Re: What are the Patriots flaws against elite defenses?
posted at 5/13/2013 6:16 AM EDT
In response to mia76's comment:
I'll take a simpler view - there are no 'flaws'. How can a team that blows another team off the field one week come back a few weeks later and lose to the same team on the same field. Or how does a 9-7 team win the Super Bowl. On paper none of those things happen, but they happen frequently on a football field, and in every sport played. Seven game playoff series are a better guarantee of 'the best team' winning, but even then wierd things happen.
When you have very good teams playing each other it is even harder to predict what will happen. And when you play against very good defensive teams sometimes your offense fails. And sometimes your defense fails.
I don't think the Pats are perfect - no team is. And I am certainly disappointed that they haven't won a SB in a number of years. But I have felt that every year except maybe the Cassel year, they had a solid chance to win it all with whatever weakness they had. And I don't think they were necessarily the 'best team' in the years they did win it all.
There have only been a few dominant teams in my lifetime that I thought were inevitable champions and most of them didn't win including 2007. A few did like that Bears team and one of the Dolphin teams. Most of the teams that do win have one thing in common - they were the luckiest team that year. Balt had a hail mary answered last year, Giants had one in 2007, pats had a tuck rule, etc.
This is a very rational post, but I do think this team does have flaws, and some of those have been fatal in the playoffs. The most notable is the weak pass defense. That flaw shows up in the regular season too, but when the offense racks up 30 points per game, poor pass defense can be hidden. On offense, the flaws are less apparent, because they don't show against most teams. But the dearth of top quality receivers (on a passing team!) has been an issue, especially if one of the receiving targets goes down to injury. We have relied far too heavily on too few guys for years now.
I also think Wozzy has a good point about toughness. I'm not quite as concerned as Wozzy about the frequent use of so-called finesse formations and plays (i.e., passes from the shotgun, one back sets, and an offense that mostly relies on quickness rather than power), but I do think the O line has not been as athletic and as physical as it needs to be. We lose in the trenches in games against teams with fast, powerful front sevens. It's instructive to watch Super Bowl 46 on the coaches film and focus on the blocking. If you do that, you'll see numerous breakdowns. I have never thought BJGE was a great running back, but if you watch the blocking in 46, you realize pretty quickly that most of his stuffed runs were the result of DLs or LBs coming through unblocked. I love Matt Light, but he had a few big wiffs in that game. Vollmer was clearly still suffering from his back injury. The interior line looked slow footed in adjusting to some of the stunts. These are execution issues, but the lack of ability to execute does suggest that talent on the O line maybe isn't as strong as many think or at least that the injuries on the line are having a bigger impact than most of us notice.
Using multiple TEs and two-back sets can compensate for a weaker O line, but it can also take away other offensive options. The ideal situation is to have five linemen who match up well without extra help against four or five defensive attackers. If you have that, when you go to multiple TEs or fullbacks, you aren't doing so just to get even with the defense, you're doing so to really overpower the defense. If your O line is weaker, you sometimes are adding those extra big bodies just to get back to even--and that means you really are reducing your remaining options to catch or carry the ball. The safety play in Super Bowl 46 is a good example. We used a six-man line (three tackles), which meant there were four rather than five options for Brady, and one of those options (BJGE) was blocking (at least initially), so really there were just three options for Brady. Despite all this blocking support, the O line still couldn't control Jason Tuck and the result was a safety.