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10 Dec 2012

Film Room: Texans-Patriots

by Andy Benoit

Texans offense vs. Patriots defense

The Patriots have been more inclined to play man coverage since acquiring Aqib Talib. They’ve done a decent job with it, in part because Bill Belichick’s aversion to blitzing leaves two safeties back deep. That often allows the corners to play in trail technique, which is where Talib and nickel slot man Kyle Arrington are most comfortable.

Man-to-man can be tough to execute against Houston due to the high volume of bunch receiver alignments and intertwined crossing patterns. It does, however, keep defenders’ eyes out of the backfield, which helps ensure that they won’t be over-reactive to Matt Schaub’s play-action fakes and misdirection rollouts. The lanky Talib, who so far has looked good but also unpolished at times, has propagated New England’s new rash of coverages, but he’s not the key to the pass defense Monday night. The linebackers are.

If the Patriots put a safety to Andre Johnson’s side, they’ll often leave either Jerod Mayo or Brandon Spikes one-on-one against Owen Daniels or James Casey. In fact, because so much of Houston’s passing game occurs out of base personnel, it’s possible rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower could find himself isolated against one of the tight ends. (Or against Arian Foster, who is also very dangerous as a receiver.) Hightower moves extremely well for his size, but in pass defense, this is a glaring mismatch favoring the Texans. Normally, Belichick might be inclined to use a big nickel package against this sort of offense in order to get a reserve safety (in this case, the demoted Patrick Chung) on a tight end. However, against Houston, that would leave his defense too vulnerable to the run. The ground game is the engine of Gary Kubiak’s offense.

Expect New England to rely heavily on their linebackers in pass defense. However, that likely means more zone coverage, as Mayo is the only linebacker with any hope of surviving in man-to-man (and he is much more comfortable in zone). New England’s linebacking trio might be the most physical in the league, so it’s important they exert that physicality to disrupt the timing of Houston’s underneath crossing patterns.

You can’t beat the Texans without containing their ground game. Spikes is the most vicious interior gap-shooting linebacker in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see how his brawny approach fares against finesse zone-blocking. On a similar note, the Texans should be very concerned about Vince Wilfork: he’s been the most destructive run defender in football over the past month. The Patriots love to align him between the guard and tackle on what they anticipate being the play side. It’d be wise for the Texans to use balanced dual-tight end formations so that at the line of scrimmage they can easily audible to runs that go away from Wilfork.

One final note: the Texans love to get their offense rolling out of the gate with screen passes -– especially to tight ends off play-action. Don’t be surprised if they open with this and go to it three or four times in the first quarter.

Patriots offense vs. Texans defense

The Patriots have relied a little more on three-receiver sets during Rob Gronkowski’s absence. That could change now that Julian Edelman is on IR. Donte’ Stallworth was signed off the street as a replacement, but temporary No. 2 tight end Daniel Fells will likely get Edelman’s reps. Fells has actually been getting a lot of snaps as of late anyway, as even with Gronkowski out, the Patriots have made a concerted effort not to abandon their versatile two-tight end packages.

Obviously Fells doesn’t begin to pose the kind of threat that Gronkowski does, but minimizing the drop-off in talent is the way the Patriots control the tempo with their no-huddle. The fast pace of play mixed with recurrent 3x2 empty sets creates a lot of indefensible interior throwing lanes. With defenses often resorting to static looks just to get lined up, Tom Brady has zero trouble locating the dink and dunk opportunities down after down. He’s absolutely brilliant in the pre-snap phase.

Normally, the Texans defense likes to dictate the terms of engagement. They’ve been a little more vanilla with Johnathan Joseph out of the lineup, but Joseph is probable for this game. Great as he is, the Texans don’t desperately need their star corner in this game. He and Kareem Jackson (who has been tremendous this season, particularly in man coverage) both play outside –- where the Patriots rarely throw. The deciding matchup is in the slot, where young cornerback Brandon Harris will have his hands full against Wes Welker. Safety Glover Quin will likely match up on Aaron Hernandez. Quin is fairly fluid but will still need help.

The Texans will use their dime-sub package at times against the no-huddle. In those instances, expect the Patriots to turn to their fine-tuned power run-blocking tactics and ride Stevan Ridley. Assuming J.J. Watt doesn’t destroy the struggling Sebastian Vollmer on more than 10 snaps, Ridley should be able to get his yards.

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Posted by: Andy Benoit on 10 Dec 2012

89 comments, Last at 29 May 2013, 9:50am by elidel pimecrolimus cream for vitiligo


by theslothook :: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 6:35pm

Other than Tom Brady = god, I wonder why no one has ever attempted to run this type of offense in the nfl. Its essentially getting big time return off for the least amount of risk- namely dink and dunk passing. 99 percent of the other teams cannot sustain offense doing dink and dunk - I've watched the earl and mid 2000 49ers try it for years and fail, but the Pats can and do. Having charted one of their games and watched two others with all 22- I've come up with two possible reasons.

