Keys to beating the Patriots on Sunday

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'm pretty sure Caldwell isn't scouring the internet, looking for a Patriots blogger with the keys to the kingdom.  At any rate, blogs are a chance to turn ourselves into armchair quarterbacks and today, I'm opening up the family safe for all to see.

On last night's Stampede Blue Radio, we talked about 1 surprise player for each team.  My pick was TE Benjamin Watson for the Patriots.  Watson is not racking up insane numbers and, for all intents and purposes, is flying under the radar.  Caldwell probably knows about him, but will Big Ben garner some respect?

Read on...

Another question I get asked consistently during cross blogging exchanges is, "How does my team beat the Patriots?  I have my answer, but want to hear yours."  I invariably launch into a dissection of our offense and defense, pick out some weak positions, and point to them.  9 out of 10 times, they come back with, "Keep Brady off the field."  It's simplistic, but accurate.  Like Peyton Manning and the Colts, the Patriots need Brady on the field to score points.  But both have proven you can do a lot with very little time.  So keeping them off the field, while somewhat accurate, is a bit of a 30,000 ft view.

  • Belichick has been sneaking Ben Watson into packages where we need some third down yardage or in red zone situations and the man has been delivering.  I would argue he's our "third receiver".  While defenses are busy with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Tom Brady can find Watson.  Respect Watson and you'll take away a potent weapon.
  • Takeaway the deep ball.  In our '07 matchup, Tony Dungy decided to sacrifice the underneath routes to Wes Welker and blanket Randy Moss with coverage.  The Patriots ultimately won that game, but it was very, very close.  The Giants used a similar strategy in that season's Super Bowl and it worked.
  • Dwight Freeney needs to be in Tom Brady's face all...the...time.  It is likely that Matt Light will be out and rookie Sebastian Vollmer will take his place at LT.  Don't discount Vollmer; he's been playing very well, but has never stood across the "Spin Doctor".  Matt Light has a lot of experience with Dwight, so I hope Vollmer is sitting next to Light on the plane ride.
  • Offensively, it's almost suicide to blitz Manning.  He has the quickest release in the game and defenses burn themselves by sending guys in, only to find the ball sailing over their heads.  However, the Patriots defense has been successful rushing the middle rather than the edges.  Safeties Brandon Meriweather and rookie Patrick Chung have been lurking in the box a lot and looking for holes to shoot through.  This may manifest itself when you see a 4-3.  Watch out for those guys.
  • Look for a 4-3.  NE has been using this formation quite a bit to overwhelm opposing OLs.  As mentioned above, they use it to create gaps for safeties and linebackers (think Jerod Mayo) to slice through and get at quarterbacks or disrupt running plays.
  • Edge rushing has been weak despite having OLB Adalius Thomas and OLB/DE Derrick Burgess on the team.  Right now, I see their responsibility as sealing the edges.  I don't believe you'll see a significant pass rush from the sides.

That's that.  I'll sit here and wait for Caldwell or Manning to call.  I'm sure they're chomping at the bit for this info.

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