Often, some of the most efficient running games are found on teams that rarely run the ball. Why is that? Quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning command respect, so nickel formations often become base formations for opposing defenses. Brady and Manning might not have prolific running backs but runs out of spread-style formations against nickel defenses can be extremely effective.
Our friend MattonNFL wrote on his blog that the Jets did a stellar job of stopping the Patriots in these situations and cited one play as an example:
Gang Green did a great job of stopping the run in the first half, so even on the first offensive play of the half, where many teams would run the ball, they went with the nickel package to play the pass. They guessed right.
Coples came off the edge and blew by LT Nate Solder with a swim move, and was able to swat the ball right out of Brady’s hands.
Even though the Patriots recovered the fumble, this play did two things: First, it forced them into an obvious passing situation on the next play. And second, it rattled Brady which would clearly influence his very next throw—resulting in Allen’s pick-six and effectively changing the entire outcome of the game.
Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comThe announcers discussed how Tom Brady told them that running the ball was a point of emphasis. Even so, the Patriots were not able to do it enough to save their bacon. Everyone knows that the Jets do a great job of defending the run. This instance of a nickel pass rush situation in which the team was effectively daring Brady to run the ball and while team was ahead in what seems a favorable situation to run and still dropping back to pass is what I see as the definitive example of why this team is so damn good.
Over the past three years, the Jets have built as stout a defensive front exists in the league. This was no accident. The Jets have been excellent against the pass and solid against the run, but in the past with a different set of linemen the team seemed to always struggle on those runs they knew were coming while aligned in nickel formations.
Many in the national media flipped their wig when the Jets selected their second and third straight defensive linemen in the draft. “Why!?” they cried. In creating a much more athletic and versatile set of tweeners along the defensive line, the Jets can leave more players on the field in both pass and rush situations and still be effective at whatever the play throws at them … run or pass.