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28 Nov 2007

Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

By Michael David Smith

After the Eagles took the Patriots down to the wire in a Sunday night game that just about everyone thought would be a blowout, the talk around the league this week is whether the Eagles provided a blueprint for how to play against the Patriots, and whether that blueprint is something other teams will follow to beat the team that has looked unbeatable.

To find out, I re-watched every play of the Patriots-Eagles game, keeping an eye out for plays on which the Eagles showed a schematic advantage that other teams might be able to replicate.

First, let's get this out of the way: The Patriots outplayed the Eagles on Sunday. That's the case whether you want to look at DVOA, yards, first downs, or that obscure statistic known as the scoreboard. No one is suggesting that the Eagles played a perfect game or unveiled some magic formula that leads to an automatic victory over the mighty Patriots.

But the Eagles did play a close game against a team that hasn't had to face many close games. And they may have done some things that can tell us how other teams can play the Patriots close, and maybe get a few breaks late in a close game and actually win.

Although the Eagles' offense was the main reason that Philadelphia stayed in the game, let's start with the defense. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said after the game that his unit's No. 1 goal all week had been to find ways to prevent Patriots receiver Randy Moss from getting any big plays, and on that count, the Eagles succeeded. Moss had 43 receiving yards and 8.6 yards per catch, both his lowest marks in a Patriot uniform.

So how did they do it? True double coverage is very rare in the NFL, but the Eagles were about as close to double covering Moss as NFL defenses get. They basically always had a cornerback lined up in press coverage on Moss, bumping him at the line of scrimmage, and one of the safeties, either Brian Dawkins or J.R. Reed, would almost always provide help up top on Moss. The safeties kept Moss in front of them, and that kept Moss from breaking big plays.

A good example of the way the Eagles played Moss came on a first-and-10 late in the first quarter. The Patriots had trips to the left with Moss lined up as the middle receiver and running back Kevin Faulk lined up as the wide receiver. The Eagles sent linebacker Takeo Spikes all the way out to the sideline one-on-one with Faulk, which is a mismatch in the Patriots' favor. But it was a mismatch the Eagles were willing to live with because it allowed cornerback Sheldon Brown to match up with Moss, whereas if Brown had gone out to cover the widest receiver, as cornerbacks usually do, Moss would have had a mismatch on the inside. Surprisingly, Tom Brady threw to Moss instead of trying to find Faulk downfield, and the pass was incomplete. The Eagles made it clear all day that they were willing to give up some mismatches in exchange for the ability to stop Moss, and on that play, it worked.

Of course, there were plenty of plays when it didn't work. By devoting so much attention to Moss, the Eagles were undermanned against Jabar Gaffney and Wes Welker, both of whom had very good games. (Although Welker got more media attention and had bigger traditional numbers, Gaffney actually had a more productive game.)

One thing that's often overlooked in discussions about this great Patriots offense is that Moss isn't the team's only big-play receiver. The Patriots' other deep threat, Donte' Stallworth, is quietly having a very good season, and the Eagles did basically the same thing to stop Stallworth that they did to stop Moss: They got physical and kept him in front of the secondary. That worked against Stallworth on every play except one, when Sheldon Brown missed a tackle and allowed Stallworth to turn a short completion into a 31-yard gain.

Overall, Brady completed 19 of 23 passes for 236 yards to Gaffney and Welker, but just nine of 19 passes for 97 yards to Moss and Stallworth. That might lead some to conclude that there's no point in selling out to stop Moss and Stallworth because you're just going to get beaten by Gaffney or Welker. But the fact is, Moss and Stallworth are more dangerous than Gaffney and Welker. A game plan that leaves Gaffney and Welker open isn't ideal, but it's better than one that allows Moss to dominate the game.

On the other side of the ball, if I were an offensive coordinator getting ready to play against the Patriots I would plan a healthy dose of passes to the tight end. That's backed up both by the Patriots' DVOA vs. types of receivers (the Patriots are better than average in covering all types of receivers except tight ends) and by my observations in watching the tape of the Eagles game. Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith didn't have a huge game -- three catches for 46 yards -- but his catches went for 17, 11 and 18 yards, and he excelled against Patriots safety Rodney Harrison in coverage.

A.J. Feeley's best pass to a tight end came in the second quarter, when Patriots safety James Sanders was on top of Eagles tight end Matt Schobel, but Feeley dropped the ball beautifully into Schobel's hands. It was poor coverage by Sanders that I'm sure the Patriots' future opponents will notice when watching film, but it was such a well executed route by Schobel and such a well thrown ball by Feeley that I'm not sure it's really a replicable play for other teams to use. (And yes, I realize it sounds ridiculous to say an A.J. Feeley-to-Matt Schobel pass was so well executed that other teams wouldn't be able to pull it off, but it was just one of those plays.)

Teams can run on the Patriots, but they have to pick their spots carefully. On a first-and-10 on the Eagles' second drive, Harrison crept up toward the line of scrimmage just before the snap, becoming the eighth man in the box, and when Feeley handed off to running back Brian Westbrook (who ran straight at Harrison), the play never had a chance. Harrison tackled him for a loss of two. Feeley should have called an audible when he saw Harrison become the eighth player in the box, because it was obvious that the play wasn't going to work.

Harrison has had a long and distinguished career, and he's still very strong against the run when he's the eighth man in the box, but he isn't as fast as he used to be and he struggles against the pass. With Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin out for the season after a foot injury he suffered against the Eagles, it might make sense for the Patriots to use more schemes in which Harrison plays as a hybrid linebacker/safety, which would continue to take advantage of his skills against the run but not require quite as much from him in pass coverage.

Harrison is effective on safety blitzes, but on a third-and-8 pass, Feeley made the Patriots pay for sending Harrison at him. When Harrison blitzed from Feeley's right, Feeley stood in the pocket, looked right in the area Harrison came from, and hit Greg Lewis for a gain of 27. Harrison drilled Feeley as he threw the pass, but it was a big play for the Eagles.

Lewis had more big plays. On third-and-7 on the Eagles' second drive, Lewis lined up in the slot and Patriots cornerback Randall Gay lined up about eight yards off him. At the snap Lewis just ran straight ahead -- nothing fancy at all about the route -- but Gay backpedaled, creating a huge hole in the secondary. Although there were four Patriots in the general vicinity, all of them seemed more focused on not getting beaten deep than on stopping the completion, and Feeley found Lewis for an easy 15 yards.

Lewis was the beneficiary of another play on which the Patriots gave him way too much room to operate late in the second quarter. He scored a touchdown on the play when he and Reggie Brown both lined up on the right side of the field and both ran posts, and Gay again gave him too much room to operate. Feeley's touchdown toss was an easy game of pitch-and-catch, and watching Lewis make those plays, I couldn't help but think that other NFL wide receivers are licking their chops at the prospect of playing against Gay.

The most important part of the Eagles' offensive success may have been their pass protection. Feeley threw 42 passes and was sacked only once, on a play when he slipped to the turf while setting up to pass. One of the keys to the Eagles' pass protection was having Westbrook chip the defensive end or outside linebacker before running his route. On a first-and-10 late in the first quarter, Westbrook got an excellent chip on Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas, which both gave Feeley extra time and allowed Westbrook to sell the play as if he were staying in to block. After hitting Thomas, Westbrook ran just a few steps, turned around, caught a short pass from Feeley and picked up 13 yards.

Just as the Eagles' defensive game plan was clearly based on taking Moss out of the game, the Patriots' defensive game plan was primarily about taking Brian Westbrook out of the game. Feeley learned that the hard way on the first possession. On third-and-3, Westbrook was flanked as the Eagles' outside receiver on the right sideline, and he ran his route directly in front of the first-down marker. Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, however, was sitting on the route, and knew he could take a chance because he had safety help behind him. Samuel easily stepped in front of the pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.

That was Feeley's big early mistake. His big late mistake was throwing to Kevin Curtis in the end zone on a slant-and-go that Samuel saw coming a mile away and intercepted easily. I really can't imagine why Feeley threw a ball 30 yards downfield when that was exactly the kind of play the Patriots had been gearing up to stop all night, and when the Eagles were having so much success on intermediate routes.

But in between those two big mistakes, the Eagles had an outstanding game plan, one that other teams might try to imitate.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 28 Nov 2007

192 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2007, 6:45pm by Charger Charlie

Comments

1
by Joseph (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:52pm

I think a couple of elite teams (Colts, Cowboys, & Packers) have a chance at running a similar style of offense that the Eagles did--long, time consuming drives ending in TD's. However, the Pack doesn't have the running game the other 2 teams have (nor that of the Eagles).
The other thing that I noticed is that the Pats also had long, time-consuming drives--not 4/5 play big-strike drives. Fans of the Cowboys--can their secondary do what the Eagles did? I think the Pack has the CB's to do it--but what about the safties to cover Welker/Gaffney/Watson?
Input, please.

2
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:59pm

"Welker/Gaffney/Watson?
Input, please."

Welker had 150yds and 2 TDS against Dallas, and Stallworth had 140 yds and a TD. So I doubt it.

The big story of this game was the Patriots doing 3 quarters of heavy blitzing, and never getting to Feeley. As soon as they stopped blitzing, Philly stopped moving the ball.

3
by Hoainam (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:00pm

I'm still surprised that the Patriots' defense showed so little adjustment to try to stop the Eagles' slants over the middle. The secondary played loose all night and showed little incentive to stop the bleeding.

Perhaps Andy Reid's sons hooked Belichick up with some primo... something-or-other before the game?

4
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:01pm

And, except Addai, I don't see a dual-threat RB as Westbrook can be...

I feel the Jags car rewrite history and derail them.

They have the physical D and the running game.
Their passing game is vastly underrated and could enjoy a breakout day against the Pats secondary, especially given they don't have a n°1 WR, just a lot of 1bis or 2s. Garrard would just have to pick whoever isn't lined up against Samuel and that's it :o)

Jags rule !!!

5
by Frankie (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:09pm

#3, maybe the Jags should focus on MAKING the playoffs first. After another Colt beat-down this weekend, followed by their typical slip-up against a far inferior team (i.e. Texans in past years, could be Oakland, Carolina or Houston this year), they are far from a lock to even be playing in the post-season.

6
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:15pm

There's no doubt the Eagles provided a blueprint for other teams to beat the Patriots....provided said teams have A) man corners as good as Sheppard and Brown, B) have a defensive co-ordinator similarly talented to Johnson and the personnel capable of generating a heavy pass rush, C) offensive line that can pass protect as well as Philadelphia, and D) a versatile or dominant offensive weapon such as Westbrook that a defense will sell out to stop.

The Cowboys fail on the first and possibly the second. The Packers fail on the second,third, and fourth. The Colts fail on the first and second. The Steelers fail on the first, third, and fourth.

I'm not saying these teams can't beat the Patriots....but they're not going to be able to beat the Patriots using the Eagles' game plan. Honestly, my biggest fear is meeting up with the Broncos in the playoffs. I'm comforted by the fact it wouldn't be at Invesco.

7
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:16pm

Great analysis.

Except how can you discuss the Eagles game plan without mentioning the onsides kick?

8
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:18pm

Rich: When did Philly stop moving the ball? They had punted three times, once as a result of an unassisted self-sack by Feeley and the other two stalled drives alternated with ones where they moved down the field quickly and efficiently (that counts the drive that ended with the second Samuel interception, since I find it had to say the Eagles "stopped moving the ball" on an 8-play, 63-yard drive).

9
by mr. demember (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:19pm

#2 - maybe the seemingly poor coverage in the middle of the field came as a trade off between focusing on westbrook. Its conceivable that in gameplanning, the patriots neglected to focus on the underneath passing game, optiong to instead focus on westbrook. it would make sense that the patriots might hae written of feeley to an extent.

10
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:22pm

That makes sense in the initial gameplan, but not in the lack of adjustments. I can't blame them for discounting A.J. Feeley before the game, but after the first two quarters?

11
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:22pm

"it would make sense that the patriots might hae written of feeley to an extent."

When they interviewed Hobbs after the game, he basically said that the gameplan was to take Westbrook out of the game, take away the big play, and make Feeley beat them.

12
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:28pm

The Jags own the tiebreaker against every other possible wild-card team.
Either because they beat them (Broncos, Bills, Chargers) or thanks to a better in-conference record (Browns, Titans).

It would ask a collapse as the one of last year for the Jags to miss the post-season this year.

To win the Division, they would need help from the Colts (cause the 2 intra-division defeats).

13
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:30pm

#3 - I think the lack of adjustment to the short passes was intentional. I got the impression while watching the game that the Patriots had enough confidence in their offense that they asked their defense just to make the Eagles go methodically down the field every possession. A team with A.J. Feeley at QB, as well as he played, simply can't score every time they have the ball if you make them execute 10 plays in a row. A team with Tom Brady and his good-looking clutchiness has a pretty good shot at outscoring them.

14
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:30pm

Re 7, the onside kick was, certainly, a very smart coaching move by the Eagles. I didn't mention it, though, because I'm guessing that's the kind of thing the Patriots aren't going to get burned on twice.

15
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:33pm

"Rich: When did Philly stop moving the ball?"

Philly's drives in the first half:

Int, TD, TD, Punt, TD

2nd Half

Punt, TD, Punt, INT, INT

15
by mr. demember (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:33pm

#10 two things - it would seem that the patriots would have shifted focus onto the underneath receiving game once they realized they were getting beaten by it. but would that have also meant that they would have had to shift focus off of westbrook, who is the eagles #1 weapon? Also, could the patriots have thought the eagles 1st half preformance was unsustainable by a mediocre egles offense? the eagles only scored 7 point in the 2nd half...

17
by Len (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:35pm

Newman is more than adequate to the task, but Roy Williams can't hold up in a similar scenario. I say this as a Cowboys fan.

Their best chance is to keep Brady off the field by chewing up long drives, and then taking chances with their big play defense to try and force turnovers.

Which is possible. But they'll have to play mistake-free football.

If you'll recall from week 6, they were in the game until G Kosier held, negating Barber's nice 4th down run during what would have been a score-tying drive in the fourth quarter. IMO that was a key moment in the game. After that series, NE pulled away.

