Last week’s article “How to Defend Tom Brady and the New England Patriots” focused on the basic components of a defensive game plan to defend the Patriots. This week, the focus is on how the New England Patriots will adjust if a team tries to disrupt their offense in this way. What will Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick do to counter a game plan that takes away the timing of their pass game?
How the New England Patriots Will Adjust
Last week’s article stated that the best way to affect the Patriots passing game was not to disturb the quarterback, but to disturb the wide receivers. Do not worry about pressuring Tom Brady on every down, because he is excellent at handling pressure. As the Patriots pass game is largely based on timing, it is better to disrupt their receivers. These passes are meant to get off fast, so don’t put pressure on the quarterback to throw fast. Instead, impact the receivers so they are not where they need to be when they need to be there.
The Patriots must be prepared to adjust quickly in order to counter a defense that is playing them this way. There are many things that can be done in this respect. The first and simplest is to run the football effectively. If they can do this, they still should be able to control the game. They still may face difficulty scoring in the red zone. Fortunately, running the football well will also set up the play-action pass. These can be utilized in the red zone and other key situations. They may also use play action to take deep shots downfield.
The next counter move is creative use of formations. We have already seen the Patriots line up receivers in the backfield this season. Although a backfield alignment eliminates a receiver’s threat of running vertically down the field immediately, it also makes it difficult to disrupt the timing of his routes. They do not have to put Julian Edelman in the backfield to accomplish this, although that would give them an excellent opportunity to get the ball in his hands. James White and Dion Lewis certainly have the skill set to be effective catching balls out of the backfield as well. Use of shifts, motions, and a fast tempo offense will also impact the defense’s ability to disrupt routes.
Although the Patriots are excellent at game planning, their biggest strength is in their game day adjustments. In an interesting twist, we now know that the Patriots opponent will be the Houston Texans, a team who has coaches such as Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel, and Mike Vrabel all of whom have an intimate knowledge of the Patriot way having worked in Foxborough previously. Will the Texans with a strong defense and this high level of knowledge of the Patriots’ offense attempt this type of game plan?
If the Texans come out and execute this type of game plan, the Patriots must be able to adjust quickly. As any good coach knows, in order to win a close game you must win key situations. The Patriots ability to adjust their game plan and make the right calls in these situations will determine their ability to defeat a team talented defense with an excellent game plan. The Patriots offense versus the Texans defense is truly a strength against strength matchup. Considering this and the expertise of the both coaching staffs, what lays ahead may be one heck of a chess match.