The Jets lost a close game to the Patriots this week, although Ryan Fitzpatrick was decidedly better than his past few games. This is his best game since Week 2 against the Bills, as the Patriots defense went heavy on press coverage in this game, which was something the Bills did as well. Let’s look at some of his good throws, as this will be the longest Fitzmagic article since the Bills game.
This is the first offensive play for the Jets in the game, and they came out with five receivers. However, the RB comes back to Fitzpatrick prior to the snap, isolating Brandon Marshall on the left side of the formation, while three receivers to the left of the formation have defenders playing away from them. The pre-snap read indicates that this side is likely to see more separation, but Fitzpatrick already has his mind made up at the line of scrimmage. He throws a very good back shoulder pass to Brandon Marshall for the completion. The back shoulder pass was uses extensively against the Bills, but most teams have been ready for it since. The other side of the field is set up for a quick screen to Enunwa, as evidenced by the other receivers engaging in blocks down the field, but Fitzpatrick ignores that side. This is a bad read by Fitzpatrick, as he bypasses the easy completion, but he makes up for it with a great back shoulder pass to Marshall. The Patriots are caught in bad coverage on this play on two different levels. They have a safety playing back covering Enunwa, so if the QB goes his way, that is at least a few yards from an easy completion. On the second level, the CB playing Marshall is trying to funnel him inside, as you see him jump to the outside at the onset of this play. However, Marshall does a good job to turn outside, which forces the defensive back to turn around completely, losing his ideal positioning to the outside that he desired at the start of this play. The CB wants to take out the outside, and lead Marshall towards the safety in the middle, but it’s a very good move by Marshall to force him to turn around.
There are a few things that are positive about this third down play for the Jets. The first one is the design on this play, especially when you consider the late motion with Robby Anderson, although there is a good chance it would be successful without it. The Patriots are playing press coverage, except for Quincy Enunwa to the left of the formation. This leaves Marshall on the right side of the formation with press coverage and a safety over the top. The defender does the exact same motion as the last play where he jumps to the outside at the onset of the play, trying to take away the back shoulder and outside pass. However, the defender has to hesitate because Robby Anderson is on the same side running a quick out, so Fitzpatrick is really just reading the CB on Marshall on this play. If the CB runs back with Marshall, then this is an easy completion to Anderson for the first down since the middle LB doesn’t have the speed to catch up to Anderson on a horizontal route. If the CB hesitates, as he did on this play, then Marshall will be open for the out route because the safety is playing too far inside to have a legitimate shot at this play. On the other side, Quincy Enunwa is briefly open for the pass, and since the Patriots held the number of defenders to that side of the field as the same prior to movement, there is a good chance of a player being open for the first down on this side of the field even without the late movement. The other positive aspect of this play is that Fitzpatrick isn’t locked in to one side from the start of this play. He actually looks towards the RB on this play at the start, which has the defensive end on the other side of the field move towards the middle, creating more room for Robby Anderson. Fitzpatrick gets plenty of blame, and rightfully so, for his locked in syndrome with receivers, but he actually moved his progression from left to right enough to trick the defenders. This is a great play design by Chan Gailey, and an excellent execution by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While there is credit given to Fitzpatrick on the last play for not being locked in, he zoned in on Brandon Marshall from the start of this play. The Patriots are playing press coverage across the board with five receivers on this play, with a two deep safety look. The Patriots are really only rushing three players in a wide stance, essentially trying to take the guards out of play, and gaining a numerical advantage. The Eagles employed this last year, and the Patriots have copied them today. The play is actually made by Bilal Powell, because he gains inside leverage on his defender, which causes the defender on Marshall to try and cover Powell before he can effectively hand him off. If Powell is routed outside on this play, this is a bad situation for the Jets. However, Marshall fights through his guy and Fitzpatrick sees an opening, and promptly takes advantage. This is a very good throw by Fitzpatrick, even if he’s locked in from the start. On the other end, notice how easy Robby Anderson got open on this play. While this is a positive play, the other side of the field is an excellent example of Chan Gailey setting up two sides of the field for the QB. We already saw the Marshall and Powell combination on the left side of the formation. On the right side, Anderson runs a quick out route, while the outside WR runs a go route. This is a great set up because Anderson is open for the easy pass, but if the outside CB peels off and goes after Anderson, then the go route is wide open. It’s an exemplary play design against a team playing press coverage, and then dropping into zone.
