Breakdown of Backbreaking Third-and-17 Play

Examining what went wrong on the Jets failure to get a stop on third-and-17.

How did Tom Brady make that third-and-17 look so easy? Because for him it was just that easy.

One of the many things that makes Brady just so damn good is his ability to scan the field, pre-snap, and know exactly what the defense is going to do. Which makes it a minor miracle that, upon realizing that a window was just about to open up for him, Brady's eyes didn't turn into a real-life version of some sort of combination of the googly-eyes and heart eyes emojis.

Here what you see above is the back end zone view of the formation, you can't see all 22 players from this shot but you don't need to. All you need to see are four players, Brady, Julian Edelman in the slot and David Harris and just behind him is Dion Bailey. You see that space between them, that's what should have caused the googly eyes/heart eyes emoji to pop out of Brady's head because it's at this moment Brady knows exactly where he's going to go with the ball. 

This shot is from right at the snap, you see a seven yard difference in the depth of Harris and Bailey, with Bailey also shaded to Harris' left. You can see the Jets only rushed their front-four and Antonio CromartieBuster Skrine and Darrelle Revis are all lined up directly in front of their receivers, giving around eight yard cushions, but because the Patriots have four receivers and Rob Gronkowski in and the Jets made the mistake of thinking a Harris/Bailey combo would be able to stop Edelman.

Edelman is running straight upfield as Harris continues to drop but just after Edelman runs past Harris he's going to cut inside and run right past Harris' back into a wide-open soft spot between Harris and Bailey. You can't see Bailey in this shot, but believe me he's there just not close enough and with DeMario Davis on Gronkowski that leaves no one else to fill that gap in the middle of the field.

In this shot you see Edelman make the turn and start creeping right into the open window. Brady drops the ball right in, in perfect placement, leading Edelman right to where he knew, from before the snap, the soft spot in coverage would be.

This shot probably, hopefully, doesn't need much of an explanation. There's Edelman all the way inside the window and comfortably sitting down to make the catch.

And here's the broadcast angle view of the catch just so you can see how big that open window was. After the game Harris took the blame for not dropping deep enough in coverage.

"I should have got deeper in my zone," Harris said according to ESPN's Rich Cimini. "Put it on me. It was my fault."

He's right to take the blame because he absolutely, clearly, did not drop deep enough but Brady knew as soon as he saw the Jets line up that Harris wouldn't drop deep enough. This is the one weakness in the Jets defense and there is no one better suited to exploit this weakness than Brady. 

The Jets played a good game overall. A game that would have likely been good enough to beat most teams in the NFL but the Patriots are not most teams. The Patriots proved, once again, you need to be, not only, talented enough but you also have to play a close to perfect game to beat them.

The Jets had held the Patriots to 16 points with 10:46 left in the fourth quarter when the Patriots converted the third-and-17 but between giving up that play, blowing a few other coverages and dropping a couple of touchdown passes it didn't even matter that the Patriots dropped 10 passes themselves. The Patriots are simply the better team right now and as the better team usually does they simply made more plays, none bigger than this third-and-17 coversion. 


Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (

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