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Julian Edelman punt return rewind

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff  August 14, 2009 01:50 PM

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Julian Edelman returns a punt for a touchdown vs. the Eagles. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

Although it isn't the coaches' tape that produces a wide-angle view of plays from the end zone, it can help to re-watch the TV tape of the game to see how certain plays develop.

This is what I saw from Julian Edelman's second-quarter, 75-yard punt return for a touchdown:

  • The formation. The Patriots lined up in a 2-6-2 formation at the line of scrimmage. That meant there were two players split out wide to each side to derail the opposing gunners, forming a vice. In this case, Patrick Chung and Greg Lewis teamed up on the right side, while Darius Butler and Brandon Meriweather teamed up on the left side. Of the six players lined up over the ball, Sam Aiken, Rob Ninkovich, Jarvis Green, Eric Alexander and Matthew Slater were in three-point stances, while Brandon McGowan was in a two-point stance behind them.

  • The reaction at the snap. Sam Aiken and Jarvis Green surged forward, creating some initial separation and spacing in the Eagles punt coverage team. The other four players took an initial step forward, engaged a coverage player, before peeling back to set up their blocks.

  • The initial part of the return. The punt was fielded by Edelman at the 25 yard-line, between the numbers and sideline. His first step was toward the sideline. As Edelman headed in that direction, Matthew Slater and Brandon McGowan were the first players back and it was key that they stayed disciplined in not taking a block-in-the-back penalty because they had lost a bit of leverage. Slater created just enough interference, and Edelman was shifty in making the first man miss (Sean Jones), before the initial north-south lane developed. Edelman planted his right foot and exploded with a sudden burst up the field.

  • The middle point of the return. At that point, there were five Eagles in the area that could have made a play on Edelman, ensuring it was only about a 15-yard return. Patrick Chung and Greg Lewis kicked out one would-be tackler. Sam Aiken blocked another. And the other two Eagles, who appeared to have some poor spacing, were left behind by Edelman's burst.

  • The finishing kick. After clearing through that traffic, Edelman cut back inside -- driving his right foot into the ground before changing direction -- which spun Eagles gunner Quintin Demps. Darius Butler took out punter Sav Rocca just in case. At that point, it was 35 more yards to the end zone. It was a terrific return by Edelman, who got it started by doing what top punt returners often do -- making the first man miss. At the same time, the role of the blockers was also key.

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