Pats Vs. Titans

Part I.


7-Things For Sunday.


Greetings Pats Fans,

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1. Leftovers-  I was a little worried once I heard Hightower was out last week. It is such a different defense with Hightower and Collins on the field. However, Mayo stepped in and was excellent playing the Hightower role. He ran the defense and shot through gaps to hit the runningbacks better than Hightower this week. They could need him to fill that role again this week.

He was a huge key to the win against Houston. "Jerod did a good job for us, as he always does," BB said on  WEEI. "He prepares well. Has a lot of experiences. Understand out defense. He is a smart instinctive player, in terms of what the defense is doing. Particularly against a team like Houston, whose offense is similar to ours. I think Jerod is able to recognize some things and make some adjustments. And disguise some of our defensive looks, to just make it as hard as possible on the offense [to recognize what we are doing]. Yeah, he did a good job. Nobody puts more into it or is better prepared than Mayo. He does a great job on that." He was awesome

He and Collins where working so well together, like they started as many games together as Collins and Hightower. "Jerod is one of those players that has a great connection, really with everybody: players, coaches, offensive players, linemen, skill players, specialists," BB said on WEEI. "[He] just has a good, not in any way try to make it more than it is, it's professional, but he also just relates well to people. You can see him hanging around and intersecting with any of that group. It's not just [linebackers], you know guys form their own little groups, to a certain extent. But with Jerod, its coaches, players. I fells like everybody has a pretty close relationship with him, not just the linebackers, or his position coach, or his defensive coaches. But you know, pretty much everyone from the trainers to the video guys, to everybody. So he has a good connection with players. He was elected Captain his second year, like McCourty. And that's pretty unusual. But I think that shows, Not only they type of respect [they command]. I mean, it's not an MVP vote. Of course Devin's a good player. Jerod's a good player, but it speaks more to his connect with people, and the respect he's gained. And the way that so many people have interacted with him. They feel good enough about him to have him represent them. It's pretty impressive." He was also pretty impressive on the field in this game.

They were great hunting the RB in the middle of the line. Mayo made his presence felt on the second play of the game. He was lined up at the Mike. He read the play perfectly, a little toss to the RB. He shot the gap like he was still young and frisky. He got tackled by the tight end as he burst past the O-line, and dived into the RB's thighs for a perfect form tackle for loss. He did not look old or injured in that play, or for the rest of the game.

He ran the defense that didn't skip a beat with the usual signal caller Hightower out. They seriously crushed the Houston offense. It is easy to dismiss them now, but they had been a roll. The Pats went half way across the country and garnered a great victory on the road. Now they are Home against a rookie QB with some talent, but he is still a rookie. Mayo will be the General on the field helping to set up the confusion that causes Mariota to be sacked, and hopefully throw some INTS.

1. Leftovers Part II Junkyard Dogs-  Some guy named Leonard came off the scrap heap and had a great game for the Pats. I went over some of his journey to Patriots land last week. He was put on injured reserve, and once healthy he was released. It is such an interesting story.

So he was tossed onto injured reserve and then thrown out. "If you release a player who's injured then you have to designate that he's injured and then typically there would be some type of settlement between the player and the club," BB said about the procedures he used to pick Tampa's trash. "So like at the end of training camp for example there are a number of players throughout the league that get released at that point that are waived injured. So say they have a hamstring injury or something and they are going to be out for three or four weeks, not long enough to go on injured reserve, but they're not healthy, so by the CBA [it is what it is]. Yeah, maybe you'd release the player anyways depending on how your roster shakes out. But regardless, per the CBA, you can't release a player who is injured, so if he's injured then you would waive him but designate him injured, so if somebody else claimed him they would have notification that he's not healthy and then make their own decision at that point. If he's not claimed then he would revert to your injured reserve list, but he wouldn't be on long-term injured reserve because it's a shorter injury, so once he's healthy then he would be released form the roster. That would be the waived injured category. If it was injured reserve then that would put him out for the entire season, so once you pass that six week mark then you would have the option to either keep him on injured reserve and have him on your roster, and depending on what his contract status is you might have him for the following year. Again depending on what his contract says, or if he's healthy then you could waive him off of injured reserve. But you're waiving him healthy. You're not waiving him injured, if you will." So they had to hold onto him until he was healthy, and then threw out on the scrap heap.

