Posts Tagged ‘Patriots Defense’

Inside Zone: How the Patriots Run Defense Has Shifted Since the Last Broncos Encounter

Friday, January 17th, 2014

New England’s defensive front has undergone subtle renovations since allowing 280 rushing yards to the Denver Broncos in Week 12. (NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Rush yards were at a surplus when the New England Patriots defense faced the Denver Broncos ground game in Week 12.

Quarterback Peyton Manning handed the football off to his running backs 47 times, and 280 yards were the byproduct. Fifth-year back Knowshon Moreno had a career day, compiling 224 rushing yards and a touchdown on 37 attempts, while rookies Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson combined for 56 yards on 10 attempts.

Whether it was by design or by accident, the Patriots front didn’t give the record-breaking Manning much of a reason to pass to his assortment of receivers – he totaled 150 pass yards. And while the absence of defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly certainly played a part in the Patriots’ failures there, the woes delved deeper than attrition for the then-31st run D.

Much of it came down to how the scheme approached the inside zone.

That approach has since been altered. It may, however, be fine-tuned once again for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Mile High.

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Gap Integrity: How the Houston Texans Running Game Tested Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, and the rest of the Patriots defense faced an aggressive Houston Texans rushing attack in Week 13. (NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Defending the run is a concept that’s simple in theory yet complex in practice.

It’s a concept that the New England Patriots defensive front is still vying to collectively grasp without reinforcement from defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, and linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Currently, New England’s defense ranks 31st in the NFL with 138 rushing yards allowed per game and 26th with 4.6 yards allowed per attempt. And head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have taken schematic measures to avert that trend.

Whether it’s been rooted in matchups or attrition, the front seven has transitioned to more of a 3-4 base of late. The move has bulked the defensive line with an assemblage of rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and practice-squad promotion Sealver Siliga. It has also spelled defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich at outside linebacker, a step back from their traditional stomping grounds.

The rise of the three-man defensive line has impacted more than those who align there, however; it has impacted the responsibilities of linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes.

With an already-depleted retaining wall in front of them, the two have seen offensive linemen upfield at a prolific rate this season. So having one less interior disruptor on the field for much of Week 13 against the Houston Texans only heightened it. (more…)


Planning for Peyton Manning: How Different Defensive Looks Have Found Success vs. Broncos

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

As previous opponents have learned, solving Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense requires more than one answer. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

When it comes to defending Peyton Manning, there isn’t a silver bullet in the defensive playbook. There isn’t one particular player, scheme or personnel package that can take the eyes, intelligence, arm and in-pocket mobility away from the Denver Broncos future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Defending the 37-year-old requires a mixture of different looks and disguises. And every NFL defense that has faced the 12-time Pro Bowler has employed its own method in doing so. But thus far into the 2013 season, few teams have seen their creative efforts culminate in the final score. The Broncos are 9-1, and Manning’s 70-percent passing for 3,572 yards, 34 touchdowns and just six interceptions are an integral reason in why.

Manning is orchestrating a prolific offensive attack reinforced by wideouts Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas and versatile tailback Knowshon Moreno. Predominantly through that onslaught, Denver has notched a league-leading 398 points through Week 11.

Yet come 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday night, the New England Patriots will try to avert that production in meeting No. 14 between Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Although in order to understand the measures New England might take versus Manning and the Broncos, it’s important to understand the measures Denver’s opponents have taken to find some semblance of success in previous tilts. (more…)


Turning Point: How Giovani Bernard’s 28-Yard Run Scratched the Patriots in Week 5

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Bengals running back Giovani Bernard broke Sunday’s game against New England wide open. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Football is a game of capitalizing on mistakes. And against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, the New England Patriots were caught on the wrong side of that ledger, falling short in a 13-6 rain-soaked struggle at Paul Brown Stadium.

Neither side played a particularly clean game Sunday afternoon. But ultimately, both parties had chances to win. It was about which team executed upon those chances to create a turning point.

Up just a field goal with one minute to play in the third quarter, the Bengals did so.

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One for Safety: Patriots Secondary Shows New Wrinkle vs. Buccaneers in Week 3

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

The Patriots appeared to be in a nickel defense against the Buccaneers, but strong safety Steve Gregory was missing. (Photo: NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

“We’ve done that in the past. It’s not a big thing.”

Those were the words of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when asked about the defense’s three-cornerback, one-safety display against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.

“I think more of that look came against their three-receiver sets,” Belichick added. “So our third corner was with their third receiver. Yeah, it’s just a different matchup for us.”

It was a different matchup for the Patriots secondary. It allowed the defense to maintain a 4-3  front, and it allowed the cornerbacks to ship out in a “nickel” alignment – even though only four defensive backs were on the field at once.

The single-safety personnel grouping was showcased for just six plays in New England’s 23-3 win over Tampa Bay, but its implementation alone was enough to draw attention.

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Diversified Fronts: Patriots Defense Shows Array of Personnel in Week 2 Win vs. Jets

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The Patriots front is built on more than just a base defense. (Photo: NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

NFL defensive fronts are like chameleons; they change identity on any given play. And if you’re looking for confirmation, examine the alignments and personnel groupings the New England Patriots showcased versus the New York Jets in Week 2.

The defense wasn’t all deployed in a front seven, a base or a first team during Thursday night’s divisional tilt. Instead, head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia opted for fluidity, implementing 10 players to fill out an assortment of packages.

While the Patriots defense was on the field for 70 official plays over New York’s 34 minutes of offensive possession, the unit did its best to make every snap unique for rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

In the process, 16 different personnel combinations were utilized in the box.

Here’s a snapshot of the metamorphosis.

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Charting the Patriots’ First-Team Defensive Front vs. Eagles in Preseason Opener

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

What can be gleaned from the preseason debut of New England’s first-team defensive front? (Photo: NFL Preseason Live)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

In the days following the New England Patriots’ preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Bill Belichick was quoted as saying, “There’s no first team, at least none that I’m aware of.”

Now at this point in time, Belichick’s characteristic statement may be accurate. New England’s coaching staff is in the process of ironing out personnel groupings and finding the right pieces for the right situations. But regardless of how Belichick chose to slice it, the Patriots’ brass did use particular players by quarter.

And in the first quarter of the Aug. 9 tilt at Lincoln Financial Field, the Patriots’ brass elected to use a combination of players to field the defensive front.

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