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AFC East

Film room: How the Jets can attack the Pats with the run game

Quarterback Sam Darnold meets with Jets teammates and a coach. Photo by All-Pro Reels (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The New York Jets (0-8) enter their Monday Night Football matchup against the New England Patriots (2-5) in desperate need of a win.

Despite New York’s winless record, this is arguably its best shot in a while to down its AFC East rival. New England has struggled this season, with quarterback Cam Newton having dealt with both COVID-19 and performance issues.

But instead of focusing on the defensive side of the ball, the Jets should note what the Buffalo Bills (6-2) did to attack the Patriots with the running game in Buffalo’s 24-21 win last week.

It may sound simple, but Buffalo showed that New England can be susceptible to the running game when the Patriots use defenders at the line of scrimmage in a standing-up position, particularly ones lined up to the left side of the offensive formation.

During an early drive, the Bills ran to the left several times. On one play, tailback Zack Moss took the handoff to the left on a zone play and broke a big gain, weaving through Patriot defenders. 

Shortly after, Moss ran to the left again, this time for an 8-yard touchdown.

On both plays, New England used defensive end John Simon as a stand-up defender on the edge instead of in a three-point stance; both times as well, he was taken out of the play by Buffalo blocking. It can be tough for defenders in a standing-up position to get good leverage, as their opponents start lower than they do, and it may have hampered the Patriots here.

That same trend continued throughout the game. The Bills kept finding openings on the left side of the formation, where Simon kept lining up in the same standing position. And it continued to work in Buffalo’s favor.

Don’t underestimate the adjustments Patriots coach Bill Belichick has inevitably made heading into Monday’s game, but also don’t expect him to change too much defensively. He continually used that defensive formation, with Simon in that position, for a reason, and the defensive-minded coach isn’t likely to change his philosophy on a whim.

But for a team without a win and looking for any type of success, the Jets must find a way past the Patriots on Monday. If the Bills’ win is any indication, that path to victory just might be through attacking New England’s stand-up defenders on the edge in the running game.

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