He was not just thrown out into the scrap yard like a junkyard dog. He was an injured junkyard dog. "Solid guy, works hard, pretty smart and understands concepts, communicates well," BB said about his newest junkyard dog. "He's in the middle of the defense, so he's kind of like a linebacker when he plays in that nickel spot. He's got a corner outside of him and a safety behind him and a linebacker or somebody inside him, so there is some communication and kind of fitting in the right place depending on what the run force is or what the coverage is and that kind of thing. So he's a good communicator. He does a good job of working with those guys so that they all kind of have it defended properly, again whatever it is we're talking about there. He has some experience playing in there, so a lot of the concepts and all are familiar to him. He's just got to understand what we're doing and what our verbiage is and get everybody on the same page with it. He's got good playing strength, he's got good quickness, and instinctively he has good awareness and instincts in the passing game." It looks to me like he was not a good fit for their Tampa Two system, but fits into BB's Man system mush bettert so far.

They also got Coleman off the scrap heap as well. He has been playing spectacular for a guy ripped off the scrap heap, twice. He came right out of college and was thrown out onto the scrap heap, as an undrafted rookie free agent. He was then thrown into the junkyard again when he was cut. The Pats picked him up. He has played amazingly well for a two-time junkyard dog.

It is extremely difficult for players joining a team during the season, but for two CBs to do that so successfully is unheard of. "Yeah, look any player who is on the team and active is important," BB said about them joining his team so late. "Every guy who is out there is important. How hard is it? Each player is different. Each situation is different. Some players have more background in what we're doing than others. Some don't have any. Some have a lot for one reason or another. Some players have more experience than others and depending on what position the guy plays, what we're asking him to do, what his role is, that varies, too. In the end whatever we ask the player to do, we try to be realistic, keep it within what he's capable of doing and not overstretch it, but if he's able to handle whatever it is then depending on how much we need it we'll try to get him ready to do that thing or those things, whatever it happens to be, and then progressively after a period of weeks or period of time, sometimes that grows. We had several guys do that last year. We've already had several guys do it this year. Every team in the league is dealing with that one way or the other whether it's a practice squad player or a free agent coming in from outside the organization. I don't think any of this is unprecedented. You'd rather not have to do it but the reality of it is sooner or later you're going to have to do it." I think it is pretty unprecedented to have your number three and number four Corners join the team after Preseason and play so well.

We are also getting two spectacular seasons from Butler and Ryan. They are clearly the top two corners on the team. Last week they looked like one of the top Corner duos in the NFL. But you need more than that, especially in the Playoffs. Even with those two junkyard dogs, they are still short on the depth chart at CB. You have to have four or five Corners play above their heads at different points in every game in the Payoffs to win it all. They are going to need both those guys to play significant roles in the Playoffs. They are the third, forth, and apparently fifth Corners for the Pats latest Super Bowl run.

The BB defense is similar to Sexy Rexy's defense, in that when they get great Corner play it makes everybody else look better on defense. "He's a pretty experienced player in the league," BB said about Leonard Johnson. "He's come around a little bit and has played that position so, but he worked hard. He worked really hard this week and so did his teammates, Logan, Devin, Malcom, Duron, Pat [Chung] in terms of their communication and I thought that the play made on the fourth day play in the third quarter where they had their receivers try to run down underneath, we made combination call on that and he did a good job of taking away the inside route down there and broke it up. It was a long week, it was a lot of extra work, lot of extra meetings, some good competitive time on the practice field so hopefully that'll pay off. Got to give him a lot of credit, he came in and learned and his teammates embraced it and we got some good plays out of both he and Justin [Coleman]." We are going to need Johnson and Coleman to keep playing above their heads for six more games.

