Patriots play-action opportunities arise with strong run game

Patriots play-action opportunities arise with strong run game
November 9, 2012, 6:02 pm
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FOXBORO -- Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis bit, and he bit hard.

In the first quarter of New England's 45-7 win over the Rams in Week 8, Tom Brady faked a handoff to Stevan Ridley who carried out the play to the right side of New England's formation. Reading the Patriots' movement up front, including Donald Thomas pulling from his spot at left guard, Laurinaitis sprinted toward Ridley. A moment later, when Laurinaitis realized Ridley didn't have the ball, it was too late.

Rob Gronkowski had released from the line unimpeded and was wide open in the middle of the field. Brady hit the easy target for a 25-yard gain.

The success of the Patriots run game this season has made their already-dangerous pass game even more potent because of their ability to use play-action passes. Coach Bill Belichick discussed how the two elements of New England's offense -- the run and the pass -- play off of each other to the team's benefit.

"I think the play-action pass is all -- it hinges around the run game," Belichick said. "If the defense feels like it has to commit to the run or has to be more aggressive against the run, then that helps the passing game. I think those two things can go hand in hand. The better you can run, the better you can play-action. The worse you run it, the less pull play-action has. So those two areas complement each other."

In the fourth quarter against the Rams, Brady got Laurinaitis to bite again, hitting Gronkowski on a play-action pass for a 14-yard touchdown.

When it comes to play-action, Belichick explained that, like any play-call, the Patriots will turn to it depending on what's working for them at any given moment. Since the running game has been strong over the course of this season, and since teams now have weeks-worth of film showing how effective Patriots rush attempts have been, New England's offense has chosen to focus more on perfecting their play-action game.

"I think it's like anything else," Belichick said. "If you find something during the season that gives you an advantage or can help you, you commit more time to it and try to improve on it . . . Sometimes that changes from game to game. If you end up getting into the game and your running game's going well then you'll probably have to call more play-action passes or vice versa. Regardless if it's our team or any team. Whatever plays you have to complement other plays, then the complementary plays should have a chance to work."

The Bills own the second-worst run defense in the league, allowing 169.5 yards per game and a league-worst 5.7 yards per rush. If they have to over-commit to stop the Patriots run game on Sunday, Brady and his offense will have another weapon to turn to in the play-action pass.

Just ask James Laurinaitis.