One- their interior o line really holds up extremely well to the pass rush, so rarely are the passing lanes clogged in the middle. Believe me, this is a big time luxury as I've also charted buffalo who tried to do spread and the push was far more evident up the middle than in NE.

the other- all of NE's receivers are comfortable in space in the middle of the field. Sometimes when teams run this, they tend to not get the great spacing thats required because your essentially bringing more defenders into the middle of the field. With the pats, all their receivers know how to work together with the right timing so that the reads are so easily defined.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 7:19pm

Weren't the Walsh offense in SF and the Reid offense in Philly in the McNabb years basically this?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 7:58pm

I didn't watch football during the 49er heyday, but the mcnabb years weren't really. Sure, it featured plenty of slants and running back dumpoffs, but it wasn't a designed middle of the field crosser type of offense. Especially given Mcnabb's routinely poor completion percentage.

To be honest, you have to have a very patient short centric qb to run this I admit. That requires someone with good pocket presence and an anti gunslinger(basically, favre and cutler would fail miserably). I don't know Mcnabb would've fit in this kind of system.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:14pm

The premier short-passing offenses of the 2000's have been the 2006-10 Colts, the 2005-10 Saints, several different Brett Favre teams, the Rich Gannon Raiders, and anyone quarterbacked by Jeff Garcia. The Eagles were never really a pure short-passing team with McNabb, because his skill set is the opposite of Brady's; physical talent rather than accuracy and presnap reads.

In terms of overemphasizing short patterns in the middle of the field, I'd say the 2010 Colts take the cake; they didn't have the line or receiver talent to run any other plays.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:25pm

I wouldn't describe those Colts or those Saints as short passing teams. Maybe the Colts right at the end.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:34pm

Has everyone forgot all the discussions from 1998-2008 where people wondered why Reid kept having McNabb run a short timing based offense when it was clearly not his best skillset?

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 5:21pm

Holmgren started to run a more vertical version of Walsh's stuff in Green Bay in order to take advantage of Favre's remarkable arm strength and he also used a lot more three receiver sets. Reid took a version of that to Philly, where it matched up well with McNabb and his smaller faster receivers. One of the signature routes for those Eagle teams is the big-4 7 combo, which wasn't in Walsh's system.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 5:27pm

It was still a WCO and much more traditional than what Favre ran.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 1:06am

You've got one of the 2-3 best QBs in the history of the game in his late, long-experienced prime, coached by one of the 2-3 best HCs in the history of the game still in his long-experienced prime. Why don't you see this more often? Why don't we see mermaids riding unicorns more often?

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 1:51am

The Gannon-era Raiders were pretty heavy on the dink and dunk as I recall. Or maybe they weren't and I'm just replacing all of his tenure with my memories of the night that he set the consecutive completions record against the Broncos. It certainly felt like that night was nothing but nearly unstoppable 5-8 yard pickups.

by RickD :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:01am

Turns out they didn't just dink and dunk tonight.

by Paddy Pat :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:45am

Texans filled up the underneath lanes a lot. The Patriots were very patient (or stubborn) about trying to hit the deeper stuff, and if finally paid off with the Stallworth play, but there was a long stretch there where Brady showed off the weakness of the NE deeper passing game without Gronkowski...

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:23pm

The Texans tried to force Brady to throw long, because he isn't actually very good at it. His arm strength is Matt Ryan, not Matt Stafford, if you will. However, A. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day; and B. He is almost always making the right decision, even if his ability to make it stick is not up there with the better deep passing quarterbacks (E. Manning, A. Rodgers), so he rarely throws picks. Games like this are why he doesn't set completion percentage records, though, even in a predominantly dink and dunk offense.

Stallworth looked pretty good; it makes you wonder why they ever let him go.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:37pm

The Texans seem to do this to everyone, which is why I thought the Texans had a good chance to hold that offense down.

But they really weren't able to stop anyone short either. Other than a few exceptions, everytime Brady tried to go deep it was overthrown. The TD pass to Stallworth was quite perfect though.

I didn't think the Patriots offense could do to Houston what Green Bay did, because Green Bay just hit a bunch of extremely high-risk throws as James Jones was unreal, as was Jordy and Aaron Rodgers.

This was more about the Patriots running their game plan even better than the Texans, and a testament to good field position.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:04pm

Matt Schaub is a quantum-quarterback if observed in the macro-world his football function collapses.

by BeatGraphs (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 6:25pm

Sounds like he needs a Heisenberg compensator.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 6:10pm

"His arm strength is Matt Ryan, not Matt Stafford, if you will."

I see people say this all the time, and I couldn't disagree more. Brady has a very strong arm. What he entirely lack is TOUCH on the deep ball. In last night's game, he threw a ball deep to Welker that was high and inside, but had good zip behind it, even by the time he got to Welker. A throw lower and inside Welker would have allowed him to walk into the end zone. On another play, Matthew Slater had his man beat to the sideline, and Brady over-threw him out of bounds. Again, touch, not strength. The pass to Hoomanawanui was overthrown, as was the first pass to Stallworth.

I know it was a while ago, but remember the last pass in the Pats first lost Super Bowl, when it was 4th and 20 or whatever. Brady threw it from his 10 yard line to the OPPOSITE 15 yard line. That is a 75 yard throw.

He has the strength to throw deep, it's just that his touch has gotten worse over the past several years...

