Pats Vs. Houston

Part I.


7-Things For Sunday Night.


Greetings Pats Fans,

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1. (Gulp) JJ Friggin' Watts- Houston is a strange team. I don't think they are a super talented team. But, they have the best defensive player in the NFL, and maybe the best non-QB offensive player in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins. Both are freaks. Both can dominate a game. "We're going to have to do a good job in all three areas," BB said. "Obviously the great players that they have: Watt, [OLT Duane] Brown, Hopkins, Lechler. We're going to have to deal with all those guys, but then they have a lot of good depth, a lot of young players that have played very productively for them as well. We're going to be challenged all the way across the board. Corners do a good job. They have good depth at that position. They're good on defense period. So, a lot of challenges this week. I'm sure it will be a great environment Sunday night, a lot of energy in that place, and hopefully we'll be able to play our best game." So apparently there are four freaks on Houston.

Okay, we all know Bill loves his special teams. But thinking Lechler is one of the best players in the NFL might be pushing it. "Lechler is obviously one of the great punters of all time," BB said. "So they're very good in that area. Playing well, doing the things they need to do to win." I stand corrected.

Personally I'm a Hopkins guy. "He does a lot of things well, too," BB said. "I'd say it starts with his hands. He has great catching skills and a great catching radius. He's averaging over 15 yards a catch or right at 15 yards a catch, whatever it is for his career. He's had a ton of production, but it's not on two-yard slant routes and stuff like that. He's making plays down the field. He's always open because he's got the ability to catch the ball. Wherever the defender is, if the ball is thrown opposite the defender, he's long enough and good enough to come down with a lot of tough catches. He's long, he's got good playing strength, quickness, can get open, but he goes up and competes for the ball and comes down with it in tight coverage a lot, so like I said, really he's always open because he can come down with the ball. His ball skills and length are exceptional." I'm still more ah-scared of Hopkins.

The defense has to be prepared for this guy like no one else we've faced this season. "It's very tough," McCourty said about preparing for a player like Hopkins. "There's times where people have pretty good coverage one him and he has the ability to go up and get the ball and make tough catches with one hand, or any way he can try to get to the ball. He does a really good job of making tough catches, especially in traffic." If they can Demaryius Thomas this kid, it would go a long way towards winning. I like Butler on Hopkins with McCourty over the top. He is that good of a player.

But I'm not sure they will. Hopkins is a better player than Thomas. Houston is a team from the BB Tree, and they change things up each week to try and exploit their opponent's defense. "I think the first thing is they're tough to prepare for," McCourty said. "They do a ton of different things from an offensive standpoint as far a personnel and play-calling. It's really a true game-plan offense, where what exactly you're going to get each week you really don't know. They change it up and obviously, DeAndre Hopkins stands out on film. He makes some great catches down the field, and also they use the receivers and backs in the pass and run game." But it is Hopkins who makes the plays that stir the pot. He consistently bails the offense out.

Then of course there is JJ Watts. The only defensive player who had a shot at the QB dominated MVP trophy since 1986. He produced some serious stats last season. He garnered 20.5 Sacks last season, and it was the second time he produced that exact number of Sacks. Plus, he was blocking shots like Bill Russell (16 PBU in 2012, and 10 in 2014) and scoring like Seth Curry (5 TDs and a Safety last season alone). He led the NFL in hurries and QB-hits with 47. He played special teams, blocked a field goal. He also garnered 5 FF (one of which he retuned for a 45-yard TD), 1 INT (that he returned for an 80-yard TD). He was the top two-way player in the NFL. He scored three TDs on offense, and two on D. Plus, he had an astonishing 42 QB hits. I still don't understand how he did win the MVP last year.

It's like I always say about the NFL, "if you can't hit the QB you can't win." He not only leads the NFL with 13.5 Sacks, he has hit the QB better than a lot of teams combined. He already has been credited with 42 QB-hits this season. That is just an incredible stat. With the Pats desperate for a win to stay in the second spot for the Bye and the play of the Pats O-line so far, it is not a good thing to be seeing him this week.

