I know I’m exhibiting obsessive tendencies over the bootleg call that helped Tom Brady beat the Saints. I’m not sorry.
Here’s why it sucked so hard.
1. It Gave Drew Brees Zero Receiving Options
This screenshot is of the moment Brees sees Patriots linebacker Chandler Jones and momentarily sets his feet and looks downfield for a receiver. But there’s nobody for him to throw to, and that’s by design: The only receiver is Robert Meachem, but his purpose was simply to draw a cornerback downfield and out of the play.
There isn’t even a backup tight end, or the always-fun option of a Jedidiah Gabriel Collins dump-off. This is a play designed to fail–gaining the first down is a tertiary goal, third to keeping the clock moving and protecting the football–because its success depends entirely on a lot of Patriots defenders screwing up.
2. It Was Doomed Before the Snap
The play is designed to make the Patriots defense think the Saints will be running right. Left guard Ben Grubbs even pulls–runs right as if we’re about to see a sweep to that side. In fact, watch the gif and follow Grubbs. In the moments before it’s clear Brees is keeping the ball, we’ve got an exceptionally well-blocked running play that might actually have picked up the first down.
Bootleg defenders have talked about how this was just a great play by Chandler Jones, whose job it was to play contain on his side of the field, but Jones actually bit on the fake handoff and took a bad step away from Brees. He was simply lined up in a place that allowed him to easily recover and then run down the play.
Have you ever played Madden? You know how, when there’s a lot of guys on one side of the line, calling a play to that side of the line usually doesn’t work? Same deal here. Simply based on the pre-snap formation this thing was doomed.
3. It Could Have Been Stopped Even by 10 Patriots
Even if you delete Chandler Jones from the picture, the Patriots had more than enough defenders reacting to the play fast enough to at least have a chance to stop Brees before he reached the first down marker.
Look at the yellow line: That’s where Brees needed to get. It’s a long way off. Even without hesitating, Brees would have had to beat three Patriots to the 40. He might have done it if he’d been running full speed from the moment of the fake handoff, but by no means was that result a guarantee.
4. It’s a Departure From Paytonian Philosophy
Here’s a thing from Deadspin after the Saints beat the Lions in the 2011 playoffs:[pullquote2 quotes=”true” align=”center” variation=”slategrey” textColor=”#000000″]In the most audacious case, Payton had Drew Brees run a quarterback sneak with the Saints on their own 38-yard line and clinging to a 17-14 third-quarter lead.[/pullquote2]
The play referred to above did not happen in the same type of situation, granted, but it is a product of a school of football thought in which Sean Payton has been a pioneer. In 2013 so far, we haven’t really seen Payton employ the methods that have, to some extent, defined his career. So far so good–we’re 5-1, after all–but, if it continues, it’s certainly something fans like me will have to adjust to.
Don’t believe something is different? Then why are we having an argument about Sean Payton coaching decisions that failed based on their conservatism rather than based on their aggression?
If I have to question the coach I admire, I want to question him for going five wide on third and inches, or for trying to convert a fourth and five from his own eighteen yard line.
Honestly what all this boils down to is: Don’t get old, Sean. Please?