This is a good play design, a good read, decent throw, and yet it is unsuccessful. The Patriots are playing press man coverage across the board again, and this time they do not go into zone coverage. The Jets saw a numbers advantage on the other side of the field, because they have a LB showing blitz to the right side of the formation. So they send Enunwa in motion late in the play, which doesn’t allow for the Patriots to call an audible, and have that LB switch into coverage, and blitz from the other side. It’s one of the biggest benefits from late movement because teams just can’t adjust in time if they give away their look. From the Jets standpoint, this is a great play design, because if the LB blitzes, the Jets have two slant routes and an out route against two defenders and a deep safety. It’s an easy conversion, because if either of the CBs playing the slant receivers decide to help out against Enunwa, the guy they are tasked to cover would be open for a pass. However, it turns unsuccessful because Devin McCourty makes an absolutely great read on this play and shows off why he’s one of the best safeties in the league. Notice how early he recognizes the play, diagnoses the pass, and goes straight for Enunwa and tackles him in the open field. It’s debatable if Enunwa had the first down or not, but this play wouldn’t even be close if not for the great play by McCourty. The Jets set up this play perfectly, executed it reasonably well, but lost because the opposing player just made a great play. The only downside of this play is that, Fitz throws this pass to the inside, which forces Enunwa to turn around, limiting his momentum moving forward. Other than that, this is excellent execution, but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the opponent.
This might be an unicorn play for the Jets, because it’s video evidence of a pass towards the tight end. The Patriots are playing press coverage again with a single high safety, and the pre-snap movement indicates man coverage. Fitzpatrick first looks towards Enunwa, but then sees the crossing Seferian-Jenkins, and throws him a pass that is nearly dropped. On a first down play, it’s a safe choice by the Jets as he rumbles for nine yards. The only other thing to notice on this play is Robby Anderson, who again blows by his defender down the field and the Patriots aren’t worried one bit about him.
Outside of the Bills game, this is probably one of the best passes of Fitzpatrick’s season. The Patriots are playing press coverage with a single high safety on this second and one play. They are selling out for the run because they have eight men in the box, and the safety is shading towards Brandon Marshall on the left side of the formation. This pass is going to Enunwa from the start, and Fitzpatrick makes a great throw. Quincy Enunwa, shows off his speed as well as he runs right by his defender, gaining two steps on him. The ball is a bit under-thrown but Enunwa makes a great catch with the defender draped all over him. These are the types of aggressive throws the Jets needed earlier in the season (being successful also helps) because the defense was essentially daring them to throw to Enunwa on this play. They took away the running option and Marshall, leaving a one on one match up for Enunwa. Fitzpatrick does a great job of recognizing the coverage, and taking advantage with this deep throw. Enunwa makes a great catch, although it isn’t quite evident in this angle, and could make a case of showing up in “Sidekick Power” article but since Fitzpatrick is the one that recognized the coverage, and made the good throw, we will put it here.
If you go back into the first week of the season, the Patriots copied this play from the Bengals, who used it with success. They are playing press man coverage with two safety look, while only rushing three at first. This type of coverage is essentially saying that it doesn’t matter how much time the QB has, he’s not going to find a weak spot. These are the same types of coverage, where you typically see someone like Brady or Rodgers pick defenses apart because they can wait in the pocket until someone gets open. Fitzpatrick is absolutely locked in on Brandon Marshall on this play, and makes a very good throw for the first down. Marshall shows why he is an elite WR by creating separation away from a good corner in Butler, leaving Fitzpatrick enough space to fit in the throw. The late movement on this play is supposed to create a mismatch in positioning, since the defense is reacting to the offense. So if the defender on Marshall moves along with him, he will be slightly in the outside position at the snap of this ball. On a crossing route, this already gives the receiver a head start in creating separation. However, the Patriots use the same tactic as the Bengals, and switch, which means the defender is already in great position against Marshall from the start, negating the advantage gained by the late movement. Against the Bengals, the Jets struggled mightily with this strategy because Fitzpatrick didn’t have as much time in the pocket to wait for his first target to get open. The Bengals combined the late switching, with good pass rush, which threw off Fitzpatrick. In this case, the pass rush isn’t nearly as severe, giving the QB more time to sit in the pocket as he follows Marshall across the field. The thing to notice here is Anderson again having a step on his defender, although it would take a pretty throw to convert a TD to him.
There is nothing special about this to break down, as the Patriots are expecting a run on this second and 1 play at the goal line. They have a one on one match up with Brandon Marshall on the outside, and Fitzpatrick throws it to him, and he makes a play. This is another back shoulder pass to Marshall, who leaps high for the ball and catches it. It’s a good pass and catch, as they catch the Patriots in a bad defense. The last time they played, Eric Decker burned them for a fade route in a similar situation, so Gailey calls a back shoulder pass in this case to change up expectations.
