How to Defend Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Now that the playoffs are set the question on everyone’s mind is who will be the next Super Bowl champions.  The New England Patriots have been there before and are certainly one of the favorites.  In order to get to the top, someone will have to beat the Patriots, but how do you stop the Patriots offense?

How to Defend Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

The Patriots offense is a well-oiled machine.  Conventional wisdom says to put pressure on this sort of offense, but conventional wisdom rarely takes down Goliath.  The Patriots offense is based on timing.  Tom Brady is looking for the blitz in order to take advantage of holes in the secondary.  He gets the ball off fast enough that the blitz is often irrelevant.  Although Tom Brady is an emotional player, he is not the type to become rattled on the field.  In order to disturb this offense, a defensive coordinator should put pressure on the receivers rather than the quarterback. 

Jamming and Rerouting

The blueprint for defending the Patriots is rushing only three or four players and playing max coverage in the secondary with defenders jamming and rerouting receivers off of the line of scrimmage and playing deep field coverage to stay on top of the big play.  The Patriots offense loses its luster when its timing is thrown off.  Allow them all the time they want to throw the ball, but disrupt their timing by disrupting their receivers.

Disrupting Timing

In order to best accomplish this, the receiver should not be able to identify who will be jamming or rerouting him on a given play.  These defenders must come from different directions.  You are limited on the outside, but slots receivers and tight ends can be affected by various inside defenders.  The Patriots will get their yards in the passing game, but as the game goes on the cumulative wear on the receivers along with the increased disruption in the timing of the passing game will have a greater effect.  This could pay particularly high dividends when looking at key situations such as third downs late in the game.  

Gap Integrity

While accomplishing this passing game disruption is key, it is important that a defense stay sound in the run game.  The Patriots have a talented backfield.  They will be able to gain yards on the ground, but the key is keeping gap integrity and not allowing big plays in the running game.  The Patriots must be put into passing situations where the defense can have an effect on the receivers.  Mixing up coverages and creating these situations will create turnover opportunities.  Since the likelihood of any defense pitching a shutout vs Tom Brady and the New England Patriots is low, creating more opportunities for your offense is important.

Beating the Patriots is no small task.  In fact, it will take strong performances out of the offensive, defensive, and special teams units to accomplish it.  In order to beat this sort of opponent, a team must be willing to act unconventionally and take a lot of risks.  In this case, the risk is letting Tom Brady throw the ball and focusing on pressuring the receivers.   

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