The New England Patriots have one of the best defenses in the NFL. When New England does struggle on the defensive side of the ball, it’s typically due to a running quarterback. In 11 games this season, the Patriots have only given up more than 30 points three times. A common theme in two of those games was the running success by dual-threat quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (107 yards at 9.7 yards per carry) and Justin Fields (82 yards at 5.9 yards per carry).
The Buffalo Bills have their own dual-threat quarterback in Josh Allen, so let’s take a look at how the Bills can exploit this potential weakness in the Patriots’ defense.
Here we see Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields in the gun with two running backs beside him. At the snap, Fields does a read option with the running back on his right. The read option freezes Patriots edge rusher Matt Judon, because he has to play the middle if the back takes the ball. Fields pulls the ball and runs to the right side of the field with a tight end as his lead blocker.
Spread QB draw
One thing the Bills can for sure do against the Patriots is spread them out. For this play, you see the Bears in spread with Fields in the gun. When the ball snaps, Fields fakes a drop back, then runs left through an open lane on the QB draw. What makes this so effective is the whole defense is spread out over the field due to five receivers being out there.
Red zone QB sweep
On this play, Fields is in the gun with two receivers to his left. At the snap, the left tackle pulls out as the lead blocker for Fields. Both of the receivers cut off the flow of the defenders at the second level to stop them from pursuing Fields. All Fields has to do to score is run through the tackle attempt by cornerback Myles Bryant, which he does.
The Baltimore Ravens go QB Power here and pull both the right guard and tackle. Lamar Jackson starts in the gun with the running back to his left. When the play starts, the guard and tackle pull left, and Jackson goes read option with the back. The option forces the left edge rusher to freeze, because he has to play the running back. The guard then takes on the right edge rusher, and the tackle pulls up the hole as Jackson’s lead blocker. This wouldn’t be a bad 2nd & Medium play for the Bills to run from the gun.
Single-back read option
Pre-snap, Jackson is in the gun with the running back to his right. At the snap, the Ravens pull their right guard left, and he goes through the hole to lead block for Jackson. Jackson goes read option with the back, which freezes the edge rusher—who was unblocked. This allows Jackson to run through the hole and down the field.
The Patriots’ stout defense clearly has some vulnerability in the run game. The option becomes a massive problem, because it allows the offense not to block the edge rusher (the running back freezes the edge rusher). We’ve seen a very sound New England defense struggle with this formation twice since September. The Bills can sprinkle this in with Allen through the course of the game. Do you think offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey should increase the amount of designed QB runs for Allen in this pivotal AFC East matchup?