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Jets Film Review: The Rope-a-Dope

Outsmarting the Defense

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

“They call it the rope-a-dope. Well, I’m the dope. Ali just laid on the rope and I, like a dope, kept punching until I got tired. But he was probably the most smart fighter I’ve ever gotten into the ring with.” - George Foreman

For the first time in a while, I saw the Jets offense knowing their own tendencies and exploiting a defense by betting they would over-commit.

Here’s the play:

Obviously, you see the rope the dope. It’s a fake bubble (hitch) screen with the 2nd man faking the block and simply scooting by the defender.

What I love about this play and the call is that Bates has called a ton of hitch screens. How many? I’ve seen at least one in every game with the exception of the Broncos game. There was even a bubble screen earlier in the Colts game to set it up.

Here’s just a sample of the same play:

Against Detroit: (set up by play action)




Earlier against Indianapolis:

So why did this interest me? You add in this wrinkle and suddenly on 3rd and 3 a defense may hesitate for a split second and/or engage the TE/WR on the outside laying a block. That could be just what Enunwa(when he’s back), Pryor or Anderson need to get a first down.

But it has broader implications as well.

If you are game planning against the Jets and see something they repeat week after week what do you do? You will try to counter it.

For example, I’ve seen the offense try to run a boot waggle with very little success. Say you’re the Vikings. Why not just just copy what teams have done and spend more time on something else if you’re the defensive coordinator?

Because now you’ve seen Bates adapt and game plan around what the opposition defense is expecting and what defenses have done so far to blow up the play. Simply put, Bates just proved he can counter your counter and make you pay for it.

If Bates can do it for bubble screens, why not for the boot waggle mentioned above? (Instead of a boot waggle, run a back door screen a la Curtis Martin.) Bates could do it with the 0 slam by adding in a jet sweep.

Now that you saw that play, as a defensive unit,you may hesitate to go all out and commit fully on a play that you’ve seen in film study for fear of the counter punch.

It’s something to watch in the future. Will Bates be one step ahead of the defense and execute the rope the dope like he did against the Colts? Or does keep calling a successful play while keeping his counter punch in his pocket?