Opposing teams have a read on Tom Brady, Patriots offense
|11.07.11 at 10:28 am ET|
FOXBORO — Before lifting his coach onto his massive shoulders in a wild postgame celebration, Justin Tuck was helping once again to carry the load defensively against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Yes, Brady drove the Patriots 64 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth-and-9 at the Giants’ 14 with 1:36 remaining. And yes, Brady had an 80-yard drive earlier in the fourth quarter following Kyle Arrington‘s end zone pick of Eli Manning.
“All of us defensive guys were kind of bummed out,” Tuck said afterward of the Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski TD. “We had the opportunity to shut them out in the fourth quarter. We played consistently. There’s been some games where we’ve had some spurts of playing really well and then for some [times when] we’ve looked liked we’ve never played together before.”
But the reason Tuck and the Giants were jubilant afterward was their defense for three quarters that kept the undermanned Giants in the game on the road. Brady and the Patriots had three points against a defense that was showing signs of weakness, especially against the run.
However, the Patriots could not take advantage, running just 24 times for 106 yards, with 18 of those yards coming on a BenJarvus Green-Ellis run on their first play of the first quarter. Another came on a Wes Welker 13-yard reverse. Take those two out and the Patriots had 75 yards on 22 carries.
The numbers for the Patriots offense are not good the last three games, albeit against three good to very good defenses. They have put up 20, 17 and 20 points. But against Dallas, they had 13 points before a Brady TD pass to Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds remaining. Against the Steelers, the Patriots couldn’t sustain a drive until the fourth quarter. On Sunday, the Patriots didn’t reach the end zone until the fourth quarter and were inept offensively before picking up the pace.
The serious questions are there: Why is it taking 45 minutes for the Pats to find their rhythm? Have the Patriots and Brady become predictable?
Boomer Esiason — on Monday with Dennis & Callahan — thinks so. So, apparently, do opposing defensive coordinators.
Put pressure on Brady up front. Then, either bump-and-run with the corners like Pittsburgh and Dallas did or drop your linebackers into coverage like the Giants did Sunday and try to confuse or disrupt Brady. It all depends on your personnel. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell thought he had the linebacking group that could play close to the line then drop back into coverage.
The latter is what the Jets did against Brady in the playoff game last January. And it’s what the Giants did on Sunday.
“Today, I think we were consistent against a great offense,” Tuck said. “Considering what we were able to do today, obviously we’re not going to be able to stop them, but to slow them down, and make him think twice about doing some things. He looked like he was a little bit uncomfortable with some of his reads. He took his time at the line of scrimmage. That’s when you know you’ve given him some things that maybe he hasn’t done before or he’s confused a little bit about it. I think Perry had a great plan and he did a great job executing.”
Part of the execution was forcing Brady into two interceptions and another forced fumble, caused by Michael Boley and recovered by Jacquian Williams in the third quarter. That led to the Brandon Jacobs TD that put the Giants up 10-0.
“Michael Boley made a great play on the quarterback,” Williams said. “I just happened to have my eyes open and made the catch. Overall the defense played hard and played strong. It was fast. We made a couple of mistakes but overall we played a good game.”
Giants linebacker Greg Jones provided some insight and maybe a clue to the Patriots if they’re going to turn their offense around next week in New Jersey against the Jets before a national TV audience.
“They started going to a quick snap, even faster than what they were doing earlier in the game,” Jones said of Brady’s two fourth-quarter TD drives. “It threw us off balance, but once we got settled in and knew it was coming we were alert and ready to go. I think everyone came out and put their heart out there. I don’t think anyone ever gave up or thought we didn’t have a chance, even late in the game. I would give our defense a good rating. Obviously, we don’t want to give up a score late in the game. That is how we lean on one another and build each other back up. We all make mistakes out there, but we find a way to win the game.”
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