New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 3 vs. Oakland Raiders

The Patriots finally have their home opener Sunday against the 0-2 Raiders! While on paper this might look to be a Pats’ blowout, we’ve seen far too many ugly early-season losses to write in a “W” just yet. Let’s remember this is a Patriots team that lost to the Cardinals at home in 2012. The Cardinals wouldn’t win another road game all year. Figure that one out.

The Pats have been saying all the right things this week — what a legend Charles Woodson is, how good Oakland’s pass defense is, that Derek Carr can make every throw. You know the drill.

But who the opponent is doesn’t really matter, it’s all about focusing on the Patriots and improving. The team has shown glimpses on both sides of the ball, but the consistency has been lacking especially on offense. 

Here’s my strategy and points of emphasis that will hopefully get the Pats to 2-1.

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Patriots Week 3 Kickoff: Oakland Raiders

Last meeting: In 2011, the Patriots gave up 504 yards of offense yet still won 31-19. Wes Welker had 9 catches for 158 yards as the Pats moved to 3-1, en route to a season that would see them lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl. This was prime territory for a pass defense that couldn’t stop a nose bleed. Put it this way — Sergio Brown was the 5th leading tackler on the day.

Early Outlook: The Raiders are 0-2 after losses to the Jets and Texans. It’s the Patriots home opener, and with the Pats offense on the verge of breaking out, the Raiders should have their hands full. It will be hard to not to be overconfident heading into this one.

Notes: Old friend Justin Tuck is back, not that he’s the same player he once was, but it will be interesting seeing how he does against our new-look interior OL.

LB Miles Burris is the lowest ranked defender on the Raiders by PFF, and Andy Benoit of MMQB called him a “liability”. Expect the Pats to attack the weak link.

On paper the Raiders have some big names like Tuck, Carlos Rogers, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley but all are in the red for PFF’s ratings.

PFF has Derek Carr under pressure 33 of 78 dropbacks.

I’d bet BB will be content to rush four. Between Ninkovich, Hightower and Chandler, they should generate pressure. And seven in coverage will likely force Carr into a couple interceptions.

The whole Tony Sparano of it all is slightly concerning because you know, he dropped that whole Wildcat bomb on us in 2008, but really the defense is fine to handle that gimmick now.

Happy it’s the home opener because I think that will help the Pats not look past the Raiders. Every NFL team is dangerous if you don’t take them seriously. Remember losing to the Cardinals in 2012?

Pats are on national TV back-to-back after this one against two pretty good teams. They really need to get the penalties fixed and the offense on track in this one. 

If the Pats take more penalties than the Raiders in this one I will be concerned.

Patriots vs. Vikings All 22 Thoughts: Offense Edition

Not much doing on the first possession — a three and out. The commitment to establish the run is clear, but they didn’t have much success off the left side of the line on the first two runs.

As mentioned by Greg Bedard last night, on the first pass attempt of the second possession there was just Dobson running a route. Everyone else was blocking. Yes, they’re trying to establish some confidence but yikes.

Cleaner blocking in the run game on the second possession, with nice lead/edge blocks from Hooman and Develin on Ridley’s five yard run.

Edelman fly sweep! Teams are going to figure out how to defend this play pretty quick as almost every NFL team is running them this year it seems.

The WR slip screens haven’t been working well this year so far, and I’d include the RB screens as well. With the heavier and less experienced line this probably shouldn’t be a surprise. But they just can’t seem to get that one block that springs them for a big gain.

Still scratching my head how we’re in the second quarter and we’ve seen about as much Hooman and Develin as Dobson/Amendola/LaFell. For a team that lacked playmakers last year they’re still seemingly avoiding their playmakers.

Still, what a rocket on third-and-15 to Edelman to pick up a much-needed first down. This was one of my Three GIFs plays.

Brady stood in there tough and took the hit to deliver a perfect touchdown lob to Edelman. Great play that he clearly audibled into.

The Pats were stopped short on 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter. The hole was there for a second, but Connolly couldn’t quite make his reach block and that was enough to delay Ridley from squirting through. Harrison Smith also filled and tackled like a force of nature. He’s a good player.

And now it’s the Brady and Edelman show. I expected to see a little more balance this year on offense, that’s for sure. Most puzzling though is how little Vereen was involved in the game plan. He needs to get the ball in space more often.