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 6:26pm

you would think the reverse would be happening.

by Trevorbeatz (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 10:14pm

Brady is bad at throwing deep?


by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 9:55am

The passes Brady made to Moss consisted of; Moss smoking a helpless defensive back by five-plus yards, Brady heaving it twenty yards ahead of Moss and Moss sprinting to chase down an overthrown ball. I believe '07 ruined Brady, as he finally found a guy that made him look like a good bomb-thrower, and hasn't re-adjusted to not having that guy anymore.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 12:40pm

I think it's a function of putting the ball where it's not going to be intercepted. One unfortunate underthrow last February aside, Brady's going to miss long if he's going to miss.

by Lelouch vi Britannia (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:03am

I think Brady hasn't been the same since the ACL tear in that regard. Before that he had one of the best deep balls around. It's telling that, even after losing an important part of his skill-set, he's still arguably the best quarterback in the league.

by DeepThreat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 6:30pm

Your reasons are perfectly valid. The Patriot offense has failed in both of those circumstances. Famously, reason one was a factor in the losses to the Giants in the Super Bowls. And less famously, reason two has been a factor in their recent upset losses to the Jets, Browns, and Cardinals.

by rskelley :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:24am

The Patriots passing attack is so effective because it's a perfect hybrid. Their inside men, Welker, Hernandez and Edelmen pick apart the defense by running around zones with precise, and trimmed slant and hook routes. They beat man-to-man with mismatches in the slot and they beat zone by re-taking the middle of the field.

But, just like they were when they had Moss, they also can dominate vertically with seam routes. Gronkowski makes a lot of his money on TE seam routes and deep posts, forcing the defense to spread out. Moss used to be great at spreading the defense for the little guys in the middle, and now Lloyd and Gronkowski have taken over the job (Ochocinco couldn't). Though Brandon hasn't been a huge playmaker, he's a valuable decoy, opening up major space for Welker, Hernandez and Woodhead to win the intermediate game.

Their incredible interior blocking over the years keeps Brady in a good, clean pocket, allowing him to pick apart zones, and also enough time to find an open split end. When he needs to get rid of the ball, he has Welker, Woodhead, Hernandez and Edelman, who are all perfect fits for slant, flat and screen route-running.

Their offense's playbook isn't full of tricks, rather the Patriots are just great at specializing and refining each player's technique. Their personnel are pefect fits for each job, and they can adapt to each defense they face.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 5:38am

Seconded what Paddy Pat said: Bradys down the field stuff was kinda spotty at times. That said, his play action fakes were brilliant, he was aggressive down the field, and that stallworth throw was a thing of beauty.

By now, I've probably pissed off every pats fans on this site, so let me start by saying, this offense has had me amazed for years. I watch it with awe. Its basically achieving maximum reward with minimal risk. I was explaining this to a friend who was watching football for the first time. The pats empire started in 01. In that time span, all the other competing empires have cracked or crumbled, but the Pats remain the class of the league year in and year out. Not even the 49ers of the 80s had this kind of stretch.

I also want to stress, YES brady is great, hall of fame, god whatever. Give him all the plaudits you want to, he certainly deserves them. But its too simplistic, even lazy, to say its brady thats the reason. Other offenses led by elite qbs have still succumbed to regression.Rodgers is arguably the best qb in the league and even he is feeling the effects. Ditto for Brees. Ditto for Manning. Look whats happened to the Chargers. The pats have gone through different o linemen, different receivers, different coordinators, even a different qb, and the offensive success has continued. Sure, 2008 was worse than Brady's years(duh, its Cassel not brady at the helm), but the fact that the machine was still as successful as it was with such a below average qb(that was his first start since highschool), suggests it goes beyond the qb. (BTw, did I mention Brady is awesome, lest people misconstrue that comment).

I've tried to come up with a logical explanation but there really isn't a good one. This offense succeeds even without gronk, without moss, without welker, without hernandez, even without brady. It has suffered injuries at nearly every spot imaginable. People mention the o line's high pedigree of picks, but forget just how many times they've plugged in low round waiver wire types with no failure whatsoever. Ben Muth has stated as much. At this point, I'm ready to just say either Belichick has a spy in every opposing locker room or the NFL is secretly the WWE and we've all been living under a giant lie Matrix Style.

by Anonymous3737 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 9:15am

Another aspect that can be appreciated by watching the Pats closely is how they set up plays--sometimes weeks in advance. If you look at Law Firm's receiving stats from last year.... there's one big outlier- a 50 yard pass against Buffalo on January 1st. That's 12.5 percent of BJGE's career total. It was setup twice earlier in the season by running the same look, but throwing (I think) TE screens. Then against Buffalo (who despite their head-to-head record does play the Pats with familiarity and occasional competence), the Pats run that play, the defense bit, and Brady threw to Law Firm instead. It was no accident and it took maybe months of preparation for that one play.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 2:36pm

I think you're vastly overstating your case. For instance, how do you arrive at the conclusion that Manning has regressed? It just isn't backed up by any data. I'd also argue that Brady has never been forced to fend for himself behind a line as ropey as the current Green Bay unit.

They have been very successful and for me it's down to two men, Belichick and Scarneccia.

"Not even the 49ers of the 80s had this kind of stretch."

Please, please find a decent history of the NFL before writing anything else like that.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:52pm

What I meant was, every other team in nfl history has had much larger swings year to year in offensive efficiency - except the patriots. They've basically posted a massive pass dvoa from 2009-2012 without really any swings. Their run game has nearly always been great too. I was arguing that other great passing offenses with great run games have had "off years."

