Rams’ A-gap pressure and illusion - The Patriots interior offensive linemen are going to have to come up big in identifying when the Rams are blitzing or not because they will most certainly see various looks of interior pressure. The Rams have had some success using A-gap linebacker pressure (“Cross-Dogs”) and showing the illusion of it, both of which are very difficult to deal with. Both create one on one matchups for the defensive ends on the outsides because of the interior offensive linemen occupied with protecting their quarterback up the middle.

One of the things that I’ve developed over the years as a football fan is not overreacting to how the first series goes on either side of the ball. Great quote below from BB summing up how it’s a feeling out process early on.

"I’m sure the game will start to unfold after the first series. The first time they have the ball, the first time we have the ball, there will be some elements of the game that we’ll say, ‘OK, this is going to be more important in this game than it has been in some other games.’ I don’t have any doubt about that," he added. "Once we’ve played a quarter of this game, there will probably be a good percentage of what we’re going to see the remaining three quarters."

The Jets will not want to put the ball in Mark Sanchez’s hands too much, regardless of New England’s recent struggles in the secondary. Instead, New York will try to establish the run and try to get big chunks with the play-action pass. The Jets don’t seem to trust Sanchez or their offensive line enough to drop back and pass 40 times a game, particularly against a defensive line that includes Chandler Jones. Also, Sanchez is most effective when you don’t put it all on his shoulders, and the Jets also lack weapons in the passing game.

patriots - One scout’s breakdown of Patriots-Jets: Don’t expect New York to try and air it out - WEEI | Christopher Price

If I were the the Jets I’d just say ‘screw it’ and let Sanchez loose a little bit. Yeah, his margin for error is slim (2 interceptions and you’re probably losing) but you’re walking into the lion’s den with the Pats coming off an embarrassing loss. You’ve got to be aggressive because you’re probably not going to win on the running game and play action.

You have to match wits with the mind that a quarterback like Manning has, to be able to take control at the line of scrimmage like he does. If you give him the answers to the equation pre-snap, and you just stand there, he will switch the play to the best possible play that has the highest possible percentage of being successful against that defense. For example, if you have only six men in the box — because Peyton has you spread out with those Colts-like formations — he’s going to run the ball. In this case, that means Willis McGahee is going to get the handoff. Once that gets established, you might see a defense bring a safety down to help that, as the Steelers did in the season opener with Troy Polamalu. When that happens, Manning switches to a pass play. With the passing game — one-deep, a two-shell look with two safeties high — there are certain answers to those types of defenses that Manning knows. With two-deep, try to attack the middle of the field in that Cover 2. In Cover 3, attack the outsides. It’s things like that, reading your leverage pre-snap. You can’t give Manning that because he’ll tell his receiver what to play. If it’s obvious man coverage, he’ll run that tear screen that Pierre Garcon ran, that Reggie Wayne ran, and now Demaryius Thomas is running. So you just can’t show him the same thing every time.

Patriots strategy notes from the AFC Championship vs. the Ravens

With the help of ProFootballFocus I took a look back at some of the stats from the AFC Championship game to see if I could find any nuggets of interest that may be applicable for the re-match this weekend.

- As you might expect it was the Gronk/Hernandez/Welker show, with Hernandez being targeted the most (10 times).

- However Gronk averaged 17.4 yards per reception.

- Dannell Ellerbe really struggled in coverage against our tight ends, allowing 4 catches on 4 targets for 70 yards, including 34 yards after the catch. Seems like it was a concerted effort to target him and Pollard with the tight ends.

- Not surprisingly the Pats did most of their damage in the passing game on passes from 0 - 10 yards where Brady completed 16 of 18 passes. Will Brandon Lloyd’s presence make a difference this time?

- They tried just two passes beyond 20 yards, both to the middle of the field and both incomplete. Ed Reed factor.

- Brady was 4 of 11 on passes between 10 - 19 yards.

- In the running game the Pats attacked the right side, with 10 of their 23 runs going behind the right guard or right tackle. They avoided running off tackle left. Terrell Suggs factor.

- They were best running behind Brian Waters, picking up a 4.3 average on 4 rushes.

- It was pretty obvious Vince Wilfork played the game of his life, pulling a 7.0 overall. Brandon Spikes was second with a 2.0. Both will need huge games this weekend.

- Mark Anderson had 6 QB hurries and 1 sack. Can Chandler Jones produce similarly?

- Patrick Chung was dreadful in coverage with a -3.8. Steve Gregory will be an interesting key player to watch when the Ravens go “bombs away”.

- Joe Flacco was Baltimore’s best offensive player despite the loss. Their bottom three were all offensive linemen (Oher, Grubbs, Birk). Pats will need to dominate those guys again to get Flacco off the spot.

- Ray Lewis was a -3.0 overall. Kinda disappointing for him, especially if you’ve watched his episode of A Football Life. Doubt we’ll get that kind of performance again.

The Cardinals’ run the same defensive scheme as the Steelers. Even Dick LeBeau realized last season that playing zone blitz against Tom Brady is a losing proposition. So he changed up, and played all man to man. The Patriots had no answer. They better have one for this game, because Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a LeBeau disciple and probably took a lot of notes on that game. The Cardinals can matchup decently well with the Patriots in man coverage. Also expect the Patriots to run a lot of misdirection, both in the run and pass game to make the Cardinals’ speed on defense work against them.
[T]he relative weakness of the Cardinals’ offensive line could mean that blitzing isn’t necessary. A four-man pass-rush headlined by Chandler Jones, who recorded a strip-sack in last week’s win over the Titans, could get the job done, freeing up linebackers and safeties for coverage responsibilities.