Managing the Running Game and Offense in General

Discussion in ' - Patriots Fan Forum' started by MoLewisrocks, Nov 14, 2006.

  1. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks Supporter Supporter

    This post is going to be long and thoughtful, so knee jerk hysterical bandwaggon fans (and NEM) should probably just skip it. It's not a sky is falling post, more a headscratching and sheading some light probing on what may be at the root of our inconsistent scuffle to 6-3 nine games into the 2006 season, and why we may not be able to improve enough to compete with authority once the second season unfolds regardless of how much effort the players are willing to muster.

    There is an interesting thread on the Planet today regarding comments from BB on his coffee with the coach segment on WEEI yesterday afternoon. I missed it - they either ran it very early or very late, and I will watch it on Comcast on Demand once they get it up.

    He was questioned about why Dillon was MIA from the time he ripped (or slogged) off the 50 yard run (which was with 4 minutes left in the FIRST QUARTER) until the first drive of the THIRD QUARTER. His response was IMO mind numbing. Here is how the poster heard it:

    "The way the Pats are managing the running game makes absolutely no friggin sense . Basically, BB was asked about Dillon's playing time (since he came out for about two whole quarters after he broke off that 50 yarder) and BB says something to the effect of: "Well, we tried mixing up the running backs (Dillon and Maroney) situationally earlier in the year, but we decided it was just easier to rotate them in on alternate possessions." So basically Maroney plays one possession, then Dillon, then back to Maroney. BB pointed out that Dillon's carries (11 I think) were pretty much the same as Maroney (13) as evidence that this was the case.

    This is NUTS.

    - It explains the idiotic playcalling when McDaniels repeatedly runs Maroney up the middle for one or two yard gains. The plays are getting called in without regard to who the back is on the field at a given time.

    - It leaves us wondering WTF the coaching staff is thinking. They've got a mace and a rapier and they are trying to use them in the same way, instead oif using their talents situationally. Need a tough yard or two to pick up the first, or to power into the endzone? Dillon. Need to beat a slow defense to the outside? Maroney. Obviously you have to mix it up now and again to keep the defenses honest, but it appears the coaching staff is ignoring the respective situational talents of these players. Unbelievable!!

    Had to vent over this stupidity. Did anyone else hear the interview and think the same thing as I?"

    A few weeks ago Bill got a question in his fan Question for the Coach segment from a fan wondering if we had different blocking schemes for Dillon and Maroney because of their very different styles. His answer then was equally mind numbing IMO and has stuck with me ever since. He said we did not, again citing the too complex to manage from the sidelines retionale, we have different personnel packages that do different things but ALL of the RB's are expected to be able to run any play out of whatever package is on the field when it's called. I thought at the time it was either a cop out because we have an Oline that struggles to be consistent with just one blocking scheme (i.e. HC covering for a deficiency) or he was becoming too stubborn and entrenched to use the real versatility on this offense and was instead trying to create versatility by forcing 4 differently shaped pegs into one more often than not tiny round hole.

    OC's call plays. Position coaches and assistants are responsible for getting the right personnel packages on the field. Are we doing this same crap with the passing game? Does this explain why we inexplicably see a Troy Brown or a Daniel Graham on the field when the call is a deep pass to stretch the field? Is this part of the reason why we see an offense that seemingly can't get in a rhythm or get in synch with their QB - because it's too confusing for the coaches to field packages with specific WR's tailored to the call so we go with the guy whose rotation is in and hope Tom can remember how he runs that route? Is this one of the reasons this offense has been so difficult for new players to pick up - because they don't have defined rolls? Is this why we seldom see Chad Jackson on the field - because if you cannot run every pass pattern in the game plan you are then limited to situations where the handful you show proficiency in are called, and if they aren't you might as well have been inactive?

    When many here were making light of Deion's holdout in camp and saying he didn't need the reps, I voiced concern that it did matter because the receivers we did have in camp, two of whom were new to the system and one of whom was an aging 4th WR, were being asked to cover two roles - the one they should logically assume and the one they might be forced to assume if he didn't show for week 1. Is what we are seeing from this coaching staff and passing unit a reflection of the confusion created as a result of planning for the return of a player whose resolve and market this FO dramatically miscalculated? And was it exacerbated when a talented rookie was unable to get on the field at all during camp or the pre season? And a trade had to be made on the eve of the season for another teams #2-3 player they would have to project as their #1WR prospect because absent that happening they didn't have one out of the gate from among Brown, Caldwell, Jackson and Childress (or a handful of PS fodder)?