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:08pm

DVOA hasn't covered most of the 49ers' glory years yet and it took place in a more difficult environment for offensive production, in a time when it was harder to recuperate players from injury and without the ability to plug holes in your roster from a free agent pool. Basically, you're going to have to have a pretty sound argument with solid evidence before you start denigrating those 49er teams.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:35pm

Yeah i accept all those arguments. I was forced to cross compare using substitute stats like ANYA and Run YPA and to see how they've gone through cyclical changes over the years. Basically, the Pats have achieved less variance in their run than the 49ers.

But yes, the rule changes probably make the comparison much more difficult. I guess I'll just omit the 49er comment.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:57pm

Until the last of the Patriots' Super Bowl-winning years, the talk was 'how are they doing this with nobodies?' Matt Light didn't get to the Pro Bowl until 2006, and wasn't first team All Pro until 2007. Logan Mankins went to the Pro Bowl in 2007, and made All Pro in 2010. Other than that, the Patriots O-line got no real respect as individuals across the league.

Whether the NE line has ever been 'ropey,' Brady has got the job done year after year, with entirely different linemen. So we can either believe that Scharnecchia has a stash of pixie dust, or else Brady is making JAGs look mighty good. The one thing you can't say is that Brady has been playing behind studs for a decade.

In this way, you could say the same thing about P. Manning.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:02pm

The eye-test makes it seem like it is much more about Scar.

Brady has always seemed to have more time to throw. I feel like I have seen so many plays where Brady just stands there for like 6 seconds, and then finds someone.

Manning made JAGs look great by throwing it insanely quickly. He rarely had a lot of time from 2008-2010.

Also, the Pats lines have always been better at run-blocking than the Colts lines in the Manning era, or the Packers lines now.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:42pm

This isn't just backed up by the eye test. PFF has never ranked the pats outside the top 10 in pass blocking(not sure what they are ranked this year) and ben alamar ran this stop watch study on o lines in 2009 and 2010 and found the pats were by far the number 1 team.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:45pm

Or else you're wrong about Brady - he really is IT.

Occam's Razor.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:52pm

The sustained success of the Patriots offense in 2008 would be a mark against it.

Personally, I think the offense itself would be good with anyone who is average and up. Brady makes to offense great to incredible. There is tremendous value there, but I think if you go back to 2009 and trade Aaron Rodgers for Tom Brady, the Patriots offense stays closer to what it has been than the Packers offense.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:37pm

I've probably beaten this so far into the ground but, the real part of the pats success that I find so hard to understand is...elite qbs don't guarantee you 0 regression in the passing game nor do they guarantee somehow 0 regression in the run game either. In fact, the argument that a great pass offense leads to a great run offense is not backed up in the data. I'm inclined to say its Scarnecchia and Bellichick, but that then brings up the obvious, if the league is copycat the way people think it is, then why hasn't anyone been able to duplicate their success on the o line?

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:46pm

Because they don't have Dante Scarnecchia?

The Patriots also seem to do a great job of identifying blitzers and rushers. They rarely allow unblocked players to get to Brady. That's probably a credit to a whole bunch of people.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:58pm

Well...that presupposes that every profession only has 1 or 2 absolute savants in it. Maybe thats true for things like elite qbs or elite centers in basketball, but hard to believe its true for coaching when so much of their work is training and intellect. Its not like theres only one or two great astro physicists or economists or doctors or whatever.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 5:06pm

In an industry with a relatively low supply (football coaches) and a really hard selection process where rising professionally is difficult, I could absolutely believe that there might be a couple of coaches that are just a lot better than others.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 12:37pm

It's probably also relevant that Dante has never (to observed behavior) viewed his job as a stepping stone to a more prestigous one. He's spurned advancement offers in favor of his current job. To survive various regime changes and put in 20+ years at your job, one must A) really enjoy it, and B) be damn good at it.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 3:51pm

This sounds so much like some of the Packers fans last year when they were extolling how Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers were reinventing football and they would combine to have a run that would change the way we viewed a dynasty. (and that was only a slight exaggeration).

Anyway, let's calm down. The Patriots empire relatively did crack in 2008-09, when Brady went down, they had to move on from the Moss dominated offense and changed to this ultra-dink-and-dunk centered around TEs that we see now.

DVOA still loved them, but most Pats fans I talk to absolutely hated that 2009 team, a team that ended the year with a sullen, embarrassing loss in the playoffs. Also, the empire may have started in 2001, but since we are talking about a team here (and not an individual), they haven't won a Super Bowl in 8 years. Since then, the Giants and Steelers have both won two. They are not the class of the league every year. To me, the Patriots were undoubtedly the best team in the NFL (regular season only) four times: 2003, 2007, 2010 and this year so far. That is a great run, but it's not like they were 14-2 each year for a decade straight.

