Monday, February 3, 2014

What the Patriots (and Their Fans) Can Learn from the Super Bowl

For two weeks, Patriots fans have been comparing the Pats with the Broncos, and trying to imagine ways that the Patriots could be more like the Broncos. These people saw the Denver Broncos as a team with a high-flying offense, a full arsenal of receiving weapons, and therefore the team most likely to win the Super Bowl and the team the Patriots should try to emulate. Except the Broncos didn't win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks crushed them 43-8.

The Broncos didn't lose because of their offensive talent. They lost because they didn't execute and Seattle did. And Seattle also had more playmakers on defense, particularly rushing the passer.

A record-breaking offense beaten by a pass rush. Remind you of any other recent Super Bowls?

The Seahawks were the best team in the NFL and always were. Denver had the most spectacular offensive talent, but Seattle was strong on both sides of the ball. They didn't have All-Pro receivers, but their WRs were all talented (unlike the Patriots). They had a good QB, solid lines, decent WRs, an excellent running game, an elite defensive secondary that read plays incredibly well, and edge pass rushers who could pressure the opposing quarterback.

Patriots fans have been pining for their team to acquire Pro Bowl caliber receivers. And while that would be fantastic, maybe the Pats should try to build a team more like the Seahawks as opposed to the Broncos. We've gone down the 'Offense First' road in New England, and it didn't work. Maybe it's time to try a new approach.

By that I mean balance. More specifically, I mean a pass rush on defense balanced with the offensive passing game. Peyton Manning's poor throws and interceptions Sunday night were all a result of pressure. Pressure did more than just sack Manning. Manning was only sacked once (and he fumbled). Seattle pressured him on 3rd downs and forced mistakes: Incompletions, short completions, interceptions. The biggest plays of the game were caused by Seattle pressuring Manning.

I think it's more feasible to pressure one quarterback than it is to cover 4 receivers.

The Patriots must improve their WR corps. As I mentioned in parenthesis above, the Seahawks didn't have All-Pro WRs, but they did possess talent. Tate, Baldwin, Kearse, they're all more talented than Thompkins, and probably Dobson. All of them would have had jobs with the 2013 Patriots. And those Seattle WRs can thrive in different areas of the field, unlike the one-dimensional receivers the Patriots feature. However the Pats don't need to break the bank acquiring WRs to do well. I'd prefer a receiver big in height/weight as opposed to a big name receiver.

And to beat the other good QBs out there, like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson; the Pats need smart DBs and a consistent pass rush. Limit the chances the opponent has to make plays and give your defense more opportunities to make them.

You could say that the Patriots, through injury and criminal activity, were limited in offensive playmaking. And look how important those limitations were in the playoffs. Acquire some DBs with awareness and outside pass rushers with strength and speed, and the Patriots can take away opposing playmakers just like injury and arrest took out the 2013 Patriots' playmakers.

So acquire WRs, but don't go nuts. Make sure to address the defensive backfield and pass rush. They'll help you find multiple ways to win. And pressure your opponent to find ways to lose.

-The Captain


DP said...

Maybe if they drafted Clay Matthews instead of trading down, took Cam Chancellor or Sherman when they were available and maybe if they signed Clif Avril or John Abraham who worked out witht he Patriots last year would have done the trick.

But that's not the patriot way I guess

rob said...

Let's look at all drafts in hindsight then criticize them years later if they're not perfect.

I don't remember the Steelers picking up any of those guys either.

MIke said...

It's easy to look back in hindsight and say stuff like that DP. Everybody passed on Chancellor and Sherman, even the Seahawks, multiple times. They both went in the 5th round. When I look at that situation I think it's possible that 1 of 3 things is responsible.

1) Pete Carroll/The Seahawks are brilliant talent evaluators. So brilliant that they knew how good these two would be, but also realized that the demand for them would allow them to steal them with a 5th round pick.

2) They bought two lottery tickets and won both times.

3) They miraculously became much better when they got to Seattle. On an unrelated note, did you know that Richard Sherman has failed a PED test and beat the 4 game suspension on appeal because of "chain of custody" issues? With the calm, amicable business like demeanor with which he handles himself in various interviews it's clear that he is displaying no signs of roid rage whatsoever. It's a problem that has touched just about every team in the NFL, but it seems to have cropped up in Seattle's defensive backfield a bit more than usual.

The point is, there's a lot of luck involved in talent evaluation, even among experienced professionals. Even when you do well and get good players like the Patriots with Wilfork, Mayo, Gronkowski, Hernandez and Vollmer; shit happens and they get hurt or have their legal troubles get in the way.

I would like to see the Patriots roll the dice a bit more with some big names with Brady's career winding down, but given the uncertainty of it all I can understand Bill's strategy to cast wide nets in the draft by trading down and his aversion to investing too much cap space into players who are at peak value.

DP said...

Steelers didn't draft them. Also a mistake. Luckily this isn't a Pittsburgh blog it's a New England one.

Cast wide nets system doesn't work.

rob said...

But didn't the Seahawks do that? These weren't top talents, these were late in draft guys that wound up working out.

DP said...

There is a difference though. They didn't have a pick that they traded down to get these. They just had incredible talent evaluators that drafted them with the picks they had.

Yes, there is some luck to them turning out how they did. In 2010 they drafted Earl Thomas where he was slotted and used there first pick on Russell Okung. They didn't trade those picks for latter picks.

Anonymous said...

What the Patriots need to do is get a good defense. Defense wins championships, not just in football but all sports.

Casual fans (pink hats) like the captain just don't get it. In hockey a team can ride a hot goaltender to the Stanley Cup, in Baseball pitching will take a team to a series win, ask Bill Russell what defense can do to bring a championship.

Denver had arguably the best offense in the history of the NFL and they got crushed by a good defense. The Patriots can have ten Jerry Rice's as receivers and they'll still lose to a defense as good as Seattle's.

rob said...

Pink hat DC fans like anonymous need to read more of my posts, like one I wrote last week about improving the defense.