Pats Vs. Eagles.

7-Things For Sunday.


Part II.


Greetings Pats Fans,

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To all my faithful followers. Thank You.



3. Hightower Vs Jamie Collins- The most underrated aspect of the thief of the victory in Denver was the eye opening loss of Dante Hightower. We learned a lot about the defense when he went down. Suddenly the top five run defense couldn't stop a stick in the mud. 

We saw the past few weeks that we can survive without Jamie Collins. The defense was not as explosive, especially up the middle in the rush, but it was mostly good enough. Freeny has really emerged as a solid run-stuffer to help Hightower and Collins. "Well, like every week, all of our guys that are active for the game are ready to go and they're ready to play as many snaps as they need to play," coach Patricia said. "I think Jonathan has done a great job of trying to learn our system and come in and understand how we want to play the defense and the overall command of the defense. From a conceptual standpoint as a linebacker in our system it's very important you understand where everybody lines up, sits, plays, how it affects the defense, the adjustments, the communication, all of those things that you have to handle from a linebacker standpoint. He's done a good job of growing   in that role throughout the year and really understanding from a confidence standpoint where you need to be, where your help is, how to use your leverage and things like that. He's doing a great job of trying to come in and learn and improve every day." He just steps up and makes tackles.

We saw earlier in the season that we can survive not having Hightower. "Last week, when Dont'a Hightower didn't play in the second half, that was kind of an in-game thing that we worked out," BB said. "Those kinds of things happen during the game. You just have to make whatever adjustments you have to make in-game and then the following week depending on what the situation is, you reevaluate it and make the decisions for the next week. We'll see how that goes going forward." However, what we saw last week is that we cannot survive not having both of them.

Luckily it looks like both are returning this week. They both practiced on Thursday, which almost always means that players are playing. And those two guys are so huge to the versatility the Pats have been defeating teams with. They both do so much and have so many skills that defense can't be sure whether they are coming or going. They both are elite against the run. They both can blitz and cover, and can run all over the field. There are not a better pair of linebackers on another team in the NFL.

And they are going to need them this week to help handle the pace of the Eagles offense. "Well, obviously you have a very dynamic, explosive, skill group here," coach Patricia said. "They do a great job of playing the space game or spreading you out, trying to run the ball, quick throws. I think they do a really good job of the tempo, obviously, is a big key to what they're trying to do. So going fast, trying to get lined up quick, trying to catch the defense off guard. I think their overall operation is excellent. They do a great job with it. It's one of the hardest things to get ready for, to get that game tempo, and speed, and pace that they're going to go at. I think the running backs are obviously very dynamic. Murray, Sproles, Mathews. All of them big play guys can turn little gains into big gains. Very explosive, homerun-hitter-type backs both in the run game and the pass game. They're going to get them out in space. They're going to get the ball to them quickly and allow them to operate and make guys miss in open fields with tackling and things like that. The tight ends are a huge part of what they try to do. You'll see all of them: Celek, Ertz, and Burton; All of them will be out there. Both have vertical ability, can really stretch it vertical through the middle of the defense or on the perimeter plus they're very involved with the passing game as far as the quick passing game where they get to their routes quick, sit down, find open space in zones or work leverage off man coverage. Big targets, big catch radiuses so those guys are tough to match up. Then obviously the receivers, they do a good job of complementing the running backs and the tight ends. Matthews, you'll see him inside and does a good job of running the over-routes and kind of that intermediate area of creating those big plays along with Cooper. They just do a really good job within that scheme, within the offense, they play fast, they play quick. They really stress you from that standpoint and again try and stretch the game from a horizontal and vertical standpoint." The fast paced Eagles are excellent at trapping players on the field.

So every defender on the field has to be able to carry out an assignment he is not perfectly suited for. But Hightower and Collins are suited for almost any role. They will be on the field as many down as they can physically handle. Unfortunately you have to think that Collins is going to still be a little weak (after losing a three-week battle with diarrhea).