JJ has been dynamite over the second half of the season since he got healthy. "He's pretty special," BB said. "He does a lot of things really well, and everybody game plans for him every game. He gets a lot of double teams, the line sliding to his side, teams trying to run away from him, teams trying to handle him, but he does a good job with all of it. In spite of all the attention he gets and the schemes that are put in week to week to try to handle him, he still has a tremendous amount of production. They move him around a little bit, so he's not always in the same place, although he plays a lot on the offensive right, the defensive left, but he shows up in other spots as well. Romeo and Coach Pasqualoni have done a good job of moving things around enough to keep the offense off balanced. He's done a really good job of dealing with a lot of extra attention, whatever it happens to be: line slide, double team, tight end staying in. Similar to some of the things that we saw from teams dealing with Taylor at New York. He's got that kind of disruptiveness." Hmm Lawrence Taylor, the last defender to win the League MVP.

In my opinion he was a better player last year that LT's MVP year in 1986. "I wouldn't go above Taylor because of the versatility that Taylor had in terms of pass coverage," BB said. "He was a pass rusher and a run player and a pass defender. He was really an elite player at everything, including the kicking game. And of course Watt has blocked a lot of kicks, too, but I think for the position he plays he's as disruptive of a defensive linemen as I've seen in the league in the same general category as L.T." But-but-but... Bill...? I'm sorry but Watt was more versatile in 2014 than LT.

With the way the O-line has been playing, since Vollmer and Cannon came back too early, Watt scares the crap out of me. "Watt's a major force," BB said. "There have been very few players I would put in the same conversation with Taylor but I would put Watt there. Now it's early in his career and he's done a lot already, Taylor did it over a long period of time, but Watt's done it pretty consistently now. He's that same kind of player. It's the same kind of player. I know he was the unanimous MVP last year. He's already earned that award this year, even if he didn't play the last four games, which this might be a good game for him to rest. But he's a dynamic player, very hard to block. You can't run at him, you can't run away from him. He wins with speed, he wins with quickness, he wins with power, he plays inside, he plays outside, he plays out on the tackle, he plays in on the guard, both sides of the line he's had production when they flipped him and he's played a little bit on the center, he's hard to block there, too, batted down I don't know how many passes. We've watched him bat them down for four or five years. He's very, very disruptive and can ruin the game. We've got to do a good job against him or it's going to be a long day. Now they have a lot of other good players on defense, too, I'm not saying that, but this guy is really, really special." Even BB thinks JJ is an LT level player. I don't think he's ever said that about another player in comparison to his favorite guy before.

JJ is a guy who is not just a great athlete, but is legendary for his workout habits. "First of all, he's a great worker," the other BB said. "So like, the guy's always in the building. He's either watching film, working out in the weight room, in the training room taking care of his body, out on the practice field taking every snap. The guy's just got a great work ethic. Then he's got a great skill set. I mean, he's 6-foot, 7-inches, 295 pounds. He's an excellent athlete. He's got great length. He's able to line up in different spots. He's not a one dimensional player. He can play the run. He can rush the passer. He can line up on the interior of the defensive line. He can line up on the defensive end spot. He can lineup at a lot of different places. He's got good knowledge of what his assignments are, what he's supposed to do to help the team. He's got everything you're looking for in a great player." Bradley certainly understands how lucky he is to coach this player.

This is just a scary time to be playing against an all time great passrusher. With TB12 getting hit 12 times a game the past three games. Heck, JJ could do that all by himself. "Certainly we're not trying to see a spike in that number, that's for sure," Josh said. "We'll do everything we can to limit those. I think there are a lot of things that go into that. When you're talking about passing game and pressures and those types of things, there are many variables that could dictate whether or not the defense gets pressure on you or doesn't. The design certainly is something that can be looked at and discussed. You've got to have people open, on time and in rhythm to be able to get the ball out on time, and there are other times when you certainly need to hold up in protection a little bit cleaner, a little longer, to try to execute a specific type of play. So everybody needs to do their job, and we need to do a good job of coaching and trying to put those guys in good positions to certainly limit that number of hits. There's no question that that's not something we're looking to try to do, and we want to try to minimize that as much as we can. So that ultimately is our responsibility, and we need to do a better job of protecting the quarterback. And like I said, there are a lot of things that can go into trying to fix that." This is not the week to be trying to fix that specific problem.

