New England’s misdirection toss evens the score

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The AFC East title is perhaps on the line in Foxborough today with the New England Patriots hosting the Buffalo Bills. After the visitors scored on their opening possession of the game, the home team tied things up on their subsequent drive, using a bit of misdirection along the way.

When these two teams met a few weeks ago, the running game was a huge factor for the Patriots as rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes on a night that featured wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour. Two designs that New England relied upon heavily? One was their crack toss, which went for a touchdown from Damien Harris:

Another was “G-Lead,” with a guard pulling in front of a running back. On this play Rhamondre Stevenson takes the handoff from Jones and, following a pull from guard Ted Karras, the RB picks up 11 yards:

You’ll notice on both of these plays, fullback Jakob Johnson is leading the way. The international player is a big part of New England’s rushing attack, and you can often keep your eyes on him and he will lead you to the football.

Perhaps that is what the Bills were thinking on this touchdown to knot the game at seven:

On this play Karras, the left guard, pulls to the right edge while Johnson aims that way as well. To the Bills defense, this might look like another power run to that side. But instead Harris angles towards the left edge, and after a reverse pivot the quarterback flips the ball to the running back, aiming to the outside. Harris gets a pair of downfield blocks from Jonnu Smith and N’Keal Harry, and he cuts into the end zone to tie the game.

One of the best things that offensive play-callers can do is set up a design by showing a tendency, whether earlier in the game or in the season, and then breaking that tendency with a variation of that play. This is a perfect example from Josh McDaniels.