All that to say NE is formidable and would be favored, no doubt, in a SB rematch, but I'd guess a tighter game.

18
by Len (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:40pm

#6:

Definitely, the Cowboys are one CB short of playing this gameplan.

Their rush, however, is very good this year - better than the Eagles' in fact, if you go by # of sacks. Cowboys are ranked seventh in the league at 30 sacks. Giants lead with 38. Eagles have 28.

I can definitely see a scenario where the lack of a second good CB may end their season this year, in which case they'd be the proverbial one player away going into 2008.

19
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:45pm

Part of the "lack of adjustment" may just be because Belichick is not as otherworldly omnicient as a lot of people make him out to be. Remember, Andy Reid is not exactly a bad coach, either. I'm sure both coaches were making adjustments; the problem for the Pats was that Reid's initial gameplan was better (once the Eagles realized that Westbrook was being taken away), and his adjustments kept pace with Belichick's.

Also, remember, there's only so much one can do with adjustments. If a team has been gameplanning for a particular play style all week (say, you've been having your corners play almost exclusively outside technique all week in practice), asking them to switch mid-game to something else may look good on paper but may result in a decrease in execution. Execution is just as important as game planning and adjustments; one of the biggest edges Philly had in the first half was that their entire defense was tackling well, keeping 1-3 yard dumpoffs to 4 yard gains, and the Patriots DB's and especially LB's weren't--allowing 5-10 yard inside routes to become 15-30 yard gains.

20
by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:49pm

#6, as a Packer fan, I must disagree. As you noted, the Pack does have a, good man corners. They also have the ability to generate the same pass rush as Philly (#10 according to FO stats v. #7 for the Eagles). They might not have a great defensive coordinator, but they certainly can follow this plan, so I think b) is met. As for c, an offensive line that can pass block, they are actually much better than Philly (according to FO stats they are best in the league, while Philly is #21). Their offensive line has been justly criticized for their run blocking (they have been better in recent weeks), but they have been rock-solid protecting the pass all year. You are right on d)--they don't have a dominating offensive weapon. They still might be able to move the ball against NE, because they have 5 solid receivers (maybe 6, but you can't put more than 5 on the field).

As for #1's question about the Packers' safeties, they can cover well, but they are not always consistent. This is Collins' third year in the NFL, Bigby is in his second, but only the first on the field, and if one of them gets hurt, the put in a rookie, Aaron Rouse. They are very athletic, but they can make mistakes.

This all doesn't mean that the Packers are better than the Pats. But they can beat them. If they played 3 games, I think GB would win one.

21
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:54pm

14: But they would have scored 10 or 14 without an absolutely boneheaded move by the QB, and you're asking for trouble if you depend on those in your game plan. Not to mention that the Pats couldn't manage more than one second-half score either.

22
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:56pm

"Part of the “lack of adjustment� may just be because Belichick is not as otherworldly omnicient as a lot of people make him out to be."

Part of it may also have been that with all the extra possessions the eagles had in the first half, they Patriots still were WINNING.

Belichick may have figured that if the patriots were getting the ball first, and were scoring much more points per possession than the eagles, that they'd pull away in the 3rd quarter.

23
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:57pm

Joseph:

The Packers normal safeties are Nick Collins and Atari Bigby. Both are very good in run support. Collins is adequate in pass coverage but has terrible hands. Since becoming a starter he has dropped 10 potential interceptions. 10! As for Bigby he is just plain BAD in pass coverage. He's fast enough and willing to mix it up but just does not have a clue.

Opposing Tight Ends have chewed up the Packers. Gates, Gonzalez even the Bears duo all had big games against GB. Part of this is the Packer cornerbacks taking away the opposing team receivers but it's pretty clear that covering the TE is an issue. The team is now working to have linebacker AJ Hawk shoulder more of the coverage responsibilities. The game against Dallas will be telling as Witten is obviously a quality TE and if history holds will have a HUGE game against GB.

WHen Collins got hurt his fill-in, rookie Aaron Rouse, actually played quite well but he got hurt against Detroit and is now out.

24
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:58pm

"without an absolutely boneheaded move by the QB, and you’re asking for trouble if you depend on those in your game plan. "

Generally, when you force a backup QB to throw the ball 45 times, you end up with quite a few boneheaded moves.

25
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:59pm

Drew:

Cover well? That's news to me. Or have we forgotten Bigby repeatedly allowing opposing wide receivers to run right by him in key moments when it was obvious the opposition was looking to pass downfield or the multiple pass interference penalties that lead the league?

C'mon. Let's be honest here about the home team.........

26
by gllerner (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:02pm

Although I am a packer fan and am thus probably biased, I think the Packers have the best shot at beating the Patriots along with a fully healthy Colts.
On offense, I don't think there is much doubt that the Eagles win that game if their quarterback is Favre(this year's version) and not Feeley. If the Patriots can't handle a short passing game plan like the one they saw on Sunday, that's Favre's MO and he will cut them up. Even though the run game is much improved, it wouldn't even matter much because the Packers would probably just run a 4-5 WR set much of the time, spread the field, and take advantage of matchups.
On defense, the Pack's corners play a press coverage like the Eagles, and can provide the necessary quarterback pressure. I think they're 2nd in the league in sacks, and that's without blitzing much. Al Harris mugs and harasses his receiver, and that's what Moss hates. As far as Welker taking advantage of safety coverage, the Packers play a Nickel package on half of their defensive plays, so the question would often be whether their 3rd corner could hang with him.

Even after that, I would never say I'd pick the Packers in that game, but I would sure like to see it. I think a lot of the Patriots' blowouts have come against this ridiculous soft zone coverage where Moss, Stallworth, and Welker are just kind of allowed to run amok. When defenses have gotten in their face and challenged them (Colts and particularly the Eagles) the Patriots offense has been less spectacular.

Oh by the way, I predict a Packers loss this Thursday if Woodson and KGB aren't 100%, but they could beat the Cowboys in the playoffs if fully healthy.

27
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:05pm

"On offense, I don’t think there is much doubt that the Eagles win that game if their quarterback is Favre(this year’s version) and not Feeley."

If it was Favre, the gameplan wouldn't have been "make the QB throw the ball 50 times".

Just a not on the Boneheaded plays thing, IIRC, there was also a play in the 3rd quarter, on the beginning of the Eagles scoring drive, where Feeley threw another dumpoff to Westbrook, Asante Samuel stepped in front of it, and had nobody between him and the endzone, but dropped the ball.

28
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:10pm

"When defenses have gotten in their face and challenged them (Colts and particularly the Eagles) the Patriots offense has been less spectacular."

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. The Patriots offensive DVOA in the colts game was somewhere in the range of +40%, and in this Eagles game was almost as high.

Less spectacular, yes, but still spectacular.

The Patriots DVOA for the colts game was +79.8%, and +49% for the eagles game.

29
by Jack (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:17pm

AS several posters have mentioned, the key to opening up the intermediate and middle of the field passing game sure seemed to be Westbrook. AS we all know, Bill B. seems to like to identify the opponents offensive strength and try to eliminate it, forcing them to move the ball another way. Due to Westbrooks quickness and versatility the pats seemed to need 7-8 men in the box on most plays so they could stuff all run lanes and keep Westbrook from bouncing outside - which he still did a couple of times. I think the hoped/believed that even when Philly didn't hand off or screen to Westbrook the 7+ in the box could get enough pressure on Feeley to knock the passing game off balance. But Feeley and the O-Line did a very nice job of providng enough time to hit the 15 yard ins and 20 yard posts.

It will be tough for the Cowboys or Pakcers to replicate this strategy, but, the Colts may be able to have some success given how Addai abused the pats last time. However, I don't think Bellichek will "sell out" to stop Addai like he did with Westbrook - just not a smart bet with Peyton at the helm. Pittsburgh with Fast Willie has some potential here as well, but again, it's doubtful Bellichek uses the exact same scheme again.

Eagles played great and showed the pats are not invincible, even for a mediocre team, but I don't think it necessarily means there is a repeatable blueprint for others to follow. Ravens will likely get torched this week.

30
by gmc (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:28pm

What's funny is just how similar the Cowboys and Patriots are. Talented quarterbacks having career years, #1 receivers that are playing out of their minds, good pass catching TE's, heck, Roy Williams and Rodney Harrison are practically the same player at this point.

The thing about the first Pats-Dallas game that was key was that DeMarcus Ware wasn't really a huge factor. He's really the key to the Cowboys defense, and he didn't make the plays they needed. You could say the same thing about Dwight Freeney, but there it is.

I'd like to see Broncos-Patriots; Dre Bly and Champ Bailey could easily screw up the TD/INT ratio Brady is sporting very heavily, although Bly has gotten burned a few times lately.

Green Bay matches up pretty well with the Pats; they have the ability to get pressure without blitzing, physical if non-superstar cornerbacks, and an offense based on midrange timing routes. They even have a better Quarter...harrumph

The Colts would match up even better if they had anyone healthy; career backup guards playing left tackle isn't a recipe for success.

31
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:34pm

On offense, I don’t think there is much doubt that the Eagles win that game if their quarterback is Favre(this year’s version) and not Feeley. If the Patriots can’t handle a short passing game plan like the one they saw on Sunday, that’s Favre’s MO and he will cut them up. Even though the run game is much improved, it wouldn’t even matter much because the Packers would probably just run a 4-5 WR set much of the time, spread the field, and take advantage of matchups.

The flaw in your logic is that the Patriots would use the same defensive game plan against Favre as they did against Feeley. Yes, of course if Favre played Sunday the Eagles probably would have won. But its folly to suggest that therefore Favre the Green Bay quarterback will shred that defense, because that defense isn't going to exist.

Expect the Pats to play nickel/dime the entire time in that matchup, and dare Favre to hand it off to Ryan Grant 25 times.

32
by hwc (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:38pm

The one thing I think is overlooked in analyzing the game is that Freely was taking a pounding in the pocket as he was delivering those passes. To his credit, he stood in there, took the beating, and completed passes, often into tight spots.

However, that kind of a pounding takes its toll. Would another QB self-destruct and throw incompletions? Yes. Usually. Or, does the cumulative effect of the pressure cause the QB to throw an ill advised pass downfield into the end zone? In Freely's case Sunday night, the answer was "yes".

At the end of the day, Belichick's defensive gameplan was to stop Westbrook (which he did) and force Freely to beat the Pats (which he didn't).

I would also like to offer the hypothesis that Philly's uber-agressive style of play (both on offense and defense) might be a clue to the Jekll and Hyde nature of the Eagles -- an explanation of why they can look so impressive one week and then get clobbered by the weak sisters of the poor a week later. Let's not forget that their was a risk in the onside kick that offset the potential reward. If the Pats recover and score quickly on a short field, Philly's entire game could have unravelled.

33
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:41pm

One of the toughest things about winning week in and week out is its harder to figure out what you're not good at. Especially when you're blowing teams out early and pacing the rest of the way. You don't get a chance to make adjustments because no one has really exposed a weakness. This is a common theme in sports and why its generally thought it's hard to beat a team twice in a row at this level and a reason why division games are so tough.

But the Patriots have probably learned a few things about themselves they didn't know before. I would expect them to be more dangerous now.

34
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:44pm

In theory, sure. In practice, this was by far the Eagles' most aggressive game of the year - I'm not counting "take what the defense gives you" as aggressive, even when that defense belongs to the Lions and "what they give you" is five touchdowns in a half. It wasn't aggressive playcalling that turned the offensive line into Swiss cheese against the Giants, and it certainly wasn't getting over-aggressive that prevented the offense from getting anything done against the Redskins at home. That's to say nothing of the Green Bay disaster.

35
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:33pm

Another thing to keep in mind in all this "blueprint" talk is the missing TD on the phantom OPI on Moss. That call ended up leading to the missed FG. Refs don't make that call and the Pats go up 10 at that point and we might not be talking about how close the game was.

That takes absolutely nothing away from Philly's excellent game plan and the problems that the Pats exhibited during the game.

But it does, I think, weaken the "blueprint" argument.

36
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:43pm

29: Moss pushed off on that 'phantom' OPI, there was nothing wrong with the call.

37
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:44pm

#12:

Except that Feeley outscored Brady 28 to 24. The Patriots won because of Samuel scoring 7 and preventing at least 3 with his two interceptions, not because of Brady leading scoring drives.

38
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:46pm

Re: #30

Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

39
by gllerner (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:48pm

Dryheat, that was a good point about how the Packers wouldn't be facing the same defense. But I think if the Patriots are often in a dime defense, that works to Packers' advantage because it's a bit tougher to confuse the quarterback, which seems to me what the Pats' defense is all about. If almost everyone is either covering a WR or is a defensive lineman it limits your options unless you want to try something like a CB blitz. And I think the depth of Green Bay's WR core could give the Patriots problems if they go four wide a lot - even their 2nd corner isn't that great.

40
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:51pm

Karl Cuba #30:

Its "phantom OPI" because it went against the Patriots. Had Chad Johnson or TO or Plaxico done the same thing against Asante Samuel in that position, it would not have been a "phantom OPI call" to Patriots fans?

Comprende?

41
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:51pm

Of course, with Colvin gone, a gameplan like Philly's will be easier to execute.

It'll be interesting to see what Belichick will decide to sacrifice. Will he bring Adalius Thomas to OLB (which would actually be an upgrade there over Colvin, IMHO), preserving the OLB capability but weakening/slowing the middle even more? Or do Chad Brown and the other second-stringers fill in at the vacant OLB slot while ILB remains Seau/Bruschi and Thomas?

42
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:54pm

The blueprint also forgot: hold Moss so badly that you pull his jersey off of his shoulder pads, without getting called.

Incidentally, that's a reasonable (if unethical) strategy: hold the other team's top wideout until you get called. It did get pretty flippin' blatant, though.

43
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:56pm

Re; #36

Come on now, Star -- it's pretty lame for a Pats fan to complain about that strategy. Complain about the refs letting it go in the post-Polian-whine era, sure. But complain about a team doing it? No way.

44
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:59pm

3: That was really funny.

