The Patriots Used Very Little of the “49ers Blueprint” against the Jaguars

While there’s been much uncertainty surrounding what nickname we, as a nation, should use for Jimmy Garoppolo – Jimmy GQ, Jimmy Geesus, Optimus Dime, etc. – lazy writers seemed certain of one thing: in week 16, Jimmy G gave the Patriots the “blueprint” to beat the Jaguars defense.

All last week I saw piece after piece, column after column about these schematics authored by Jimmy. No one seemed to include the fact that Kyle Shanahan, aside from…you know, is a master designer of plays and drew up a game plan that would make The Rock jealous.

A writer at my current place of quasi-employment even wrote one of these in-style pieces just as I was plotting to write about how the Patriots won’t use the 49ers blueprint and would be stupid to do so and solicit the online editor to take a look at it when I *accidentally* run into him in the bathroom (this was a flawed idea, as I don’t know who the online editor is).

I’ve never met John Tomase, author of the previously-linked piece, and I don’t care for vicious belittlement like everyone else who interacts with the poor guy seems to, but there are some parts of his piece that aren’t great looks. Exhibit A:

“…So don’t expect much from Brandin Cooks.”

Somewhere along the way, someone applied the blueprint cliché to the Pats’ matchup. The idea, which is like a virus, went airborne and every sports columnist under the sun decided it would be an easy idea to rehash. They all even read the same article that gives a simple explanation of Todd Wash’s defensive scheme, but no one seems to point out how often the Jags put a safety at the line of scrimmage or that it’s possible to beat any cornerback if a receiver with route-running chops is simply faster than the corner.

Anyone who watched Sunday’s game knows that the Patriots played their own game. They used 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) on 75% of their offensive snaps. The 49ers used personnel packages with at least three combined running backs and tight ends on the field for most of that game as to keep some of the Jaguars’ slower linebackers on the field and nickelback Aaron Colvin off the field. This makes sense for the 49ers because they have shitty WRs and more depth at tight end and running back.

The Patriots obviously have good depth at running back, but putting at least three combined running backs and tight ends on the field would’ve meant that either Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola or Chris Hogan would’ve been left on the bench. When the Patriots’ receivers beat the Jaguars defense, it was with speed and route-running. Namely crossing routes, digs, and comebacks to Cooks on the outside.

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* This chart shows point of completion (doesn’t include yards after catch).

12 of Tom Brady’s 26 completions were completed at 10 yards or more. It wasn’t just small chunks of “what the defense gave him”. Brady weaved through this defense in many areas, although there is an apparent skew toward the left side of the field.

The 49ers and Patriots are two very different teams. There’s a very limited number of ways an elite defense like that of the Jaguars can be attacked. Every team has different personnel, and the Patriots coaching staff isn’t stupid enough to marry a scheme instead of game-planning to the strengths of their team. They see what works and what doesn’t, make adjustments, and hoist Lombardi trophies. In that order.