Every Play Counts
An in-depth look at a specific player or unit on every single play of the previous game

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.

Comments

192 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2007, 5:45pm

1 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

8 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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

16 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

37 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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.

39 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

52 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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

57 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

62 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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_gamecenter&week=REG5

64 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

“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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

107 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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_on_patriot.html

121 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

124 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

128 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

"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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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?

134 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

#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?

147 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.

150 Re: Every Play Counts: The Anti-Pats Blueprint?

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.