The Patriots took down the Miami Dolphins in week 12, and they did it with an explosive running game and a steady passing game.
New England averaged 5.2 yards per attempt on the ground, and the attack was led by shifty running back Dion Lewis, who had 15 carries for 112 yards. The dynamic back from Pitt caused 6 missed tackles and did most of his damage between the tackles. Believe it or not, that is his modus operandi. Most of Lewis’s carries are between the tackles, which is very surprising, given his stature.
The offensive staff draws up plays that give Lewis lanes, and when he sees them he has the burst to hit the hole. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best in the business, and his line is able to execute ‘old school’ run concepts, but plays that could really gash the Bills, much like this double trap play inside the red zone.
On the snap, he and right guard Shaq Mason (#69) execute ‘wham’ blocks on both defensive tackles. The offensive linemen do not block the defensive tackles. Instead, they let them attack upfield and let them be aggressive, at which time Allen and Mason can use angles to block them.
Now that the interior defenders are blocked up, the second-level defenders, linebackers Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons, need to be secured. Center Ted Karras and left tackle Nate Solder climb to the second level to pick up the linebackers.
Timmons does a good job of driving downhill instead of waiting on the back to come to him, but Solder’s length allows him to get just enough of the veteran.
Throw in a sick spin move, and you get a nice 5-yard gain.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels employs a diverse rushing attack, but he hasn’t reinvented the wheel. They utilize traditional gap concepts, but the X-factor is Lewis. Take this weak side counter trey. The Patriots are in 21 personnel and are up against the Dolphins’ 4-3 over front. On the snap, right guard Mason, one of the best pulling guards in the NFL, long-pulls to kick out the right defensive end Andre Branch.
Branch sacrifices his body and takes out Mason and fullback James Develin. With Branch at his feet and middle linebacker Chase Allen having over-pursued, Dion hops over Branch and then displays his vision by splitting the push-crack block by WR Cooks and the block by TE Gronkowski.
This concept is an oldschool concept, but it is being run by a ‘new age’ running back, and it is a beautiful thing t0 witness.
Now onto the run concept of the year, the Duo, or Double. It’s a copycat league, and the Steelers and RB Le’Veon Bell made this play famous last season, but it isn’t really a new concept. It’s a gap run, but there is no puller, and it puts Lewis in the driver’s seat. Lewis takes a small counter/jab step to his left, but his landmark is the right guard.
What I mean by ‘a gap run with no puller’ is that the offensive linemen are responsible for their backside gap, so with the ball going to the right, they are stepping to their left and blocking anyone that shows. The movement by the linemen, paired with the slight misdirection by Lewis, gets the defense thinking run right, so they flow to their right, giving the linemen the angles they need to execute their blocks.
Right guard Mason absolutely bench presses Ndamukong Suh, taking him out of the play and giving Lewis a huge hole.
Lewis then shows off his play strength and power through contact as he breaks the attempted tackle by safety Reshad Jones, then takes off for a 25-yard gain.
Over the last month the Patriots have focused most of their rushing attack up the middle, including six explosive runs.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 29, 2017
Lewis’s traits, mixed with the technically sound blocking and ‘old school’ concepts, could create issues for the Bills this Sunday. He may not look like a powerful back, but, according to PFF, he has the third-highest yards after contact per attempt in the NFL. He averages 3.5 yards AFTER CONTACT. To give you some perspective, McCoy averages 2.0 yards after contact, and Lewis has registered a total of 335 yards after contact, whereas McCoy has 381. Keep in mind, Lewis has 95 fewer carries…
Defending the run has been a major weakness at various points this season for the Bills. Run gap integrity and tackling will be of utmost importance if they want to stay in this game.