2016 Season Blog.

Pats Vs Houston.

7-Things For Saturday Night.


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1. Grudge Match- You can say a lot about Houston, but they can play defense. "They've still got the same players on the other side," Bennett said. "When we played against them they were flying around. They had a lot of good individuals. I think right now they brought it together and they're playing very well as a team. All those individuals, you could name them. From Simon to Clowney to Hal, all of those guys are playing very well." They were in the worst Division in the NFL this year.

They won with defense and a tricky offense. "We just know what our job is and what we need to do in order for us to excel and in order for us to win," Harmon said. "The best job for us to do is not letting the offense score points. Whenever they get in the red zone, limit them to three or get a turnover. Obviously, I think that that's well. I think the way we've been playing in the run game all year, I think that really helps us, especially in this stretch. If we can make teams one-dimensional and get them away from their game plan, make them do things they do not want to do, that's what we want. So if we can continue to keep working and pick up where we left off, hopefully we can continue to execute the way we've been doing." Now you can tell me that Houston can't beat the Patriots with their dejected and reincarnated QB, and I would have trouble arguing with you.

But they can play defense. "It's phenomenal," Brady said about the Houston defense. "It's hard to imagine taking away J.J., who's been Defensive Player of the Year three times, and then still being the number one ranked defense in the league. They just stepped up to the challenge. They'd obviously much rather have him in there, but you know, sometimes you face these situations and the rest of the guys really pick up the slack." Clowney really stepped up last week, and we will see if he can do it again this week.

That's the difference between a HOF life Watts, and a JAG. "I think they all do a good job with what their role is," Brady said. "They move guys into different spots and I think they do a good job with their front. They move guys around and they still find ways to get to the quarterback and force the ball out. Certainly in the wild card game last week they did a lot of that and really made it challenging for that offense. We've just got to hone in. There's a lot of great communication we're going to need. We're blocking a very good scheme, but also great players, so it's no easy task for us." Their defense was great last week.

The question is can they beat the Pats with just defense, like the Broncos did last year in the Playoffs. "I just think the guy's the most poised quarterback in the NFL," Clowney said about Brady. "Playing him, he doesn't get rattled at all most of the time. He just keeps staying calm, and that's what makes him so good. He just stays calm back there. Even when you do get the pressure, he steps up and makes the best pass. You got to get after him. We just have to go in there, execute our game plan and try to force him into some bad throws and some turnovers. Try to get away with a win." They know the Pats system and have played them enough to know what the Pats want to do. 

You can call it a laugher, but this is the biggest game of the season for the Pats, period. "I view it as the biggest game that we've played all season against the best defense that we've played all season," Brady said. "I don't see any letdown from us. That's ridiculous to think that. I'm preparing like this is the hardest game we've faced all season, which it will be, and it means the most. There's only one priority for all of us this week, and that's to be at our best mentally, physically, emotionally for three hours on Saturday night starting at 8:00 p.m. All of my attention is focused on those three hours and getting prepared for that moment so that we can go out and play with anticipation and confidence against the best defense we've played all season. There's nothing easy about it." Arrogance can lose a game as quick as blueberry turnovers.

This defense is stacked with stars who can change a game with one big play. "He's an incredible player," Brady said about Clowney. "I mean, he's obviously had so much promise since he came into the league and he's really shown everybody why he was picked one overall. He does so many things well. He's obviously got all of the size, but the speed, the quickness, and how hard he is playing. He's chasing guys down from behind and making plays." He is an obvious physical freak.

He finally turned his elite physical skills into impact plays on the field in the Playoffs against the Raiders. "The plays last week were huge in the wild card game; the interception, the tipped balls. He kind of does everything for them. He's really come on, and like I said, they've got a good scheme. They've got a great scheme," Brady said. "They're well-coached, and then with players like Jadeveon, Brian Cushing I have a lot of respect for, all of their guys in the secondary, Vince and what he does. Whitney Mercilus is a great player. We've played against him a bunch. Antonio Smith comes in some passing situations and does a great job of getting after the quarterback. It's a big test for our offense. They don't have any weaknesses on defense. So we're going to just have to play good sound football and try to take advantage of our opportunities if we get them." I was very impressed with Mercilus on tape last week.