    Generally speaking roles are defined in camp. That's because players will never get to see those kinds of reps once the season unfolds. Then you have to slide into a set routine, absorb individual game plans and focus on executing them. Consistent execution is a function of reps, and without the backlog from camp reps are limited and therefore consistency is impacted. And in our case players who didn't have the talent to command a first round selection or double digit signing bonus are being asked to out perform guys who did. Some here have tried to make the case that Walker or Stallworth or Deion performing for their new teams are proof the adjustment should have been easier. Only none of them were joining a unit where 4 of 5 slots were being filled by new and unfamiliar talent, each of them was brought in to fill a specific role, 2 of them are likely more gifted than anyone on this current roster, and none of them were being asked to assimilate into a precision oriented read and react defense before individual roles were even defined.

    Caldwell and Brown have the most time in and seem poised to settle into rolls as 2nd and 3rd or 4th WR's. Only those roles remain in flux when we bench our #1 in the first quarter following a fumble, continue to shelter or limit our most obviously gifted player because he's a rookie and he is through their fault, or his own fault or perhaps nobody's fault developing slower than molassas and insert a street FA getting practice and game reps into the mix 9 weeks into the season.

    Belichick drafted Maroney to replace Dillon. That move opened up tremendous potential to field a two headed monster during the transition provided Dillon returned healthy in 2006. Dillon did get a little dinged up, likely a stinger a month ago, but he has not even appeared on the injury list. So are we not taking advantage of that because it's too difficult for the coaches to manage a two headed monster? Have we dumbed down the running game to accommodate what the coaches can handle?

    Belichick drafted Jackson to either replace Branch in transition following his departure as a FA after playing out a final contract season or join him to form a two headed #1a and #1b WR monster at the top of that units roster. Only he badly miscalculated both his ability to retain or re-sign Branch and a rookie's ability to perform on the field what he apparently grasps conceptually off it. Have we alternately refused to dumb down the passing game because the HC is determined not to admit he may have miscalculated the value or significance or degree of difficulty of the WR position in this offense?

    Somehow for me this doesn't add up to Brady and McDaniels suck. It's a lot deeper. Another off season may successfully sort it all out. But I don't see it happening this season because I think we've not only been outcoached this season we've been out managed. And it's hard for players or coordinators to overcome that kind of situation, let alone on the fly. We can't adapt or adjust in game because our HC and broader staff couldn't adapt or adjust period this season to situations of their own making. That's all I can reasonably conclude at this point. And that's sad because I think there is sufficient talent on the roster to win, but they certainly haven't performed that way with any kind of consistency. And while some of it is on them, I wonder where the majority of it rightly belongs.

    If we are unable or unwilling to spend to upgrade personnel, then we dam well better be prepared to coach our way around it. That's supposed to be the heart and soul of "the system". Players have to perform on the field, but they ought not to have one hand tied behind their back when they try to.
  2. BradyManny

    BradyManny Pro Bowl Player

    I just had made a long ass reply, but the message F'd up and didn't go through.

    Anyway, even though I'm bored at work, I will give an abbrv. version:

    I've been thinking about this issue a lot recently, and maybe it's simply b/c I don't know enough about football Xs and Os that I can't really come to any conclusion. I was shocked by what BB had said, and my initial reaction was to not believe it, and assume he was just saying that b/c he hates to reveal anything about anything.

    There's always this issue of: "the system has been great for us, but the team isn't executing" versus "yes, well then it's up to the coaches to figure out plays and a system which they can execute". Again, I've never played organized football at any age, so I'll use basketball as a reference here - its like a coach who insists on playing zone and full court press simply b/c they can and b/c other teams pull it off, but maybe it just isn't right for that given team.

