There wasn't a lot going right for the Patriots offense through much of Sunday's 30-23 victory over the AFC East rival New York Jets. Tom Brady was trying to fight through some frustration after dealing with some drops from his receivers and a pretty talented Jets defense. With a little more than 10 minutes left in the game, his team had managed just 16 points, was trailing by four and facing a the monumental task of converting a third-and-17 from their own 27-yard line.
In the grand scheme of things it did not appear to be the ideal situation given the Jets propensity for applying pressure and the Patriots reality of having several backups manning the offensive line due to injuries. The patchwork unit did a reasonably good job of giving Brady time during the game, but New England hadn't faced many long-yardage situations like this one and the aggressive New York defense would certainly be bringing the heat on this play.
Except it didn't, and Brady and Julian Edelman made the Jets pay.
Let's first look at how the Patriots found themselves in the hole to begin with. The Jets had just completed a long drive with a field goal to increase their lead to 20-16 when New England took over at the 20. A 9-yard pass to Danny Amendola followed by a 5-yarder to Edelman moved the chains, but LeGarrette Blount received a rare carry and was boxed in while trying to get around the right end. Blount exacerbated the problem when he tried to reverse field, and the Jets smothered him back at the 27 for a 7-yard loss.
Brady and Amendola failed to connect on second down, leaving the Patriots with perhaps a make-or-break proposition. Bill Belichick would likely have chosen to punt had they not converted, and the Jets were moving the ball at will and would have had the ball, a 4-point lead and just 10 minutes to go for the upset. A New York touchdown would likely have put the game away, but the Patriots offense picked that play to get started.
First, Jets coach Todd Bowles made a curious decision to sit back and play coverage despite the long-yardage situation. He rushed just the front four and dropped seven back in what appeared to be a soft Tampa-2-like zone. Second, the defense didn't call for Darrelle Revis to cover Edelman, as he did for much of the day. Instead, young safety Dion Bailey drew the assignment and Edelman made him pay.
Edelman ran straight down the slot and appeared to sell Bailey on a move to the outside while instead bending back toward the middle. Linebacker David Harris had dropped to the deep right hash, but Edelman's move back toward the post created a lane for Brady and the quarterback hasn't missed many throws all year and he did not miss this one. With plenty of time to wait for the long play to develop, Brady hit a sliding Edelman just past midfield for a 27-yard gain and the first down.
Five plays later the Patriots took the lead, and after the Jets went three-and-out, Brady led another touchdown drive to put New England in control. But things would have looked a lot different had Brady and Edelman not come up big when things looked bleak.