Anyway, I agree that it is too lazy and simplistic to say that the offense being consistenly excellent is all about Brady. I really think Belichick and his crew have uncovered something special on offense, and they really don't need Brady to succeed, but Brady makes it absolutely dominant. That is a credit to Brady, but I never get the feeling that "Man, Tom Brady is on fire today" the way I do about Peyton or Rodgers. Of course, I'm a Pats Hater, so that is probably part of the reason, but that offense is just designed beautifully, where Brady can make safe low-risk throws and still make that offense move. I have no idea how, but only one team has seemingly found the kryptonite, and that is the Giants.

Also, the '80's 49ers absolutely had that type of stretch. They switched everything. There was basically no one on the 1994 Super Bowl team that was there for the 1981 Super Bowl, and they were just as dominant. They won Super Bowls without Jerry Rice, with two different Hall of Fame QBs, with two different coaches (Seifert proved it wasn't riding Walsh's coattails to me by winning the 2nd one). They were actually more consistent year-to-year on defense, allowing under 300 points a ridiculous 16 straight seasons (discounting the 9-game 1982 season.

BB/Brady have a chance to match all of this because they came together, essentially, but they still have to do it for four more seasons. Discounting the 9-game season, the 49ers won 10+ games 17 Straight Seasons. In each of these seasons, their point differential was over 100 except for 1988, where they won the Super Bowl.

Don't just discount what that group did because this one is here now.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:00pm

Those 49ers teams changed everything, even the quarterbacks. Personally I still credit Walsh more than Seifert for the 94 win and I think it's consistent to credit Belichick for the Pats success.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:04pm

It is true that they were still running essentially Walsh's offense at that point. The one thing I credit Seifert with is his defenses. They were consistently great for a long, long time with a lot of different players. Walsh helped get great defensive players on the 49ers, but those Seifert defenses were great.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:14pm

For me it's also about the players Walsh left behind, I actually think Seifert underachieved considering he was left with two hall of fame quarterbacks, Jerry Rice, a bunch of probowl linemen, some of the greatest position coaches in the history of the game, Haley, Lott, and so on.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:21pm

I think the larger problem was they ran into a team in 1992 and 1993 that was about as good if not better, with as much talent at most of those positions. By the time the Packers started dominating the later era Seifert teams, weren't a lot of those guys (Lott, Haley) gone?

I don't think Seifert was close to Walsh, but going 14-2, 14-2, 10-6, 14-2, 13-3, 11-5, 12-4 in his seven seasons there is hard to say underachieving. Hard to really look past a 10-5 playoff record either. Also, if Roger Craig doesn't fumble, there is a good chance the 49ers win back-to-back under him (three straight overall). I think if Seifert adds another ring to his resume he's thought of differently (and probably not let go after 1996).

by spr84 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:31pm

Umm, the Patriots have won 12 or more games six times since 2003. The Patriots have won over 10 games 10 straight times and counting, ALL IN THE SALARY CAP ERA. No one is saying that the 49ers aren't great, but i also fail to see how anything the 49ers did in their era shows that Brady is anything but dominant in his era. Don't just look at the W-L record with Cassel as QB in 2008 - look at the difference in the offense!! From 589 points scored in 2007 to 410 points scored in 2008, with 21 TDs on the ground with Cassell throwing only 21 TDs, as opposed to 17TDs on the ground in 2007, with Brady throwing for 50 TDs, with essentially the same receivers! Brady doesn't chuck it 50 yards downfield like some QB's, but his command of the pocket and his decision-making is absolutely very special - to say that "Belichick and his crew have uncovered something special on offense, and they really don't need Brady to succeed" is absolutely simple-minded - your assertion is clearly without ANY proof or serious analysis. You must be an announcer on TV in your other life.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:44pm

If you didn't take my line out of context (another thing talking heads on TV do all the time) you would have seen that the rest of the sentence was that "Brady makes it dominant".

Basically, the Patriots offense is not built off of Brady's skills. That is not a knock on Brady. Brady, because he is a great QB, makes that offense that much better. The Patriots probably could go about 10-6 if you gave them league average QB play. Compare that to some of the other top QBs out there (Rodgers, Peyton), and I doubt the drop is that little. Brady just makes it work at a totally different level.

Obviously it dropped with Cassel. But Cassel started out that season really, really slowly. As he got more acclimated to that offense, they put up numbers late in the season that approached what the '07 Patriots were doing.

BTW, yes the Patriots have won 12 or more games six times since 2003. In that same timeframe, the Colts won 12 or more games seven straight years ('03-'09). Assuming the Colts beat the Chiefs in two weeks, they will have won 10+ games every year since '02 save for one (just like the Pats), and other than the one year where they had the QBs from Hell, were extremely competitive, but felled by bad luck in the playoffs.

Also, I never get the 'the Patriots did it in the salary cap era'. Sure, it makes it harder to retain talent, but it makes it harder for any team to retain talent. They are still playing by the same rules as the rest of the league. It's not like the 49ers (or the Steelers in the 70's) were able to keep their players while other teams weren't.

by NickB (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 8:57pm

First, it's more than a tad misleading (albeit not untrue) to say that the Colts and Pats had one year each that they didn't reach ten wins. The '02 Pats were 9-7. The '11 Colts were 2-14. 7 wins isn't insignificant enough to ignore when you're going to make a "10+ wins" point when it can easily be rebutted with "Alright, fine - 9+ wins." And not to say that the Colts weren't "felled by bad luck in the playoffs" (they were, to be sure), but it's a little simplistic, especially when you're trying to argue against a team that is a 32-yard helmet catch by a guy who sold insurance three months later and a poorly-timed drop by a receiver with five straight years of 100+ catches from five Super Bowls in ten years.

