Patriots' passing game shifts into high gear
The Sports Xchange
Two of the more interesting plays in New England's Sunday
evening 38-20 win in Philadelphia highlighted exactly why the Patriots
passing game is so difficult to defend.
The first of the two big second-quarter Tom Brady
big plays went to Deion Branch. Brady was pressured on the play and
avoided a sack before moving up and left in the pocket. Branch was
originally running a comeback, but when Brady had to improvise the
receiver stopped and turned back downfield. New England's two-time
Super Bowl MVP quarterback made a perfect throw to his Super Bowl MVP
wide receiver, who then hightailed it down the field for a 63-yard gain
to set up a 1-yard touchdown.
While Branch was the one running down the field,
the receiver was quick to praise his quarterback.
"It wasn't a play that I made, it was a play that
he made with his feet," Branch said.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick saw the play as
just the latest example of the unique relationship and rapport that
Brady has with a receiver he first started making plays with in New
England back in 2002.
"It starts with (the fact that) you have two smart
guys, both very instinctive players that if something comes up that you
haven't done or talked about before, I'd say both of them probably
would do the right thing -- or what you would want them to do if you
haven't told them what to do; what they would do is most of the time
what you would want them to do," Belichick said. "That puts them pretty
much on the same page to begin with. Certainly the experience and reps
they've had together (in) practice, games and walkthroughs and talking
about situations and talking about things that come up, I'm sure that's
all added to it.
"Deion is a very instinctive receiver. He has a
great sense of timing, of when the quarterback is ready to throw the
ball, when he needs to be open, how to get open. Tom, from his
position, kind of has that same sense of what the receiver would expect
him to do and what he should do in certain situations and that's almost
always what Deion would do. But inevitably things come up that either
go against the grain or it's not quite the way we've talked about it
and the player has to make a decision. I would say those guys almost
always do what -- if you had gone over it -- what you would have wanted
them to do."
Brady's working relationship with Welker, who
essentially replaced Branch in the offense in 2007 a year after the
latter had been traded to the Seahawks following a contract dispute,
has a similar relationship with No. 12.
On Sunday that manifested itself in a site
adjustment on the field that led to a 41-yard touchdown, Brady hitting
a wide open Welker in stride down the left hashes.
"He said before the play that if I get this
certain look, then I'm going to fake like I'm running the in cut and
then run the post, and he did it and came to the sideline and said I
told you, I told you!," Brady relayed after the game. "So that was
pretty funny. It's nice when they work out kind of like how you talk
about it. Wes (Welker) is so consistent and reliable and he's a
Branch and Welker both topped 100 yards in the
victory, with the two diminutive receivers helping New England to yet
another 30-point day.
Their talents, production and relationships with
Brady just one of the many, many reasons why the Patriots offense
continues to evolve and become more challenging to defend by the week.
--QB Tom Brady passed for 361 yards and three
touchdowns Sunday, his 119th victory as a starting quarterback to move
into a tie with Johnny Unitas for career wins.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis had just 44 yards on 14
attempts, but did find the end zone twice in the victory. Green-Ellis
now has seven rushing touchdowns for the year, despite having gone five
games without a rushing score.
--RB Danny Woodhead had just 20 yards on four
carries in Philly, as he continues to struggle to find a role on the
New England offense. Woodhead still ranks second on New England with
233 yards rushing on 53 attempts for the season.
--WR Wes Welker tied for a game high with eight
catches for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The performance was the
NFL receptions (82) leader's sixth 100-yard game of the season.
--WR Deion Branch also topped the 100-yard mark,
totaling 125 yards on six receptions including a long of 63 yards.
--TE Rob Gronkowski had just four receptions for
59 yards, but did find the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown. With 11
touchdowns on the season, Gronkowski is two shy of the NFL record for
receiving touchdowns by a tight end held by Vernon Davis (2009) and
Antonio Gates (2004).
--CB Antwaun Molden recorded his first career
interception when he hauled in a Vince Young pass on Sunday.
--LB Tracy White, a career special teamer, made
just his third career start on defense against the Eagles. It was
White's first start on defense since he started a pair of games in just
his second NFL season back in 2004.
--CB Kyle Arrington leads the NFL with seven
interceptions, but he also led the Patriots with 10 solo tackles in the
win at Philly.
--LB Rob Ninkovich had a sack of Vince Young in
victory, giving him 3.5 for the season to rank third on the Patriots
--DT Kyle Love also brought Vince Young down for a
sack, his second on the season.
--WR Julian Edelman continued to see defensive
snaps as a slot corner and nickel back against the Eagles, finishing
with three tackles including a nice open-field stop of Vince Young on a