MDS question:

"A.J. Feeley’s best pass to a tight end came in the second quarter, when Patriots safety James Sanders was on top of Eagles tight end Matt Schobel, but Feeley dropped the ball beautifully into Schobel’s hands. It was poor coverage by Sanders that I’m sure the Patriots’ future opponents will notice when watching film..."

Can you describe how the safety can be "on top of" the tight end such that it requires a beautiful pass and catch, but at the same time be "poor coverage"?

I don't understand. What was Sander supposed to do better?

45
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:00pm

Oh...and I'm not sure it's possible to throw a much better game than Feeley did Sunday night. Other than the two interceptions that mattered, it's hard to imagine what Favre could have done better. It's likely he would have taken more sacks, and it's not like the second interception isn't a play Favre hasn't attempted countless times over the years.

46
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:03pm

PatsFan (#37 )--

Did I complain?

It's now a viable strategy. The Colts can hold Faulk, the Eagles can hold Moss, and it doesn't get called. Expect to see a whole lot of that, unless and until the refs start calling it.

47
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:03pm

As a follow up, the approach of "clutch, grab and otherwise manhandle a receiver" is the Al Harris/Charles Woodson creed.

The two shrug off penalties as the "cost of doing business" to quote Mr. Harris being of the mindset that no officiating crew will call said penalties repeatedly throughout the game.

48
by Marcus Pollard, Marvin Harrison, & Reggie Wayne (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:07pm

#36, we agree, mugging the WR's is an effective way of shutting down a high powered passing game.

49
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:11pm

Andrew, I think you might be on to something there.

50
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:15pm

gllerner — Again, I think the Packers could win that game. But I don't think the Eagles film is going to help them do it.

51
by Greg (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:22pm

Patriots fans complaining about defenses clutching, grabbing, and holding?

Whats next, TO calling someone self centered?

52
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:23pm

Re: #48--

It worked, didn't it? I'm glad the old rules enforcement is back.
Harrison, Wayne, and Clark haven't gotten any bigger.

Of course, the selective enforcement would be a problem. Good thing the Patriots are so dominant, they can beat the other teams and the zebras in the same game.

53
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:26pm

42:

I'm not sure "unethical" is a good choice of words. Unethical is probably more suited for knowingly filming other teams signals so they can be studied and exploited when league rules clearly prohibit this.

Holding guy up, punching them in the arms to weaken their catching ability and frustrate them would be considered good strategy. They can make contact and use their hands for 5 yards and they do.

54
by Bug (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:33pm

Couple of points.
From my watching of the Cowboys/Pats game, the real difference in the 4th quarter was that the Cowboys defense had spent something like 30 minutes on the field by the start of the 4th. They were completely and utterly gassed. It wasn't that the Pats offense was scoring on them all game, the D gave out from exhaustion. The real problem in that game was the Cowboys not being able to give their defense a rest by mounting long scoring drives in the 1st half.

That being said I think there is a way to beat the Patriots. I think it rests on a 2 prong approach (and a fair amount of cojones).

1. A radical defenses that is either desinged to be scored on quickly or absolutely demolish Tom Brady. I would single cover and press the the Pats WR at the line of scrimmage. No Safeties. Then blitz the remaining defenders. All of them. On every down. You are most likely going to get scored on a ton. But you should have at least a one man advantage in the box on every down. Over the course of the game this should be fairly telling. Also, your defense should be fairly fresh no matter what because the Pats are either going to go 3 and out or score a TD. The key to this is accepting that you will get scored on quite a bit, and knowing that your CBs will have too hold their pressess as long as possible. The real question is can you succeed in bludgeoing the Pats offense enough that even the vaunted Tom Brady starts hearing footsteps and stops playing in the stratosphere. My guess is that if you play this defense their offense will start to show problems (injuries or turnovers).

2. On offense you need to wear their defense out (easier said then done of course). This means in my mind anyway that until late in the 4th quarter the focus should be on one thing keeping the Pats D on the field as long as possible. You would have to ignore the scoreboard for almost hte entire game. You will most likely be down early by a large margin, but I would still try and maintain a ball control offense. Power running and throws to the TE. In the 2nd half you should be able to move the ball on the defense with ease seeing as how their d should be on the field for the majority of the game.

Anyway that's my take... Unfortunately Buddy Ryan isn't a HC anymore so I can't really see any one trying it.

Later,
Bug

55
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:40pm

Re: 46

Boo hoo.

56
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:45pm

Of course, the selective enforcement would be a problem.

As would bias by the observer.

57
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:48pm

Wanker79 (#55 )--

Why so sad?

Cheer up, the Patriots probably won't be this dominant next year. Heck, the odds say they won't even win *this* year.

58
by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:51pm

Badger: I think Bigby has gotten better as the year progressed. And it is my impression that Woodson has been called for more interference penalties that Bigby, but I can't find those stats anywhere. Does anyone know where to get them.

And if you look at how the Pack has done against types of receivers, GB is average against #1 and #2 receivers (18th and 16th in the league), horrible against other receivers (29th in the league), teriffic against running backs (second in the league), and better than average (12th in the league) against tight ends.

But that doesn't mean the Packers are good at covering tight ends. They are 12th in the league, with a 9.0 DVOA. It looks like most of the league has a problem covering tight ends. There are only 9 teams in the league with negative DVOA against tight ends.

From what I have seen, Woodson and Harris have been less effective this year as refs have been calling more pass interference calls on them. Bush is a real liability, and Blackmon can't come back fast enough. Collins is solid in coverage, but as you point out drops interceptions. Bigby is feast or famine. And the front seven has done a teriffic job of taking the running backs out of the passing game.

59
by lyford (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:51pm

Unethical is probably more suited for knowingly filming other teams signals so they can be studied and exploited when league rules clearly prohibit this.

Actually, the rules do not prohibit this, and the Patriots were not penalized for doing it. What the rules prohibit, and what the Patriots were penalized for, was doing it from the sidelines.

60
by Tball (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:57pm

The real blueprint, if there is a blueprint, is to get unconventional when playing the Patriots. The Patriots scored on every possession they had in the first half. In the second half, they punted once when the game was in doubt, failed on a fourth down conversion, missed an easy FG, and punted again after running into the pile three times in the last two minutes. All the Eagles' defense did is make it look less easy.

The way to beat the Pats is to get unconventional. The 2nd quarter onside kick gave the Eagles an extra possession on a short field. Going for it on 4th and short was useful to both keep a drive alive and keep the ball out of Brady's hands. Faking a punt or a FG try may be a useful idea. Most of the teams need to accept that playing a straight, by the numbers game, is going to end in defeat. There is no more shame in gambling and losing 50 than playing straight and losing by 40, and gambling could give you a puncher's chance.

Also, I think the Browns came pretty close to doubling Moss and taking him away earlier in the season, not unlike the Eagles, and had similar success slowing the Patriot offense.

61
by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:58pm

"What the Patriots were penalized for, was doing it from the sidelines."

So can we all agree that this is unethical?

62
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:01pm

Drew:

I think the TE stats are reflective of the fact that teams have thrown a lot to the Tight ends and that those guys have made plays but had more opportunities that weren't converted.

The rb number is a reflection of what you alluded to in that the combo of a pass rush forces them to stay in but also that Nick Barnett does a good job in coverage.

63
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:01pm

Re #60

The Browns held Moss to 46 yards on three catches. They were killed by Watson and Stallworth, though. See:
http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter?game_id=29259&season=2007&displayPage=tab_...

64
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:02pm

Drew (#58 )--
It looks like most of the league has a problem covering tight ends.
That's a reasonable trade-off, considering that good pass-catching tight ends aren't all that common. You've got, maybe, half a dozen guys you actually need to game-plan for, and even fewer that are their team's primary weapon on offense.

65
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:10pm

With regards to illegal contact, my impression is anything within 5 yards is fair game, but beyond 5 yards mugging is a no-no. Were the Eagles holding downfield or applying body slam maneuvers similar to what Al Harris did during the Detroit game?

Also, isn't it counterintuitive to worry about whether people have the "shut-down" corners Philly has? If the strategy is double coverage with a safety, isn't this less necessary? Maybe the question should be who has safeties that make this type of coverage desirable or possible? Or maybe it is irrelevant.

66
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:12pm

#53:
Eh, cut it off - the rules also explicitly prohibit players and teams from offering/receiving non-contractual monetary incentives for performance. Apparently, however, no one, not even the NFL or the self-righteous goodie-two-shoes (*) in the press, cares about the letter of the rule this month. Go figure, maybe rule violations only apply in September.

(* = or whatever the heck the plural of goodie-two-shoes is. Goodie-two-shoeses? Goodies-two-shoes? Goodie-n-shoes?)

67
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:17pm

#65:
Also, isn’t it counterintuitive to worry about whether people have the “shut-down� corners Philly has? If the strategy is double coverage with a safety, isn’t this less necessary?
The reason is that the real trick is not double-covering Moss - that's doable. The hard part is not to pay the price from the other WR (usually Stallworth) one-on-one. That's why you need two really good corners.

68
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:22pm

Re: #67

That makes sense. But, to continue on this "play the Pats unconventionally" bandwagon, perhaps you then only need 1 really good corner who gets matched up on Stallworth. If I recall, Indy actually put their #3 corner on Moss. Unfortunately, they did not follow that up with enough double coverage.

69
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:23pm

Re: the On-sides kick and possession order.

Elsewhere, someone brought up the question of would this have been a close game if the Patriots got posession first, as they probably would have marched down the field for a touchdown, and then if the AJ Feeley pick-6 occurred, the Eagles could have quickly found themselves down 14-0 or 21-7.

However, a possible flaw with this theory is the notion that Reid would have allowed the Patriots the first possession.

The Eagles sprung a surprise onsides kick on the Patriots in the first half. I believe, based on Reid's use of this tactic in a number of other games from 2000 to 2004 that had he lost the coin toss in this game, he would have onsides kicked on the first kick-off to prevent the Patriots from gaining first possession. As the Eagles recovered the onsides kick they did try in the first half, they likely would have recovered that kick also, and the first half might very well have then played out the same way we saw it. The major change that switching the kick-off order would have brought is not a 14-0 or 21-7 Patriots lead instead of a 14-14 tie, but the Eagles getting first possession in the second half as well, which might have lead to them taking an earlier lead on the Patriots in the 3rd quarter and possibly changing the entire outcome of the 2nd half as the Patriots were forced to play more desperate instead of immediately trying to burn clock on their first 3rd quarter possession..

Comments?

70
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:28pm

And here come the Pats fans. Furious that you would suggest they are anything but immortal! :)

As far as Dallas' secondary. Who knows? They haven't been healthy yet this year but they are still #6 (i believe) in pass defense! They could keep up with the Pats as much as anyone but maybe the Colts in that regard. They have a really good pash rush. Now that they are much more healthy than they were when they played the Pats the first time it would be very interesting.

71
by David C (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:29pm

The Cowboys have one thing going for them in the secondary: Newman. Newman's an elite corner, one of those guys who is so good at coverage that you barely even notice he's on the field. Quarterbacks not named Clemens (moron) or Brady (leans heavily on Moss) will often deliberately avoid looking his direction because they know they're just as likely to throw a pick as they are to complete a pass. He's the main reason Moss had just over 50 yards in that game.

Anthony Henry is an above average corner, but their big weaknesses in the secondary are Jacques Reeves and the two safeties.

However, they're one of the few teams that can generate pressure against an offensive line that doesn't get nearly enough credit (probably the best line in the NFL this season). Against the Pats, a Cowboys five-man rush can probably generate fairly consistent pressure and hold against the run. This would be especially true with a healthy Jason Ferguson on the field.

Offensively, the Cowboys are a big play team. They can't wear down a defense. I'm not sure about the statistics, but I'll bet almost every single drive of theirs was either 3 and out or a score. This is because Tony Romo hates to check down, and would much rather take a 60% shot at 25 yards than a 100% shot at 6. But Jason Witten can definitely exploit their weaknesses at tight end coverage.

72
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:31pm

By the way, why isn't anybody making the comparison to the 2006 Cards/Bears game? Absolutely dominant team playing an objectively inferior foe, gets gameplanned directly in the face but pulls out a win anyway when the other team gets stupid. Obviously the Pats don't have the glaring flaws the Bears did (and they were never down 20), but I'm surprised I haven't seen any reference to it.

73
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:31pm

Papa Narb (#68 )--

That's part of it. But the other part of the problem is: you can't double Moss with ineffective guys. So you put your most effective cover corner (Sheldon Brown, for the Eagles) on an island against Stallworth, and your toughest corner (Lito Sheppard) on Moss, with help.

Of course, that leaves your team's version of Joselio Hanson to cover Welker and/or Gaffney out of the slot. The Colts' third corner (Jannings?) is actually a better cover guy than Hanson, but not good enough to leave alone on Moss, either.

74
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:37pm

Not sure if there is a blue print for a moving target like the Pats, but I do think some of the earlier posters (and the article) have forgotten about the big missed by the Philly D. On two occasions, Brady threw passes that should have been intercepted, but were not.(One was in the end zone, one along the near sideline).

The games NE plays will inevitably come down to execution on the "big plays." AS's pick 6 was one. The Feeley TD touch pass was another. The Moss OPI, the Feeley interception at the end, the onsides kick. Very few of those were solely determined by scheme, other than the onsides kick. In each case, the player had to make the big play. Some did. Some did not. If those swing, either way, the game is not so close. In other words, if Philly comes up with two interceptions by having DB's hold onto balls right in their hands and doesn't throw the six-6, that's a very different game. If Moss is not called for OPI, Feeley misses the touch TD pass, and the NE kicker hits a gimmie, then this is a very different game.

I guess I am over simplifying, but to me athletes making big plays can make coaches look really smart, or really dumb. This will be the case in any close game with NE this year, and I expect them to have at least 2-3 more close games.

75
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:38pm

Oh and Rich, stop embarassing yourself. The Eagles moved the ball the whole game. You cant just show the final result of the drive! And the last drive hardly counts. They had 18 seconds, of course they had to throw a desperate pass!!! Not to mention the Pats got a whole extra drive on the offsides on the punt. The Eagles played with them the whole game, and barring that 2nd horrible INT, very well might have won... with their BACKUP QB.