So how much he can run is going to be a big factor in this game. "I think the whole week is kind of a process," BB said when asked about the trouble of returning players from injury, and in particular Collins illness. "You’ve got to be careful about evaluating a player based on one day or one period or a couple plays or that kind of thing. If a player comes back, he goes out there, he practices at a Wednesday tempo, whatever that is, but usually it’s a pretty good tempo, then we see how the player responds to that on Thursday. Is he better? Is he the same? Has he felt a little aggravation or irritation or is he tired, based on whatever the injury is – it falls into a million different categories. Then we come back and do it again on Thursday. Sometimes a player will come in on Wednesday and feel OK and then Thursday after stringing a couple days together, not as good or maybe better or maybe it’s kind of staying the same. Maybe he hasn’t really fully turned the corner – hasn’t gotten worse, hasn’t gotten better. It’s still just kind of treading water there. Then sometimes Friday it takes a sudden spike and sometimes Saturday, we’ve listed guys on the injury report on Saturday. Something has come up in the last 24-48 hours before the game that is relatively unexpected. We all can come down with something or step in a hole or whatever. It’s really a process and so we go by what we see. Where a player is Wednesday, where he is Thursday, where he is Friday and even occasionally the Saturday changes are all just reflective of what the player’s current condition is. How’d it go Wednesday, how’d it go Thursday, how’d it go Friday, it’s not always a straight line of anything. It can go up and down, it can go down and up, it can be going good and then drop off, it could be going not so good and then all of a sudden Friday, we go out there Wednesday and Thursday, look at a player and say, ‘I don’t think you’re ready to play. I don’t think he’s going to be ready to play this week.’ And then Friday all of a sudden it just clears up. It’s really hard to give an answer. And sometimes there is a straight line progression, but you don’t know that until the end. You don’t know it going along because you’re not sure what’s going to happen. I’ve been around long enough to see it go both ways so that’s what you prepare for. You prepare for if the player’s there, what’s his role going to be, what’s he going to do, who’s he going to rotate and interact with, if he’s not there, who’s going to take his place and so forth. Those are all kind of the contingencies of practice. If the player is cleared by the medical department to play, then it becomes a football decision. If the player is not cleared by the medical department to play. Then there is no decision to make. That’s it. Te doesn’t play. But just because they clear him to play doesn’t mean that a coaching decision would be made to play the player. Sometimes it just depends on all the circumstances that go around that. Long answer to a short question." Each player and each circumstance is different. I don't think even the coaches know how much Collins, and Hightower for that matter, can run. Hightower because of his knee, and Collins because of all the conditioning he has lost because of his mysterious illness.

Philly likes to spread teams out to get their linebackers in coverage out in space, and use tempo to trap them on the field "Tempo is a problem," BB said. "But I'd say the biggest thing with their offense is they make you defend the whole field. They run from sideline to sideline, they run up the middle, they throw deep, they throw outside, they throw inside, they throw short catch-and-run plays, they throw balls that are over the top behind the defense, they throw the intermediate routes, the over routes, the in-cuts, the outside scissors, sail-type routes. There is really nothing that you can say, ‘Well we don't have to worry about this or that.' You do because they run it inside, they run it outside, they throw it short, middle, deep, they have a lot of misdirection plays so you can't over-pursue because they have plays that force you to defend the backside of the plays. I'd say that's really the strength of their offense. On top of that, they go really fast and try to wear the defense down or force the communication issue on defense so if you aren't aligned properly or you aren't able to get your assignments – even if you're aligned right, if you're not able to get your assignments done quickly the way the plays come off, there's space in there, somebody gets free, they do a good job of finding it. They're used to playing fast at that tempo more so than the defenses are because there aren't a lot of teams that do it like that. That's a lot of challenges for the defense this week." That doesn't work with the Pats defense as well as against other defenses. Mainly because of Hightower and Collins.

Hightower and Collins versatility is going to go a long way to helping the Pats win. Their ability to do everything means they can get caught in mismatched situations and be okay. Plus, when those two guys are on the field and playing well, the Patriots defense in an elite defense in the NFL.

4. Yeah! LOL! Brady Ain't losing Two In A Row- I hate how people judge one loss as a disaster of epic proportion. We lost in Denver, to the best defense in the NFL, with one legit NFL WR on the roster. Plus, Denver got lucky, the refs got crazy, and Gronk and Hightower had epic disasters (that lucky turned into puddles of crocodile tears). If Denver dares to come into Foxboro in January, WE ARE SUPER BOWL BOUND! If any honest bystander watched that tragedy Saturday night and came away with the delusion that Denver is better than honesty just went out the window.

