Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jan 2013

What Is The Best Way to Beat the New England Patriots?

This is a little bit of a sneak peak at what's coming in Friday's Texans-Patriots preview: my contribution to Steph Stradley's TexansChick blog on the scenario it would take for Houston to beat New England.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 10 Jan 2013

37 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2013, 3:48pm by LionInAZ


by CeeBee (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 2:35pm

Be the New York Giants?

by Guido Merkens :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 2:57pm

That's probably pretty close to the right answer. Be able to get pass pressure with your front four, have a good nickel package that is effective against the run, and have a passing game that can get big plays to multiple receivers.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:06pm

So how did Baltimore do it?

by Elemen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:45pm

This year? Replacement refs.

In the playoffs a few years ago? Ray Rice 80 yard touchdown on first play of game followed 2-3 plays later by a pick-6. A 14 point lead a minute into the game does wonders.

by Russell Wilson (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 7:08pm


by RickD :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 7:17pm

The playoff loss to the Ravens three years ago featured a lot of the Ravens pushing the Patriots around on both sides of the ball - a common theme to their playoff losses to the Giants, Ravens, and Jets. The Ravens ran the ball on the Pats that day with relative ease. Usually the Pats are stout against the run and only have problems with the passing game.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:53pm

"Be able to get pass pressure with your front four"

Ravens managed to get some pressure on Brady sacking him twice.

"have a good nickel package that is effective against the run"

Patriots on had only 77yds on 34 attempts.

"and have a passing game that can get big plays to multiple receivers."

5 different receivers (Rice,Smith,Boldin,JonesPitta) had receptions of 20 yards or more.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 3:02pm

Score more points than them. What is my prize?

by Jerry :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 6:40pm

Tickets to a Browns exhibition game?

by apbadogs :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 3:10pm

Pollard Brady.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 3:49pm

The best way, to quote Conan the Barbarian: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

by Kal :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 6:19pm


Gisele does have a great set of lamentations.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 3:53pm

A baseball bat preferably metal, or a ball peen hammer, possibly a 4x4. No 2x4s they're usually made of soft wood and give out after the second Patriot. Leaving 51 more to whomp.

by f1b0nacc1 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 5:36pm

Put Brady on his back as often as possible. The more often he is sack, and the less time he has to throw, the less the Pats can accomplish offensively. This leaves their defense to be judged by .... their defense, and that isn't pretty.

Without the pretty boy upright, the Pats are nothing special.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 5:39pm

And that makes the Patriots different from the other 31 teams exactly how?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 5:42pm

There were some playoff teams that can win ugly. NE isn't one of those teams.

by Kal :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 6:20pm

Primarily? By not caring about bigger plays, not caring as much about the running game and not focusing on getting turnovers.

It's a different style, and not every team can do it. And honestly it doesn't matter to some teams. Putting Ben on his back, by comparison, is not nearly as good a strategy as it is with Brady.

by RickD :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 7:21pm

The Pats have very good pass blocking. Most teams (aside from the Giants and perhaps the 49ers) have a lot of difficulty implementing this strategy.

From what we saw in the first game, I wouldn't count on the Texans coming up with a pass rush solution. Watt is terrific, of course, but he's only one guy. The Pats didn't have many problems with him back in December.

by f1b0nacc1 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 2:27pm

While I agree with you (with the caveat that several others here have made that Houston got very little out of several of their key players the last time around), the point is that forcing Brady to throw quickly (which no matter how good his pass protection is, is the ultimate result of a lot of pressure) prevents him from high-payoff plays (i.e. low YAC), and undercuts the rest of the offense. Without that, the Patriots rely upon the defense...not a pretty sight...

by JonFrum :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 8:45pm

Pretty boy? Your mom called - she said to come home before dark.

by f1b0nacc1 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 2:19pm

Hey, if Giselle was calling for me to come home, I would walk off the field in the middle of the snap count...

by RedDog (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 6:39pm

if you start with yourself, limit your own errors (penalties and turnovers) you are in pretty good shape.

Stick with your gameplan even if you fall behind early.

... the last one, try to establish longer drives sounds lame, maybe it is.

Some teams manage to disrupt the rythm of the Patriots offense - I think being physical with the receivers (this is the playoffs, much less penalty flags fly) and crowd the middle of the field with defenders, and hit Brady.

I am a Pats fan ... the defense is still crap. I think it is still very vulnerable for big plays and costly pass intereference calls. And the Pats blitzing during the past games looks like it's asking for trouble against good qbs.

Sure, the Pats beat the Texans big, but everything went for the Pats that game ... these teams are much closer.

by RickD :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 7:28pm

I wouldn't say that the defense is "crap", but if the Texans are going to win, they're going to have to score a lot of points. They got very little production from Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels in the first matchup. I think the best way is to target Hole in the Zone, i.e. run Daniels over the middle and hope he gets covered by a linebacker.

