Colts, Jets Linebackers Knew Patriots’ Plays, Bill Belichick Confirms

'We definitely want to prevent that'


Nov 8, 2022

The New England Patriots’ offense has a predictability problem.

After Sunday’s 26-3 win over the Colts, MassLive’s Mark Daniels overheard “multiple offensive players” discussing how Indianapolis linebacker Shaquille Leonard was “calling out their play calls” during the game.

“One Patriots starting offensive player said Leonard occasionally called out what the Patriots were going to do on certain plays, such as outside runs and screen passes,” Daniels reported.

Head coach Bill Belichick noticed that, as well. And this wasn’t the first time.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Belichick said there “for sure” were moments when Leonard clearly knew which play the Patriots’ offense was running — and that he saw the same thing from New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosely the previous week.

“We definitely want to prevent that,” Belichick said. “Yeah, I thought that there were two or three plays for sure that Leonard really got a big jump on and stopped us, basically, on those plays. Mosely got a couple of those a couple weeks ago in the Jets game. Mosely almost looked like he heard the play in the huddle he was on it so fast, and Leonard had a couple like that, too. So whether that’s something we were giving away or just something that he anticipated based on whatever the keys were that he might have picked up, we certainly want to try to prevent that. But I thought definitely Leonard for sure did it, and I thought Mosely had a couple plays like that, as well.

“But that’s what good defensive players do. They anticipate things, and they are able to sometimes get a read on what they think is going to happen. They’re not always right, but sometimes they are, and they can certainly make you look bad offensively.”

It’s true that Leonard and Mosely both are top-tier defenders. The former was first-team All-Pro in three of the last four seasons, and the latter is a four-time Pro Bowler with four second-team All-Pro selections. They’re two of the better linebackers the Patriots will face all season, even if Leonard wasn’t at 100% as he worked his way back from multiple injuries.

But their ability to accurately predict New England’s calls in back-to-back games speaks to a lack of variety and innovation from play-caller Matt Patricia, who is handling those duties for the first time this season after spending most of his career on the defensive side. Partial blame also could fall on quarterback Mac Jones for not audibling out of these sniffed-out plays at the line of scrimmage.

“As an offense, you always want to be balanced and try not to give things away to the point where you don’t have something complementary that goes with them,” Belichick said. “That’s kind of the game within the game there. Obviously, if a player or a team is stopping one thing, and you have something complementary to go to, then you can offset that.

“We certainly had that situation come up as well, too, where we were able to take advantage of whether it was a player thinking he knew what the play was or the defense trying to play a certain play but not defend another play. You have to kind of strike that balance. That’s what it looked like to me, too.”

The Patriots’ offense struggled against both the Jets and Colts, producing just two touchdowns on 25 non-kneeldown possessions while their injury-depleted offensive line surrendered 10 sacks, some of which could be pinned on Jones. Strong performances by their defense and special teams propelled them to wins in both games, but the Patriots enter their Week 10 bye ranked 25th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA and tied for last in the NFL with 17 turnovers.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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