I don't want to sound didactic, but it is not surprising that the whole team seems to be struggling in direct relation to the O-line. As the O-line goes so goes the offense. In the age of the NFL trying to pump fantasy stats into offenses, as the offense goes so goes the team. Houston, and JJ, are one of the best teams at disrupting the QB. "J.J. Watt is [a baaaad mother fff] ...," coach McDaniel said. "This defense as a whole is as good a unit as we'll face. They're certainly up there in a lot of those statistical categories. They do a good job of stopping people in the running game, stopping the pass. They create an incredible amount of negative plays, which puts the offense in a lot of negative situations on third down, which they lead the league in third-down defense. And J.J. Watt is as good of an individual player as we'll play all season. He's got a great motor. He plays the game extremely hard. He's physical. He's aggressive. He's fast. He's quick. He closes to the quarterback very well in the pass rush. He chases the ball down from behind in the running game. There's really no area of the game where this guy isn't a significant factor and contributor for their defense. And then to top it all off, he's not always in the same spot, so we're going to have to have a lot of guys prepared and ready to handle or to be ready to block him if he happens to be aligned over them or near them. And that responsibility probably won't just fall on one person, so we're going to have to do a good job preparing for him. He's as disruptive of a player as we've faced all season, and we're going to have to try to limit the number of opportunities that he has to create those types of plays because when he does, they usually change the outcome of the drive, the play or potentially the game. So he's a very unique guy. We're going to have to do a really good job of hopefully trying to limit the number of opportunities he has to make those types of plays." So this game could come down to who is better, Cannon or a one-handed Watt? Yikes! Plus, they just released Williams, who I thought would keep in to help block Watt.

2. Patriots South- They are really trying to build a Patriots like organization down in Houston. I mean, they went so far as to steal the Mighty Vince! "Good, he was great," BB said. "He was team captain for multiple years, great leadership on and off the field, really smart player, understood concepts, understood what it took to win, how to prepare to win, how to compete, how to make adjustments. Vince always had a real good poise. He had an emotional side to him, I'm not saying that. I don't think you can play the game without it, but he also had a very calm and poised side: of what do we need to do, how do we need to do it, what adjustments do we need to make, and then go out there and do it without it being a big frenzy. He was I would say a very settling influence on his teammates as far as that type of thing went, too. Look he did a lot for us. He had a great career here and was a: great player, great size, very talented. Like the interceptions that he had and things like you just don't see a lot of guys make those kinds of plays at the position he played. I think that speaks to his athleticism." Say it ain't so Vince. Say it ain't so.

But it was not just him. They have pilfered some of the best, including the D-Coordinator in BB and TB12's first three Super Bowl Victories. "Yeah, absolutely," BB said. "And Romeo, and Mike Vrabel. and Pasqualoni, and George Godsey. All those guys. They certainly have a vision of the way they want the team to play. I'm not saying they have every resource at their disposal now. None of us do. But in terms of playing the game the way that they need to play it to give their team the best chance to win, absolutely. I think that's really what it's about. Doing what you have to do to make the most out of what you have versus what you're competing against. I think they do a great job of that." They do a great job of copying the Patriots system.