The Patriots are again in press man coverage with two deep safeties, and they get burned again. The pre-snap motion indicates man coverage, and Enunwa just burns the defender on this play because they are set up for this pass. There is a safety in the middle, thus the corner playing Enunwa can be more aggressive, but Enunwa gives him a stutter step at the top of the route to create separation, and making himself open. Fitzpatrick makes a great throw on this play, delivering the ball perfectly to Enunwa. The only downside, as usual, is that Fitzpatrick was again locked in on his receiver from the onset of this play, but it works out again. Another thing to notice is the mirror effect in play for this call. The two receivers on either end run exactly the same routes on this play, with Enunwa being the exception. This is an example of Gailey, allowing the QB freedom at the line because he wants him to determine which side will be easier. On this play, it didn’t matter because the primary read was the exception to the mirror, but you will notice this fairly often in this offense.
This play does not count, as there was a penalty on Breno Giacomini, which negated this completion. However, it is here to show the patience by Fitzpatrick, and the presence of mind with Robby Anderson. The Patriots are playing press coverage, but they slip into zone coverage during the play. Robby Anderson flies by his defender and is clearly open down the field, but he realizes that he’s not going to get a pass with the safety over the top. Thus, he reverses course towards Fitzpatrick and gets open again heading the wrong way, providing an easy target for Fitzpatrick on the run. The Patriots covered this play well (especially knowing Fitzpatrick’s deep passing limitations) and yet the Jets got a completion out of it. This is just a great play by Anderson, realizing the situation and coming back to help his QB. It’s good to see him learn from running down the field wide open all those times, that it wasn’t worth it.
The Patriots are again in a press coverage situation with two deep safeties. Besides, Rex Ryan, there hasn’t been another example of this much press coverage against the Jets, so it’s no coincidence that Fitzpatrick enjoyed his best two games against press coverage. The Patriots try to slip in zone coverage again but Robby Anderson makes a great move on the come back route, creating separation. With a run blitzing safety, the CB playing Anderson doesn’t have any help on this play, so he’s running step for step with Anderson, when he runs the come back route. Anderson is wide open for this pass, and Fitzpatrick makes a great throw. Anderson also shows some poise by coming back for the ball, helping out the QB. Usually with rookies, you will see a lot of them wait on the ball, which allows defenders time to recover, but Anderson attacks the ball here.
The defense is again playing press coverage, and then dropping into zone coverage. There are a few things of note on this play. First, Fitzpatrick is locked into Marshall on this play, but he does start off by looking at the safety to hold him. However, his only read is Marshall on this play, and Marshall runs a great route to get open. The Patriots are playing zone, so the defender jumps to the outside (as we saw at the start of the game) which allows Marshall some space to run inside. They have three guys dedicated to Marshall, so his window is pretty small but Fitzpatrick makes a great pass. The second aspect to note is the late movement timing, which we talked about earlier. Notice Bilal Powell on this play, with his late movement. The defense does not have time to reset on this play because there just isn’t enough time. The Patriots have two defenders close to the line of scrimmage, and the Jets are going to send three receivers in the area (The TE, Powell, and the RB out of the backfield) which opens up an easy passing lane. If Fitzpatrick wanted to, he could have taken the easy pass to Powell. This is an absolute gem of a design by Gailey because he’s taking advantage of the numbers on this play and attacking it. It didn’t matter because Fitzpatrick is locked into Marshall on this play, but with a more football cerebral QB, these are little situations that he can take advantage of. The last aspect of this play is, as usual, you can see Robby Anderson running down the middle wide open for no apparent reason. You would think he’d learn by now.
This is an absolute beauty of a throw from Fitzpatrick. The Patriots aren’t quite in press coverage, although they do the switch with Marshall again for the late movement. The safety is blitzing for the run on this play, and leaves the left side of the field open for Enunwa, who again creates separation from his defender. While Fitzpatrick runs a play fake, he is facing pressure and makes a great throw to Enunwa on this play. The ball is placed perfectly for the catch and conversion. There is nothing bad about this play at all, it’s great recognition of the spacing, great throw, excellent ball placement, and great catch.
As stated at the start, this is one of the best games from Fitzpatrick this season, albeit that might not be saying much. It’s probably not a coincidence that it came against familiar foes, who both employed a high number of press coverage. Fitzpatrick made a high number of good throws in this game, although they became conservative in the second half. The Patriots took pieces from the Bengals and Bills this year, along with some tactics from the Eagles last year. They dared Fitzpatrick to beat them by throwing, and relying on his receivers, which led to a successful game. The Patriots lack an elite pass rush to play this type of game against the Jets, which is partially why they got burned often in this game.
A) Be honest, who read this whole article?
B) Why do you think Fitzpatrick has success against press coverage, and press man coverage?