Patriots

Perry's Patriots Signature Plays series

Perry's Patriots Signature Plays series

What's made the Patriots so successful for so long? Continuity. As part of that, we take a look at a handful of go-to offensive concepts that they'll likely turn to again this season with old and new personnel. Click here for the full series. 

 

Will Patriots switch to poster-board communication to send in signals?

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USA Today Sports Photo

Will Patriots switch to poster-board communication to send in signals?

PITTSBURGH -- Late in the first half last weekend in Miami, something unusual happened on the Patriots sidelines. It wasn't the play-call or the clock-management in that situation. It was the method of communication used by the Patriots that was strange. 

Strange for them, at least. 

Teams have used pictures on poster boards to help them relay information to players for years at the college level. Oregon seemed to be one of the first, under Bill Belichick pal Chip Kelly, to popularize sideline signage as a means for calling plays. 

Last weekend, the Patriots delved into the poster-board practice. 

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With a minute left in the second quarter against the Dolphins and the Patriots preparing to punt, a Patriots football operations coordinator held a large white poster board -- maybe three feet by three feet -- over his head. 

On it was the number "84" in large red font and an image of the Road Runner cartoon. 

That happened to be the lone punt upon which New England's No. 84, Cordarrelle Patterson, served as a gunner that day. Patterson worked in that capacity the last two years for the Vikings and Raiders, but other than some work on the punt team this offseason the Patriots haven't found much time for him there between his reps as a kick-returner, receiver and running back. (On his one gunner snap against the Dolphins, Patterson forced a Danny Amendola fumble that was nearly recovered by Patriots special-teamer Albert McClellan.)

Questions remain: Why the need for the poster? Why then? And what did the Road Runner image mean?

Patriots players were characteristically tight-lipped about the use of the posters on the sideline, though some were willing to acknowledge that it was about making sure everyone on the field was on the same page as to what was being called, especially in an environment where it might be difficult to relay signals. 

If all 11 players on the field could turn and look to the sideline and know what they needed before a given snap -- rather than try to communicate verbally via an on-the-field play-caller dealing with the coach-to-player communication system -- there might've been a benefit there.

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Because of the involvement of the No. 84, Patterson's relative inexperience on the Patriots punt unit may have been the spark that led to the sign being pulled out on Sunday. It's hard to say, though. There were several posters that the Patriots football operations coordinator had to choose from so perhaps there were others with different jersey numbers and different cartoon characters ready to be deployed. The No. 84, Road Runner sign was the only one spotted. 

In this piece by ESPN from 2010, the reason Kelly started to implement play-calling boards was because he felt as though the hand signals used to quickly relay signals for Oregon's high-speed offensive attack had been decoded. The posters -- which featured ESPN personalities as well as a hodgepodge of other images -- allowed Kelly to tell his players the formation, play and snap-count with just a quick glimpse to the sideline. 

Will the Patriots break out the posters again on Sunday against the Steelers, or was that a one-time thing that Belichick wanted to have ready for his team's trip to Miami? Unclear. 

What is clear is that whether it's with a player (like Patterson) or a play-calling wrinkle (like the poster boards), the Patriots aren't afraid to try something different if it has the potential to benefit them on game days. 

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Top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era

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Top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will renew their rivalry Sunday at Heinz Field for a Week 15 showdown with playoff implications.

These teams have forged a fierce rivalry since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick started the NFL's greatest dynasty during the 2001 season. The rivalry mostly has been one-sided as the Patriots have won the majority of the meetings, including all three playoff matchups in the AFC Championship Game.

There have been many memorable games played between Brady and the Steelers, but which ones stand above the rest?

Click here to view the top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Brady/Belichick era

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