Cassel throttled bad teams and was throttled by good teams. He had great games against the Dolphins (once), the Jets (once, in a loss), @ perennial powerhouse Oakland, and the bizarre 47-7 game in a blizzard against future NFC Super Bowl rep Arizona, where the Cardinals pretty much waved the white flag at halftime. They had one of (if not the) easiest schedules in football as well, playing the AFC West and NFC West at their respective low points. Not to take anything away from Cassel - some of the throws he made were often superb and in that regard it's kind of sad to watch him now. But the Cassel argument doesn't hold up, and never has. They were nowhere near the '07 Patriots - the single best offense of all time - and I don't know you, but I know you know this. I know you keep saying that Brady makes what would otherwise be an above-average offense incredible, but please do not use exactly 16 games of Matt Cassel's career as a basis for that line of thinking (and if you aren't, I don't know where that line of thinking comes from).

And sure - the Patriots offense doesn't play to Brady's skillset, except that Drew Bledsoe went 5-11 with the same head coach and offensive coordinator in 2000 (and 0-2 in 2001, with 19 points over 2 games. Consider that Drew then had a Pro Bowl year in 2002 with Buffalo). Magically, Belichick came up with the idea to "score a bunch of points" exactly at the moment that Mo Lewis collapsed Bledsoe's lung. Brady's been in about 3293849284 offensive schemes since he became the starter - the (actual) dink and dunk of his early years, the middle years with Dillon and Brown and Branch, the downfield offense in '07 and '09, and the offense centered around two incredible TEs since Moss was traded to Minnesota. He's wildly succeeded in every one of them. The fact that (to you) he lacks a similar number of stretches as Manning/Rodgers where you say to yourself, "Wow, he's on fire!" means exactly zero to what he brings to the table as a quarterback.

by spr84 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 9:47pm

Yea, what Nick said. I can't fathom where people get the idea that Brady and Belichick dreamed up one offensive system that they've been running since 2001 - ho, hum, of course Brady does well in that system... Nick is right - Brady has had four distinct offensive designs over the years - while it seems to me that Peyton Manning has been doing pretty much the same thing over much of that time - is that right?

by spr84 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 9:42pm

I don't get that you don't think that your comments aren't a knock on Brady - i think most reasonable people would interpret them that way - when you say that Belichick has discovered some kind of special system....

Yup, the Colts were awesome under Manning, and one year of "Suck for Luck" totally paid off for them - my point is that you don't really think Brady is dominant, just "great".

Yes, Cassell improved with playing time - no, he was not nearly the QB in those games that Brady would have been - i watched almost every one of those games and Cassell was a game manager. Brady is something else.

So, you don't understand how the salary cap changed football? Or, do you forget the illegal machinations of the 49ers to try to cheat the system (think year 2000 or so)? The point of the salary cap system is to ensure a level playing field. If all teams were able to spend about the same in pre-salary cap days, why a salary cap?

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 9:58pm

My issue with the salary cap is that it doesn't make any teams job harder or easier. The rules change for everyone. It wasn't like the 49ers were the Yankees in the 80's just buying up every teams talent for overpriced contracts. They won mainly off the strength of their drafts, something that they could have done in the modern era just as well.

I have said repeated times that Brady turns what would be a decent to good offense into an incredible one. It's not Brady's fault that he's been with one coaching staff the entire time (and McDaniels was there under Weis), and they've made that offense into a machine. We have a year of evidence that the Patriots offense without Brady was a Top-10 offense (and #2 in weighted offense DVOA) and this accounts for the easy schedule. Yes, it was historically good the year before, but it didn't fall off the map without Brady, and we have years of evidence that outside the New England system, Matt Cassel is average at best.

by Shock (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 1:57am

"It's not Brady's fault that he's been with one coaching staff the entire time (and McDaniels was there under Weis)"

So, because McDaniels was there, that automatically makes their offense system the same?

It was previously pointed out that Tom Brady has been in very different offensive systems; with very distinct elements. Go compare their 2001 offense under Weis to what they currently run in 2012. Night and Day. I don't remember them being no-huddle in '01. Nor do I currently see Marc Edward lining up in the FB position on every down anymore, like I did in 2001. The above doesn't even touch McDaniel's spread offense circa 2007, either. Yet, you are trying to conflate all of them, all because McDaniels was simply on the coaching staff under Weis? Sorry, but their offensive philosophy *has* changed; mostly due to changes at OC. OC's who have had pretty spotty track records once they've moved on and tried to coach without Tom Brady. Hmm. So, much for "discovering something special" on offense...

Likewise, Bruce Arians was on the Colts coaching staff in 1998-2000. Are you going to try and claim that Andrew Luck is running the same offense that Peyton always has because of it? Did his crew "uncover something special on offense," too?

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 2:30am

I said he was with the same coaching staff, not the same system.

