Nice job Sunday by the Patriots, beating the Lions at home 34-9. It was a game billed as the best offense vs. the best defense and the Patriots in typical fashion found the soft spot and attacked all day. Rather than banging their head against one of the best defensive front 7’s in football they used a variety of looks and formations designed to get receivers open quickly. For the most part, Brady did a very good job of identifying the right match-ups and attacking and the receivers did a good job of gaining YAC. The offensive line allowed no sacks, but that was easily more the result of Brady getting the ball out on time. What was somewhat astounding is that the Lions defenders, as per the post game comments were actually concerned about the Patriots running attack and were geared up for that. I find that mind boggling but I give you Jim Caldwell, head coach of the Detroit Lions and then that plan makes more sense.
Defensively, the Pats did a nice job making the Lions one dimensional and had some nice holds in the red zone and on the plus side of the field. While the coverage was often good on some really good receivers the Lions did leave at 4 plays out there and had they caught some of those balls that should’ve been catches this game is a lot closer.
With regards to special teams, the Pats again enjoyed a clear advantage with Ryan Allen being an early star fielding a very poor snap in his end zone and booming a 65 yarder that completely flipped field position. Ghost made all his kicks and was solid on kick-offs and the return teams chipped in with a game changing kick return.
All however, was not roses for a team that only calls the season a success if it ends with a Super Bowl victory.
While Brady was decisive and pin point in the first half, he was fairly average in the second, throwing a bad red zone pick and generally being a little off target.
Penalties still continue to be the bug-a-boo of this team. It cost Edelman another punt return touchdown and cost at least two 3rd down stops.
Also, the pass defense was solid, but the Lions dropped at least 2 touch down passes and Matt Stafford inexplicably slid one yard short of a first down on 4th and 10 making the defense look statistically a little better than it should’ve been.
All in all, a very good win vs. yet another division leader.
So, the next ‘Game of the Century’ is here and for me, if they win this game it should lock up home field IF IF IF they key guys stay healthy. I can’t see them losing 2 out the last 4 if they beat Green Bay so a lot of course is at stake.
Some ‘what comes to mind quickly’ on Green Bay:
Green Bay on offense:
1) Rogers and the passing game will prove to be very challenging because he’s simply the best. He’s smart, tough, has maybe the best arm of his generation and is a winner who makes everyone around him better. Basically, Brady with more athletic ability and a better deep ball.
2) They can and will run the ball. Unlike Detroit or the Colts that couldn’t, or Denver that wouldn’t these cats can really run it. If Lacy gets it going, it could prove hard to stop them from putting up 40 or so.
3) Generally solid to dangerous on special teams. Crosby is a solid kicker and they have guys who can take it to the house in the return game.
Green Bay on defense:
1) The live on turnovers
2) Peppers is playing like it’s 2003 and they’ve moved Matthews to MLB which has changed things up and made them more unpredictable
3) They are not a ‘great’ defense per say and plays can be made on them running and passing.
Brady vs. Rogers
We all know they do not play against each other specifically but they do have an effect on how the other will play. If one is hot and racking up the points, the other will be judged by how he responds. Rogers in my opinion is the best quarterback playing right now. There is not one requisite quarterback skill he does not excel at: reading defenses, arm strength, toughness, durability, accuracy, leadership, quickness/agility in and out of the pocket, scrambling for long gains…he can do it all and do it well. Tom is a close second because he’s proving you can teach an old dog new tricks and his is the addition of the ability to extend plays. Tom has always been agile in the pocket, what he hasn’t been doing is actually running to space and making plays which he’s shown the ability to do multiple times over the course of the season.
As a Patriots fan, of course I want Brady to dominate but when this team is in ‘championship’ mode, it’s not about Tom, it’s about the team and it seems that Bill finally has the pieces on the board legitimately slow down, if not shut down any offense.
I will be breaking down this game in more detail on Friday. I’ll be looking at how the I believe the Patriots will match up against the bevy of weapons the Packers employ, how the Patriots will attack what I believe is a Green Bay defense that can be torched, Which team has the advantage on special teams, the Packers home field advantage, weather, injuries and many other topics as well!
A word about Jonas Gray and the LeGarrette Blount acquisition:
I do not think Gray is that good. However, he can move the pile, runs hard and runs the play exactly as it’s designed. No ad-libbing, no juking just brute force power. He lacks speed and unless he gets his pads under the defender is really not all that hard to tackle. Blount still has surprising speed and with his added ability to take kicks back he’s a welcome addition. I do worry about the kid’s future just because he worked so hard to get where he is, and then fell faster than Tiger Woods.
Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving and be safe!