Good tweet from Matt Chatham showing how the Pats sold out against the pass and let the Broncos take what they could on the ground. Forcing continued execution and not allowing any big plays is “bend, don’t break” at its finest.
The Colts contained the Broncos by employing some type of press coverage on around 40 plays. Only once did they use a zone coverage. With the corners jamming Manning’s receivers, he was forced to throw deep, where he’s 21-of-51 this season on passes that travel 20 or more yards through the air. He was 5-of-13 on such passes against the Colts. Injuries in the Colts’ secondary late in the game nearly ended Indianapolis’ hope of upsetting the Broncos as Manning furiously fought back. But even with the late letdown, they showed Denver could be contained. Now the question is whether or not the Patriots defense will be healthy enough to take some elements of Indianapolis’ blueprint and do the same. If Dennard were playing, the answer would likely be yes.
A very smart general manager once told me that he wished his team played the Patriots early in the season, then he’d know exactly where his team’s holes were because no one is better at targeting weaknesses than Bill Belichick. We all know the Panthers’ front seven is terrific, and that their secondary has issues. This feels like a game in which the Patriots will spread the field and, coming off their bye week, run the fast version of their no-huddle offense. The Panthers had trouble with that rapid pace in their Week 2 loss to the Bills; the Patriots are much better in this regard. Belichick knows that the Panthers’ defensive line has an advantage with their power against New England’s scuffling offensive line. Carolina has one of the heavier lines in the league across the board, so why not run the no-huddle to take some of the power out of their legs? The Patriots run most effectively out of their hurry-up offense as well. So I like the Patriots’ offense in this matchup, even though Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the best cover linebackers in the game and can slow down tight end Rob Gronkowski.
On any typical non-pressure, man-to-man defense, it’s a simple math proposition: there are five eligible pass catchers on the field and seven pass defenders (assuming a typical four-man rush), meaning you have two “help” chess pieces available. You can use the two extra defenders as zone players in the deep halves of the secondary; everyone else plays man-to-man with no low help. Another option is using one deep, middle-of-the-field safety, affording the defense one underneath coverage “help” zone player (the “rat”). Alternatively, the help player can be used to specifically double one receiver, while still keeping a deep middle of the field safety — but then the zone helper is gone.
It comes down to team defense. You’re going to have to play solid coverage early and take away any quick-striking routes, and hopefully by the time patterns develop and the combinations are forming, you possibly have a rush up the middle. This is where the possibility of not having 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who left Sunday’s loss to the Bengals with a knee injury and didn’t return, could hurt them. You want to try to get in Drew Brees’ face this week, or at least get someone with 2-3 yards of penetration and their hands up because Brees is a short player — you see him every week tilting that chin up, with that face mask and helmet at a 45-degree angle to help him get a line of sight over taller defensive linemen that are usually blocking his line of vision. Up-the-middle pocket pressure is something you have to generate. Last week against Chicago, that’s a Bears defense that will take away the big play and make you earn it down the field by completing passes in front of them. That’s somewhat of a philosophy that the Patriots might try to adopt this week.
With Belichick, I think he needs to be careful of overcoaching this week. The Patriots have gone into big games before and said, “Fellas, this is what we did last time. Just forget about it, and this is what we’re going to do this time.” The idea is to bring so much of an adjustment level that it confuses the other side. But at this time of year, I don’t think it’s about confusion. I think that previous game means a lot. I think you watch that game, see what was successful, how you succeeded and how you failed, and translate that to this week. If it worked, keep it in the game plan, and if it didn’t, take it out. I don’t think this is the time of year that you want to tinker too much. Sure, there will be some slight wrinkles and adjustments. I think you can make those on the sideline. But after scoring 42 points on Houston the last time, I don’t know how many changes you really want to make.
PatsPropaganda is written and edited by Mike Dussault. He is an unapologetic homer and a card-carrying Belichickian. He has a soft spot for hard core X's and O's, and believes in "throw to score, run to win", low pad level, and touchdown celebrations that last two weeks.
He is a Patriots Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, and his work has been featured on FoxSports.com, Yahoo Sports, and SI.com. He also co-hosts the weekly PatsPropaganda & Frenz Podcast with Bleacher Report's AFC East Editor Erik Frenz.
PatsPropaganda was TruFan.com/CSNNE's 2011 winner for Best Patriots Blog.
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