    For now, I'm going to go with patience in terms of the passing game - look at the strides Reche Caldwell has made this season. He's had the most time with Brady, and in the last few weeks, he's really emerged as the go-to-guy, he's running great routes, making great catches, and has that David Givens esque ability to get 1st downs. I've never been huge on McD simply b/c I'm bias towards Charlie by nature, but I am willing to give it time. I imagine in the next few weeks we'll start seeing Gabriel, Jackson & Gaffney making similar strides as the ones Reche has made of late.

    As for the running game, I think it is far too dull considering the weapons we have at our disposal. The running attack has been good, but should be better.

    Again, it's so easy for coaches to say "they aren't executing" and it's easy to come back and say "they need to find plays that the team can execute consistently." It's hard to know who is right in that argument.
  3. BelichickFan

    BelichickFan B.O. = Fugazi Supporter

    #12 Jersey

    Alternating series doesn't mean that the same plays are called for each. Maybe they are, I'm not about to watch the film over and over to chart the play calls and blocking schemes - but I think you're making a large assumption that alternating series also means they call the plays blindly without thought to with RB is in the game.
  4. DarrylS

    DarrylS Supporter Supporter

    Excellent well though out thread, there has been a tendency on this board and in all media to dumb this whole thing down. Having heard BB, and some of the more knowledgeable analysts it is a very complex issue which has been framed well in this thread. To blame McDaniels is an easy out, as in any org the buck stops at the top.. i.e. BB and SP.

    Have heard before how the game plans are developed, briefly it is done with the OC and his position coaches, tweeked by BB and then by TB.. there are steps before it is presented on Wednesday.. so it is not one person's responsibility. With this structure to just blame McDaniels begs the issue, as he is one of many people involved.

    What it seems to come down to is game day decisions, maybe the wrong players are being sent in.. maybe the wrong sequence is being called.. without regard there seem to be a lot of mental errors on this team right now. Beginning with TB, is he hurt or do the other players, including the O line, not know their responsibilities. You can have the best game plan and best plays, but if the timing is off or if you are getting chased all over the pocket it matters for nothing.

    The second part is personnel, while this is a very good team, it lacks in defensive speed in all areas.. this shows in some of the deep patterns and in some of the lateral pursuit. It also seems to lack O speed as well, thought that Gabriel and Jackson(who we have not seen much) were faster that they seem to be. I agree with the initial premise that essentially the team we are putting on the field could be better in some areas, but bottom line is coaching and execution have been subpar. What comes first is difficult to comprehend, but both of these deficits are obvious and when we are out of sync on both we suck.
  5. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa Supporter Supporter

    I second the "well thought out post" comment. It seems a logical corrolary that McDaniels is having the offense "dumbed down" for his benefit, and that the finger should point all the way up the chain, all the way back down the chain, and then sort of settle in the middle at McDaniels.

    I don't agree, of course. Here's why:

    The same staff calling the Denver game, called the Minnesota game. The same staff calling the Jets and Indy games, called the Cincinnati game. The offense is putting up a decent number of points, although recently production has declined.

    Well, you could answer, for the reasons we've just specified, the Pats have become predictable. But wait - the other reaction to our playcalling is that we're fooling around with too many gadget plays.

    I take BB's statement with a grain of salt, but also disagree with the rapier/mace reference. It's more like a mace and a two-handed broadsword. Maroney is faster, but I've seen him trample some people too. He's not without the power to run inside. Do you make a decision on whether a 220-pound back can run inside, based on one game? Two? Or does it take a lot of them? I say a lot of them, especially in a rookie year.

    About the grain of salt... do you see anybody rotating in Faulk the same way? Or running him inside to pick up a tough 2-yard first down? There's a great deal of hyperbole in the BB statement, from what I can see. Sort of a distillation of the "we draft good football players" [without that much regard to positional need] line. He's playing up the interchangeable parts phenomenon. I don't really think he's punting on the nuances -- but I do think he thinks Maroney is capable of some things we have not yet seen.

    Tom's clearly frustrated. He and the receivers are not on the same page, far too often. Yet the offense puts up points against the so-so teams, the Jets notwithstanding.

    Yes, I'm a chipper happy kinda guy, and think we're going to be headed in the right direction well prior to the playoffs. But even if I disagree, I can a appreciate a post that makes sense given a difference in assumptions.