The Pats defense was #6 in DVOA against the run, #23 against the pass. But that includes a lot of games without Talib at corner. If he is healthy, and if Dennard is healthy, and they play McCourty at safety, they have a much better secondary package then if they have McCourty and Arrington at corner.

(As a way of contrast, the 2011 Patriots defense was #25 against the run and #28 against the pass with much worse numbers. I still don't know how they made the Super Bowl. Oh, that's right. Sterling Moore and Billy Cundiff.)

by RedDog (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 4:51am

The defense (starters) consists almost entirely of first or high second round draft picks ... how do other coaches get more out of apparently less capable players?

by dryheat :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 11:30am

I don't know who you want to define as a "starter", but as far as significant contributors go, you have Jones, Wilfork, Mayo, Cunningham, Hightower, Spikes, McCourty, Chung, and Talib as first and second rounders and Love, Deaderick, Ninkovich, Scott, Francis, Arrington, Dennard, and Gregory as late round/undrafted picks. Seems a pretty even split.

by Guest789 :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 8:40pm

Everybody's a comedian.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 9:06pm

Hire Tonya Harding's boyfriend

by dryheat :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 11:31am

-1 for not referring to Jeff Gilooly by name and depriving us of the pleasure of saying it and giggling.

by dbostedo :: Sat, 01/12/2013 - 12:00am

You read these comments out loud to yourself? OK then... floccinaucinihilipilification

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 01/13/2013 - 3:48pm

Is dryheat actually David Letterman? If he mentions Joey Buttafuoco at some point, I'd be convinced.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 10:11pm

Getting pass pressure with modest resources is the key to beating just about anyone. It's the key to the kingdom.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 8:33am

The only hope of overcoming the Patriots of New England is with the Cunning Gameplan, invested with the knowledge and soul of the Dark Coach.

To recover this mighty artifact you must win your way into the inner sanctun of the Pats facility. To pass the outer boundary you will first need to distract the returned spirits of Vrabel and Harrison with some HGH pills. Scatter them afore you to quell their wrath or they'll tackle you, Vrabel with perfect technique and Harrison helmet first, just below your knees.

The second level is also frought with dangers as there are many traps, though some are wham blocks, either way you must keep your head on a swivel. Pass these and you will be confronted by the Gronk, a hideous beast of enormous size and deceptive speed. Do not underestimate it for while it may have the brains of a feebleminded child, it has gigantic hands and lets little free from its grasp. To slip past it you must ply it with Grey Goose and play really bad dance music. Soon it will become befuddled, take its shirt off and drunkenly hit on sorority girls, leaving your onward path clear.

Finally you will meet Tombrady, their captain, a fearsome competitor who defeats his foes by using many tiny cuts until his opponent dies of sheer annoyance. Very few can vanquish him but it is possible. First he can be distracted with Hollywood actresses or supermodels, he will begin to pose for photographs with billy-goats, sell Uggs and try to get the women pregnant. This is your moment to strike but be swift, as his sperm are highly potent! Hit him hard a couple of times and he will become afeared and retreat to the corner where he will spend the next sixty minutes whining to the umpire. The door to the sanctum will now be unguarded, do not tarry before claiming your prize.

The Gameplan now lies at your feet but you still must beware as you are being illegaly videotaped from the galleries above! Your only hope of escape is to don the Greyed Hoodie of Inevitable Victory which will allow you to claim that you would gain no advantage from stealing the Cunning Gameplan. You will only be believed in the Hoodie, without it Goodell, the moronic, imbecile gatekeeper will banish you from the NFL instead of being given a slap on the wrist.

by Not Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 11:31am


by In_Belichick_We... :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 10:10am

I seem to remember the Jets tackling very well, leading to very few YAC.
The Pat's offense consists of a lot of YAC.
Teams that beat the Pats force Tom to throw short passes and then tackle the receiver before many YAC.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2013 - 11:14am

There were two plays that changed the entire course of the game. On the first, Brady had BJGE pretty open on a simple out route, and Brady was rolling to the right with BJGE, and completely air-mailed the pass, right to David Harris. The Pats were cranking on that drive, and got nothing. Then their next drive, they got down to the Jets 7, and Brady hit Alge Crumpler in the hands in the end zone, and he dropped it. The Pats had to settle for a FG. 14-0 would have been a radically different game than 3-0.

by Kelib (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 8:23pm

You have to out execute them. Control the ball with long drives. Their beatable if they don't have the ball.

by nat :: Sat, 01/12/2013 - 1:14pm

Concentrate all your energies on stopping their one-dimensional low-skill dink-and-dunk screen-and-draw offense. And don't bother defending the deep ball, since Brady can't throw passes longer than fifteen yards.

I read it in the FO comment threads. It has to be true.