To say the Pats lost some of their intimidation factor is an understatement. They were hung with the whole game by an average team! I would stil be surprised if they lose in the regular season but this is no one man race in the AFC plaoffs any more, no matter how much you try to squint through your Pats homer glasses.

76
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:38pm

58:

My problem with using those numbers is the insanely small sample size football produces. So the Packers, in statistics, appear to be a little above average covering TE's. But how worth while TE's have they faced? Every single one they have faced has lit them up. Teams without notable TE's haven't used them much against the Packers. So this helps their numbers out.

And for how they cover #3+ receivers: They obviously do very well against #1,s and #2's. This means probably that people don't pass much to those guys. These are the guys their 2 CB's cover. So of course the #3+ is going to get a lot more yards because they are going to get a lot more attempts. Teams with bad corners get lit up by #1's and #2's and the #3+'s don't get passed to much. But often they are the best remaining targets on the field against the Packers. So although they catch more than the average team, the average is so low in the first place.

I believe just using pure numbers in football analysis is treading in dangerous waters. The sample size is tiny enough so that catching a couple teams can severely change the statistical value of a teams play.

77
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:46pm

Re: 67/63

The problem with doubling Moss (and I still think that's the best strategy) is that you can't have any mistakes on the other receivers. Against Cleveland Stallworth got a long TD after a missed tackle (that would have kept it a short gain) and Watson scored on a blown assignment (LB got caught up in the wash when it looked like Watson was going to stay in and block) and overly aggressive coverage (safety played way too tight without any help behind him).

It still makes sense to double Moss, IMO, because he can come up with a big play even when you don't make a mistake. If you're going to double Moss, you don't have to put your best corner on him (Cleveland didn't) to limit his production. Even with really good cornerbacks/safetys it's tough to avoid any mistakes when you're always in single coverage.

78
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:46pm

Re: #73

That is why I am wondering if having good safety play might not be more important to slowing the Pats O down. Indy with Bob Sanders and Philly with Brian Dawkins would qualify.

In terms of remaining regular season games, I think only Ed Reed and Polamalu fall into this camp.

Don't know that Baltimore's O is effective enough to do its part in limiting NE posessions.

79
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:47pm

"The Eagles moved the ball the whole game. You cant just show the final result of the drive!"

Again, when the game plan is "Make the QB throw the ball 50 times" you can just show the final result of the drive. The whole gameplan was to make Philly string together 10+ play drives to score. On multiple drives, that gameplanning resulted in a turnover.

80
by DiBa (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:50pm

These comments about can other teams do
what the Eagles did....they all leave out
one important variable that in reading
the posts that I have read, nobody
mentions.
These theories that this is how to beat
the Pats are all well and good but you
all fail to consider one important
factor. The ability for Belichick to sit
and watch game film of what the
opposition did and MAKE HIS OWN
ADJUSTMENTS FOR FUTURE GAME PLANS.
In other words...hell, I will give you
the "blue print" for you to use next
week against them, but you all forget how
the Patriots can adapt and completely
morph from week to week.

81
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:02pm

Andrew (#69 )--

Regarding your hypothetical: the onside kick in the second quarter was unexpected (not that it should have been). Given Andy Reid's history, I'm not sure that an opening onside kick would be.

Other than that, the scenario just plays out however one's wishful thinking prefers. Maybe the Patriots return the favor with a surprise onside to open the third?

82
by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:03pm

What everybody is forgetting is that Henry was injured during the Pats-Boys game, so they weren't able to play their preferred defense.
Against some 3 wide receiver sets the Cowboys like to take out Roy Williams and play with three corners, one safety (usually Hamlin, who is the best safety in coverage) and a 3-4 front. Henry takes the #1 WR (often with safety help), Newman (the team's best corner) takes the slot receiver, and Reeves takes the other WR. This would mean that a healthy Cowboys secondary would double team Moss and have its best cornerback cover Welker.

Against other 3 and 4 WR sets, the cowboys also employ traditional nickel and dime defenses with Roy Williams frequently (but not always) on the sidelines or lined up as a linebacker. Newman always takes the slot receiver in these situations.

I think a healthy Dallas secondary would do a good job containing Moss and Welker, but Stallworth would be the problem. Containing Moss and Welker, however, may be enough to allow Dallas's offense to keep up with NE.

83
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:03pm

#78:
Very true - the O-line game is also key in order to keep the ball away from Moss. During the Buffalo game, there were plays when Moss seemed well covered for a while and then, just like that, he was gone. Two good steps away from the closest defender. Against Philly, Brady did not have time to wait for the Moss hyperdrive thingy to engage.

Overall, a whole lot of puzzle pieces have to fit to slow down the Pats offense at least a bit, to give a decent opposing offense a chance to keep up. Pretty clear on paper, very hard to replicate on the field. That said, it's clearly possible.

84
by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:07pm

re: 53

I’m not sure “unethical� is a good choice of words. Unethical is probably more suited for knowingly filming other teams signals so they can be studied and exploited when league rules clearly prohibit this.

Holding guy up, punching them in the arms to weaken their catching ability and frustrate them would be considered good strategy. They can make contact and use their hands for 5 yards and they do.

Wow. That's some code of ethics you got there.

(And people wonder why Pats fans are blase about the videotaping.)

85
by lyford (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:13pm

“What the Patriots were penalized for, was doing it from the sidelines.�

So can we all agree that this is unethical?

Nope. We can't, because I don't think that there was anything "unethical" about it, and I thought at the time, and still think, that the reaction was ridiculous. (And I firmly believe that, had it been Oakland or Cleveland, there wouldn't have been anything like the outcry OR the punishment - YMMV.) It was a rule violation, like wearing the wrong colored socks or improperly logoed cleats. It was a process violation rather than a competitive violation.

86
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:18pm

The Eagles played with them the whole game, and barring that 2nd horrible INT, very well might have won… with their BACKUP QB.

That last part is a tough sell. There's no facts to back me on this, but I think if McNabb played, the Pats would have won by at least two touchdowns. It's been years since I've seen McNabb that accurate in the middle-to-deep range. He also would be likely to pull the ball down and scramble those times when Feeley hung in the pocket and threw a perfect pass while getting snotted.

A couple years ago, a Schaub-led Falcons team almost beat the Pats. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the football watching universe who would tell you that the Falcons would have won if Vick had played. Sometimes the backup qb has an advantage over the starter going against a particular defense, due somewhat to less film to analyze, but primarily to different skill sets.

87
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:22pm

When teams decide to onside kick outside of the end of a game is rarey random. Usually it is when a special teams coach has spotted that the kick return crew line up out of alignment. The Pats were staggering their front wall on their kick return unit, probably to get some kind of advantage on the return. Having spotted this the Eagles put an onside kick into thier gameplan. Not just any onside kick, but the one which they proceeded to use.

88
by Frankie (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:23pm

Slo-mo, gotta love your choice of words "a whole lot of puzzle pieces have to fit to slow down the Pats offense at least a bit". Clearly you believe nobody can even remotely slow down the offense, much less stop them.

Is this same Pat's offense that scored 10 points in the first 50 minutes of the Colts game? Or what about the same offense that scored 7 points the entire 2nd half of the Eagles game? Do these examples fit into your definition of "slow down the Pats offense at least a bit"?

You have every right to boast about a wonderful offense; however, you are putting your head in the sand if you believe they can't be slowed or even (gasp!) stopped. The season is very long, and the playoffs tend to produce a different style of football. Time will tell.

89
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:37pm

78: "That is why I am wondering if having good safety play might not be more important to slowing the Pats O down. Indy with Bob Sanders and Philly with Brian Dawkins would qualify.

In terms of remaining regular season games, I think only Ed Reed and Polamalu fall into this camp.

Don’t know that Baltimore’s O is effective enough to do its part in limiting NE posessions."

Ravens offense is too terrible. A man could come from the future and say that Ed Reed intercepts Brady twice, and I'd still have the Pats by 14.

Come playoff time, the Patriots will face a pretty difficult slate (I feel like the top playoff teams this year are better than usual, even when you don't include New England.) They're likely to face something like Jacksonville, Indy, and Green Bay.

90
by rick (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:40pm

What I find intriguing about some of the Comment/Response in here is this: Every time someone mentions that NE wasn't quite as good against Indy and Philly, someone else steps up to say "oh, yeah? DVOA."
DVOA in both games was excellent for NE, to be sure, but DVOA doesn't win the game. All things being equal, if Philly scores on the final drive, and win, their DVOA would be about the same as it was - worse than NE. Yet they'd have won.

In addition, it's worth noting that what Philly did CAN be replicated by other teams that don't have the talent Philly does, because planning only gets you as far as execution permits. If lesser quality teams EXECUTE, then they can win.

One thing that I think was interesting was that Belichick, in the first half, realized Philly's secondary wasn't up to snuff while their run D was very good. So he opted to risk time of possession versus optimal scoring opportunities by going all pass. Smart - as long as the other team's offense isn't clicking AND you don't wear out your D in the process. That is part of what made Philly successful. One or two bonehead play reversals and Philly wins by 4 or 11, depending on how you view it.

And given the number of times Philly's D got their hands on the ball in flight, but failed to pull it in, it was only a matter of time before they got a turnover (I thought for sure they'd get one).

Saying stuff like that, though, is pure hypothetical and can't be proven. What is a fact is Philly's game plan was perfect, but executed at 90% while NE's was mediocre but executed at 98%. Execution is the key, and if a mediocre team like Philly (hey, I'm a Philly fan, but they are mediocre) can do THAT, then a very good team can do much more.

91
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:52pm

88:
One thing that I think was interesting was that Belichick, in the first half, realized Philly’s secondary wasn’t up to snuff while their run D was very good.
Uh? How did BB realize that, with a total of one run play in the first half (Evans 1-y TD), two if you count a scramble by Brady for 12? Almost the opposite is true: BB obviously had decided to come out slinging, and did not change his plan despite the Philly secondary playing probably their best game of the year.

92
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:08pm

Rick (#88 )-- I'd disagree about execution. New England conceded all those WR passes underneath because Philadelphia WRs have been dropping passes all year. This game (and against the Lions), they caught 'em instead. New England's game plan looks a lot better if, say, Greg Lewis doesn't catch as many passes, for more yards and as many TDs, as he had in the previous ten games combined. Aside: this is what I think the Feeley Effect was: McNabb throws harder, and lower, to avoid interceptions. Feeley's softer touch passes made for fewer drops, and more interceptions. Meanwhile the Patriot receivers were dropping short passes they usually catch, especially Moss and Welker. Either that was good execution by the Eagles' defense (making them anticipate hits) or poor execution by the Patriots' offense (passes off-target or just the dropsies), but it was quite the opposite of 98% execution of a mediocre game-plan by the Patriots.

93
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:11pm

I wonder what the average drop rate is for Philly WR's this season, and what it was in this game. I'd be willing to wager they were catching a much higher percentage of balls in this game than normal, or else I can't imagine how Philly only has five wins.

94
by sippican (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:55pm

Um, I don't know how to break this to you guys, but... the Eagles lost. The Patriots, er... they kinda won. You know, like a W sort of victory. Left-hand column.

I'll run off a few hundred copies of your "blueprint" and hand them out, forevermore, if you'll only promise to follow it every week. The Pats can always rent one of those storage lockers with the rollup corrugated steel doors for all the excess Lombardis.

95
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:51pm

The Patriots, er… they kinda won. You know, like a W sort of victory. Left-hand column.
In that case, you use the Jets' blueprint: give 'em an asterisk, with your mind.

96
by bubqr (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:52pm

#83 Anyone who knows the game of football, or/And who played it knows that it's part of the game.
Every OL coach tells his guys to hit a jumping DL in the ribs to prevent him from trying to tip passes next time. It's the game of football, it's brutal and vicious at times . Hitting a guy hard is also vicious, but has football reasons, and i didn't see anyone complaining about that.
My coach always said : "There are rules regulating how you can hit someone, but none about how hard you can hit him". That's football. Hitting a receiver in the arms during his release is part of the game.

97
by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:57pm

On the question of whether shut-down corners are necessary for beating the Pats:
I think shut-down corners are less necessary than physical corners. And it only applies to Moss. The only way to neutralize him is to jam him at the line and have safety help when he beats the guy jamming him. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. A traditional good coverage corner is less effective against him because of his ability to jump and catch the ball even when a corner is right on him.

98
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:10pm

Re #94: Sippican:

Um, you didn't read the article or any of the posts, did you. Let's see, er, MDS wrote in the 3rd paragraph (I know it's hard to concentrate for that long, so I am putting it into my second for you):

"First, let’s get this out of the way: The Patriots outplayed the Eagles on Sunday. That’s the case whether you want to look at DVOA, yards, first downs, or that obscure statistic known as the scoreboard. No one is suggesting that the Eagles played a perfect game or unveiled some magic formula that leads to an automatic victory over the mighty Patriots."

What DID happen was a mediocre 5-5 team took the magic, best team in the history of mankind, Patriots to within 3 minutes of a loss.

99
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:17pm

What DID happen was a mediocre 5-5 team took the magic, best team in the history of mankind, Patriots to within 3 minutes of a loss.
Seven and a half minutes (final score occurred with 7:24 left in the fourth). Sorta being in field goal range at 3:58 doesn't count.

Don't disrespect the Patriots, you hater. ;-)

100
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:31pm

96: Thanks for replying to him. I thought it was obvious but apparently not. I guess not everyone has played organized football at sometime.

But that's what our coaches said to. I mean, you're not going to sit there and slug a guy and get into a boxing match. But you use your arms and your palms and hands to "hit" a guy in places that get sore quickly. And what better place to hit a WR than the upper arms? If they can't pick up their arms they can't catch a football. Its all part of the game.

And yes, as you pointed out, its a lot worse on the line. Its more or less a fist fight in there.

101
by sippican (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:56pm

Oh, I forgot my magic decoder ring again. I forgot this is the week for: "the Pats stink because they only won by 3 points" instead of last week where "they stink because they won by 103 points."

I'll reset it. I'll have to tweak it for the "within three minutes of a loss." That's a new wrinkle.

Did I mention the time I was four minutes from curing cancer?

102
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:25am

Starshatterer #81:

Maybe the Patriots return the favor with a surprise onside to open the third?