    Food for thought... I may reach back to it if I'm wrong ;)

  6. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks Supporter Supporter

    I'm not making any assumptions. I'm basing this on what BB clearly stated in a radio spot two weeks ago that I heard with my own little ears. He said the calls are based on down and distance, and whichever RB is in there is expected to execute whichever play is called for. Note to he said called for, not just called. I'm wondering if the same case holds in the passing game. The game plan is in part about making broad play calling decisions in advance. It is broken up into down and distance and situational segments based on history and advance scouting and film study. You have said yourself there was nothing wrong with the call to run the ball in inside the 5 Sunday, just didn't have the personnel on the field to execute. That is why they went to the pass even in the face of an unrelenting pass rush. To me that smacks of stubborness fueling the decision to follow up one bad decision with a worse one. But if it's predicated on an organizational decision, it's really not Brady's fault or McDaniels fault. It's the fault of whoever decided Maroney and Dillon were best used as interchangeable parts. And possibly that all the WR could be interchangeable too.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2006
  7. psychoPat

    psychoPat Role Player Supporter

    That is certainly a thought-provoking
    ... and disturbing ... post.

    I don't really believe the following
    but at least it is consistent with what else we (think we) know:

    We could be just blind-siding the entire league.
    Seeming to slink into the playoffs.
    After all, we're road warriors ... unbeaten, in truth, and could remain so.
    Play the first season solely to qualify for the second season.
    Then take everyone by surprise in the second season.
    Anything to avoid those empty red seats in January!
  8. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah Supporter Supporter

    Disable Jersey

    I don't know what's going on but let me add this observation.

    I've sat right behind the Pats D bench for a couple seasons and have observed that year in and out for example that they rotate OUT Seymour, their best player. He sits out a series or 2, seemingly regardless of situation. I've seen several games where the enemy O has driven 80 yards or so over many minutes with no recourse to re-inserting Big Sey. Seemingly, it was his 'turn' to be out.

    Make of it what you will, but this implies to me that there is a strict formula approach by the coaching staff. If so, it has not been working well the last 2 seasons.
  9. ATippett56

    ATippett56 Pro Bowl Player

    The play calling has been extremely questionable in the last two games especially against two of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. For example against the New York Jets in the first quarter, 3rd and 2 at the New York Jets 5 yard line and the New England Patriots call a pass play? Where was Felger Killin' Corey Dillon on that play? Meanwhile against the New York Jets in the second quarter, 4th and 1 at the New England Patriots 44 yard line, the New England Patriots hand off the ball to Heath Evans for an one yard gain? Why not hand off the ball to Felger Killin' Corey Dillon on that play?

    Don't even get me started about the offensive game plan against the Indianapolis Colts.
  10. Pats726

    Pats726 Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

    I think an interesting post and food for thought...but I wonder if it's possuble the team makes it to the playoffs, learning many different things in the last half of the season and uses that knowledge in the playoffs; making what the Patriots do a bit harder to defend and play against. With progressive improvement this may ne something that will happen unplanned. All I know is that the team is 6-3, one game better than at this point last year, not playing up to where it could be..and fans are in panic mode...relax all will be OK.
  11. ATippett56

    ATippett56 Pro Bowl Player

    Perhaps this is why Testaverde was signed by the New England Patriots?
  12. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks Supporter Supporter

    As I said in another thread, unlike you I have never been a member of another site, nor did I inflict myself on them while this site was down as you so publicly did. I'd suggest you go back to posting there but that's not an option, is it? Unless posting in an assclown asylum forum appeals to you.
  13. DarrylS

    DarrylS Supporter Supporter

    Why would you waste a roster spot on Testaverde, you could just sign him as a coach?? We seem to be going through a lot of O linemen all of a sudden, signing him as a player coach makes no sense to me.

    Do you get feelings via telepathy, how can you get a feeling about what Bob Kraft thinks all the way to Arizona? Bob Kraft has not said one thing about this team, from what I can see.

    To just blame McDaniels begs the issue, BB is the HC and he is a control freak if things weren't going to his liking and desires he would change them.
  14. Krugman

    Krugman Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

    #87 Jersey

    Agree this is a good thread,many good points brought up.If you agree or disagree with another poster,why make it personal and start the name-calling?When that happens this board,which we all like,goes down a peg or two,and I dont think its necessary.
    To get back to the topic,this is the best discussion I've seen yet re the running game/ overall game plans to date,and I thank the folks who took the time to enter them.
  15. 5 Rings for Brady!!