Mercilus was looking like a Pro Bowler to me. "My thought process about the game, just understanding exactly what to look for and how to play a lot faster without thinking, that’s what was one of my problems," Mercilus said. "So I’ve been able to change that especially sitting down with Coach Vrabel in actually dissecting the game. Now you’ll probably see me like 20 yards where the ball is at, because I know exactly where the ball is going now." He sounds ready to go, and not ah-scared at all.

Houston has a bunch of great defensive players, like some guy named Buoye. "He's had an incredible year. What a great young player and great future that he has," Brady said. "I mean, he's just shut a lot of people out over the course of the season. He seems like he's a feisty young player. He's certainly not afraid to get in there and play in the run game, but really his coverage skills are very impressive for someone of his size. He's got all of the makings of what it takes to be a great corner in this league. He's surrounded by Kareem [Jackson] and Johnathan [Joseph], who I've played a lot of football against. I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they do. Quintin Demps is a hell of a player. He's had a great season. [Andre] Hal has had a great year at safety. They've got a great group back there." They don't give up a lot of space for the QB to throw into. 

Bednarik McKinney can play. "They play some five-DB's with McKinney and Cushing as the linebackers," BB said. "But I mean they have good coverage players. They use them in different roles. They lost Johnson. They lost Dillon, but they've had other guys step in there. Moore has played well for them, obviously Demps. Demps had a big year in terms of turning the ball over. Buoye has played well for them outside. He played inside a little bit against us. Joseph, Jackson, Nelson has played well. I mean, they're all a good group." That secondary is impressive.

Quintin Demps has turned into a great Safety for them. "They have good players. Good players, good pass rush, good coaches, they're well-coached, have good fundamentals," BB said. "They don't give up a lot of long balls. They're competitive on really just about everything. All three, really all four of their corners including Nelson have played well. Demps has six interceptions. Hal, Moore. They're all good. They're good at linebacker with Cushing, McKinney. They play a lot of six-DB's." They are a very tough defense, with their two ILB helping in coverage and blitzing like Collins and Hightower used to do for the Pats.

Cushing can still get outside, and stuff the outside run all by himself. "He plays so hard," Brady said. "He's on the field every snap. He's obviously smart. He's got all of the instincts. He's got the experience. He's got all of the athleticism. He does well in the run game and the pass game, is a very strong tackler. When those plays are running through you as the ‘mike' linebacker you've got to be on top of everything and it looks like everybody can really count on him every time and he's had a phenomenal season." Their linebackers cause a lot of problems.

Cushing and McKinney are the heart and soul of their offense. "And I think that along with their pass rush, they have great coverage at linebacker with McKinney and Cushing," Brady said. "They can get after the quarterback. So they stop the run, play on their terms, get after the quarterback. They've got a lot of good scheme stuff that Romeo does that is challenging to prepare for. There's nothing easy about it. There are no plays off. They challenge you in every aspect, so we've just got to be very sharp. Our execution has to be at its highest level, and it's going to be the toughest defense we've faced all year. We're going to have to see if we can meet that challenge." Their defense is ranked number one for a reason.

And don't forget the Mighty Vince. "I think I've spoken at length about my respect and admiration for Vince and his career. Right now we're just focused on getting our team ready to play Saturday night," BB said, then continued. "I mean, they're very good on defense. They've got a lot of good players. Vince has a solid role for them. I'm sure he gives them great leadership. A strong player, hard to block, smart." He sure is.

Vince! Buddy! We miss you! "I've looked over center for many years and seen him. He's just in a different jersey [now]," Brady said. "But he's still just a force. I mean, both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He's been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I'd much rather have him on our team, but that's not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it's still great to see him playing and playing well." If we win, it will be good to see him play again.

