The Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots pride themselves on out-scheming other teams and keeping their opponents off-balance.
So, it was eye-opening to read that several Patriots players claimed they could hear Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard calling out their offensive plays before the snap Sunday.
But it was even more eye-opening to hear Belichick confirm Leonard had a beat on New England's play-calls -- and admit New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley did the same thing to the Patriots' offense the week before.
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"We definitely want to prevent that," Belichick said when asked about Leonard identifying the Patriots' plays. "I thought that there were two or three plays for sure that Leonard really got a big jump on and stopped us basically on those plays.
"Mosley got a couple of those a couple of weeks ago in the Jets game -- it almost looked like he heard the play in the huddle, he was on it so fast. Leonard had a couple like that, too. So, whether it was something we were giving away or something that he anticipated based on whatever the keys were that he might have picked up, we certainly want to try to prevent that.
It's not totally uncommon for defenses to sniff out offensive play-calls based on formations, pre-snap tendencies or just quality scouting and film study. But the fact that the Patriots' last two opponents appeared keyed-in to their offensive plan isn't a great sign, especially considering the results.
New England averaged just 3.8 yards per offensive play against the Jets and 3.3 yards per offensive play against the Colts while scoring two offensive touchdowns total -- one of which was set up by a blocked punt that gave the offense the ball at Indy's 2-yard line.
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So, why would Belichick admit so openly that his struggling offense is giving away plays? As the head coach explained, offenses can also exploit defenses that think they know what play is coming by using their aggressiveness against them.
"Obviously if a player or team is stopping one thing, if you have something complementary to go to, you can offset that," Belichick said. "We've certainly had that situation come up too, where we were able to take advantage of, whether it was a player thinking he knew what the play was or the defense trying to defend a certain play but not another play. So, you have to strike that balance."
The Patriots rank 26th in the NFL in yards per game entering their bye week, so expect Belichick, play-caller Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge to spend plenty of time devising some "complementary" plays to get opponents out of their heads.