Really solid run blocking on the last play of the third quarter where Vereen picked up 12 yards. Sustained blocks, good movement and vision from Vereen. More of that please.

Cannon got stunned by the initial punch by the DT and that’s how Brady was sacked in the fourth quarter. It did seem like there was time for him to unload it, but it appeared he was staring down Edelman who was bracketed. See below:

Lastly, All-22 is a much better way to get a good look at the offensive line and I really liked what I saw from Bryan Stork upon further review. Sustains his blocks, shows good strength. Would not be surprised if he starts to see more time. 

Patriots vs. Vikings All 22 Thoughts: Defense Edition

Thank Hoodie the NFL puts All-22 film up now, it’s really so much better to help understand what kind of coverages and route combinations are being run. And the end zone cam is perfect for seeing gap alignment.

Early on the Pats rotated through odd and even fronts, running primarily Cover 1 Robber, with Chung in the box. Essentially the Pats traded Steve Gregory for Chung. Chung might get pulled off the field in coverage packages, but he’s definitely a better presence for the “Robber” spot that the Pats play a lot of. So far his weaknesses have been well-hidden.

One Chandler Jones’ 2nd quarter sack it was a great example of team defense. Jones got an initial hand on Cassel, though he probably had enough time to dump it off had the coverage not been perfect. Siliga came through on a stunt and destroyed the pocket. That’s when Jones finished him off.

On Revis’ interception he did the proverbial “ran the route better than the receiver”. His perfect outside leverage prevented the receiver from breaking out of his cut, from there Revis just sprinted right to where the ball was delivered and there was nothing Jennings could do.

Remarkable that even without Browner and Dennard the defense was still able to play a lot of press man. They slipped in some off-man as well, but Press Cover 1 Robber was the coverage of choice.

On third-and-three in the second quarter we saw some zone coverage with two deep, Mayo in the deep middle, four underneath defenders waiting to pounce on the underneath pass. It worked perfectly.

For all the talk of Hightower’s improved pass rush, dropping him into short zones eliminated the underneath passes that gashed the defense on the first drive. Hightower moves better in space than he’s gotten credit for.

Seemed like Ebner was the dime linebacker while Wilson was just the base strong safety to give Chung a breather. Interesting how they’re rotating a deep group of safeties.

Such a smooth Revis-esque play by Logan Ryan to undercut Patterson’s route on his interception. Cassel shouldn’t have tried that throw but there wasn’t anywhere else to go with it. That’s one thing sticking out with the All-22 — just how good the coverage is across the board.

Pats sent 6 rushers on Dont’a Hightower’s third quarter sack from their dime package. Man-to-man coverage was perfect behind it.

Easley was used entirely inside as a pass rusher, just like he should be. He showed good explosion and violence early on but I think he seemed to run out of gas in the fourth quarter. Understandable considering how he saw no game time in the preseason.

Kyle Arrington’s blitz from the slot was well-timed. I thought the Pats did some experimentation being a little more aggresive. PFF had them blitzing on 10 of 44 snaps which is on the high end for BB.

Three GIFs that defined Patriots win over Vikings

Sticking with the positive this week with three plays that really stood out to me as game-defining. Could’ve put any number of the penalties in GIF form but that would feel like a waste, even though those really defined the game.

You’ll also notice I didn’t use the Chandler Jones field goal block because that one has already been GIFfed and everyone is well aware of what a huge play that was.

First, we start with Devin McCourty’s interception, a play that might been the unofficial start of the Patriots actually playing football this season. Things didn’t look good on the first drive for either side of the ball. Then, after a nice punt from Ryan Allen, McCourty makes this great play on the ball.

photo mcourtypick_zps3dcddc47.gif

There were a few throws of Brady’s that stood out (and weren’t nullified by penalties), but this one was just a much-needed strike. With the Vikes poised to get good field position of a punt, Brady threaded the needle on third-and-14 to pick up the first down en route to taking a 10 point lead. 

photo bradythird_zps8ab92403.gif

No defender has been more impressive for the Pats this season than Dont’a Hightower. Hightower has been used more in a pass rushing role at times and he’s delivered with good pressure. He’s just so strong he can over power running backs trying to block him, but also get underneath a tackle like he does here. This sack effectively sealed any chance of a comeback from happening.

