It’s not getting much mention yet this week, but the Pats o-line is certainly starting to string together a good stretch of games. Especially the interior guys, who were inconsistent early this season.
Center Ryan Wendell and right guard Dan Connolly had a little trouble at times, but the offensive line was excellent overall in pass protection, allowing only one sack in 42 passing plays. We counted 16 Houston blitzes, and Watt seemed to twist or stunt on every single play. But the five offensive linemen worked well together, correctly handled their assignments, and kept Tom Brady clean for most of the game. Nate Solder had a really nice bounce-back game after allowing two sacks to the Broncos’ Von Miller. Logan Mankins had another nice game, but did miss a block that would’ve sprung Vereen for a big gain on a screen pass.
The All-22 film reviews are pouring in this morning. Good stuff from all the beat guys and I try to pick out nuggets that stood out to me in my own watching of it. Here’s one from Nick Underhill…
One negative about the switch to more 3-4 looks: Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones are often forced to drop into coverage. Ninkovich dropped back into coveage 10 times Sunday, while Chandler Jones dropped back five times. If it’s about getting the best 11 men on the field and putting them in a position to succeed, a 4-3 look with Chandler Jones and Ninkovich as the ends and either Jamie Collins or Dane Fletcher essentially taking the place of one of the defensive linemen may be a stronger front.
Must-read as Nick Underhill grades the film…
All the stuff about Tom Brady struggling earlier in the year? Throw it out. The Pats QB has put together three consecutive solid performances now, and what he did against the Broncos may be his best showing of the year. With temperatures low enough to make you swear, which is likely what Manning did after several of his throws, Brady whipped the ball around the field like it was nothing. His performance in the third quarter was nothing short of stunning. After struggling to move the ball in the first half, he came out and completed 12-of-14 passes, throwing into the wind, for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Most of Brady’s damage was done over the short area over the middle of the field, though he did complete 12 passes outside the numbers. Brady was blitzed on nine attempts and completed eight of his passes.
Good breakdown from Frenz, with his usual great screen shots and GIFs, like this key third down where Brady went to Dobson.
Good stuff from Steve Balestrieri.
The Patriots blitzed a decent amount in the first half — bringing at least one extra pass rusher seven times on 19 dropbacks. The result, though, was a 17-3 deficit and zero sacks as Ryan Tannehill got into a rhythm with short passes and the Dolphins ran the ball 22 times for 103 yards. So Belichick went blitz crazy in the second half. He called for extra pressure on 22 of 31 dropbacks, and the result was six sacks, no points, 126 total yards and one frustrated Tannehill in the second half. For the game, the Patriots blitzed on 29 of 50 dropbacks (58 percent).
The return of Rob Gronkowski is going to help the offense a lot. The 49ers and the Jaguars both used double teams against Welker and Hernandez to throw Brady off. Teams can’t do that when Gronkowski is on the field. They have to pick their poison if Hernandez and Welker are healthy. Until that time, Brady and Brandon Lloyd need to get on the same page. On the interception on the throw to Lloyd, Brady didn’t make a great pass, but Lloyd failed to get his body between the ball and the defender.
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.