Vikings taking Patriots' play-action passing game very seriously

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 25: Sony Michel takes the handoff from Tom Brady of the New England Patriots during the second quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 25: Sony Michel takes the handoff from Tom Brady of the New England Patriots during the second quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots looked much better in the passing game against the Jets than they did against the Titans. More specifically, they toasted the Jets on play-action plays, and that's no coincidence.

Via NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry, Tom Brady was 10-for-11 for 123 yards (11.2 average) on play-action. Some credit for that is due to strong running by Sony Michel and James White. But their success on play-action takes all 11 guys working together. They're likely to roll play-action back out there against the Vikings, and their head coach Mike Zimmer is well aware.

Just how good are the Patriots on play-action, you ask?

"They’re the best play-action team in the NFL," Zimmer concluded during his conference call with Patriots media.

The most important thing in play-action is the art of the sale. Nobody on the Patriots will get into detail on how they do it so well, because they're obviously not going to tip their hand or broadcast to the other team what to look for. It's just a matter of everyone executing at once and disguising the pass to the point that you genuinely can't tell whether or not it's really a run.

"A lot of team runs play-actions that they don’t really run the runs out of but their play-actions look exactly like their runs," said Zimmer. "The offensive line does an outstanding job, Brady’s really good with the play-actions and the receivers do a good job of getting to the spots where the linebackers or the safeties are getting sucked in to."

Nov 25, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ: New England Patriots running back Sony Michel gets stopped by New York Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts after a 1st down run in the 3rd quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
Nov 25, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ: New England Patriots running back Sony Michel gets stopped by New York Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts after a 1st down run in the 3rd quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots offense has at times faltered because one single player didn't execute properly. It's the same with play-action. One guy doesn't sell it well enough, you're probably not getting the sale. Especially not against a deep, talented defense like the Vikings.

"You have to sell the run in order for the receivers to be as wide open as they can get," said White on Wednesday. "The offensive line has to sell it, quarterbacks, running backs. You have to make it look exactly like the run if you want it to be successful. It takes hard work."

It sounds like Bill Belichick got what he wanted out of the Patriots running game against the Jets after challenging them earlier in the week. Michel and White on the ground provided a nice complement to Brady and the passing game, which opened up play-action to near-perfect effect.

Could be tougher this Sunday, if Zimmer has the Vikings prepared enough not to buy what the Patriots are selling. How Belichick and Josh McDaniels adjust to that will be one of the more interesting cat-and-mouse games to watch.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].