Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Loyalists - Patriots Need To Concentrate On Fundamentals, Not Trickery

Every week, two of our bloggers pick each others brains like a couple of zombie baboons - today it's Jacob Bertram from and Michael Hamm from Foxborough Free Press serving up questions for each other in advance of the New England Patriots' Sunday showdown with the Miami Dolphins...

The New England Patriots are in uncharted territory.

Though it's not as if the team hasn't dealt with injuries before, and the number and frequency of players on the shelf is excessive, the Patriots aren't reacting to these injuries as they have in the past.

You see, in past seasons, the Patriots have survived and even thrived just by making sure that they were fundamentally sound with the players that they had left, the coaching staff putting these players in the best possible circumstance to succeed - but it doesn't feel like that this time.
Belichick and McDaniels need to get Brady in better position to succeed

For the past five weeks, we have witnessed a breakdown of fundamentals - and not surprisingly, the Patriots have struggled, going 2-3 in those contests. To their credit, however, they have been in each loss to the very last possession, losing twice in overtime and once after storming back from a 21 point , fourth quarter deficit to within a touchdown, only to fall short when the pass catchers suddenly developed a case of the Wes Welkers...

So it's not as if New England hasn't been competitive, but it does illustrate that with as many injuries as they are working though, there is very little margin for error - and the errors have been plentiful.

For instance, in the aforementioned loss to the Eagles where they nearly overcame a 21-point deficit, Philadelphia scored on a blocked punt, an 83-yard punt return and a 99-yard interception return. In the overtime loss to the Broncos, a muffed punt helped Denver complete a comeback and in the loss to the Jets. a breakdown in fundamental play calling on offense and poor tackling on defense was the bitch kitty.

So it's not just one area or one player or even isolated to just a particular matchup, it's something that has made its way through Gillette Stadium like a virus, and the only cure is to get back to doing the one thing that has sustained the Patriots through harsh times in the past: Reliance on being fundamentally sound.

It has to be better from top to bottom, and that includes the coaching.

I understand that this time of year and with playoff spots wrapped up, the play calling has to be vanilla in nature, but the entire Patriots' Way credo is built on the coaches taking their players' skill set and building a game plan around them - and it doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be deceptive, it just has to be fundamentally sound.

These are the New England Patriots, and you've heard it said that the only team that can beat them is themselves, and for the past month, that's exactly what they've been doing - or at least making things much harder on themselves than they should be...

This week's questions:

The Dolphins may be the worst run franchise in the National Football League.  Do you see Mike Tannenbaum still being the football czar in Miami next season given how badly he misjudged the market or will he have carte blanche yet again?

Jacob: Mike Tannenbaum and the Dolphins made a lot of risky decisions this past off season, and now they don't seem to be paying off. I however, am a big believer in allowing things to take shape and allowing people to build their program.  I feel nowadays especially, that a lot of time coaches and GMs aren't given the adequate time needed to build a successful program.  Yet when it comes to the Dolphins and Tannenbaum, they have a past of royally screwing things up. This year making a 114 million dollar decision with Ndamukong Suh.

If you allow someone that kind of power over decisions, I feel you have to at least give it a couple years to work out. The contract isn't going anywhere, so the man that wrote it up should stick around to see it through. However, the Dolphins are the Dolphins, and will most likely panic after seeing all that money go to one defensive tackle and seeing their run defense perform poorly. Ole Tannenbaum might be looking for work months after signing away the Dolphins future

With Stephen Jackson seeing his first action as a Patriot last week do you see his amount of carries increasing this week against the Dolphins? Also what would you consider the right amount of carries for Jackson moving forward?

Mike: By default, the Patriots will probably rely on Jackson for 15 touches, which is probably about right on a pre-game basis. But they need to mix it up with him, as he is an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield, which makes him the first true three-down back the Patriots have had in some time, with the exception of the small sample of work we got from Dion lewis.

At 6’ 2” and 240 pounds, Jackson is built like a “Move” tight end, and with sub 4.5 speed he needs to be in the pattern.