Also, try to watch Pats games from earlier in their dynasty days. The offense isn't as different as you are making it out to be. They often went shotgun and 4 wide back in 2002-2004. They just did it less because Brady wasn't as good, and neither were the guys he was throwing too.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 10:57pm

I don't really see how it's relevant to bring up the niners getting fined a fifth round pick for Carmen Policy (a man well known as an arsehole amongst 49er fans) trying to slip half a million dollars to retired 49ers to try and dig them out of the salary cap hell he had created. But then the Pats got fined a first round pick for cheating during their superbowls, maybe that's a bigger deal with more relevance to the discussion? Should we be talking about that or should people in glass houses throw fewer rocks at other teams?

by spr84 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 10:15am

Whoa, touched a nerve there - the point was to refer to the salary cap - what the 49ers tried to do implicitly shows that the salary cap changed the rules and the 49ers felt restricted from what they had been able to previously do - no one is denying the excellent drafting of the 49ers - the comment was in response to a comment that seemed to say that the fact that the Patriots have had sustained success in the salary cap era is irrelevant when comparing to a team in the pre-salary cap era - ie., the 49ers or .... I don't think that many knowledgeable observers really believe that the Patriots success was really due to the videotaping (Johnson said he did it all the time when he coached the Cowboys and Dolphins) and the Patriot's success since that date is pretty similar (OK, they can't beat the Giants in the Super Bowl, but they got there twice). Hopefully that helps clear things up a bit...

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 12:58pm

And Steve Young said that the niners didn't videotape people. I don't think it's possible to say for sure that they were or weren't gaining an advantage but you can say that they thought it was worth doing.

As for the salary cap era, it does coincide with the free agency era. For a skilled talent evaluator it is as much of an opportunity as a hindrance. For example the Pats added Roosevelt Coolvin, Rodney Harrison, Tryrone Poole, Terrell Buckley, Roman Phifer, Ted Johnson, I could go on. It;s a lot easier to plug a hole with free agency. How many players have they lost to free agency that have continued to be successful?

by spr84 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 3:31pm

Well, since Belichick is more known for jettisoning players a year early than a year late, i would say that Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Asante Samuel, Richard Seymour, Damien Woody, Daniel Graham, and Deion Branch (the first time) are a few names off the top of my head of high level talent lost to free agency. And don't try to convince me that signing Roosevelt Colvin was worth the dollars - after his hip injury, he never was the same - never had more than 42 tackles a season at any point.

I don't think anyone is actually saying that the free agency era does not help all teams fill holes - the point is that the Patriots' sustained excellence in the salary cap era is a different thing than what teams were able to do in the pre-salary cap era - it levels the playing field. I don't think i've been saying anything other than that. The 49ers had an incredibly outstanding record - with excellent personnel decisions - and an impressive changeover from Montana to Young. But, the rules of the salary cap era are different and make sustained excellence (without periods of down years to gain better draft position) a different situation than what the niners faced in that previous era.

And who ever said anything about the niners videotaping? Johnson said he did it and that most teams did it. When the Patriots got caught ignoring the league directive, owner Bob Kraft asked Belichick how much the videotaping helped, on a scale from 1 to 100- Belichick replied "a 1", to which Kraft replied: "then you are a schmuck" - which most people might agree with, but he is also one of the best football coaches ever and a decent talent evaluator (as long as he isn't draft WRs or CBs).

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 3:52pm

Can you really imagine the Pats releasing any other version of events? Bob Kraft saying, 'Well I asked Bill and he said that those three superbowls we won by the skin of our teeth with last second kicks of nearly 50 yards look pretty dodgy now. We should probably give them back.' Somehow I don't see it.

The players you mention are exactly the guys I was thinking about, none was particularly successful away from New England. Also Colvin was brought in to rush the qb and he did get 15.5 sacks in 2005-06, which isn't too shabby. His partner in crime attacking the qb in that defense was also a free agent, Mike Vrabel.

by SandyRiver :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 5:06pm

So with no further evidence offered, that means they're lying through their teeth. And the above is 1/3 correct about the figgies, unless 41 yards is "nearly 50". Including the one in SB 39 is silly, 22 yards with 8+ minutes left, making the score 24-14.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 6:21pm

You're right they have no incentive to lie, none. That the only person who ever saw the evidence fined them a first round pick and millions of dollars then burned the evidence means that they are completely trustworthy on the issue. If you believe that I've got some polar bear repelling rocks I'd like to sell you.

Oh and I'm done on this, I only bought it up because someone else was insinuating that the 49ers achievements in the 80s and 90s should be discounted because they were found to have done much less.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 6:34pm

49ers achievements in the 80s and 90s should be discounted because they were found to have done much less

Proof by question-begging. So convincing!

by spr84 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 7:34pm

I don't think ANYONE was ever insinuating that the niners did "less" - the point was that the Patriots run of success over time, in salary cap era, is pretty impressive. Pretty much everything else that's been argued by the niners fans are arguing things that weren't actually said. Feels like to praise the Patriots is somehow to denigrate the niners - not sure how that came up.

