Patriots pass rush comes to life with seven sacks vs. Dolphins


FOXBORO -- The Dolphins couldn't have forgotten about Trey Flowers, right? The guy who bust onto the scene last year and put together a 2.5-sack performance in the Super Bowl? The guy who's been on the field for about 90 percent of the defensive snaps for Bill Belichick and easily his top pass-rusher?

That's what it looked like late in the second quarter when Flowers sprung past left tackle Laremy Tunsil and into the Dolphins backfield to sack Matt Moore. It might've been the easiest of the six sacks Flowers has recorded this season. 

But that play, Flowers explained, might have been more than just a lapse in concentration on Miami's part. It might've been the byproduct of the Patriots throwing varied rushes at opposing offenses for the last few weeks. 


"That's just one of the things, you give them different looks, you confuse the offensive line, and they don't know who's coming," Flowers said. "It might've been a lack of communication on their end, but that's just the different looks and the different things we throw at them to have them have to communicate. If they're not on the same page, then we get pressure."

The Patriots are short on man-power in the front-seven -- particularly when it comes to the edge-defender spot -- but they've been able to use some deception as a means of slowing down quarterbacks lately, and during their 35-17 victory on Sunday they sacked Moore seven times for 61 yards. 

"You want to mix it up a little," Flowers said. "Throw different guys at him. And we were able to execute as far as the different pass-rush games and things like that. Preparation, execution."

The Patriots have dialed up the head games after incorporating it most noticeably during their win over the Chargers in Week 8. They will at times show linebackers at the line of scrimmage, then drop them. Other times, 'backers will remain at the second level and rush. Ends will mix up their tendencies, rushing on one play and then dripping into coverage on the next. The Patriots have even started bringing corners to pressure, and one of their sacks came late in the fourth quarter courtesy of Jonathan Jones. 

Game flow helped the Patriots generate as much pressure as they did. With a big lead, they knew the Dolphins had to throw -- especially late. Four of their sacks came in the fourth quarter, and two came late in the third with the Patriots up three scores.

"I think the score had a lot to do with that," Belichick said after. "Anytime you can get ahead in the game, most of the second half, probably middle of the third quarter, the last third of the game was a lot of passing, a lot of pass rush with the lead, so it gives you an opportunity to rush the passer better. 

"Guys did a good job. We had contributions from a lot of different players, got some pressure from our linebackers, from our secondary and from our defensive linemen. But, yeah, I think being ahead in the game certainly helps the pass rush."

Having players who understand the system also helps. They can get a little more exotic when players know where to be and how to cover for the player who just vacated his area to get after the quarterback. 

Flowers had two sacks, as did Elandon Roberts (one of which came when the Dolphins mistakenly ignored his rush from the second level). Kyle Van Noy chipped in with a hard-earned sack, fighting through a holding penalty, immediately before he left the game with a lower-leg issue. Even newcomer Eric Lee got in on the act, notching his first-career sack just days after being signed off of the Bills practice squad and added to the 53-man roster in New England.  

"A lot of people understand the game plan," said Flowers, who left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury. "When you get a lot of people to understand the scheme and understand what we're trying to do, you can mix it up and have a lot of different looks. We get the game plan, we prepare well, and you've got a lot of people comfortable where you are."


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