You see, last week wasn’t a true representation of what Jackson could be for this team. When he was in the game, the Jets loaded the box, and when he wasn’t, they went nickle. The game plan was that vanilla and predictable – now, they certainly don’t want to open up a package that they could unwrap in the post-season, but this is what Jackson could bring to the field if used properly. At least that way, teams wouldn’t be so apt to load up the box.

Injuries have forced the Patriots to abandon some of their time-honored tenets, adjusting on the fly to keep win some scrappy games – do you feel that when the Patriots take the field against the Dolphins that this trend will continue with vanilla play calling, even though many of the injured core players are ready to take the field?

Jacob: With the announcement that Edelman will miss the last game of the season, and with Vollmer also being out this week, I don't see much changing on the offensive front. I'm sure Josh will dial up similar plays from the past weeks, and hope the defense can pick up enough slack to get us a week 17 win. With it being an important game, I'm sure everybody who is healthy will be active and playing. I'm looking for another big game out of Keyshawn Martin, and for Stephan Jackson to see more playing time as well. Brady said all hands on deck... well at least the ones who can suit up.

In my opinion this week is a must win. Do you see having home field advantage through the playoff a must for the Patriots?

Mike: It is a must win.

I wrote a few days ago that the Patriots, historically, need at least a first round bye to make it to the Super Bowl, and that their odds of doing so increase exponentially with the top seed.

The loss to the Jets was a gut-punch to the organization as they missed a very tangible and very needed chance to wrap up the top seed, which would have given them the opportunity to turn the Dolphins game into nothing more than a live scrimmage for their depth chart and would have given them the chance to get all of their core players healthy and rested – but now they have to play their core players and expose them to injury in order to secure the top seed.

Is it the end of the world if they don’t beat the Dolphins? Of course not, but the odds say this is a must win – and while this is true, they shouldn’t treat it as a playoff game. All the Patriots need to do is to get back to fundamental football and execute as they are capable, and they will be fine.

Even as injured as they are, this is still a team who are their own worst nemesis.

The Jets gouged the Patriots up the middle in the running game last week, as the Patriots were forced into more players in coverage without their two starting safeties, going dime on several occasions. Are the Dolphins capable of forcing the Patriots’ hand again?

Jacob:  Last week the Patriots, for good reason, were concerned with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Defending these two guys while missing both of your starting safeties is no easy task. Even though they did an admirable job for the most part, both of these guys still hurt the Pats. In their attempt to cover them, they were left with some holes in the defense. The Jets took advantage of this, gouging the Patriots up the middle on certain plays.

While Jarvis Landry is the real deal, and rookie DeVante Parker is someone I think will eventually be a star in this league, neither of them will merit the attention Marshall and Decker got. Hopefully with some players returning this week, the Patriots will not allow Lamar Miller the kind of room they gave to the Jets backs. With Hightower ruled out already, this task has been made harder immensely.

The Patriots are banged up at WR and the Dolphins are poor as defending the run. Do the Patriots come with a run heavy attack this week or will Brady look to get Julian Edelman warmed up for the playoff run?

Mike: Balance, son. Balance.

Balance is the key to an offense that is as banged up as the Patriots are virtually everywhere.

Previously, you asked about Steven Jackson’s role in the offense going forward, and I eluded to the need for them to be less predictable and using Jackson in the pattern to offset the fact that their passing game isn’t what it used to be with everyone healthy – and the same goes here.

They need to get Edelman into some game action to gain back synergy with the offense, but shouldn’t go full bore with him, if at all. When sticking to fundamentals, the Patriots have plenty enough to win this game but if they try to get cute with the play calling as they have since Danny Amendola came up lame, it could be their downfall.

Cuteness doesn’t win football games. Fundamentals win football games.

To read all about the Patriots from an old-school twist, be sure to follow us on Foxborough Free Press and on twitter at @ffpblogger, and for a fresh, modern view of the team go to and follow Jacob on twitter as well at @gamegentsdotcom !

No comments:

Post a Comment