And to say that the above list of Patriots free agents weren't that great is to ignore how much INT's the above group of DB's had after leaving the Patriots. Though i have to confess it is a bit hard to remember why this was so important to the discussion. Must be getting old!

by theslothook :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 8:32pm

Its kind of funny that my comment started this long chain. Honestly, I really made a mistake bringing up the 49ers in the first place. They weren't tracked by dvoa and so I shouldn't have tried to make that direct comparison.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 9:16pm

I brought up the free agent thing because I think that free agency, which came along with the salary cap, has been a pretty big net plus for the Pats. The guys they lost didn't have a major impact elsewhere, often because they were either overrated or washed up, while they have added some key contributors. Belichick has managed free agency very well. Early on he used it to add useful veterans that nobody else was looking at because most teams were seeking young talent that could be counted on for years but Belichick knew that Buckley and Poole were still solid, veteran zone corners and Roman Phifer was handy replacing Ted Johnson on third downs. He was able to add handy players for little money for a couple of years. I think Bill Walsh would also have been very effective at playing the free agent market, that's the point I was trying to make, sometimes free agency gives while the cap takes.

by spr84 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 11:28pm

Just to clarify on some free agents who left the Patriots:

Ty Law - 10 INTs for Jets the next year; five more seasons in NFL
Lawyer Milloy - 14 sacks and 6 INTs in eight more seasons
Asante Samuel - 25 INTs in five seasons and counting (now on his second big FA contract since leaving NE)
Richard Seymour - four seasons and counting (a 3-4 DE is often hard to substantiate their effectiveness with stats)
Daniel Graham - huge FA contract - similar numbers over next four years with Broncos - awesome blocking TE - still in NFL (68 games since left NE)
Damien Woody - 45 starts in 3 seasons for Jets after left NE
BenJarvus Green-Ellis already has 974 yards rushing in 13 games - should be his career high

That's a pretty good group!

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:10pm

I think they were better with the Pats and I had forgotten about Law's first year with the Jets. However, wasn't Seymour traded for a first round pick?

Milloy was one of the better safeties in the game during his time with the Pats, two sacks and a pick per year is not quite that level of production, though he did provide some veteran leadership.

Samuel is the kind of player that Bellichick uses better than anyone else, he can do one thing really, really well and that's what they used him for. Then he got such a huge contract that his refusal to tackle anyone that was either looking or bigger than him began to grate, then the eagles tried to replace him and eventually traded him to Atlanta, for a 7th.

Graham was paid like an elite tight end and wasn't really, Woody did play well for the Jets but played pretty badly for the Lions in between. Ellis' numbers this year are nothing special for a starting runner and now he fumbles.

You also have to remember that this is ten year's worth of players and in my less than humble opinion the only player they really missed was Seymour, who I think they really could have used in the playoffs the past two years.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/12/2012 - 9:07pm

OK, I'm going to reengage on the accusation of logical fallacy. How have I begged the question? The idea that the niners 'crimes' were less severe than the Pats 'crimes' is based on them receiving a substantially smaller punishment (smaller fine, 5th rounder instead of a 1st), I don't think that's begging the question.

Other than that I am going to revert to non engagement, I really didn't want to get into a protracted argument on a topic that ran its course quite some time ago.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 3:33pm

If both penalties were levied by Tags or both by Goodell, I'd agree with you.

But as we just saw in Bountygate, Tags is way more lenient than Goodell.

by SandyRiver :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 9:36am

Please show how my post even hinted at Belichick/Kraft having no incentive to make up that story. Of course they had incentive. However, I don't consider that to be proof (and Kraft's supposed response sounded like something he would say. That's no proof of anything, either.)

The Pats' FA success seems to come mostly from the bargain bin, especially the haul of apparent JAGs (including Vrabel) prior to their first SB-winning season. The splashier FAs were more of a mixed bag; Colvin was good but injury-marred; Adalius Thomas was a major disappointment.

And no thanks on the rocks; my magic ironwood stick is keeping the polar bears far away.

by Alternator :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:47am

You'll have to forgive Karl his mindless hatred of all things Patriots. He actively roots for career-ending injuries, and is otherwise irrational about the team, but it's just him arguing with you.

by theslothook :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 5:51am

As someone who has argued with Karl repeatedly and also been insulted by him ceaselessly(how do you like Nick Foles now KARL????), you're being a bit dramatic. Karl is no more a homer than most people are with their teams, but hes not any more so. Hes been objective as far as I can tell, just differing with the viewpoints raised.

Obviously, when it comes to legacies, we get a bit touchy. NE fans especially, since so much of their team and qb's legacies are at stake.

I'll say this: the pats fans I've talked two generally come in two stripes: The first, when faced with the issues of how the pats maintain their dominance, universally attribute this all to Tom Brady or Bellichick. The second group tends to look for external factors that aren't as hyped because they hate a simplistic explanation as such.

For me: no matter if you think Brady is great or overrated, The difference between He and Manning or Brees or Rodgers isn't so large as to explain how the Pats routinely field a great pass game and a great run game. These are factors that transcend qb play and the answers to why they do is what I'm most interested in.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:12pm

I have never rooted for a career ending injury to anyone, make up some other crap by all means, I couldn't care less but that's out of order.

by dryheat :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:23pm

Wait....Karl is Bill Polian?

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 9:36am

Be careful people -- you're starting to sound way too much like Gruden...

by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 10:02am

I'm not sure even the homers here can out-fawn Gruden...

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:36pm

Hey Aaron -- can you make an "Irrational Patriots-49ers Thread" page?

by spr84 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 4:43pm

You mean an irrational 49ers fan thread?

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