As far as I know, the Patriots have tried just one surprise onsides kick during Belichick's tenure - a kick in the 3rd quarter of the 2005 game against Indy with the Patriots trailing by 14 having just scored a touchdown to make the game 28-14. The kick didn't just fail but failed spectacularly, with the Colts returning the ball 11 yards forward to the 27 and Monty Beisel adding on another 5 yards through a penalty, and the possession ultimately resulting in a field goal for the Colts.

I would have been really shocked to see Belichick try an onsides kick on Sunday just because the Eagles did. I doubt the Patriots even practice it that often. Gostkowski has never kicked and onsides kick for the Patriots in a game, Vinatieri only kicked 3 since 2000, all of which failed.

103
by rick (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:36am

Starshatterer #92:
I agree about McNabb's tendency to throw low to avoid interceptions, and also the WR tendency to drop.
However, when they are WIDE open, as they were in the middle of the field against NE, Philly WR drops are infrequent, and McNabb has a tendency to throw very well on crossing routes. So opening up the middle, as NE did, was actually poor planning. Or good, if you consider that Philly loves the sideline slant - which is eventually what cost them the game. Thing is, it's a risk Belichick was willing to take to win the game, and it paid off if just barely (hey, it was 3 1/2 left and they didn't need that pass, so the Pats were 3 1/2 from a potential loss, not 7 1/2...LOL).

Execution is everything. You can have the absolute BEST plan and if you don't execute, it ain't worth squat. And if you have a mediocre plan and execute to perfection or near it, you'll have a better chance of winning than an improperly executed perfect plan (thanks to George Patton for my ability to make his simple quote very complex).
Given the nature of the way the game progressed and eventually ended (2 INTs), I'd say Philly DIDN'T execute, but had the superior plan.

Does this mean other teams can emulate? I'd say absolutely, with some adjustments to account for different personnel. I think GB, more than Dallas, has the personnel and capability to beat NE. Or Miami (but only if Feeley was there again).

104
by rick (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:42am

sippican:
I don't think people are saying NE stinks. I think what is happening here is that NE is SO GOOD, people are analyzing how an obviously mediocre Philly team can come into Foxboro and nearly upset a amazingly superior team.

Taking this to mean NE stinks is absurd. It's a testament to their high level of play that people sit around and wonder - Is THIS the game that shows how the NE machine can be defeated?

And I don't remember anyone saying they stunk because of their margin of victory. While others complained that Belichick could be "running up the score", that's hardly a "they stink" statement. It's a statement of "I dislike them so much and they're so good they CAN run up the score" statement. Regardless of whether it's correct or not (I don't believe it is).

By the way, I was 1 minute from taking a trip to the moon on an Apollo mission, years ago, but then NASA found out I was only 9.

105
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:46am

On multiple drives, that gameplanning resulted in a turnover.

Yes, but that wasn't your point. Your point was that when the Patriots stopped blitzing, the Eagles stopped moving. That's word-for-word what post #2 said. That's completely and totally wrong - the Eagles were still doing exactly the same thing in the second half, which was always short-to-medium passes in the inner part of the field, with no deep passes and no screens to Westbrook. They were also still moving.

Feeley's mistake when they were in field goal range wasn't due to the lack of blitzing, or anything else - it was just a mistake. The exact same mistake that he made on the third play of the game, so it's really hard to say that a change in the gameplan occurred at all.

The second interception by Samuel could've happened at any point in the game. It just happened to occur at the worst possible moment.

Mentioning the third interception is just silly. Yes, it's definitely true that with eighteen seconds left and ~50 yards to go and their opponent with no timeouts, the Patriots won't have to worry about their difficulty in covering the middle of the field.

106
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:52am

Posts like 28 and 101 are exactly why people hate Patriots fans. That's all I'm going to say.

107
by John Gach (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:54am

Re: #19. Exactly what I thought while watching the game: the Eagles coaching staff definitely outwitted the Patriots' staff in game planning. For instance, the Eagles were totally prepared for the "look ma, no running" first half and had potent "we're not gonna bother to play the run" defensive formations in place from the start. I was surprised at how long the Patriots stuck with an obviously inferior game plan (in relation to the defenses that had been devised to play against it). It seemed to me that the Eagles were the first team this year to force the Pats to change their style of offensive play. Even against the Colts the Pats were still going for the big downfield pass; it just didn't work until the fourth quarter. As MDS so eloquently described, the Eagles planned from the start to take away the home run hitters, and succeeded.

Re: #89. I don't see how the Ravens have any chance at all against the Patriots, unless they can chew up the field to make it look like Pittsburgh's last Monday night. The Ravens have managed to make notable defenses such as Cleveland's and Cincinnati's look competent. Against another team the several important injuries (like Colvin's) might matter. Against the Ravens the Pats will need to play with nine defenders -- and that would only make the game close to even.

On the other hand ... this is (as Billick has actually said) the Ravens' Super Bowl, their one chance to earn a bit of respect. I just don't see it happening. Even without recourse to DVOA one can plainly see that this year's version is just a bad team: mistake and penalty prone, terrible coaching in a number of key areas, essentially quarterbackless, now with no vertical passing game at all, with a pass defense that has gone during the year (admittedly with injuries playing a big part) from mediocre to outright poor, with terrible special teams, except for the ageless Stover, etc.

For this game the Pats might as well send Maroney on vacation, since the one thing the Ravens can still do is defend against the run.

108
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:55am

New England conceded all those WR passes underneath because Philadelphia WRs have been dropping passes all year

No, no, and no. Philly WRs have been dropping passes when the routes have been disturbed due to press coverage. New England didn't press them at all. This freed the corners/safeties to still have an angle at Westbrook, but it meant that the WRs were getting clean releases and the timing was spot on.

No one - no one - has been doing that versus the Eagles this year. Except Detroit (and in Detroit's case, the corners weren't even good enough to keep the receivers in front of them).

109
by Purds (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:56am

Oops, I was 30 seconds from thinking sippican and Rich were not such thin-skinned fans that any criticism of their beloved Patriots wouldn't send them over the deep end into sarcasm and hyperbole. Alas, I was thankfully corrected by their asinine overstatements here.

110
by Purds (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:08am

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I was about 3 minutes from seeing NE beat the Colts last year in the AFC Championship game, until Brady threw an interception in the last meaningful game NE has played.

And, I was about 17 minutes from seeing NE beat Denver in the 2005/6 playoffs, until Brady threw an interception in the previous most meaningful game NE played.

(Boy, this game's pretty fun, especially when NE hasn't won squat except come within a few games of tying Indy's 2005 start.)

111
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:26am

Purds:

I think sippican and Rich Conley watched a parallel universe Eagles @ Patriots game where the Patriots actually played well. You know a game where they were up by 40 with 3 minutes left, and not up by 3 with the other team driving. A game where Brady threw 3 touchdowns and Feely threw just 1 to Asante Samuel.

They appear to be living in a universe that thinks that the Patriots have not had middle of the field problems all year long and that no one could have seen that attacking the middle of the field on offense combined with hitting Brady and Moss and crashing the right side of the Patriots line might just be a plan to beat the Patriots.

http://www.bleedinggreennation.com/story/2007/11/21/1754/0998

"Eagles on Offense ... Run to the left off Left End and Left Tackle. Provide a change of pace with runs or cutbacks off Right Tackle. Avoid runs off Right End. Passing priority - short timed passes to negate the rush with only the occasional long pass off play action. ... Tight Ends in the triangle between the Inside Linebackers and Harrison. Westbrook on screens and isolated on a linebacker. ... Curtis long on play action. ... Slot Receivers - work the middle of the field like a Tight End. ... Brown as a second read. ... Don't Punt!!!! ... Kick onsides after scoring or to open a half at least twice. ... You have to do it twice because once it is done once, the expectation is it won't be done again, so do it again. ... Eagles on Defense. Funnel runs to the left to Cole, Spikes, and Brown - crash plays from the right with Gocong. Blitz Gocong and Dawkins very frequently. If the Patriots go max protect, blitz Gaither as well. Try to force hurried throws and throwing errors and to get to the ball while in Brady's hands - he will fumble it. JR Reed playing 20 yards deep shading to Moss. Keep him useful but out of harms way. Hit Moss on the line and hit him again with a linebacker in the first 5 yards. Try to force him out of bounds to make him ineligible. Hit Brady while passing and Moss while trying to make catches. Don't jump to block passes - just hit them fullspeed in the gut. Knock them on the their ass again and again. ... Both these guys are babies when it comes to getting hit clean and hard. Play the ball in passing. Don't be concerned that the Patriots might get a big play out of it - its not as though the Eagles are going to stop them from scoring very often without turnovers. All out blitz on any Patriots punt to try to block it and leave Mahe to simply try to fair catch the ball. Don't worry about field position - its not like the Eagles ever get good field position anyway."

I'm just Joe Ordinary Fan. If I can predict/suggest over half of the Eagles game plan from reading FO and watching games on Sunday and Monday, why couldn't Belichick foresee what was coming and prepare his team for it? Or maybe he did foresee it and his team was simply unable to execute to their normal level and thus were left with a win by the skin of their teeth thanks to some unforced errors by Feeley? What did Seymour, Maroney, Brady, Moss, Stallworth, Vrabel, Bruschi, Thomas, Watson, Harrison, et al do that if they did the same for 16 games would ensure their position on the team? The only Patriot who really wowed me in the game was Asante Samuel. Remind me how long he is under contract for with them?

Good lord! The AJ Feeley-Greg Lewis offense outscored the Tom Brady-Randy Moss offense 28-24! Tom Brady had 8 drives and average a field goal worth of scoring on each. How were two future HOFers outshone by a couple of scrubs who are lucky to be playing now and will be lucky to be playing a year or two hence? It sure as hell wasn't smoke and mirrors if an average fan can see how to do it.

Its perfectly safe to ignore such delusional folk as sippican and Rich. Leave them to their delusions. We'll enjoy the games.

112
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:51am

Andrew -

What you failed to mention is that your blueprint for stopping the Patriots is what every team should do against any other successful offense - not just one driven by Brady and Moss.

I think what we witnessed was a case of the Patriots just simply having a bad day. As Harrison said afterwards "Don't you ever just wake up and have a bad day?" or something along those lines.

It did appear, however, that the Eagles brought more intensity to this game and the Patriots weren't ready for it. I'm thinking this game will serve as a wakeup call for the Pats as opposed to a blueprint for the rest of the league.

Time will tell.

113
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:32am

I think sippican and Rich Conley watched a parallel universe Eagles @ Patriots game where the Patriots actually played well.

A 49% DVOA isn't playing well?

114
by Brandon (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:48am

Look, both teams played well. Some games, one team or another just gets the right break at the right time. In this game, it was the Feeley pass at the end of the game. Feeley said he was trying to throw the ball away and didn't realize Samuel was there--which makes sense, because the ball went right to Samuel and was grossly overthrown.

I don't think either team outplayed the other. What I think is, the Pats got lucky in the end, and it could have just as easily been the Eagles that got lucky--but that doesn't mean that either team played a bad game.

For the record, I hate both teams. I'm a Cowboys fan.

115
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:14am

Not to get all Rodney King on everybody, but please put the personal attacks on hold. Everyone has their own delusions, some more obvious than others, some considered conventional wisdom.

This was an interesting article with a ton of interesting commentary. If you are sensitive about what someone says, counter it with data. Sarcasm, while it can be amusing, rarely helps and generally engenders hostility, which escalates, with the only logical conclusion being nuclear annihilation. And not the amusing Kubrikian war with Peter Sellers named after a pubic hair wig and then Slim Pickens riding a missile into the sunset. I'm talking mushroom clouds over 32 NFL cities.

Now do we really want that?

I thought not.

Well, maybe over Oakland.

Ya see, I was almost making sense there, then just couldn't stop myself. My apologies to the one Raider fan out there. Shit... there I go again.

There IS a place for bitter personal attacks and it's called the Peytom Branning thread, part 3.

And Yaguar, you named one playoff opponent too many. And the wrong conference. ;-)

116
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:06am

I can remember there was a FO study about the weather and the passing game in th eplay-offs but I just can't remember the conclusion, so here is the question :
isn't it dangerous to rely so heavily on the pass when you are going to play your nonSB play-off games in Foxboro, possibly in snow or at least in cold and/or rain ?
Same question for the Pack and the frozen toundra...
I can see a very good running team over-powering the Pats D in a mud fight.

117
by AnotherPatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 9:16am

116. That has been another theory advanced several times, but not with any data that I recall.

Whatever weather happens, there won't be any mud -- Field Turf in Foxboro.

118
by Greg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 10:01am

I for one am perfectly willing to let Pats fans nurse their delusions of invulnerability. If the "unbeatable" Patriots should somehow trip up, a la the '98 Vikings, '01 Rams, etc., the look of dead-eyed shocked incomprehension on their faces is going to be PRICELESS. I'm particularly savoring the thought of reading a Bill Simmons mea culpa column.

I will give the Pats this - giving the league a new villain has really made the NFL more fun. Since the demise of the Aikman-Smith-Irvin Cowboys, I'd forgotten how enjoyable it can be to passionately root against a team with every fiber of your being (for a few hours on Sunday, at least - football of course must be kept in proper perspective).

119
by Greg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 10:14am

Oh, and about cold weather and the passing game - I think many people are misinterpreting my point. It's not that really bad weather would make the Patriots passing game WORSE than their opponents'. It's that it would prevent it from being significantly BETTER. Moss' value is primarily as a pure deep threat (at which he is, admittedly, awesome). But take away that, and he's an average receiver at best, because he doesn't have the route-running ability or physical strength to turn short gainers into long ones the way, say, T.O. or Harrison does. Stallworth is a bit better in the short game, but still primarily a deep threat. If the weather's really bad, I have no doubt that the Patriots will still field a competent passing attack, but they won't have the extreme advantage that they normally do in that phase of the game.

