- On the morning of the AFC Championship game, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels installed eight new plays that the team had not practiced.
- The Patriots ran one of the plays to the surprise of some players who knew it wasn’t on the play sheet and that the team had not used before.
- The play was an inside slant pass to Rob Gronkowski on 3rd-and-10 that led to the game-winning touchdown.
One of the New England Patriots greatest traits is their adaptability.
For nearly 20 years, Bill Belichick has morphed his team week to week to exploit weaknesses in opponents. The Patriots’ primary identity is that they assume the identity of what their opponents cannot stop.
According to NBC’s Peter King, the Patriots once again showed off their flexibility during their win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
King reported that on the morning of the game, during their pregame meeting at the team hotel, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels added eight new plays to the playbook that the team hadn’t practiced. According to King, the team sometimes adds new plays on game day, but it’s not a weekly occurrence, and not as many as eight at once.
One of those plays became a game-changing moment.
In overtime, on third-and-10, Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski on an inside slant that set up 1st-and-10 on the Chiefs’ 15-yard line. The play itself wasn’t spectacular, but according to King, that inside slant was one of the new plays, and it happened because McDaniels and the coaching staff identified a weakness in the Chiefs’ coverage of Gronkowski.
According to King, two Patriots players were surprised to hear Brady call that play “because it wasn’t on the playsheet, hadn’t been practiced all week, and, as one said, ‘I don’t know when’s the last time we ran it.'”
Here was the play:
The gravity of that play can’t be ignored. The Patriots had already converted two 3rd-and-long plays in the overtime drive. Failing to do so on that pass to Gronkowski likely means they would have had to settle for a field goal. If they went for the field goal, it would have meant Patrick Mahomes, and the Chiefs offense retook the field with a chance to win the game.
While the play itself wasn’t spectacular, it proved the Patriots malleability in the biggest moments. Brady told King that the continuity within the Patriots is one of their most significant advantages.
“Great call by Josh,” Brady said. “You know, Josh, what he’s formulated for us is huge. He puts in endless hours just to find little scheme things for us. Like those plays, we put in this morning. You know, the continuity here has been so important. Dante Scarnecchia, on the offensive line; Ivan Fears, with the running backs; Josh, making it all work.”
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