FOXBORO — The rub route has become a sensation of sorts in the last several years for offenses trying to deal with defenses bringing more and more pressure.
Of course, no quarterback in football is hunted more than Tom Brady.
And Brady has dealt with it by getting rid of the ball more and more quickly. One of his trusty routes that branches off rubs and picks at the line of scrimmage is the shallow cross.
It’s one that Greg Bedard highlighted brilliantly for MMQB and it’s a route that Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola have perfected in their time with the Patriots.
On Monday night, the Bills brought lots of pressure in the first half and Brady responded. He was 5-of-6 in the first half on “short middle” routes with the only incompletion coming when he targeted James White on the final play before a 20-yard touchdown connection to the right flat to White. Brady was 4-for-4 on shallow cross targets to Amendola and 1-for-1 on a 17-yarder to Aaron Dobson.
Brady was a little less effective in the second half, going 2-for-4, with both completions winding up in the hands of Amendola before the receiver left the game with a knee injury. WEEI’s stopwatch guru Ryan Hannable reports that Brady was 12-for-18 on passes that took less than two seconds to throw while he was just 3-for-12 when taking more than three seconds.
“A lot of what we try to do is avoid those types of situations where we’re forced to throw it quickly, but there are certainly situations that come up in each game where that may be the case,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “So we call our fair share of them, and at times we have to adjust and do things because the defense has forced us into those situations. As many times you can in a game, you try to do things on your terms ‘ I think that’s the key, and not be forced into doing something and being dictated by the defense.
“But any success we have with schemes goes back to the execution by the players. So they do a good job of learning how we want things done, and there’s no defense that makes running those things easy. So ultimately, it comes down to our preparation, our practice execution and then carrying that into the game and being able to do it under pressure against tight man coverage, against zone, against blitz, against four-man rush, three-man rush. I think a few of those last night, we ended up with three-man rush. Some of them we ended up with six or seven of them coming at us, so a lot of different scenarios that could come into play. And ultimately, those are timing things and trust. There’s a trust element to those things that is very important because it’s such a quick type of a play that the receiver, tight end or back and the quarterback need to be on the same page when we’re using those things.”
The crossing pattern isn’t limited to receivers as Bill Belichick noted Wednesday. Even Rob Gronkowski could see an increased role with the current depth issues at receiver.
“Sure, it’s a possibility,” Belichick said. “It creates a different kind of matchup, and depending on who is covering him, it puts that player in a less comfortable position. But the closer you are to the middle of the field the more route options you have. You can go inside or outside, it’s really the same thing at that point when you’re right in the middle and you have a lot more variety in what you can do. When you’re outside your route tree, you can’t get to the other half of the field basically unless it’s a long-developing over route or something like that. So your route tree is in more of a confined area. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. It’s just different. I think there are places and advantages to, whether it be a receiver or tight end ‘ I mean, they’re all receivers ‘ backs, tight ends, receivers, there are advantages to being outside or somewhere in that slot area or inside if you will. So it depends on what you’re trying to do, who you’re matched up against, what you’re trying to run.”
And what about the take of the man throwing those shallow crosses?
“We made a few plays the other night,” Brady said of his seven completions over the short middle. “It helps having fast receivers, guys who can get across the field and try to run away from the coverage. A lot of teams use it. I always say you’ve got to attack different parts of the field at different times. So if they’re playing off, you’ve got to run those types of routes. If they’re up tight, then you’ve got to simulate that and try to run by them. I think it’s important to have a lot of variety in what you’re trying to do. That’s what we’ll try to figure out how to do this week.”
Are those plays mostly by design or is it a read?
“It just depends on the call, so Josh just designs those plays and then calls them at certain times. I don’t think there’s anything that detailed to it,” Brady said. “And most of the times on the routes you’ll have a short player, you’ll have an intermediate player, you’ll have a deep player. You try to spread them out throughout the field. It’s rare you’re going to have multiple guys in one spot, so if a receiver is going to be short on a particular play, it probably means other guys are down the field. If the backs are the guys who are the underneath players, then it gives the receivers and tight ends a chance to get to the intermediate and deep parts of the field. So a lot of it is just trying to spread the field and make them defend all those different areas.”
That would be a good idea for a defense ready to make life miserable for a shorthanded offense Sunday night.
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