Let me give you a scenario. 1:30 to go, Patriots with no timeouts face 4th-and-10 on their own 35 yard line, down to the Colts by 3 in the AFC championship. It's 15 degrees and windy, and neither team's deep passing game has been working all day. Do you have faith in Randy Moss' ability to catch the 11 yard curl for a first down, particularly when he sees Bob Sanders getting ready to pop him out of the corner of his eye? I wouldn't, if I were a Patriots fan. Moss is a superstar, but he's one of the most flawed superstars in the NFL in that A.)he's one-dimensional, and 2.)it is relatively easy to take him off his game mentally.

120
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 10:58am

Jaws doesn't buy the "blueprint" talk, though he did detect shades of the old Moss:

http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/reiss_pieces/2007/11/jaws...

121
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 11:02am

For instance, the Eagles were totally prepared for the “look ma, no running� first half

If being "totally prepared" means the opposing defense allows the Pats to score every time they had the ball in the first half, I (and they) will take that every day.

122
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 11:10am

Damn, you guys must go through a whole lot of heartburn meds this season. I can picture you sitting there in your recliner in front of the tube, yelling "Kill Brady! KILL HIM!!!!", sipping alternatively from a can of Bud Light and a bottle of Mylanta. That's no way to enjoy football. Sad.

#111:
Andrew, you genius you! Let's see: manhandle and double-team Moss, put pressure on Brady, exploit the slow LBs in the middle using slot receivers, TEs and screen passes... THAT'S IT!!!!

Wait, isn't this what everyone said SD was going to do? And Dallas? And Indy? They all had limited success at it, and ultimately failed (some of the games were close, but the strategy itself failed). I guess it takes more than a good-on-paer game plan and good players to actually do it, uh?

Ironically, the reason why Philly succeeded on offense where teams with good QB, TEs and slot receivers failed is precisely because they didn't have great players in the key positions. The Pats effectively took out Westbrook, through whom Philly normally channels their offense , and the rest of the team punished them by playing above their normal capabilities. It happens, and kudos to the Eagles for raising up to the occasion, but let's not turn this into some kind of Eureka! moment seminal turning point of the season. Certainly, other teams may be able to do it, or even do it better (there simply are no unbeatable teams), but if "Joe Ordinary Fan" comes up with it, believe me: BB has thought of it, and decided it's worth taking the risk.

123
by Digit (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 11:30am

re: 118

Isn't that what Wes Welker is for?

124
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 11:31am

Yaguar, you hate Patriots fans because you root for the team they beat and you have a defective personality. In general, I find Pats fans to be the most milquetoast fans in the league, except for maybe the Chiefs. They cheer and go home. Look at the sack of Rome going on at Jets games and in Raider nation weekly. The days of Linda Olsen are long gone in Foxboro. It depresses you that the Pats win, and you can't understand why we're not depressed too. We must be bad people.

The same people on this board said the Patriots were not a dominating team because they won games by three points, and then that they were bad people for winning games by too many points. Now you're back to: they only won by three points!

It's borderline insane to say that the template for beating the Pats is aping what a losing effort produced, against a team that changes both their offensive and defensive scheme weekly.

The Eagles played great, and lost. No shame in that. There's no template in it, either.

125
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 11:39am

Bad night sippican ?

126
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:19pm

That is not a hair question.

127
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:34pm
128
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:55pm

Pat

"Yes, but that wasn’t your point. Your point was that when the Patriots stopped blitzing, the Eagles stopped moving."

Getting picked off stops the offense from moving, yes?

129
by Hart Lee Dykes (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:09pm

So, we've seen the Pats play 11 games now. In 9 of them, they've blown the opponent off the field and played at a historically high level. In one, they played a very competitive game on the road against arguably the 2nd best team in the league, and won. In another, they played a middle of the road team in a close game at home, and won. I'm not sure I would take much comfort in the Philly game over the other 10 if I were someone whose life depended on the Pats losing a few games (as it appears for many on this thread). Now, if they struggle again in one of their remaining games, especially against one of the remaining bad teams they play, then I think you might have something. Right now, the Philly game to me just looks like a blip, not a blueprint.

Having said that, I see a lot of people saying a lot of stuff about Sunday's game, and then coming to the conclusion that the Pats are indeed beatable. Well, of course they are, did anyone really, seriously, think they were not? I think they are the favorites, obviously, but they can certainly be beaten, and I knew that before I watched them play on Sunday, as did anyone else out there, even the most ardent Patriot homer. As a Patriot fan, though, it is amusing to read this thread and see people try to convince themselves that Sunday means more than the other 10 games the Pats have played this year.

130
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:26pm

"Andrew, you genius you! Let’s see: manhandle and double-team Moss, put pressure on Brady, exploit the slow LBs in the middle using slot receivers, TEs and screen passes… THAT’S IT!!!!"

Yeah, thats it. Except it didn't work for Dallas, Cleveland, Buffalo, Washington, etc.

Even a blind squirrel.....

131
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:29pm

117.

"I for one am perfectly willing to let Pats fans nurse their delusions of invulnerability. If the “unbeatable� Patriots should somehow trip up, a la the ‘98 Vikings, ‘01 Rams, etc."

Could you please point out where one of us said that Pats couldn't be beaten?

132
by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:31pm

I realize that the powers that be here are trying their damnedest to avoid any suggestion of Patriots bias, but they should really do something to halt the personal attacks against Pats fans here. Might as well just read the Fox comments for all the respect that is shown on these boards. Every other post is a "only Patriots fans think that" or a "that's why everyone hates Pats fans." If I were to come on here and just start dismissing every opinion by a Colts fan, following each attack with "that's why everyone hates Colts fans", how long would I last here?

133
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:38pm

Eric, I've made that point quite a few times, and the Outsiders seem to be too afraid of being accused of bias.

134
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:33pm

Perchance one of the reasons why "Patriots fans" on this board sometimes get a little testy and argumentative is that certain posters insist on telling these "Patriots fans" what they think and believe and why they're so obnoxious? Personally, I feel put on the defensive a little when I go to post on a thread and see fifteen undeserved posts commenting on how objectional Patriots fans are, when I (a Patriots fan) haven't even posted anything yet. Only certain posters here do it, and I will concede that certain Patriots fans seem to goad those posters on more than others, but still, please don't generalize.

Making sweeping generalizations about a group of people is never a way to stimulate interesting and well-thought-out discussion. Especially when the grouping is based on something that has nothing to do with character or intelligence or personality--in this case, sports affiliations are largely a function of geography.

135
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:33pm

Could you please point out where one of us said that Pats couldn’t be beaten?

The insistence that an observer would have to be "borderline insane" to think that strategy that produced a three-point game might also form the basis of a one-point victory comes pretty close.

136
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 2:44pm

Re weather and the Patriots:

It's an interesting point. One thing that struck me about the Miami-Pittsburg game was that, in those horrible conditions, conventional wisdom is probably wrong and both teams should have been throwing MORE, not less. Think about it. There are two types of run plays--those that rely on the power and leverage of the O-line to push the D-line back and the power of the RB to break tackles, and those that rely on the speed of the RB to get around the defenders. With footing that bad, there is no leverage, and there is no speed, and as long as the defenders stay in their lanes (as both sets of defenders were during the game), there's not a lot the offense can do to move them. So running plays are almost certain to get little yardage. On the other hand, bad footing and rain marginally affects the QB's ability to throw the ball and the receivers ability to catch the ball, but significantly slows down the pass rush and buys the QB more time to throw (something Tom Brady has commented on--against an aggressive defense, he perfers throwing in bad conditions to good). Life for both DB's and the WR's is tougher, but it seems to me that it would be worse for the DB's, who don't know the routes and the cuts that the WR's will run ahead of time, than for the WR's, who do. Hence the net effect of bad weather seems to be that it ought to improve the passing game (versus a good defense), since it hurts the defense more (assuming that the QB doesn't become completely ineffective in bad weather).

So in bad weather, I would expect the Patriots passing offense to degrade slightly, but opposing defenses (good, aggressive ones, at least, who are the only ones who can match up with the Patriots offense) to be degraded more.

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense is very big, powerful, well disciplined (so they stay in lanes), and stout against the run, but their weakness is that they are slow. This is the kind of defense that seems like it would be least affected by bad weather.

One final note: I know that, coming in to this season, a knock on Moss was that he was a bad route runner and relied solely on his speed and leap, but, watching 11 Patriots games now, I haven't seen that. Yes, he has an impressive vertical leap. However, I'm not sure he still has blazing speed (he's caught a number of deep balls and then been tackled, when a "blazing speed" WR would have run all the way for a TD). In fact, his effectiveness seems to be largely due to (1) his ability to do very good moves to shake coverage and get open, (2) his vertical leap, and (3) his route running. Yes, his route running. It's not quite as perfect as Welker's, but it's better (to my eye) than any other WR on the Patriots team. I honestly haven't seen any evidence that Moss runs poor or sloppy routes this season. Maybe our resident Moss expert, Will Allen, can chime in on this?

137
by Mike (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:07pm

I'll admit a bias here, however if you look back at the Browns-Pats Game, a couple of fluke interceptions (and rare bad judgement by Anderson) made the game seem like a lot more of a blow out than it actually was.

In addition, the Browns can actually do a lot of similar things that the Eagles did only better. Further, this is a better browns team than it was in week 5 for the following reasons:
1) Anderson is more comfortable in the pocket

2) Tucker and Shafer on the right side than McKinney and Shafer were in week 5 allowing them to run to that side and pull Steinbach. In addition, the OL only gave up 2 sacks against the Steelers and Ravens.

3) It was only one game, but rookie corner Brandon McDonald looked great in slowing down Andre Johnson. If they put him on Welker, Eric Wright on Stallworth, and FO favorite Bodden on Moss, NE may have a tougher matchup then most expect

4) The DL has improved through addition by subtraction (Ted Washington). Except for one play (where he gained 31), the browns held Parker to 74 yds on 24 carries. Same goes for McGahee who broke one run for 24 yds, and otherwise rushed 20 times for 78 yds.

Lastly, Winslow v. any safety in the league is a mismatch, let alone, one with coverage issues.

I'm not saying the Browns would blow out the Pats, but rather, the team seems to have the right pieces to match up well.

138
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:34pm

Scott de B. #113:

I think sippican and Rich Conley watched a parallel universe Eagles @ Patriots game where the Patriots actually played well.

A 49% DVOA isn’t playing well?

Sure, in some phases. But not overall when your standard has been set 25% higher.

On defense, no drives stopped for field goals, no forced fumbles, no forced interceptions, the only sack was a gift of field conditions. On offense, scoring fewer points than your opponents offense. Maybe you have a different definition of playing well.

Asante Samuel played well. Welker and Gaffney proved themselves more talented than Joselio Hanson. The Patriots punt coverage team is extremely talented. That was enough to win, despite the rest of the team not looking particularly sharp.

139
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:41pm

Hi everyone,

I know that we're all biased, and then hiding our bias by not being biased, or patting ourselves on the back, or being too deferential, or whatever else is wrong with the hive mind that we've been letting ferment in our parents' basement this week, but in the midst of all that, can I make a couple of simple requests to everyone?

- Try to avoid ad hominem/personal attacks?
- Maybe, not so much of the bashing-a-team's-fans-en-masse? I mean, I know quite a few Patriots fans and they're actually quite nice and reasonable.

Thanks,
Mgmt.

140
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:49pm

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

This is a stat site. What was the DVOA for the Pats in this game, again? +49? I'm telling you, I'll drive to your practice facility with this "blueprint" if you want it.

If you replayed this game in this manner 100 times I'll bet you 95 of 100 would have a worse outcome than the one you got. It depended on one all-or-nothing balls-out thing after another, and most of them went the Eagles way and they still lost. Can you imagine if the onside kick wasn't recovered? Moss's called back TD was a very closely called play. The Pats gave the Eagles the middle of the field deep and dared them to try it. Feeley did fantastic, almost inserting the ball to the receivers through a maze of hands on those plays. The idea that if he was perfect, they would have won is silly. If any team in the NFL plays perfectly against any other team they'll win. The purpose of designing schemes for each game and opponent is to allow your team to win despite mismatches, or because of them, mistakes included. The recipe the Eagles used would normally be a recipe for a profound ass-kicking if it showed up again with another team. You think Boller or Mini-Manning would do any better? And do you think the Patriots scheme isn't going to change anyway?

The Eagles are to be commended on realizing they were going to have to let it all hang out to win. They did, and made a game of it. That's a recipe for a profound beating if things don't go your way against a really good team.

141
by Alex (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:01pm

#132, 133, 134:
Typical Pats fans, always bitching about disrespect! ;)

Just kidding. Seriously, though, when you spend three consecutive posts complaining about being disrespected, I think maybe it's getting a little overdone. If that's the worst problem the Patriots fanbase has to deal with, then you're pretty lucky. The rest of us are desperately hoping that our team gets to the playoffs, or trying to figure out what the team should do with its inevitable high draft pick after a terrible season. Hell, Miami fans still haven't gotten to see their team win a game this season!

Contrast this with Patriots fans: You've yet to deal with a loss this season, your team has already clinched the division title, FO has put a special feature at the end of the weekly DVOA ratings for the past month or two chronicling the historic greatness of the current Patriots team, and you own the 1st round pick of a team that's probably going to finish with one of the worst records in the NFL (Not that your team has any desperate needs to fill, given that you have a fairly young franchise QB who never gets injured, and in general a very deep, talented team).

Put yourself in our shoes: we're sitting here, wondering whether our team can pull out a wild card spot, or at least a winning season, or at least one win all season, and we see some idiot Patriots fan complaining that FO is disrespecting his team. His 11-0 team, that has the best DVOA of any team in the last decade. Yeah, cry me a f*ckin' river!

So, we put up a few angry posts, and maybe make a few too many sweeping generalizations about the fanbase, because the idiots inside it also happen to be some of its most vocal members. Sorry, but that's life. I've been grouped with "Santa-hating Eagles fans" despite not even being born when that happened. It comes with the territory.

142
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:14pm

And this is what I hate (yeah, yeah, I know) about Patriots fans, or at least the probably non-representative segment of them who ague on the Internet.

The fact that your team won a game is not proof that the victory was foreordained and unstoppable. The Eagles had the lead with eight minutes left, and had a first down in field-goal range down by 3 with four left, and you're writing like they were doomed from the outset. Goddamn that's annoying.