Leonard showed up in the 1st on the second drive by Houston. He made a great tackle on Akiem Hunt swinging out of the backfield. He attacked him aggressively out in space, and whipped him down to the ground like a little kid spinning off a merry-go-round. That was the play where Brown was called for the Personal Foul.

Then he showed up again, big time, to end the drive. It was 3rd and 5. Johnson had Shorts in the Slot. Shorts broke open, and Hoyer threw it to him for the First. Only, Johnson leaped up over Short's shoulder, like Houston's Johnson leap over LaFell's shoulder on the deep throw, and slapped the ball to the ground to force the punt. Then he got up and did a little dance. I gave him a 10 for enthusiasm, but barely a 5 for execution.

He had one of the biggest plays in the game. Houston was forced to go for it on 4th and 4, from the 15, instead of kicking the field goal. This was the drive after the Martin fumbled punt when they were up 14-points, and everybody was like, "oh-no we suck again!" If they had converted this 4th down and scored a TD it could have been real bad. Johnson was lined up in Press on Shorts on the blindside slot. He retreated off the snap, as his man went outside, and Griffin came inside. He switched off his man and picked up the tight end running down the magic yellow line. The ball was thrown on time, and heading right into Griffin's gut. But Johnson reached up and slapped the ball out. That really was the final test of the game for the Pats. And then he did his little dance.

3. Titans- I admit I don't know a lot about the Titans. I mean, they suck, wins-wise anyway. We know that. "This is a big week for us here with Tennessee," BB said. "The preparation for these guys is going to be really challenging for us, starting with their defense. Of course Dick LeBeau, I don't think I can just say enough about him, what he's done over his career, not only the length of it, but the quality of it is really, really remarkable. The man has given so much to this game and one of the guys I have as much respect for as really anybody in professional football. Dick has made great contributions to the game and once again they're playing great defense. It's the Steelers defense in principle with a few variations, but he and Ray Horton do a great job with their front. They're very disruptive, hard to block, experienced guys in the secondary. They really know what they're doing and cause a lot of problems. Offensively it's an explosive group: Walker, Douglas, Green-Beckham, [and] Mariota. They do a good job and really anybody can pretty much get you on any play so everybody's got to be disciplined. The quarterback is a great athlete, very hard to defend out of the pocket, we saw that in the Jacksonville game, but their misdirection plays and things like that are challenging as well as stopping the point-of-attack and the point-of-entry plays. Good specialists in the kicking game. Big, physical special teams group in terms of coverage. Standing up to their size and strength is going to be a big challenge for us, too. We've got a lot of preparation in terms of dealing with a mobile quarterback and a Steeler, Coach LeBeau scheme that he's run for decades now with great success in several different organizations, but you can really see it coming together for him in Tennessee. They've got a really disruptive front, a lot of speed at the inside linebacker position and a lot of disruptive players on the line of scrimmage. A lot for us to get ready for here and a lot of guys we haven't played against, certainly not in this system, and coming off a long trip, we're going to have to get things turned around here in a hurry." But, huh, Mariota is a rookie QB.