So many things had to go so wrong against the best defense in the NFL to rip that victory out of the cold dead hands of the Patriots. This week they are at home, against the worse secondary in the NFL, with a coach who has been given a death sentence by the local media. Once a local writer writes the "He has lost control of the team" story, and the owner reads it? He is gone. There is a blizzard of circumstance blowing at the Eagles, just like what happened to the Pats last week.

So that ain't happening this week. Not with Brady at the helm. "Yeah, I think we all want to get back out there because it's been a long time since we've lost a meaningful game," Brady said. "It just sucks. So I'm glad we're not in a position where [we can't get revenge, redemption, and retribution for that wretched loss]. It is always hard to win, especially going on the road against good teams and you've got to play really well. And when that game ends, you've got to, as fast as you can, turn the page and move on. So we've got to move on with obviously some different challenges, whether that's personnel-related, whether that's scheme-related. Every week presents different challenges, and I think as a player, you just have to start every week with a fresh slate and try to go out and give [everything]. You really put everything you can into it, 100 percent of your energy and emotion, and then you go out and you try to do it again." There is nothing better than betting on a pissed off Brady.

Plus with Amendola expected to play, and the reemergence of Keshawn Martin, Brady has some weapons that he can defend himself with. "Well that would be great," Brady said. "We'll see how that goes throughout the week. Danny always tells me that [he's ready]. He always feels good. He's a tough guy. Danny is a warrior man." That gives Brady some weapons against the worst secondary in the League.

Each week is different, and each opponent is different. "I think that's a lot what the coaches try to do on Mondays and Tuesdays is figure out scheme-wise how we're going to try to move the ball down the field," TB12 said. "So you're right. It does take on a little bit of a different approach when certain guys are missing because it's just pretty natural for you to do as an offense because different guys have different skillsets. When a certain player is in there, you may do something really well, and then when he goes out, another guy who goes in that position might do something else well and you try to do those things. I think it's just a concerted effort by everybody, the coaches and the players, to try to get to the things that we're good at versus the things that they're not good at, which is obviously a big challenge. And it's not easy to do over the course of 16 weeks. That's why it's hard to win every week because every week changes and the availability of players change and schemes change. It's just, it's always very challenging." But I'm a firm believe that there is a little carry over each week.

When a player has a great week, he is less likely to be great the next week. But when a great player has a terrible week, he is more likely to be great in retaliation the next week. So look out Philly! You're on the road against a pissed off Brady who looks like he might finally have his O-line back.

Which also bring up the interesting case of LeGarrette Blount. Philly is giving up a lot of yards on the ground. The Pats O-line looked like they gained some cohesion last week. This could be a big game for Blount, especially in the second half. Eagles are giving up 127-yards a game on the ground. And nobody is talking about the run game. I read every transcript from every BB presser this week, and nobody asked him a question about an RB or the run game. Now I know the pathetic Philly D has given up 5-TD passes the past two-week in a row, but I think the Pats might come out running.

5. We're Onto Philadelphia- Yes! We have a game this weekend. "Alright, we've spent a lot of time here on the Eagles the last couple days, obviously," BB said. "This is a pretty impressive group. There are a lot of talented players on this team. They're really strong in all three phases of the game. Special teams is probably the best unit we've faced all year. They led the league in special teams last year and should be right up there again this season. They have great returners with Huff and Sproles, good specialists, they're a really good cover team, good return team, good rush team, punt blocks, field goal blocks, they make a lot of plays. They put a lot of pressure on you on every play so you just can't really afford any mistakes at all because they're always right there to take advantage of them. That will be a big challenge for us. Offensively, it's probably as good a group of skill players as I've seen. They're at least two deep and more really at some positions on all the skill positions: quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver. They've got a lot of good players at all those spots. They play multiple guys. They have great depth there and they just keep bringing them at you. Everybody is a problem. The running game is a problem. The passing game is a problem. They throw to the backs, the tight ends and receivers. They've got big receivers who do a good job after the catch. A lot of their yardage comes on catch-and-run plays, broken tackles, things like that. They have the ability to get the ball down the field and make big plays. They also, like I said, have a lot of catch-and-run plays that you have to defend, as well as the running game. The running game, good inside running game, good outside running game, so you have to defend sideline to sideline against this offense as well as handle the tempo and the communication that the Eagles put on you. And then defensively, it's a very active defense. They have a good secondary, a lot of experience back there. They've got a couple former corners playing inside with Thurmond and Jenkins and the corners, that's a good group, too. But their front is very disruptive. Their defensive linemen, outside linebackers, defensive ends, whatever you want to call them depending on what they're in, they're very disruptive. They have good speed at the inside linebacker position. Those guys run well. They're experienced with DeMeco Ryans and Alonso and Kendricks. They have a lot of movement. They pressure a decent amount and they bring a lot of different people – linebackers, secondary players, so it's a lot to get ready for scheme-wise with a lot of different defensive looks and again very disruptive up front. Graham is having a good year. Fletcher Cox is one of the top defensive lineman in the league. He's really hard to handle. Logan is playing well. Really they have a good disruptive front. Barwin has been productive for them, so they have a lot of guys that can cause you problems up there. Overall it's a very talented team. Scheme-wise they give you a lot of issues, so it's going to be a lot to prepare for with a team we don't know very well. And they're very explosive. They get a lot of turnovers on defense and also in the kicking game. They take the ball away and cause a lot of negative plays. And offensively, they can literally score from anywhere on the field with probably any one of a dozen guys. Those are our challenges this week. It's a lot of them." I almost forgot about the Eagles.

