A lot of people were flipping out that our defense wasn't stopping the Pats. Heck, Brady threw for 388 yards. The Pats had 34 minutes TOP. They outgained us by over 100 yds offense and ran 85 plays to our 55. They got 26 first downs to our 17. Sounds like they dominated us right? Sounds like we got one of those flukey wins where the best team just couldn't score and we won?
Except the best team DID win and it wasn't a fluke. Our game plan exposed the flaw in Belichicks gameplan. Perhaps I should say flaws, for it was plural. But first, to that offensive domination of the Pats team that we couldn't get off the field and passed all over us. Before i even got to the number I knew the one stat we'd lead the Pats in offensively: yards per play. We especially led them in yards per pass and were tied in yards per rush. All of that, every last bit of it, was according to plan. Heck, it wasn't like it was a secret. Everyone on both teams knew what the plan was. It was this:
Stop Marshawn Lynch. Put men up there, risk giving up the deep strike, and force Russell Wilson to carry the team. The flaw in that plan? Pete and Russell knew it was coming so they discussed beforehand having Wilson scramble about to buy time to make that deep pass. The other flaw in that plan? Wilson has a cannon for an arm and he's stopped heaving up those floaters. He CAN burn a team deep.
You see, Belichicks plan was predicated on the idea that he couldn't.
But there was one more flaw in the Pats plan.
Many people were worried about the Pats short passing game going into today. Some called for ET to play up closer to help out. This would have been a mistake. What ET does is play center field. He uses his blazing speed to make sure we don't get burnt on the deep passes ourselves. This is an important role for him, moreso than your average safety, because we have taller, slightly slower CB's who press and disrupt. Those kind of CB's can only play the hardnosed smashmouth, in your face style of defense they play precisely because Earl Thomas is hanging back, making sure no one burns us deep.
So the next time you feel like ranting that the other team is passing all over us and we're playing a soft zone formation. Don't. Just. Don't. ET is playing back. We are not giving up the TD.
Todays game exemplified that strategy. We let them march downfield. We let them dink and dunk passes, but not much running game, make their 3rd and 10 conversions and get into the red zone.
ahhh, yes, the Red Zone, where elite NFL offenses go to die. You see, once there is no threat of the deep ball getting behind us - because that's out the back of the end zone, Earl Thomas CAN play up closer to the line of scrimmage. The results all season have been pretty predictable: drive stalls, field goal. Tom Brady, to his credit, put two in the endzone in the first half, breaking a pretty long streak of offensive red zone futility by some pretty good offenses.
Earl Thomas is a playmaker and a ball hawk. We've been waiting all year for him to finally hang onto one. Today he got one, he should have gotten two. The first should have been a pick 6 101 yard return. The second would have been if Bryant hangs onto his block. But do you notice the pattern?
both times happened when their offense was in our red zone. Brady was throwing into the end zone.
That's how our defense works. It's built to give up field goals, but let you eat up yardage getting in field goal range. Little bits of yardage per bite. No big plays deep. All of it in front of us for 5 or 6 yards and we'll hit you really hard in exchange for those plays after plays of a little bit here and a little bit there so you can hang your helmet on that field goal.
The flaw of Belichicks plan should have been obvious to him: His plan allows our offense to strike deep for quick TD's when our defense is designed to let the pats run out the clock dinking and dunking away for FG's. Stuffing Lynch cannot work against us. If you stuff Lynch, you leave Russell to burn you deep and you cannot let that happen because our defense will allow 5 scoring drives out of 12 and those are mostly FG's. Kudos to the Pats, btw, in making two touchdowns, but if ET hangs onto that ball, we win this game 31- 16.