn’t the only way to beat a blitz, though. A good way to beat a blitz is to just throw it to the spot on the field where the blitzer came from. Jermaine Kearse appears to be adjusting his route by looking back for the ball. If Josh McCown fires it out to him, it should be a completion and a positive play. McCown seems to be looking in his direction, but he doesn’t throw it. Instead, he gets flushed to his right by McCourty, and the play ends in failure.

Fast forward to Sunday’s second quarter. For the first time all season the Patriots decide to blitz a cornerback. It is Malcolm Butler.

This time the receiver is Robby Anderson. Again we see the receiver look back ready to adjust his route with McCown picking things up too late.

Sometimes you can go to the well once too often. On a fourth down play late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, the Pats decided to bring Butler once more.

It is part of a pretty elaborate zone blitz. It isn’t exactly easy to guess where these guys are covering based on the presnap alignment.

The Patriots rush four and essentially pack six defenders at the sticks.

Rewinding a bit, Brian Winters saves the Jets here. He recognizes the corner blitz from Butler and picks him up because the blitz the Patriots are running has left him without an assignment.

Winters momentarily saves the game for the Jets and would have been one of the heroes had they come back to win. Robby Anderson’s route takes him to the middle of the field. A window is open because Austin Seferian-Jenkins (yellow) is drawing a defender, and two zone defenders are focused on Jeremy Kerley (orange), knowing he is a favorite McCown target in big spots.

Sometimes hours of film study provide you with something that can benefit you on one play. Even if it works once, there are instances where you can’t even get a second play out of it.