This week on Mike D’s 5 Keys we’re going the super obvious route. Sometimes these are abstract things, random points of emphasis we think the Pats need to focus on to win the game, but this week we’re just going to make it all about the Patriots doing the things they’ve been bad at doing all season long.
Unlike the Patriots, the Rams have been able to beat both the Seahawks and the Cardinals, so a victory over them would be a nice way to end the first half of the season.
This is a big game for the Patriots in an exhibition-type atmosphere, which could be good experience if they are lucky enough to make it to the biggest exhibition game of them all, aka the Super Bowl.
Any time the team can play on a big stage it’s good. Especially for the youngest team in Bill Belichick’s tenure.
The Pats need the bye week to regroup and get healthy, and if they’re able to end it on a positive note it could be even more of a catalyst for the second half of the season.
My 5 Super Obvious Points of Emphasis…
1. Only give up THREE 20+ passing plays - I wouldn’t be so bold as to ask for zero, but when you’re averaging six per game you gotta take what you can get. There’s little doubt the Rams are going to toss some bombs up, and with Brian Schottenheimer running the offense we know what kind of game to expect.
The Rams have a great one-two punch in Jackson and Richardson at running back, so we’ll see a lot of them, and then a lot of play action bombs away.
Our safeties cannot bite on play action!!!!!
And I never thought I’d be begging it for it but we must BEND, NOT BREAK!!!
Well, only break three times. I can live with that.
2. Defensive third downs under 40% - Really 40% is sub-average but when you’ve been over 50% (dreadful) three of the last four weeks you have to adjust expectations.
It would also be helpful to be under 30% on third and longs specifically since they’ve been averaging 41% on those for the season.
If the defense continues to be consistent with their run defense they should force a number of third down situations. But it doesn’t matter if you force them if you can’t get off the field.
I don’t care if it’s blitzing pressure or coverage just get off the field on third down.
3. Protect the edges - The one thing we can’t allow on offense is for this to become a Giants-esque attack from the Rams, and that begins with edge rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
Luckily the Pats are strongest at the edges with Sebastian Vollmer turning in a stout season.
But there could be problems in the middle too. I loved Michael Brockers coming out of LSU, and he could cause problems, especially if we’re sans Mankins and/or Connolly.
There’s no secret, get to Brady with four, keep seven in coverage, and you’ve got a chance to shut down the Patriots offense.
As long as Brady has time, and there’s no chaos in his face, there shouldn’t be any problems. Let’s not let there be any problems.
4. Catch the football - It hasn’t been obvious to me but the Patriots are actually leading the league in drops with 17 in seven games.
Brandon Lloyd’s got five drops to lead the team. It’s time for players like him and Gronk (four) and Wes (four) to start stepping it up.
There’s no excuse. Start executing.
5. Finish - We decided Finish would replace “Win” as our fifth and final key last week and what happened? The Patriots actually finished a game off! So it’s back, obviously.
The Pats have had their fair share of big games they couldn’t finish off since 2006, but this year it’s been a major problem early in the season as well. Dare I hope we’re just getting it out of our system early!?
We can only hope that last week’s performance by Rob Ninkovich will help spark the revolution in future crunch times, because Brady and the offense were still lacking that killer touch until their backs were against the wall against the Jets.
They must finish on both sides of the ball, in the red zone and at the end of the game.
These are the five areas that have haunted the 2012 Patriots thus far. It would be wonderful to see improvement in all of them, but I doubt we will.
If there’s one thing I’d most hope for it’s that they manage the deep balls better. Those are absolute killers.
Otherwise, let’s get into the bye week healthy, get healthier, regroup and make another run at the shiny silver trophy.