Encouraging wrap up from Bedard, but this issue remains the prime concern:
On defense, the Patriots started in their 4-3, then switched back and forth with a 3-4 while going through constant changes in the front seven, especially on the line, that kept the unit from getting in a flow. That led to the most problematic factor, and most concerning if there is a rematch, for the Patriots: a distinct lack of pressure from the defense. Despite blitzing the 49ers on 40 percent of the dropbacks, the Patriots only came up with pressure on 16.7 percent of the dropbacks. The latter figure is what the Patriots do against Mark Sanchez of the Jets (16.7 in first matchup, 15.4 in the second). It’s OK against a quarterback who has accuracy problems, but Colin Kaepernick is far from that — and he wasn’t flawless against the Patriots.
As always the final word on the Dolphins game from Bedard’s breakdown. Lots of good stuff, including an explanation on Brandon Lloyd’s lack of production last weekend, which seems to be the flavor of the moment to complain about (Bostonians have to find something, right!?).
While he hasn’t been Moss — no one should have expected him to be — Lloyd has been a viable boundary threat. Lloyd has caught 50 passes, which is as many as Vincent Jackson of the Buccaneers, who signed a five-year, $55.6 million contract in the offseason. The Bills’ Stevie Johnson (55), and Davone Bess (56), and Brian Hartline (60) of the Dolphins are the only other AFC East receivers to have as many receptions as Lloyd. None of them play in an offense with Wes Welker (92 catches), Rob Gronkowski (53 in 10 games), and Aaron Hernandez (27 in six games).
Closing the book on the Colts game with Greg Bedard’s wrap up. Lots of good stuff about the decision to blitz or not to blitz.
That the Patriots suddenly blitzed their highest percentage of the season (30.9 percent of the dropbacks) and had their most total pressure concepts (43.6 percent) can be attributed to the coordinator the Patriots were playing against (Bruce Arians), and also the opponent themselves. Dating to the start of the 2010 season, of the six games with the highest number of blitzes, Arians was coordinator of three of those teams: 2010 Steelers (23 blitzes), 2012 Colts (17), and 2011 Steelers (14). Why the need to throw so much at an Arians offense? Likely for two reasons: because quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (especially) and Luck don’t make a lot of mistakes unless forced into them; and Arians’s offense lives off deep drops from center by the quarterback and a lot of deep routes. If the quarterbacks aren’t rushed, there could be big trouble down the field.
As always Wednesday means the final grades of the last game from Greg Bedard, whose game film analysis of the Patriots I trust more than PFF. This week the focus is on the pass rush and deservedly so. My boy Myron Pryor even gets a shout out.
A couple little nuggets to share:
What coach Bill Belichick isn’t going to do is blitz, at least not against quarterbacks he thinks will self-destruct.
The lack of blitzes is probably partly due to the problems in the secondary — Belichick is not going to take a guy out of coverage when they’re having trouble doing it fully staffed – and partly to Belichick’s patented “play the percentages” defense.
Why would he give Sanchez more room to throw if Belichick believes Sanchez will make a mistake without being induced (which ended up happening)?
Sure, the stats look terrible – 68.3 percent completion rate, 328 yards — but Belichick only cares about the victory, which easily could have slipped away.
The problem is, Belichick lives by his mantra — very well, considering his regular-season record — and dies by it as well. He was probably thrilled that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had to settle for so many deep throws. But Wilson ended up hitting on most of them, because of coverage and pressure.
The Patriots are either going to have to get settled in the back end, which would allow for more blitzes, or get better four-man pressure.
Seems like it’s Bedard Wednesdays around here since his wrap up and grades is always a must read, and then his appearance on Dennis & Callahan is a must listen. But some great stuff in here with this interesting tidbit of how the Pats offense seemed to poop out a bit. This is something I’m hoping to take a closer look at later today. Does the Pats offense always sputter late when they run a lot of no huddle?
A lot of attention has been focused on the fast-break, no-huddle offense, and it’s certainly deserving. The players and all the offensive coaches deserve a lot of credit for getting it ready to unleash against a quality opponent. And it was certainly a big reason the Patriots built a 31-7 lead. The Broncos didn’t know what hit them, and at times couldn’t even get lined up correctly. But expect the Patriots to tweak how they use it, because the no-huddle was likely a big reason they went scoreless in the final 19:42 of the game and nearly allowed the Broncos to mount a comeback. Some of the ineffectiveness had to do with the Patriots taking a more conservative approach to burn clock and the Broncos’ defense being aggressive. But the Patriots also looked very tired in the final quarter-plus of the game as the first-half pace took a self-inflicted toll. Of the final 22 plays the Patriots ran before the kneel-downs, 10 went for 1 yard or less, including three sacks, two fumbles (one lost), a penalty, and a near-interception. That’s 45.5 percent.
More all-22 study of the Pats!
The bottom line about the Patriots is this: If you dare them to run, especially with small converted safeties playing linebacker, they will eat you up. Scott probably spent a lot of time in the hot tub Sunday night and Monday morning. So to answer the question about whether the Patriots are a running team or not, the answer is simple. If you dare them to run these days, they can. But this is still Tom Brady’s team.
Great breakdown of how the Pats ran wild on the Bills, with awesome all-22 screen shots.
I’m sure it wasn’t a coincidence that the Bills defenders that had the best chance to stop the Patriots running game (I only diagrammed two plays but there were probably eight more plays in the same vein) were defensive backs. That’s what game planning is all about: you find areas where you can get the defense into something predictable. In this case, the Patriots knew that if the Bills were in nickel personnel, New England could line up in Strong formations and get defensive backs in a position to be exploited. Once you know what look you are going to get, you can pick the plays with the best chance of succeeding.