    5 Rings for Brady!! In the Starting Line-Up

    I believe that the goal in the Jets game was to play everybody on the roster because the coaches want to know who can play within the system and they figured that the Jets game would be the easiest game to try out all the new faces on offense and maybe some of the less used faces on defense. I don't have a problem with that as long as they take care of business, which they obviously did not do. The Colts game is hard to blame anybody for with the tipped passes, I guess Faulk would be a scapegoat, or the fact that they didn't run the ball more. Brady wasn't great, but completed as many passes as his opponent.

    I think if we won the last two games, or made a great comeback in the last two games, we would feel better, but this week everything is up for questioning because the season has definitely gone ugly. Or perhaps I should say, remained ugly.

    I tend to think that the Jets game was used as a glorified practice session to get everyone from Hill to Gaffney to Jackson involved, and that this is hopefully not going to occur every week. I think they didn't take the Jets seriously enough and got cute with their personel packages to see what players work and what players don't.

    I think the coaching has been limited badly in game day adjustments, like not using Dillon on the goal line. I think Brady is getting a really raw deal, and I feel bad for him. It sucks to be the QB in this thankless system. Marginal O-line talent, marginal WR talent, and refusing to run the ball all add up to a broken QB in the long run.

    I think we may be taking it a little too far in questioning the staff and management, after all even Bioli is not perfect and they certainly are not doing anything intentionally to hurt the team or to arrogantly cover for their own mistakes. Any stubborn trends they show are more likely based on the conviction that winning three recent superbowls would give a person. I'm sure that they try conciously to learn from their mistakes and I am sure that they are trying this new personel arrangement to find out if it works. If it doesn't work, I imagine they will self critique the situation as they have always done in the past. I think that it is quite likely that they are using rotating packages in a complex offense and defense and they probably want to keep the same personel packages on the field at the same time. I would be happy if they would perhaps show some better game time adjustments, and run the ball more.

    I think that they got a little cute in the Jets game, but I believe the overall effort was to see what works. They obviously have a lot of new faces on offense that they want to work in, and on defense they are once again trying to hide a lack of pass rush as well as a no name secondary and aging linebackers.

    I can't imagine how Brady is mentally able to deal with all this B.S. And physically, who knows? They just signed his back-up, which to me is a very unwelcome development, and I personally do read a little into it. Like Brady is getting killed out there.
  16. PatsFan37

    PatsFan37 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

    #37 Jersey

    MLR, I think you're making too much of BB's response to a question about tactics. I agree with PFiVA to take it with a pound of salt. My sense is if a question is that specific, he'll give a general answer. No sense in him saying, even in a local radio show, that Dillon is run up the middle and Maroney is run around the end. Better to stick to the general answer.

    If it looks that way on the field, it may simply be that it's what they thought the defense was giving them. Not to say they were necessarily right about it. The defense may be fooling them with different looks and they could do a better job of out-thinking opposing DC's, but I doubt their tactics are that simple, or that BB wants to discuss them publicly.
  17. Clonamery

    Clonamery Supporter Supporter

    Familiarity breeds contempt.....
  18. sieglo

    sieglo In the Starting Line-Up

    Well, I was the one who posted the original thread over at "the other message board" and I have to say I wish I could have posted it here, for the simple reason that the discussion over here always seems more detailed and thought-provoking. This thread proves the point.

    The traditional hallmark of BB teams is that they are built for flexibility. But multiple schemes deployed in various situations should also be backed by multiple personnel packages designed to fit those situations. BB's comments on the radio just shocked me because (a) Dillon and Maroney are very different backs; and (b) even if their talents and styles weren't substantially different you might still want to use them in different situations because one is a cagey vet with a lot of miles on the odometer and one is a relatively inexperienced rook.

    Very frustrating.
  19. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks Supporter Supporter

    I'm not sure if your talking about me and NEM or BB and the AFC, but I'll go with the latter. :D

    That may be part of it. And sometimes that contempt breeds resolve into an opponent. Dungy and Co. seemed to have a better plan this time out and the resolve to implement it - the fact that they had already gotten the monkey off Peyton's back as far as Gillette goes (albeit against a severaly wounded team in 2005) helped Dungy sell it to the rest of his troops.