And of course Clowney. "With a guy like that: he's so talented, very athletic, very long, you've got to be playing great ball," Solder said. "You've got to be working with your teammates, you've got to be able to change things up on him and be able to play really well when you need to." He has been on fire the past couple of games.

The Pats O-line had better be ready to play, because Houston is going to be coming from every angle. "It's been a real blessing for our team, because your right, last year was so challenging," Brady said about the O-line. "Guys were in and out. We had some big, kind of catastrophic injuries with guys being out all season, and then we had some week-to-week stuff where guys were coming from center to tackle, and tackle to guard, and switching sides of the line which is a big challenge. This year we've had a lot of stability, which is great for any offensive line, and it's really been a big part of the reason why I think our offensive line has played so well. We've had a great season up front and the guys have done such a great job in the run game and the pass game." Last year the O-line was decimated.

This season they have been playing together all season long, and that continuity could take them to the Super Bowl. "Joe playing next to Nate all season, and Dave really kind of anchoring the middle, and then Shaq and Marcus have been together," Brady said. "So I think you gain a lot of trust in one another when you're playing next to each other, and there's a lot of things that come up where maybe it's a lot of anticipation, a lot of non-verbal communication that goes on that needs to happen over the course of an entire game to be productive. Our guys up front have really taken to that. They've just done such a great job for us all year. It's really been the strength of our offense." They are going to have to have their best game of the season.

So this idea that the Pats can stroll into Foxboro with a picnic basket filled pie, apple turnovers, and cake and go home with a victory is ludicrous. This game is going to be a big, tough, ugly, slugfest. Their defense is armed and ready to do some damage. They don't give a crap about the last time they came into Foxboro and got blown out. In fact that game pisses them off, and they want revenge. They're not scared. They're pissed.  

2. Win Or Go Home.- The Playoffs are a different cat. "I mean, it's win or go home football," Hogan said. "You want to go out there and put your best foot forward. Things are going to be up and down during the game. It's not always going to be perfect so you just have to go out there and learn from whatever adjustments we have to make and just keep playing good football." Lots of guys die on the plains of the Playoffs.

It's all pressure all the time. "You've got to prepare like you're playing a new team, which we pretty much are," Edelman said. "When a team is going through September, it's usually a team trying to find its identity. Around the league, everyone is trying to find where they're at. Completely different teams, this will be the best team we've played all year. Any time you play a team that's won a playoff game already, it's most certainly going to be the best team you've played thus far. It's going to be a big battle. We know Billy-O, he's going to have that team coming in here fighting hard. They're going to be well-coached. They have a lot of good players." You win or get buried in history.

As the Pats slept last week, Houston's D killed the Raiders. "They've been playing as well as any secondary that we've faced all season," Brady said. "Their cover guys have done such a great job for that defense and there is a reason why they're ranked number one. They don't give up any easy yards in the pass game. They don't give up any big plays. They're really well-coached, which is very easy to see. I think they've just really come on over the course of the whole season. I've just been very impressed with what I've seen." They defended their Home turf.

The Patriots are the most experienced in this atmosphere left in the Playoffs. But they still have a surprising amount of players who now have less Playoff experience than the Houston players got last week. So to think that Houston is just going to lay down is ridiculous.

Saturday night is going to be a war. "I think for me personally, the excitement and anticipation grows with every season because you know those opportunities are becoming less and less," Slater said. "As a young player, I really had no idea what to expect or how fortunate I was to be on a playoff team, but as an older player, you really appreciate those opportunities. You really have to work harder to make sure you contain yourself and you pace yourself throughout the week. I'm excited about the opportunity to play in another playoff game. A lot of players don't get this opportunity over the course of their careers. I just need to stay in the day-to-day, make sure I do what I need to do to prepare each and every day, and then come Saturday, let it rip." Do or die time baby!

There is no tomorrow in the Playoffs. "I don't think it's like any other game," Solder said. "I think that we go about our process the way we've done it all year in terms of preparing really hard, getting to know them really well, but we know that this is a one-shot deal and we have one opportunity to play our best ball on Saturday." You win or you go home.


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