Also, you say

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

And then go on to argue that if the same thing happened over and over again the result would be a vastly different outcome.

143
by Doug (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:35pm

I wonder how much information can really be obtained from watching replays of the game as far as schemes and strategies. One thing Belichick often mentions on his weekly radio gig is that the network telecasts are basically useless when it comes to evaluating anything to do with the game--only the coaches tapes can do that. So sure, we can evaluate what we see, but I think it's an incomplete picture we're getting.

144
by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:51pm

#141
See, Alex? I posted once, Rich posted once, and MJK posted once. You characterize this as "three consecutive posts." Why the generalization?
Also, I'm not sure if your comment about FO disrespecting the Pats was referring to my post (where I did mention respect) or not, but if it was, the respect I was referring to had nothing to do with the team. I'm talking about personal respect. If one poster says something about "phantom OPI" and the response is a denigration of all Patriots fans, then all Patriots fans are being personally disrespected because of one individual's post. If another person posts something that someone else finds objectionable and that person responds with "this is why everyone hates Patriots fans", then all Patriots fans are being disrespected. This is supposed to be an intelligent, mature site for discussion, not a place where a significant portion of the readers are being put down for posts they didn't even make.
#142
Again! Why generalize at all? If you've got a problem with what Rich or Sippican or whoever posted, take it up with them. Confine your remarks to them. Why do so many feel the need to lump everyone together? As MJK pointed out, the primary common factor amongst members of a given fan base is geography, not propensity towards an unusually high level of bias for their team, not intelligence, not politeness or lack thereof. Even if there was some propensity to say things you object to amongst those who argue over the internet, as you say, there are more than likely a greater number of fans who only read the comments and never post at all than there are of folks who do what you object to. Do they all deserve to be hated and denigrated in every forum on the net?

145
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 5:31pm

As far as I know, the people who don't post on the site aren't arguing. Or they're being very Zen about it.

146
by TireSlasher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 5:52pm

Give it up. Nobody is going to be New England.

147
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:10pm

Re: 140

Way to cherry pick every important play that went against New England and come to the conclusion that Philly was apparently lucky to stay in the game as long as they did. Congratulation. Your reasoning skills are truly astounding.

Let's see if I can play this game, too. If Samuel drops the easy interception he returned for a touchdown, or Dawkins (iirc) hangs onto the easy interception he dropped in the endzone, or if Feeley doesn't try to force a throw to a route that NE had been sitting on the whole game while in very makable FG range, the Eagles win the game going away.

Yay, that was fun!

148
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:16pm

Re: 144

I'm sorry, but as a relatively reasonable Philadelphia fan I'm having a really difficult time trying to shed a sympathetic tear for all you poor reasonable Patriots fans. A fanbase always has been and always will be represented by its most obnoxious segment.

149
by New England (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:29pm

"Give it up. Nobody is going to be New England."

Says who?

150
by Purds (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:31pm

Wait, Wanker, you forgot a few:

What if the Eagle DB's don't drop the easy interception in the end zone. What if they don't drop the easy interception along the near sideline?

This is an easy game.

151
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:37pm

#150 - I remember both of those play and I don't think either of them would have been easy plays. IIRC, Dawkins had to dive just to get an outstretched hand on the ball right before it hit the ground. He tried to bat it in the air but it wasn't as if it hit him in the numbers and just dropped it. Same with the play near the side lines. It was high and away and the defender had a hand on the ball. Just because someone has a hand on the ball doesn't mean it is an "easy interception".

152
by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:41pm

I'm not looking for sympathy or tears, just a little respect. If FO doesn't care that a good portion of their readers are alienated in every comment section on their site, then I guess they don't mind losing those readers.

153
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:46pm

Oh, by the way, click on my name to see a picture of this "easy intereception" that Brian Dawkin's dropped. This is why everyone thinks Eagles and Colts fans are full of crap, they make stuff up.

154
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:06pm

Hey, Wanker and Purds, it is not Pats fans who want to play the "what if" game. In the real world, the Pats won, and that's that. Some however want to argue that the game could have gone the other way had a couple of plays been different. Fair enough - but in that case, it is just reasonable to point out that close plays went both ways, right?

#1242:
"One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome."

And then go on to argue that if the same thing happened over and over again the result would be a vastly different outcome.
I think sippican's argument was that the same "blueprint" (pressure Brady, shut down Moss, exploit inside routes) has already been tried repeatedly, and repeatedly failed. To now bring it up as some sort of revolutionary "Pats-buster" strategy that everyone will from now on adopt and give NE a hard time, just because it got a little closer to success than previous attempts, makes little sense. The most likely outcome, based on cumulative previous results, would be another Patriots win. Calling tose who say this "insane" is obviously hyperbole, but the argument itself is not as self-contradictory as you think it is.

155
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:10pm

#153:
That seems close enough. Had Dawkins been an octopus, that would have been straight into his tentacles.

156
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:14pm

Re: 153

Boohoo...you're generalizing...boohoo...my feelings are hurt...

That still photo of that play makes it look infinitely harder than it did in real time, especially since we're talking about Brian Dawkins. It wasn't anywhere near as easy as either of Samuels' INTs, but I was shocked Dawkins didn't hold onto that ball.

157
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:17pm

Re: 155

He may have been diving for the ball, but it practically hit him in the chest. I'm not saying that any scrub on the field could have made that INT, but more often than not Brian Dawkins makes that play.

158
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 7:21pm

Hey, Wanker and Purds, it is not Pats fans who want to play the “what if� game.

Nobody's trying to argue that the Eagles won. Pats fans, however, are apparently claiming that the game wasn't close, which requires playing "what if" to show how badly they would have been beaten if they hadn't gotten these breaks.

Case in point: a three-point game against a team with previous wins of 24, 24, 31, 21, 17, 21, 21, 45, 4 and 46 points - an average margin of 25 - "got a little closer to success than previous attempts." Uh-huh.

159
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:01pm

#157:
more often than not Brian Dawkins makes that play.
Ah, so you do want to play what-if. In that case, much more often that Dawkins makes that play, Samuels would have had his other pick-6.

#158:
Who said the game wasn't close? It was by far the toughest game the Pats have played so far, and overall the Eagles executed their strategy better than either the Colts, Browns or Cowboys.

The point is that the anti-Pats "blueprint" people seem to be swooning about is neither a revelation (it's been said since the beginning of the season that to play the Pats Moss has to be tightly covered, Brady pressured, and inside routes exploited) nor has it "exposed" the Pats (who played a good game overall, barely below their previous low against Cleveland).

The interesting question is figuring out why exactly the "blueprint" worked better this time than it had before (especially from an unexpected team - which maybe is precisely the reason why), not whether the league has finally found the much-desired "Pats-buster" that sends all the haters into orgasmic ecstasy.

160
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:19pm

66: "#53:
Eh, cut it off - the rules also explicitly prohibit players and teams from offering/receiving non-contractual monetary incentives for performance. Apparently, however, no one, not even the NFL or the self-righteous goodie-two-shoes (*) in the press, cares about the letter of the rule this month. Go figure, maybe rule violations only apply in September.
(* = or whatever the heck the plural of goodie-two-shoes is. Goodie-two-shoeses? Goodies-two-shoes? Goodie-n-shoes?)
:: slo-mo-joe"

I don't know if you heard but the Pats have been offering similar bounties as well. (go look on PFT)

161
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:32pm

#160:
Glad you brought that up again: I saw it, and my argument stands. If videotaping from the sidelines was a major actionable rule violation in September, sending half the football world in a tizzy, so is having this kind of incentives.

People who were saying "Violating a rule to obtain a competitive advantage, however small and hypothetical, means you're cheating." should be saying the very same today. The media should be as incensed about this as they were on the video scandal. Easterbrook and Dr. Z should be opining about all the dark secrets bounty-offering teams must have in their closet. Favre should be compared to Cthulhu or something.

All I am asking for is consistency. Otherwise, all the outrage was just bull.

162
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:34pm

#156 - Another reason everyone hates Philly fans, they don't man up and admit they're frauds in the face of overwhelming visual evidence. Apparently I should not believe my lying eyes (or recolection for that matter) and take your word for it. I'm sure Dawkins was simply diving for the ball for fun.

163
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 9:27pm

Who said the game wasn’t close?

See the quote in that sentence, not to mention every freaking comment in this thread to the tune of "the Eagles lost, so any team that tries to exploit the same things they did will lose too" - the latter of which pretty much implies that either the game wasn't really close, or that the Patriots are incapable of losing close games.

As for the Dawkins INT, it's easy to show how bad the DB's position on the ball was when you use a picture taken after it bounced off. Try the one linked in my name.

164
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 9:39pm

Also, of course it hasn't "exposed" the Pats, unless you take the "they're mortal" cliche as a synonym for "exposed." What we're looking at is if it revealed a weakness in their defense (and a relative weakness in one of the best offenses an NFL team has fielded in my lifetime) that other teams can have success attacking. "Success" doesn't mean "automatic win," but it gives you way more of a chance than you get with "getting steamrolled."

165
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 10:57pm

slomojoe:

The interesting question is figuring out why exactly the “blueprint� worked better this time than it had before (especially from an unexpected team - which maybe is precisely the reason why)

I don't see what was unexpected about the outcome other than people believing the Vegas line should be the final margin. Patriots fans should know better than to confuse the line with the actual scoring margin one might reasonably expect. *cough* Super Bowl 36 Pats +14 *cough*

Many Eagles fans have been saying for weeks here (since the the week before Browns game in my case) that the Eagles present a good match-up to the Patriots and could possibly win if they played relatively mistake free.

The play and outcome was only unexpected for someone asleep at the switch concerning scouting the league.

166
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 1:24am

#163 - Wow, you really got me on that one, huh. Obviously that is an "easy interception". No one would think that was incredible play if he had made it. You always see players go totaly verticle to make catches.

167
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 2:24am

See, Alex? I posted once, Rich posted once, and MJK posted once. You characterize this as “three consecutive posts.� Why the generalization?

What generalization? There were three straight posts, each by a Patriots fan, each complaining about how they felt Patriots fans were being disrespected on FO (although, to be fair, MJK wasn't really complaining, more discussing). I was being quite specific there. Maybe I was a little harsh, but my point was just that a lot of digital ink is being spilled over something that seems to me to be a relatively minor issue.

I’m not looking for sympathy or tears, just a little respect. If FO doesn’t care that a good portion of their readers are alienated in every comment section on their site, then I guess they don’t mind losing those readers.

Look, I agree that it sucks to be grouped with the dumbest fans of your favorite team, but that's not a problem unique to the Patriots. Every team's fans deal with this (except for fans of the Raiders, who are grouped with Raiderjoe, who is clearly the most intelligent Raiders fan). See posts 153 and 162 for other examples. If Patriots fans are being alienated, then so are fans of several other teams.

Sorry, but you've just got to learn not to take it so personally when people make mean comments like that about your team's fans. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, it'd be nice if we could all get along. But really, the fact that Patriots fans have to deal with a little extra vitriol doesn't strike me as a particularly urgent problem. Your team is 11-0, with a division title already clinched. I'd say that dealing with a little disrespect is a fair trade for that.

Also, you really shouldn't be too surprised that most other fans hate the Patriots (and their fans). The Patriots were declared by the media to be "America's Team." According to the NFL rulebook, any team that is declared "America's Team" by a majority of the mainstream media must win three Super Bowls in 4 years, and become one of the most hated teams (and fanbases) in the NFL. At least, I'm pretty sure that's in the NFL rulebook.

And really, is that such a bad deal? Intense hatred for three Lombardi trophies? Could be a lot worse. I mean, Eagles fans get grouped in with all the idiots that think we should get rid of McNabb and go with AJ Feeley. Every time I tell someone from Penn State that I'm an Eagles fan, I have to explain, "No, no, no, not the stupid kind." And we didn't get any Super Bowl wins out of it, either.

168
by sippican (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:11am

slo-mo-jo understands what I said.

Andrew- I don't see why the line was like that either. The Eagles are not a bad team. They came to play. It was a very entertaining game. The Eagles were coached well and played well and played hard and lost anyway. No shame in that, is there? On the road, too. It's hard to win on the road in the NFL.

As far as the haters go:
A Lap Dance is So Much Better when the Stripper is Crying

169
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:14am

166: First of all, look up "vertical" and "horizontal."

Done? Good. I hope we've learned something today.

Second, I'm not the one who said it was easy. But it was makable, especially when you're in the position that Dawkins was there. He wouldn't exactly be the first football player in history to make a successful diving catch. You tried to pass off a picture of the ball bouncing away from him as a shot of the ball coming toward him and used that to insult people who actually remember what the play looked like, so forgive me if I'm not properly contrite.

170
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:17am

Alex - Great job adding zero relevant posts to the thread. Next time, instead of labeling others "dumbest fans" and complaining of other fan bases you should actually try to contribute something related to the topic. Just a suggestion. It would be a good step in helping Philly fans lose their reputation as Santa hating trolls.

Maybe it would even help you loosen up a bit and not take a bit of sarcasm so seriously.

171
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:26am

#169 - Then what the heck is your point? Did you miss the part where I quoted "easy interception"? It was in no way, shape or form an "easy interception". It would have been a great interception and neither my pic nor yours shows otherwise. I didn't post the pick to show the position of the ball. It was clear that it had already bounced out of his arms. The picture was to show him diving for the ball.

Mea Culpa on the "verticle". Its been a long day.

172
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:37am

...okay, then maybe you should have mentioned that before. Since the response to your post was about his position on the ball, and that picture says #$@!-all about how close he came to actually making the catch. That was what I was trying to correct.

173
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:48am

I've yet to hear anyone pontificate about how different the outcome would have been had McNabb played. I personally think the Pats would have won by more, but I'm in awe that I haven't seen anyone - Pats fans, Eagles fans - mention this at all. I haven't read every single post, so it may have already been discussed, but it's pretty telling when nobody has made any noise about McNabb putting Philly over the top.

A buddy of mine used to be a manager for the Syracuse football team, and he told me back then that McNabb, though he's a great guy, just didn't have "it." From that day forth, I lost all faith, and it seems my friend has been proven correct. It's too bad, because from most accounts, McNabb's actually a pretty solid guy.

