The New England Patriots used a formation with four offensive linemen in their 35-31 playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
The Pats only used it on three plays, but it has been the talk of the league ever sense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who got a penalty during the game for yelling at the refs about the tactic, was asked if he’d seen the formation before. He said, “No. Nobody’s ever seen that before.”
On a conference call Monday Belichick talked about the formation. He said he came up with it after seeing another team run a variation of it during the season. As we’ll discuss below, it might be a variation of something the Detroit Lions did in Week 6:
“It’s a situation that I saw another team use, kind of. Then we talked about it and thought about ways maybe to put some pressure on the defence with that concept of having more receivers on the field than were actually eligible. To make them ineligible instead of making an ineligible guys eligible, to go the other way around. We came up with a few ideas. I’d say the origin of that play was from the NFL. What they did wasn’t [what we did], but it sparked some ideas, so we did what we did.”
The Patriots confused the Ravens by putting an eligible receiver where the offensive tackle traditionally lines up, and had another player declare himself ineligible but line up in the slot. Like this:
They then threw it to the receiver who was disguising himself as an offensive linemen, and he was wide open:
Belichick didn’t say which team he took the idea from, but ESPN’s Field Yates found that the Detroit Lions did something similar in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Lions actually used six offensive lineman on the play, but it had the same concept as the stuff the Patriots ran on Saturday.
Detroit put an extra offensive lineman onto the field and lined him up in the slot, where a receiver would typically be. Then they had the right tackle declare himself eligible. It looks just like the Patriots play:
The play actually failed miserably. Since there were only four guys blocking, Stafford got sacked almost immediately when the trick didn’t work:
We don’t know for sure if this is the play Belichick was talking about, but the Patriots played the Lions later in the year, so they would have seen this on tape.
New England took this and made it better in a simple way. Instead of using six linemen and having one of them declare himself eligible as a receiver, the Pats used four linemen and had another position player declare himself ineligible, creating mass confusion.
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