photo HighSack_zpsc58028ee.gif

Personnel

Sub: 45 of 68 (32 nickel, 13 dime) 
Base: 22 of 68 
Heavy/short-yardage: 1 of 68 

2 WR/2 TE/1 RB – 26 of 67 
3 WR/1 TE/1 RB – 21 of 67 
1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB – 12 of 67 
2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB – 5 of 67 
3 TE/1 FB/1 RB – 2 of 67 
3 WR/1 FB/1 RB – 1 of 67 

Previous Three GIFs:

@ Miami Dolphins

Pats Posits: Notes on the Patriots-Vikings Rewatch

The New England Patriots bounced back on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings to even their record at 1-1. It was still an ugly affair — with the Pats getting called for a whopping 15 penalties for 163 yards.

The general NFL sentiment and betting expectations were not favorable to the Patriots after their opening weekend loss, but with big games just around the corner, including a Monday Night Football matchup in Kansas City on the horizon, the Pats look to be coming into form. You can read more on the best NFL news here.

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Snap Judgement: Patriots show life in gifted Vikings victory

The 2014 Patriots have one in the win column and now seem on track to get their season going. Getting Oakland for their home opener is almost as big a gift as the win over the Vikings was.

Don’t get me wrong, defensively the Patriots had as solid a game as we’ve seen around here in a while. Still, it was a formula that the Pats have won a lot of games with — takeaways. 

Four interceptions, five punts and one blocked field goal should have this defense feeling good. But how much is a by-product of no Adrian Peterson and Matt Cassel at quarterback?

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New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 2 at Minnesota Vikings

We’re finally on to Week 2, putting the ugly season-opening loss to Miami behind us! The Minnesota Vikings provide just the right kind of tough challenges the Patriots need to face to prove they’re not the team that laid a major egg on the road in Miami last week.

Here’s our game plan!

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Patriots vs. Dolphins All-22 Thoughts: Offense Edition

I’m going to break this down by the first and second half because after re-watching the first half I found myself reminded of how good I felt about things.

Were there protection issues? Sure, especially whenever Sebastian Vollmer had to block Cameron Wake without help. I’m not sure what’s up with Vollmer. Is he rusty? Or is he breaking down? He looked a lot stiffer than I remember, but still credit to Wake. He’s a beast and had his way with Vollmer.

Otherwise Brady had time and the offense moved the ball. The protection was sloppy but effective. They found an early rhythm with the three-step passing game.

I can recall three incomplete deep passes from Brady, a statistical point of contention this week, but one was really a throw away and two others were shots to the end zone where the coverage was solid. Can’t blame him for taking those.

In the first half I didn’t notice a discernible difference between the offensive line rotation. Even Devey didn’t look that bad. Was it the smooth operation we’re used to seeing? Not yet, but like I said, it was effective and Brady had time to make throws.

Drives of 13-plays, 80 yards and 11-plays, 94 yards made this certainly look like the Patriots offense we’re used to seeing. But apparently that team never came out of the locker room.

Second Half

 Okay, now there was the ugliness I remember. The turning point was clearly on Brady’s fumble during their first possession of the second half. From there everything just seemed to fall apart.

All the OL had their issues, with Devey and Cannon both getting smoked in one-on-ones that caused Brady to get sacked. Another sack was due to coverage. 

There were also some misreads it seems by Brady where he and the intended receiver didn’t seem on the same page. Agree with Greg Bedard’s observation that the deep ball to Edelman that went incomplete was on Edelman. He should’ve gone upfield.

Credit to the Miami linebacker who stuck with Shane Vereen on his patented wheel route and forced an incompletion.

I used to like Brandon Bolden but I think he’s uber average now. He gets what’s there for him and not a yard more.

It looked to me like LaFell tried to dip his shoulder to avoid contact on his penalty but that ended up with his shoulder in the defender’s head. Right call, but not intentional.

Losing their rhythm at the start of the 3rd quarter set the tone and they could never get it back for more than a play or two. They couldn’t string anything together.

I finished the game feeling like it was there for the taking but the Pats were just too on their heels to take it. It was as if each guy took turns making a costly mistake and the sum of those small parts added up.