Pats Defense Takes Different Approach, Beats Osweiler Second Time Around

When the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) contract in March they expected to get the quarterback that started seven games for the Broncos last season.

The issue with that was that the Texans are a much different offense than the one in Denver.

When the Patriots played Osweiler in Week 12 of last season, they attacked the quarterback in a much different way.

They played mostly cover-1, challenging Osweiler to throw the ball outside, and they blitzed the inexperienced QB 16 times.

On Thursday, the Patriots were predominantly in cover-2 and blitzed Osweiler just once.

The Patriots defense surrendered three completions of 20+ air yards vs Denver in Week 12, two of which came on Denver’s final drive of regulation where they scored a go-ahead touchdown.

On Thursday, Osweiler was 0-4 on passes of 20+ air yards.

The Patriots knew going into their matchup against Houston that they couldn’t let DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller beat them.

So they played mostly nickle and dime, and loaded up the coverage on the back end.

It forced Houston to do what they aren’t built to do, dink and dunk down the field and create plays after the catch.

Let’s take a look at what changed for Osweiler this time around against the Pats.

This Emmanuel Sanders grab came early in the game in Week 12. By my count, Osweiler only took one snap under center against the Patriots on Thursday night. He did that a lot more frequently last season. Also, note the single high safety (Devin McCourty) in coverage, something the Patriots did very little the second time around. Sanders is able to cross the field on the play action and McCourty is just a step late. Notice how Osweiler steps up in the pocket and hums this throw in there. He just wasn’t ever this comfortable throwing the ball on Thursday.

Demaryius Thomas struggled for the most part in this game, but was able to break through on the Broncos final drive of regulation. Note again the single-high safety look. However, most importantly Osweiler had enough trust in Thomas to go up and catch this ball. He didn’t show that kind of trust in DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller on Thursday night. Osweiler was tentative to throw a jump ball like this in the field of play, yet last season he lobs this one up there nicely for Thomas.

Here’s the throw of the game for Osweiler in Week 12, 2015. The Patriots again are in cover-1 and they also blitz. Sanders runs by Malcolm Butler and Osweiler makes a good throw. Denver’s running game also forced the Patriots hand to play more guys in the box and only have the one safety deep. Belichick and Matt Patricia weren’t afraid at all of the Houston run game, and dared them to run it on their nickle and dime defenses.

Osweiler struggled both with his decision making and ball placement on deep throws Thursday night. Here, the Texans run streaks with DeAndre Hopkins (top) and Will Fuller (bottom). First, Osweiler misses Hopkins running past Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon at the top of the screen, and decides to throw the ball to Fuller who’s covered well by Butler and McCourty at the bottom. Second, Osweiler throws the ball basically out of bounds giving Fuller no chance of catching it. Maybe it’s a good thing. It probably would have been picked if he threw it where Fuller had a chance.

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Osweiler also missed open receivers downfield a number of times, or didn’t even give the play a chance to develop. On this play, Osweiler for some unknown reason targets the tight end who’s running directly into the linebacker. The Texans have a good play called here with three verticals against a cover-2 zone. If Brock holds onto the ball a bit longer, and he has the time to do so, the Patriots only have two deep with three guys running streaks. Missed opportunity for the Texans.

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Here’s another potential miss by Osweiler. The Patriots only rush three and he has a decent pocket. Despite that, he quickly gets rid of the ball underneath to Will Fuller. The Patriots are in a cover-2 zone with their outsides CBs covering the flats. Notice at the top of the screen DeAndre Hopkins running freely in between the cornerbacks and Devin McCourty the cover-2 safety on that side of the field. Hopkins was noticeable upset he didn’t get the ball after the play, and rightfully so. When you have a receiver as talented as Hopkins with that kind of room you have to give him a chance to make a play.

This play came late when the game was out of hand, but Osweiler yet again throws a terrible pass. It looks like Fuller has some room underneath what is good coverage by Malcolm Butler. Osweiler doesn’t step into the throw, or around the pressure, and throws it too far upfield and probably out of bounds. Butler delivers a good hit to give Fuller no chance of completing the catch in bounds.

Osweiler struggled on Thursday night mostly because the Patriots defense didn’t give Houston a chance to establish their down field passing game with their outside receivers.

It’s clear that Osweiler doesn’t quite have the trust with Fuller and Hopkins quite like he did with Sanders and Thomas in Denver.

The Pats secondary deserves a lot of credit for playing well in coverage in this game, but Osweiler appeared to have left some big plays on the field.