|The next day, the Patriots talk about the ‘funky looks’ they showed San Diego’s Antonio Gates||09.19.11 at 4:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it came to prep work for Sunday’s Patriots-Chargers game, the New England defense was presented with a simple choice: tight end Antonio Gates or wide receiver Vincent Jackson?
The Patriots decided to dedicate their efforts to stopping Gates, using multiple series of coverages against the All-Pro tight end. As a result of the work of a series of defenders, New England held Gates without a catch for the first time since Dec. 4, 2008, when he was shutout by the Raiders. (A stretch of 34 games.) After the game, Gates talked about the variety of “funky looks” the Patriots showed him.
“They would put a corner and a safety on me, or two safeties … they did a lot of different things to take me out of the game,” said Gates, who had eight catches for 74 yards in a 24-17 win over Minnesota the previous week. “I kept working at it, kept trying. The end result was I couldn’t get the ball to come my way.
“They had a tremendous game plan and they executed well. They gave us different looks, a combination of things, making it difficult for me to release off the ball. With the defensive end, linebacker and the safety dropping down to help once I released. They made a lot of funky looks.”
One of those “funky looks” came the one time that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers only threw in his direction once all afternoon, a second-half pass attempt where the ball was picked off by New England defensive back Sergio Brown. On that play, Gates wasn’t jammed off the line (as he had been for much of the afternoon) but was allowed to pass into the secondary unabated before Brown picked him up.
“We tried to mix it up,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon when he was asked about the interception. “Between jamming receivers, doubling them off the line with a jam, not doubling, doubling them downfield. We had various degrees of success with each. We tried to keep them off-balance and change up coverages.
“It wasn’t anything revolutionary.”
In the end, while Jackson had 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns (most of which came at the expense of cornerback Devin McCourty, who was left in single coverage with him while the rest of the defense shadowed Gates), the tight end was a non-factor.
“I think looking at the final stat sheet says a lot,” said safety Josh Barrett of the work they did on Gates. “Guys really did a good job, especially on the back end and even with the linebackers and even the defensive ends, getting hands on him early, and it was just keeping him somewhat contained. It was a great team effort doing that.
“We put an onus on it, and coach made sure that we had a scheme that was going to be able to kind of lock down what we had to do with him.”
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