But I digress.

174
by hwc (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 6:13am

RE: #136 Weather Conditions

Yep. Remember the Oakland "tuck rule" snowbowl game? Those were the worst conditions I can recall in Foxboro. It didn't take long for both teams to figure out that the ONLY thing that worked offensively was throwing the ball. The running game was useless for the reasons you point out. The o-line and the RBs couldn't generate any movement in those conditions.

I agree about the Pitt-Miami game. The QBs should have gone to a stead diet of quick comeback or curl patterns. The DB is helpless to defend that kind of pattern on a field like that because the risk of falling down is too high.

The only conditions that would really put the kabosh on the passing game would be strong, gusty winds. Even then, it's usually possible to throw the ball a little bit going downwind.

175
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 11:02am

#165:
Many Eagles fans have been saying for weeks here (since the the week before Browns game in my case) that the Eagles present a good match-up to the Patriots and could possibly win if they played relatively mistake free.

The play and outcome was only unexpected for someone asleep at the switch concerning scouting the league.
Of course the line was rather high (on the other hand, the Pats had covered all but once this year, with equally slanted lines), but pretty much every expert and - dare I say - sane person was looking at the Pats to win the game comfortably.

But hey, remind me next time not to trust the stats and experts, and listen to team fans for accurate, objective predictions.

176
by nat (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 12:09pm

The premise of the original EPC article is that there might be something in the Eagles blueprint that will let teams beat the Patriots. Behind that is the premise that without such a blueprint, teams have little (but not zero) chance to beat them.

This is all supported by DVOA, which by general acclamation is a fine tool for determining which teams have the most success per play, adjusted for opponents and ignoring non-predictive success.

By DVOA, we expected the Patriots to outperform the Eagles by 63% in DVOA. What happened was an advantage of only 27%, an Eagles improvement of +36%.

With that 27% DVOA advantage, we still would have expected more than a 3 point margin for the Pats.

Did that advantage (DVOA and points) come from the Eagles defense? No. If you look at drive stats (which are easier to calculate than DVOA, but still better than conventional stats), the Patriots outperformed the next best in the league in all stats, and outperformed the Eagles in this game in all stats but TDs/drive. (If the Moss OPI hadn't been called, it would have won that category too, but that's a what-if...)

The Eagles offense had some of the advantage. DVOA set the expectation of an average performance. Instead, their drive stats are almost as good as the Pats'. Of course, the pick-six doesn't show up in these except as an interception. The only weak spot in the Eagles drive stats is three interceptions. That's not a small weakness, to be sure, and brings the Eagles offensive DVOA back to earth.

Special teams must be the biggest point in the Eagles favor. The "missed" FG is a big hit for the Pats' DVOA. It was poorly kicked, and neither DVOA nor the refs can tell that it really was good. Sigh. The Patriots were expected to have a +11% DVOA on special teams. I don't know the figure, but I would guess that more than half of the Eagles DVOA gain comes in this area. Anyone know for sure?

As for the points that aren't related to DVOA, the obvious suspects are mostly there: fumble recoveries going the Eagle's way, a successful onsides kick, a "missed" FG, and uneven bunching of good and bad DVOA plays.

How much is due to the Eagles blueprint? On defense, little or nothing. On offense, a little - considering the interceptions brought the offense DVOA back to normal. On special teams, only the decision to onsides kick, since I assume that the Eagles had nothing to do with the bad FG call.

The best thing about the Eagles' plan is that it recognized the need to shake things up against a stronger team. The onsides kick, several "trick" plays, and the willingness to make some risky passes all increased the chance of something unusual happening. Even the risky pass while in field goal range was not truly foolish (although the execution was terrible): a field goal would only tie the game, and the Patriots were still the team more likely to win in OT.

The conclusion: no blueprint here for catching the Patriots in success per play. But there is a blueprint for shaking things up -- onsides kicks, trick plays, aggressive offense that includes many players not just your stars.

That, plus fruit baskets for the refs' wives, could just give you a chance.

177
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 4:23pm

Alex - Great job adding zero relevant posts to the thread. Next time, instead of labeling others “dumbest fans� and complaining of other fan bases you should actually try to contribute something related to the topic.

I wasn't labeling you as one of the idiot fans, I was pointing out that you were making generalizations about Eagles and Colts fans based on what only one or two of them actually said.

When you say, "This is why everyone thinks Eagles and Colts fans are full of crap, they make stuff up." or, "Another reason everyone hates Philly fans, they don’t man up and admit they’re frauds in the face of overwhelming visual evidence." then you're doing the same thing to Eagles and Colts fans that Eric P is complaining about when it's done to Patriots fans.

178
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 4:32pm

First, the whole grouping of Patriots fans and whatnot-- just let it go. If you find yourself saying any generalization, take a deep breath and stop. If you find yourself complaining about a generalization, take a deep breath, and stop. It doesn't matter, let it go, on both sides.

As for the blueprint, I don't think that there is any blueprint. I agree that teams should play aggressively, that is their best bet.

In terms of what to take from it, the Eagles were really close to winning it, but the Patriots were equally close to winning by 10 as well. So it is a toss up.

The strategy implemented by the Eagles fits their strengths well-- it wouldn't work for Baltimore, and it would only work for Pittsburgh if the Patriots tried the exact same strategy when facing Pittsburgh.

As someone said earlier, the Patriots are a moving target, and will continue to adjust their scheme based on their opponent. Consider it a perfect storm of events-- their strategy against the Eagles worked poorly versus the Eagles strategy... but neither of those strategies are guaranteed to be used again.

179
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 5:15pm

Some comments from the Pats' DC about the game:
On the television broadcast, it was mentioned that the Eagles had success with "in cuts". Pees didn't see that as the primary problem.

"It wasn't so much the in cuts as it was the seams of the field, there is a little difference," Pees said. "One thing is that I give a lot of credit to the Eagles and [quarterback A.J.] Feeley. He had a good game and threw a lot of passes when he was under duress and getting hit, and put them on the money. At the same time, we need to play them better.

"The thing that got us a little bit in the last game -- and we've tried to work on it this week -- is just fundamentally we got a little lax at times and let things happen that just shouldn't happen. There are other plays they just made -- he made a good throw, they made a good catch, and that's football. But there were other times that we got caught kind of watching the rush, expecting the guy to get sacked and he didn't get sacked, and maybe we were out of position a little bit."

180
by nat (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 5:37pm

One third of the Eagles' passes are listed as "deep" in the play-by-play. That adds to the flea flicker, the wide receiver option, and the onsides kick as examples of a very aggressive approach to the game. Much of that aggressiveness paid off. Not surprisingly, some of it did not. And thus the plan fell short of a win.

181
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 6:26pm

I’ve yet to hear anyone pontificate about how different the outcome would have been had McNabb played. I personally think the Pats would have won by more, but I’m in awe that I haven’t seen anyone - Pats fans, Eagles fans - mention this at all.

You know why nobody brings up what would have happened if McNabb had been in? Because we know that the conversation would go something like this:

"Eagles fan: Wow, a three point game with AJ Feeley at QB! If McNabb had been in there, the Eagles probably would've won.

Patriots/other non-Eagles fan: Are you kidding? The game wouldn't have even been close with McNabb in. The Patriots would've just won by more. We all know McNabb can't handle the pressure of big games, and would've choked away the game like he always does. The only reason the game was close in the first place was that the Patriots were taken by surprise by all the mediocre Eagles players having great games, while the Pats concentrated on shutting down Westbrook.

Eagles fan: Come on, McNabb is clearly a much better QB than AJ Feeley, and significantly better QB play could easily turn a close loss into a close win.

McNabb-hating Eagles fan: McNabb isn't better than Feeley! McNabb has better stats, but Feeley is a much better leader, and plays with more confidence and intensity. The team just responds better to Feeley.

Ewing-theory proponent: The team plays better with Feeley because they know that without McNabb, they all need to pick up the slack and play better. It's not that Feeley's a better QB than McNabb, but he does give the Eagles a better chance to win.

Eagles fan: Look, by just about any measure, McNabb is a better QB than Feeley. Look at TD-INT ratio, DVOA/DPAR, hell, look at W-L record if you want. McNabb is 5-5 as a starter this year, Feeley is 0-1. There's just no evidence to support Feeley being a better QB, other than some vague assertions about 'leadership' and 'intangibles.' Why can't people just accept that McNabb is a good QB? Why are they always trying to tear him down and clamoring for his backup to start?

Vikings fan: I can't speak for everyone, but I know that I'm clamoring for his backup to start so that Minnesota can pick up McNabb in the offseason and win the Super Bowl next year.

Eagles fan: Vikings? Might as well call them vultures at this point. Why don't you guys find a QB somewhere else? There are some great prospects in the draft this year, and Chad Pennington has already been benched. And really, we all know that Brad Childress is going with Tavaris Jackson anyway, so it's really all academic at this point."

You see why nobody wants to have this conversation? It's pointless.

A buddy of mine used to be a manager for the Syracuse football team, and he told me back then that McNabb, though he’s a great guy, just didn’t have “it.� From that day forth, I lost all faith, and it seems my friend has been proven correct.

Sorry, but I don't buy it. He hasn't won a Super Bowl, sure, but he has gotten his team there once. And he's 31. John Elway won his first Super Bowl at 37, after a career full of people calling him a "choker" and saying he didn't have that mysterious "it" that everyone always talks about. So I'd say McNabb's still got some time left before we can give up on him. And he's definitely better than AJ Feeley.

182
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 6:40pm

Alex, I don't really have an opinion either way. But last year the Eagles went on a huge run without McNabb. And yes, he's probably a much better QB than Feeley. You can't really use the 0-1 stat though, as that one loss came against a juggernaut. And despite the picks, he still looked better against the Pats than just about any other QB this year.

Either way, I think it's safe to say McNabb is out of Philly after this year and he'll go somewhere he's wanted, and appreciated. I happen to like the guy but I'm just not sure he'll ever be one of the greats. The reason for my original post is that there hasn't been much mention of McNabb putting the Eagles over the top vs. the Pats. I'm actually hearing the opposite. And that shocked me.

183
by nat (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 6:45pm

181:
Thanks, Alex. That avoided a lot of wasted time. Except I had to read it all anyway!

Aaaaarrrrrrg!

The reason we're not talking about McNabb (much) is that talking about him tells us nothing about the blueprint that the Eagles used. He wasn't playing.

184
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 8:47pm

Alex, I don’t really have an opinion either way. But last year the Eagles went on a huge run without McNabb.

Yeah, but that's not because they got better. They had a lower DVOA, on offense and defense, passing and running, in the second half of the year than in the first half, when McNabb was healthy. Mind you, it was only slightly lower, but it wasn't higher. They had a better record because they lost some early games in really flukey ways, while in the second half of the year, the lucky bounces landed on Philadelphia's side more often.

For instance, in games that were decided by 7 or fewer points, where one lucky bounce can change the course of the game, the Eagles were 0-4 with McNabb, and 3-0 with Garcia. In three of the four losses, the opposing team scored a last minute FG to either take the lead or send the game to OT. In all of the three wins with Garcia, the defense kept the opposing team out of the endzone after letting them get a first down within 7 yards of the goal line.

In games decided by more than 14+ points, where one lucky bounce won't affect the outcome of the game, the Eagles were 5-0 before McNabb was injured, and 2-2 after that.

You could also look at the Eagles' Pythagorean winning%. With McNabb, it was 63.7%. With Garcia, it was 57.4%.

The Eagles were definitely better with McNabb than they were with Garcia, it just takes a look below the surface to see it.

185
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 9:04pm

Thanks, Alex. That avoided a lot of wasted time. Except I had to read it all anyway!

Sorry, I guess I'll have to warn you next time I put up a long, pointless conversation.

186
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 11:05pm

Alex (#185 )--

You did warn us:
You know why nobody brings up what would have happened if McNabb had been in? Because we know that the conversation would go something like this:

187
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2007 - 2:11pm

Alex,

You bring up some interesting points and I appreciate your insight.

I just think that sometimes it's ok to ignore certain stats and defer to the only one that really matters - wins and losses.

188
by Waverly (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2007 - 3:25pm

#181 Alex:

That was pretty good. Maybe you could make a template from it, so we can summarize almost any quarterback controversy by referring to this template. It would save a lot of time, misunderstanding, and electrons in the process.

Think of it as a generalization of zlionsfan's ranking/rating complaint template, to summarize a whole discussion rather than just a single complaint.

189
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2007 - 4:46pm

In hopes of starting another irrational Manning/Brady debate, these stats might surprise a lot of people. Through the first 11 games of the season:

2004 Manning 41 TD's
2007 Brady 39 TD's

As incredibly hot as Brady has been this season, he is still behind Mannings TD pace.

190
by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2007 - 5:25pm

sippican #168:

The best margin the Eagles could have expected was probably a small win (7 or less), while the best Patriots outcome would probably have been something near the line. The expected outcome should have been in the middle - perhaps Patriots by 10.

191
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2007 - 10:07pm

Alex, I loved the commentary.

First the conversation was brilliant. And then looking into the whole McNabb thing of last year-- it reminded me of what I thought at the time.

Last year, the Eagles were seriously one of the best teams in the NFC, I would say top 5 at least. But in the beginning of the season, they kept losing close games. I think it was more due to Reid than McNabb, but the point is they would have a great game, then something fluky would happen and ruin it.

(I say I think it was Reid because I don't trust his clock management and I think that he let off the gas once they got a lead, so the other team got back into it... I didn't see most of those games)

Then when Garcia took over, as you said, it was flukey the other way. Even that crazy Westbrook play against TB-- they won because of it. Westbrook is the reason they kept winning, in my opinion-- when McNabb was QB, they ignore Westbrook because they have a great QB. With Garcia, they didn't.

So it isn't McNabb vs. Not- McNabb... its "Don't forget about Westbrook!"

192
by Charger Charlie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2007 - 6:45pm

Who can beat the Patriots? Anyone can. They are terrible. They are the worst 11-0 team in league history. I predict they lose tonight en route to an 11-5 season and a first round beat down by the Chargers!!!!!!!!!!!!