They took Vrabel, who BB told he should be a coach. Mike took his advice and became the LB coach at Ohio State after he retired. "Yeah, absolutely," BB said. "Mike and I talked about that a lot. He'd give me advice and I would tell him, 'Mike when you're a coach and you're calling the defenses, you should go ahead and do that. Here's why we're not going to do that. Or that's a great idea. We can do that, that's good, I'm glad you brought that up.' Mike is not afraid to make a suggestion, and we've had a lot of good discussions even when he was at Ohio State or when he was in Kansas City for that matter, we would bump into each other from time to time, but when he was Ohio State particularly when he got into coaching, we discussed a lot of [stuff]. My daughter was out there at that time. Amanda was at Ohio State. We saw Mike and we would talk about different things, whether it would be X's and O's or managing players or practice tempo or whatever it was. It could be general coaching things. I think Mike has a great mind for it, great passion for it. He's got great playing experience, so he can draw on things that honestly I can't. I've never played in this league. I can't draw on those, so I think there is definitely some advantage to that. I don't think that's a ticket. There are a lot of other things that go into it, too, but if it's used properly I think it's valuable. Mike was a great player. He's played different systems, he's played different positions. He's played offense, defense, special teams. He's played end, he's played linebacker. He would play free safety in practice for us probably once or twice a year, especially when we were up against a guy like Ed Reed or somebody who you really didn't know what he would do. You would just say go back there and go with what you see and if you want to gamble, gamble. Mike, he would love that. He would drive Brady crazy doing that, like, 'He'll never be there on that pattern,' but it's Ed Reed. You didn't know where Ed Reed would be. He was usually wherever the ball was. He somehow got there. So Mike did that. Again you could just see his overall passion for the game, whether it be playing multiple positions, playing offense, defense, he had a great awareness of the total game and loved to play it, loved to play tight end. If we'd be up against a big receiver, he would go in there and take a couple plays at receiver." He was also a big part of the Pats first three Super Bowl Victories.

Of course it is the other BB, Bill Bradley, who is trying to tie it all together like the Patriots BB has done at a HOF level. "I think Bill is a great coach, one of the best that I've had," the real BB said. "He's right up there with all those guys. Very unusual to do what he did, to go from a coordinator position to a quality control position on our staff, but I think that shows you his work ethic, the confidence he has in himself. Then after Josh left, he had the opportunity to work with the quarterbacks and be the offensive coordinator. I thought he did a great job with the staff, with the players and he was a big reason for a lot of our success during that timeframe. Bill has great leadership. He's really smart, but he's got a toughness about him and also that permeates to the team. I think we saw that during his two years at Penn State where even in a situation that's not good or things aren't going well or whatever, he's got a lot of mental toughness and is able to stay steady, composed, get people to follow him. And we had a number of situations, whether it was during a year or during a particular game where things like that came up and I saw the command and the presence and the poise, composure, good decision making that he has and showed multiple times. He's got a real good energy about him, and he's really a good football coach." He knows what we will be trying to do on Sunday Night.

And I know it's chicken or egg thing. "We know him, he knows us," BB said. "So we know what he knows and he knows what we know. I think that's just a game, that if you really want to get into that, I think it's a waste of a lot of energy that's not productive. It is what it is and just figure out the best way to deal with it and we still got to block him. Whether we know him or don't know him, we still got to block him. He's still got to defeat a block and tackle the runner or the quarterback or whoever it is. He knows Stork. Stork knows him. Honestly, we've played against guys that we played twice a year at the same position and playing those guys in a game is in a way probably better prepares you for playing the player in another game than practicing against a player because practice is practice. It's valuable but it's not the same as playing in a game when you're cutting and the defense is grabbing and there are other things that go on within the game that we don't do in practice for safety reasons. Like I said, I think if you played against a guy four, five, six, seven games, whatever it is playing him twice a year, you know that player better to play him in a game than you know a guy that you practice against because you haven't really seen quite that same style or level of play." It just feels like a bad week for this.

So it should come down to who reads the other better. "It seems like that's every week," the real BB said. "Somebody who has coached on our staff or players that have played in our system for multiple years or had a significant role on our team. It seems like we have some element of that almost every week. I get that question from again whether it was a player or assistant coach or in this case a head coach, it's really pretty common. It's probably more common that that is the case than it isn't [the case]. In the end this game is going to come down to the teams on the field, how well they can execute and make plays at critical times in the game. Obviously all the key situations, turnovers, red area, third down, big plays, those are the plays that decide almost every game every Sunday in the NFL, and I'm sure it won't be any different this week." And that almost always is an advantage for the real BB.

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