    Similar situation for Eric. The game at the Meadowlands wasn't as close as the final score would suggest. But the simmering feud and the way BB has handled it as this season unfolded may have given an acknowledged brilliant young defensive tactician just the impetus he needed to pull all the stops out during his bye week leading up to the rematch.

    AFC teams who have faced us a lot with generally poor results may finally be catching up to us in a season when we are ill equipped to counter strategies predicated on pressuring Brady and exposing our secondary. If they can do a reasonable job of containing the run, and we seem to at times help them in that respect, and they have the talent or guile to take advantage of our weakness (they can limit our rush and challenge our secondary) all they seem to need is the lead and we start tripping over our own feet as we press to re-assert ourselves.

    Once they get up we are hard pressed to regain the lead, and in pressing to have tended to make even more uncharacteristic mistakes. We play rattled on both sides of the ball when behind. We start not doing the little things. Worked for Denver and Indy and then unexpectedly for the 4-4 NYJ. We dont make effective adjustments this season and seem to be struggling to coach around individual or unit deficits. And it's hard to tell whether it's a matter of personnel simply not executing because the team as a whole has not fully jelled, increased lack of talent capable of executing, organizational stubborness on the part of the coaching staff, or a little bit of all of the above.

    The teams we've beat this season had bigger problems than we do prior to Rodney's injury. Miami was off to a horrendous start and in the midst of a QB controversy that in the final analysis encompassed a choice between two marginal players. Buffalo was in the early stages of a coaching change to a former NFC coach and grappling with an inconsistent young QB. Cincy as we have now seen was coming apart at the seams dealing with undisciplined and unfocused players on offense, a QB struggling with an early comeback from a knee injury and their coaching and defense were never strong suits. Minnesota aften looks good very early or in brief spurts, but has revealed itself as just another fraud team in a weak NFC who couldn't even make it a game.

    There is only one elite team left on the schedule - Chicago. Losing to them would be understandable although it wouldn't bode well for the postseason. Losing to any of the others would be a really bad sign at this point. But Miami at Miami after they beat Chicago - a team we always struggle against playing for pride and in posession of that divisional familiarity is not a good matchup for the team we fielded Sunday. Neither would the scrappier than expected Titans with a QB who is more effective on the run or the Jaguars depending on which QB is playing, be a favorable matchup for that team on the road in back to back games to end the season. Hopefully Rodney will be back and the defense will be healthy and the offense will have gone from one step forward, two steps back to consistent progression.

    I just know that if we limp into the playoffs at 10-6 again I don't think we will have any more luck scheming our way farther than we did last season. This year like last year we seem to be a team without much margin for error who is performing as if they realize that and play tight and at times appear drained. Pressure (like stress) will do that to you. Not like 2002 - which I think always had more to do with hangover and complacency - but not nearly like 2003 or 2004, teams that quicky showed a level of focus and determination that was pretty unmistakable. Playing with a chip on their shoulders and a quietly confident swagger that scared the bejesus out of the opposition. This team is really more like 2005 just with an easier and possibly misleading early schedule.

    I think we are a team in transition by design or circumstance. Had we not lost Branch for this season anyway, or had Jackson not scuffled, or had Rodney not been injured again, or had they been able to sign Townsend or Law to augment that secondary, I think a transition would have been easier to navigate and less noticable - particularly with Maroney making a strong rookie showing and Seau turning out to be a lot more at 37 then his many critics here ever imagined he could be. But since none of those things happened we is what we is, and we don't seem to be able to coach our way around that.

    I'm beginning to think the atmosphere surrounding the unprecedented cap increase hurt us more than Belioli will ever admit. And if they don't adapt to what Miguel has opined he perceives as a new cap era, that could develop into our nagging achilles heel. An inability to plug the gaps or infuse the leadership with quality veterans or retain our best value draft picks as they approach FA. We may need to show some increased ability to make off field as well as on field adjustments. Thinking outside the box has been a hallmark of this team under BB. Just not seeing that lately. It's as if we got manuevered into a box and decided we would just show everyone that we can out think them from there too. So far we haven't succeeded.

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