6. Eagles Offense. Such As It Is- Please. Hightower and Collins. Sanchez and Foles. 'Nuff said.

7. Pats Secondary- One of the keys to the season has been the emergence of Number One corner Malcolm Butler. But I think the emergence of Logan Ryan as a solid number two has been just as big. "Logan has been solid for us since he came to us. This is his third year. Real smart kid, comes from a good program, was very well coached at Rutgers so he had a great background and work ethic and he's just built on that in this league. His awareness, his instinctiveness, he's got some length at that position, tackles well, very mature and very professional, hard-working guy that studies the game and is always well prepared. He's done a good job for us. We've used him in a number of different positions and he's played for us in the kicking game as well, so he's got a lot of versatility." He has been such a great surprise this season.

He just has that knack for getting his hands on the ball. "Yeah, I agree," BB said. "I think really he's been good at that his whole career. He was a very productive player in college as well. Again a combination of those things: technique. Logan's got good playing strength, so he can lock onto receivers and not get kind of batted around like sometimes smaller guys do. He's not in that category. He's very instinctive. He has a good grasp of route concepts and overall understanding of the passing game, what the offense is trying to do and how they're trying to attack and combination routes, splits and understanding where his help is in coverage and so forth. I think all those things play into it. I don't think it's any one thing. Each play is different, but Logan studies hard, he prepares well, he does a good job with the communication so that he and his teammates are on the same page with the coverage adjustment or a coverage technique to play it properly so that everybody can do their job. Those are all strengths that he has. He's a very mature kid who was well coached in college, so he came here with a good background and a good understanding and has worked hard to build on that." He has saved the defense in more ways than one.

The secondary has been so short handed at corner that it threatened to strangle the season out. "With Logan, he's really done a good job of improving and trying to take our techniques and what we're trying to teach him and get better," coach Patricia said. "He does a great job of studying the opponent. He's a smart guy, a smart player. [He] understands the guys that he's up against, what their strengths, what their weaknesses are. [He] has a good background and was coached well at the collegiate level and I think that's transferred over with his work ethic and his ability to come in and grind and trying to get better each week. Just overall really good work ethic and trying to improve and trying to get better, trying to understand the position, trying to understand the concepts, smart enough to move around and play a lot of different roles which I think helps you from a standpoint of playing perimeter, if you've played inside, if you've played in the deep part of the field and transfer that to understanding how to help yourself when you're on the perimeter. I think that's all a big advantage for you as a corner. I would say in general, confidence is a big part of the game no matter what position you're going to play and I think you have to have that confidence in your ability and confidence in what we're trying to do for that particular game and that's what we do during the week, is try to build that confidence up. That when we step out on the field on Sunday that we have a lot of confidence in what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it and we can execute it at a high level. I think that's not position specific. I think it gets highlighted in situations where if there's a big play or a penalty or something like that then obviously it's easy to go to that position and pick that guy out. It's no different than for the most part of the game you never hear of the offensive lineman but as soon as there's a holding call it's a first down and they call their number all game. We don't really focus on that. It's not a big part of what we're talking about. We're just talking about having confidence in what we're doing, the techniques, the game plan, our ability to understand what the offense is doing. That's really what we try to focus on." Well his confidence is certainly soaring, and it shows on the field. And he might have been the final piece this defense needed to become elite.

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