NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
It was a great game, but I’m definitely hoping we don’t have to see Rob Ryan again until next season when he’s a head coach somewhere.
All in all, it was vintage Tom Brady and vintage Patriots. Sometimes games aren’t easy and I think it’s good for a team to have to go through some adversity. Brady wasn’t playing at his best against Dallas, but it was really nice to see the defense bail him out, rather than vice versa.
THE LAST DRIVE
Lets face it, no matter how the pass rush did or the secondary or the front seven in run coverage, if Tom Brady was not the Patriots QB, they likely would not have won yesterday. Ultimately, the game was put on the Patriots’ best player’s shoulders and he carried them to victory.
The Patriots went into their core no-huddle offense with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter and Brady went 8-9 for 78 yards and a touchdown. It was Brady’s 26th career game winning drive (14th all time) and 20th career fourth quarter comeback (12th all time). The Patriots ran their no-huddle offense in 39 snaps this week, by far the most in a game this year.
Aaron Hernandez got a chance to redeem himself for a lost fumble earlier in the game by catching the go-ahead touchdown pass and then celebrating by making it rain.
Sure, the Patriots were still missing some key players in Sunday’s win over the Cowboys with Jerod Mayo, Ras-I Dowling, Julian Edelman, Sergio Brown, Josh Barrett and Sebastian Vollmer all out with injuries, but the fact that Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, Aaron Hernandez and Kyle Love were all able to play was a good sign. Obviously I don’t know the extent of all of the Patriots injuries, but since all of the above players have been able to practice in a limited fashion recently bodes well for their activity in the week 8 Steelers game after the Patriots bye week.
Looking forward, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Kevin Faulk and Marcus Cannon can start practicing this week. They have three weeks to begin practicing and once they start practicing they have three weeks to be added to the 53 man roster. So even though all four of those players could come back this week, the Patriots essentially have a six week window to wait to add them.
CONTAINING DEZ BRYANT, MILES AUSTIN AND JASON WITTEN
The Patriots let up 300 yards through the air, but it could have been a lot worse. The Cowboys had significant mismatches in this game with their big, physical receivers going up against Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and Jason Witten, one of the best tight ends in the league, going up against our poor covering linebackers.
Offenses in general seem to be having more trouble getting big plays on our defensive backs now that we’re in zone coverage. The secondary let up four plays of over twenty yards, that’s still not great, but it’s a giant improvement over the first three weeks of the season when they were letting up ten per game. The Patriots chose to not mirror Witten with a linebacker or safety, instead they had Rob Ninkovich bumping Witten at the line, and then feeding him into zone coverage.
Devin McCourty had some trouble after two good games in a row. McCourty let up six receptions on seven targets for 91 yards and the touchdown to Witten. McCourty let up two of the big plays, the other two coming against Patrick Chung and Antwaun Molden (on the last drive). On Witten’s TD, it looked like McCourty was covering him one on one, when Witten broke to the left, McCourty followed him, but then McCourty bit too hard on the play fake half way through the route and lost Witten for the TD.
Kyle Arrington had a good game Sunday allowing two receptions on six targets for 25 yards and an interception. Leigh Bodden was 2/4 for 16 yards, Patrick Chung was 1/2 for 20 yards, Ninkovich was 5/7 for 36 yards, Ihedigbo was 2/2 for 12 yards, Gary Guyton was 6/7 for 67 yards and Brandon Spikes was 2/4 for 4 yards. Guyton and Ninkovich are the weakest links in the zone defense, especially when they’re expected to cover WRs over the middle.
Arrington once again was the Patriots no. 2 CB (69 snaps to Bodden’s 38). Arrington plays well in zone coverage, but when Dowling comes back, I’d expect Arrington to move back to being the no. 4 CB.
PRESSURING TONY ROMO
The Patriots blitzed Tony Romo 13 times on Sunday on downs in which the Cowboys passed, Romo threw for a 55% completion percentage on snaps he was blitzed. On snaps the Patriots actually generated pressure (16 snaps), Romo threw for a 69% clip. Romo’s interception came on a four man rush and the Patriots two sacks came on plays where the Patriots rushed 4 and 3. From my charting last night, Andre Carter had another great game generating eight pressures. Ellis and Spikes each generated three pressures while Wilfork and Ninkovich generated two pressures and Haynesworth generated one.
Andre Carter played 68 snaps against Dallas, his most on the season (thanks Mike Reiss!). Ninkovich played all but one snap, while Wilfork finished with 67/74, Ellis 40/74 and Love 32/74. Haynesworth got a boost in snaps as well playing 28/74. We saw the least of Mark Anderson in this game playing only 9/74. We continue to see limited action from both Jermaine Cunningham (2 snaps) and Dane Fletcher (1 snap).
Ninkovich had a bit of an off day from a pass rush perspective because on almost every play he was rushing the QB he was bumping Witten at the line, and then rushing the QB. Ninkovich also dropped into coverage pretty consistently.
Tony Romo didn’t generate the kind of mistakes that everyone has come to expect, but he was pressured all game and did throw an interception when Andre Carter and Brandon Spikes were in his face.
EDGE CONTAINMENT AGAINST THE RUN
The Cowboys couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Despite Guyton’s troubles in the passing game, he, Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes and even Kyle Arrington were all over the field stopping the run. Felix Jones finished with 14 yards on eight carries before leaving the game with a high ankle sprain. Demarco Murray and Tashard Choice weren’t much better gaining 32 yards on ten carries and 14 yards on five carries respectively.
If opposing offenses can’t get anything going off tackle against New England, this is going to be a very stout run defense. Wilfork and Love are great at stuff the run up the middle and Carter and Ellis have been very impressive the last few weeks as well. Once Mayo comes back, this run defense will be getting even better. The Patriots could see an improvement in tackling, but they’ve been great at swarming to the ball carrier.
NOT ABANDONING THE RUN
Despite how close this game was, the Patriots didn’t stop pounding the ball. The Patriots ran with authority for the second straight week finishing with 101 yards on 25 carries against the league’s best run defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis played a very “BenJarvus Green-Ellis”-type game running 14 times for 58 yards without breaking a run for over nine yards. Stevan Ridley was impressive in limited opportunities breaking a sixteen yard gain. Woodhead wasn’t 100%, but having in the game for the no-huddle offense is key to this team’s success.