They had the second pick in the Draft last year and took a QB, which they are playing. Playing rookie QBs is always a terrifying tight rope walk down the win column. "It's definitely harder to evaluate, there's no question about that," BB said. "Look when I came into the league, you go to the combine or you interview quarterbacks and you talk about reading the coverages, reading the safety, reading the middle linebacker, understanding where the rotation is or if there is a rotation or if it's split safety coverage or all those kind of things. Now you go to the combine they tell you about reading the end, reading numbers, we have three guys out there and they have three we throw it, if they have four. So it's an addition game. Reading the end, reading the tackle, that was a different concept. When I came into the league there was no quarterback reading the defensive tackle, like you've got to be kidding me. Different type of offense, but that's what they've been brought up on. The thing I've learned about all that is guys learn what you teach them. If you teach them to do something different, then they learn something different. Some learn it better than others, quicker than others, it comes easier. All of us are individually different on that, but just because a player has been taught one thing definitely doesn't mean when you teach him something else that that's going to be a problem or that he can't do it. You don't know that that's how it's going to turn out, but I wouldn't just rule that out, out of hand. Just because a guy hasn't been asked to do something doesn't mean he can't do it. Then you have to make the determination if it's like that, a player coming out of college, you have to make the determination of how you think he'll be able to do the things you ask him to do, whether it's learn them, execute them, physically change a little bit so he can fit more into that type of style that you're looking for, whatever it is. You just have to make that calculation. It's an inexact science. Some guys do, some guys don't, some guys you judge right, some guys you misjudge right. It's a lot easier to scout them in the NFL because you see them against the same people we play against. You see them in a similar environment in terms of the routine, the schedule, the length of the year and so forth and so on. There's a lot more in common even though each team is different. When you look at guys coming out of college there are a lot more variables and the level of competition is a lot different, too, so it's a little bit harder." So by definition they suck, in the win column.

Not only are they going through the terrible transition of turning a rookie QB into a franchise QB, where so many have failed before. Their ownership is huge question as well. When you draft a rookie QB with a top five pick, you know you are going to suck in the win column. A rookie is like a ball in tall grass, I think I heard someone say once (yes Parcells, about a rookie, but not  a QB). He's lost.

They took the QB, which is a destruction of their offence, and fired the HC during his rookie season. "The offense he's running is definitely not the offense he ran in college," BB said about how Mariota's adjustment to the NFL is going. "So there's no question about that. But yeah, I think he's done a good job. He's hitting a lot of passes, hasn't turned the ball over a lot, has had his share of touchdown passes, makes his share of big plays, reads coverages. I think you see him throwing the ball to the right spot. I don't know exactly what he's being told to do but generally speaking it looks like he's throwing the ball to the right spot, throwing it where he should be throwing it. I think he's coming along well. I'm sure they have a lot of confidence in him and he's shown toughness coming back from an injury and taking some hits and all like every quarterback does. He's done a good job for them." For the most part, but he is still a young QB who can garner stats, but not wins yet.

This team is better and more talented than their record. They have transitioned to a new HC at midseason, and have a rookie QB, and owners screwing up the works. "At this time of year when you see a team, you want to have an awareness of the overall season, but you're really more focused on the more recent games," BB said when asked what chances the team has undergone under Mularkey. "For a team like Tennessee, especially a team that we don't know very well, what Jason McCourty's role was early in the season and how they played and what they did with him and how that affected other guys doesn't really matter to us right now because that's not going to be a factor in our game, so to go back and kind of analyze it and take a look at it and so forth I would say has not zero but minimal benefit. What we really need to do is look at the players who are playing at the cornerback position now or a player like Derrick Morgan who's been out for a few weeks whether he plays or doesn't play that's obviously significant to our preparations and I'd say our focus is really more on the last few weeks here in terms of how they're playing as opposed to trying to compare it to what happened in the first three, four weeks of the season when there were other changes: there were personnel changes, there were coaching changes, maybe there were philosophical changes. I don't know which idea belonged to who or I don't know if it really matters at this point, but definitely our focus is more just on trying to get the team, understand where the team is now and prepare for the current situation rather than get into a lot of what trended or what changed what and so forth. I know that's not really what you're looking for, but honestly what you're asking isn't something that I would say we really put a lot of focus on. We're just trying to figure out what we're going to get right now." So the team can look more scary on Tape then they are with the rookie at helm.

But don't kid yourself this is a better team than the record of their rookie QB indicates. The have some nice targets on offense. Plus, the couple of times I watch them play I was very impressed with their defense. They are tough and can get to the QB. And they also have the one present we all wanted to open on Trade Deadline Day: Jason McCourty. But, this defense is going to eat this rookie alive.

