NEW ORLEANS — From the outside looking in, it sure seemed as if former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees avenged some personal slights when his Ravens defense led the way in Baltimore’s 28-13 victory over New England in the AFC Championship game.
After coordinating the Patriots defense for Bill Belichick from 2006-09, Pees did not return after his contract ended and he wound up as linebackers coach for the Ravens. Most times in the NFL, if you go from being a coordinator to a positional coach, your performance was deemed not satisfactory. But Pees has maintained he was not fired and that it was a personal decision.
Perhaps Pees left the Patriots because he believed Josh McDaniels was going to hire him as defensive coordinator after the then-Broncos head coach fired Mike Nolan. That’s what an ESPN report said last week. It also stated that Pees was “snubbed” by McDaniels in favor of Don Martindale.
So there was Pees getting the better of two coaches who apparently didn’t want him — Belchick and McDaniels (now back as Patriots offensive coordinator) — to reach Super Bowl XLVII.
“Pees receives total revenge,” an NFL executive texted ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
But at Media Day Tuesday, Pees shot down the notion that shutting down the Patriots’ high-powered offense gave him personal satisfaction.
“Well, first of all, the only satisfaction that winning in New England gave to me was the fact that I got an opportunity to come here [to the Super Bowl],” Pees said.
“And second of all, the kind of thought that it didn’t end well in New England is totally false. I am great friends with Bill Belichick, with [Patriots linebackers coach] Pepper Johnson, with all those guys. You guys have no idea why I left there, and you never will. So whatever reason you guys think I left, you don’t know.
“And there’s nothing I have negative about New England. The players up there, the coaches up there are great friends. I had an opportunity to leave and I left.”
Though he was asked about McDaniels and the opportunity that eluded him with the Broncos, Pees didn’t comment on that.
The fact remains that Pees, 63, was able to construct a plan that held the Patriots to their lowest point total since a 16-9 loss to the Jets on Sept. 20, 2009.
Pees didn’t reveal any inside information on his game plan, which clearly stifled Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He said he didn’t take anything from the game-plans of Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has used similar “spin the dial” pass rushes and coverages — changing up each on consecutive plays at times — against Brady in the past.
“He’s done a great job of making game-plan choices and decisions that have been really effective strategically against the people we’ve played,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Pees. “You saw that play out [against the Patriots].
“[Cornerback] Cary Williams mentioned that it was a pretty straightforward game plan, and it was. The guys executed it really well. To me, that’s what a great coach, a great teacher does.”
If you look at the statistics from the AFC title game, you might think the Patriots had won — or at least scored more than 13 points.
The Patriots had more plays, first downs, third-down conversions, total yards, and passing yards, and Brady wasn’t sacked.
But the Ravens came through where and when Pees wanted them to: in the red zone. They scored on all four of their trips inside the 20-yard line, while the Patriots were just 1 for 4.
“One area where the players have bought into was, ‘Don’t worry about stats, worry about points.’ Winning the game and points,” said Pees, echoing the defensive beliefs of Belichick. “And even though we’ve given up yardage and stuff, I . . . could . . . really . . . care . . . less.
“The bottom line is, we need to be good in the red zone, and we need to not give up points. We did good in the red zone all year.”
Patriots fans long will remember how Pees’s defense failed in the red zone the last time he was in the Super Bowl.
Clinging to a 14-10 lead against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII with 39 seconds left, Pees called for an all-out blitz on first down from the 13-yard line that left 5-foot-9-inch cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who was playing with a groin injury, one-on-one against 6-5 Giants receiver Plaxico Burress. The result was an easy game-winning touchdown.
Pees said that was a game-planned call, and he has no regrets about it.
“Sometimes you blitz and they get you, sometimes you blitz and they don’t,” Pees said. “If I would have laid back and they would have scored, then it would have been, ‘Why didn’t you pressure him?’Continued...