Pick Six:  Observations from Game Seven

New England survived a wacky game in Chicago, 38-31, and the game ended with a Hail Mary catch by Chicago’s Kevin White while Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Devin McCourty desperately held the receiver one yard shy of the goal line. Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled through the first three quarters with his accuracy – completing less than half of his pass attempts – but got hot in the 4th quarter with 11 completions and 157 yards on 16 attempts.

Six Observations from Game Seven

1. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but on Sunday the Patriots’ defense struggled to keep a moderately mobile quarterback in the pocket. Mitchell Trubisky converted four third-down conversions with impromptu scrambles in the first half, including an eight yard run for a touchdown in the 1st quarter. On that play, defensive end Adrian Clayborn got past Chicago’s left tackle, Charles Leno Jr., for a pressure, but Trubisky spun out of the sack attempt. Defensive lineman Adam Butler charged the quarterback in the middle of the field, but did not protect the left sideline, so Trubisky took it to the outside and followed Leno’s block of Dont’a Hightower into the end zone. Early in the 3rd quarter, Trubisky picked up another first down when New England sent six rushers, the quarterback again escaped the pocket to the left, and stiff armed cornerback Stephon Gilmore in route to a 39 yard gain.

2. Credit to the Patriots’ defense for adjusting to contain Trubisky’s running for most of the second half. On third-and-10 late in the 3rd quarter, Trubisky tried to escape the pocket but Devin McCourty cuts off his escape, enticing the quarterback to throw an interception to cornerback JC Jackson on a comeback along the right sideline. Midway through the 4th, Adrian Clayborn again beat left tackle Charles Leno Jr., but this time Trubisky’s spin was mistimed and Clayborn got the third down sack.

3. The Bears’ Trey Burton was killing the Patriots’ zone defense all day, and Trubisky had a near-perfect 144.7 quarter back rating when targeting the tight end. Early in the 2nd quarter Burton was the inside man in a “trips bunch” formation (meaning, three receivers closely aligned on one side of the line) and ran straight up field against the Patriots two-deep zone to catch a 17-yarder between Patrick Chung and Jonathan Jones on fourth-and-four. Late in the 2nd, Burton was in another trips formation and got between Devin McCourty and Jonathan Jones for another 17 yard gain. In a Chicago “got to have it” drive late in the 4th quarter, Jones fell down when trying to jam Burton out of another trips formation and the tight end picked up 21 yards. Three plays later, Chicago isolated Burton on the right side and Jones was again knocked down on the jam, allowing the bigger player to catch an 11 yard touchdown.

4. On the good side, cornerback Jonathan Jones made two outstanding plays. In the 1st quarter, Jones blitzed past the right tackle, pressured Trubisky but missed the sack. Jones stayed with the play and made a hit on the quarterback that forced an incompletion. Early in the 4th, Jones was the deep coverage man against a trips bunch formation, and ran with receiver Anthony Miller on a “go” route deep. Jones maintained awareness of the ball, jumped with Miller, and reeled in an impressive interception at New England’s four yard line.

5. It was a wild day for the special teams, with New England’s Cordarrelle Patterson fumbling – and losing the ball – in the 1st quarter and Julian Edelman muffing – and then recovering – a punt in the 2nd. Patterson’s fumble was created by the Bears’ Nick Kwiatkoski when he reached past Nicholas Grigsby’s block to knock the ball out of the returner’s grip. Early in the 2nd, Cordarrelle Patterson followed some terrific blocking, and then side stepped a missed tackle by Kevin Toliver II at the New England 30 yard, in route to scoring on a 95 yard touchdown return. Midway through the 3rd the New England coaches put Donta Hightower in on the punt block team and the linebacker knocked down tight end Ben Braunecker on his path to blocking the punt. Kyle Van Noy picked up the blocked punt and carried it into the end zone for a score. That fourth down punt block was precipitated by a smart play on third down by defensive lineman Adam Butler. Butler had rushed up the A-gap but when he saw a screen developing he broke off his rush to cover running back Tarik Cohen.

6. It appeared that the Patriots offense started the game with the goal of making the Bears defend the entire width of the field, as three of the eight plays to open the game were either a wide receiver screen or a misdirection off a fake screen to a receiver. Running back Sony Michell was injured on the open offensive play of the 2nd quarter, in what appeared to be either a mistake or a misdirection by the offense. On that running play, center David Andrews pulled around to the right – putting the strength of the blocking to the right side – but running back Michell headed directly to the left. Tackle Trent Brown hit defensive lineman Bilal Nichols once, and then peeled off and headed down field, giving Nichols a free hit on Michell. Credit to Patriots’ tight end Dwayne Allen, who was also aligned next to Trent Brown, as he maintained his block of defensive end Leonard Floyd well past the play. Allen’s tenacious blocking kept Floyd from jumping on Sony Michell and may have prevented further injury.

Originally posted on PatsPulpit.com

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