4. Mariota- Mariota was my top QB from this Draft. "Yeah, I think he's done a good job," BB said. "He brings definitely a dimension to the offense in terms of his athleticism. His ability to run and move the pocket and that opens up some other things. Just in terms of the passing game. He's got excellent delivery, quick release, throws a good tight ball on the money. He's done a good job for them." Plus, he adds that extra dimension that makes DCs nuts.

When he gets stuck, he is as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any QB in the NFL. "Mariota has been definitely an interesting guy to watch," BB said. "I'd say he's improved over the course from preseason all the way through to the regular season, obviously very athletic, is completing a good percentage of his passes, has had good production, 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. So like anything else, he's a young player that is learning and getting better, but he's smart, he's athletic in the pocket, he brings another dimension to the game. The run he had against Jacksonville, you'd have to look a few years to find a play comparable to that. Terrell Pryor went 93 yards in Oakland against somebody, ran through half the team, but kind of the same play that Marcus had last week. For a player to do that at that position is pretty special, but I would say overall in the passing game, he's developed and continues to improve and has the ability to throw the ball inside, outside, down the field and take advantage of the matchups. He's a smart player, has some responsibility at the line of scrimmage, so I don't think that's too much for him. He does a pretty good job of getting the team into the right play or out of a bad play, things like that." He is a great accurate thrower, who likes to take off when he thinks he can reach the Endzone.

But he still has some interesting weaknesses for the Pats. He held onto the ball for too long at Oregon sometimes, for as veteran a QB as a junior in college can be. Which is something that has carried over into his rookie season. He hates to throw INTs, and will struggle to throw the ball sometimes when he is unsure of a completion, and he will hold onto the ball for too long. He will take off sometimes. But like in college, his eyes will get locked looking down field, and he will take some huge hits. It is a lot harder for a rookie QB in the NFL to decipher a defense than a veteran QB in college. Plus, we all now what BB's defenses' do to rookie QBs.

The Pats defense is on target to be the best sacking team of BB's HOF career. "Team defense is always a function of in the passing game, pass rush and pass coverage," BB said about the passrush. "So they play off each other. One without the other really can be negated, so what you need is both at a competitive to high level. The better our coverage, the better our rush, the better our rush, hopefully the tighter our coverage, so they go hand in hand. A lot of times guys make pass breakups or get interceptions and the perception is it's all about the coverage, but that's usually not the case. A lot of times when there is pressure on the quarterback, the perception is it's all about the pass rush, but a lot of times that's usually not the case either. It's team defense. They all tie hand in hand; they go together. The better you rush, the better you cover. The better you cover, the better you should rush. We've been fortunate in a lot of games we've been ahead so at some point the game kind of becomes a one-dimensional game and that's a lot easier to defend than when you have to defend everything for 60 minutes. So there have been points in some games where we haven't had to do that, which is always where you want to be." More often than not his passes are quick. But when he gets confused or coverage is too tight for his liking, he will open himself up to big hits, because he hates-hates-hates to throw INTs.

The Pats are second in Sacks this season with 42, just two behind Denver, and 2 ahead of Carolina Funny how the top three teams thought to be favorites for their Conference champs are the top three NFL sackers. Plus, the Steelers are next with 38, and they are the only team that really scares me in the AFC anymore. "Again I'm really a lot more interested in wins than sacks," BB said. "But the offense playing good, scoring points, playing from ahead puts the defense in a better position. Coverage helps the pass rush, pass rush helps the coverage, run defense helps the pass rush. I mean nothing helps the pass rush more than a good run defense. They're all tied in together. In the end, it's a part of a winning formula. I think we talk about just straight numbers and all that, honestly I don't really even pay that much attention to them. I mean I'm happy when we hit the quarterback. I'm happy when we tackle them, don't get me wrong, but that's all part of a lot of other things that are going on, too. Just like I'm happy when we score a touchdown, that's great, and the guy who scored it, that's great, but there are a lot of other components that lead to that that are important as well. I don't think we want to overlook those." It's like I always say about the NFL, if you can't hit the quarterback you can't win.

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