Belichick vs. Phillips a longstanding battle

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Belichick vs. Phillips a longstanding battle

FOXBORO - Bill Belichick's been coaching in the NFL since 1975. Wade Phillips has been in the NFL since 1976.
Both men are the sons of football men and made their bones on the defensive side of the ball.
Their paths have crossed innumerable times. Monday will just be the latest installment in a long-running battle between football minds.
How many times has a team with Belichick on its staff faced a team whose defense was headed up by the Son of Bum?
I came up with 26. Phillips was the Eagles defensive coordinator from 1986 to 1988 and Belichick's Giants beat Philly four straight times before losing a pair in overtime. While with the Broncos as DC and head coach, Phillips went 4-1 against the Giants and Belichick's Brown.
While with the Bills from 1995-2000, Phillips was 6-5 against the Jets and Patriots. Phillips was 1-1 while with the Chargers including a 41-17 beatdown at Gillette and a 24-21 loss in the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff. The last time Belichick coached against Phillips was when Phillips was the head coach in Dallas and the Patriots hammered the Cowboys.
So overall, Phillips' teams are 14-12 against those coached by Belichick. The style, Belichick says, hasn't varied.
"I think hes pretty much kept the same system through all those (stops)," Belichick explained. "Their 3-4 is really more of a one-gap 3-4 than a two-gap 3-4. They shade those guys and they play a pretty high amount of man coverage, which hes done in the past. It varies a little bit but they play quite a bit of man coverage and then they go to their sub defense which is a dime defense in this case, where they bring in Quentin Demps at safety and whoever the third corner is, theyve had a couple injuries but whoever that third corner is and move Glover Quin down."
To simplify that just a bit, the Texans' defensive line and linebackers are each responsible for a gap in the offensive line. In a two-gap system, defensive linemen need to react to the blockers and occupy "two gaps" by being immovable objects and then flowing to the side the ball is headed while linebackers come up and fill.
A 3-4 defensive end in Phillips' system like J.J. Watt can amass 15.5 sacks and 15 batted balls through 12 games. Meanwhile, a 3-4 defensive end in Belichick's system like Richard Seymour never had more than eight sacks or 36 tackles.
The man coverage element means the Texans will get up and press and redirect receivers, gumming up timing on the outside while the front-seven goes on attack. It's a defense that -- when well-executed -- can make an offense look ugly. The ball needs to come out fast and receivers have to win their routes at the line of scrimmage. The defense doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about creating the best matchup by subbing in and out, said Belichick.
"This isnt the most complicated team weve ever seen, but what they do, they do well," he pointed out. "Theyre well balanced, they do enough things to keep you off balance to complement what theyre doing so theyre not just setting one track. They have a lot of multiples and variables but its contained within the system."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady echoed that, saying, "Its not like there are 120 calls that they have on their call sheet for this game, but there are always wrinkles that you'll see and new things that you havent prepared for. What they do, they do very well."
There's undeniably an element of Ravens, Steelers, Jets, "cuttin' the boys loose" in this scheme. And each of those teams' defenses has given the Patriots issues over the years.
"I think (Phillips) allows his players to go out there and play aggressively and make plays," said Brady. "Certainly when you have guys who can rush the passer the way that he does, you kind of turn those guys loose and let them go do their job. And they get home, and you dont have to come up with 25 overload blitz schemes to do that when youve got players like J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin. They can rush the quarterback and get home and he expects those guys in the secondary to cover, and they can all do that."
They can, but will they? There is a counter to all this. Every scheme has a counter. Executing that counter is what's important. In this instance, the Patriots will have to run the ball well on first down and stay out of second and seven-or-more. If they fail to, their chances of winning that series are reduced because the Texans are so good on third down (46 of 162 conversions allowed for 28 percent). The Texans can be run on. They're allowing 4.1 yards per carry. But they often have been ahead enough to make opponents bail on the running game and throw.
Having a receiver who can consistently win his one-on-one matchup is vital as well. If he can beat one-and-a-half defenders, (a corner and safety, as Detroit's Calvin Johnson did so often on Thanksgiving) more's the better. This will be a huge game for Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Brandon Lloyd hasn't shown that he's physical enough or savvy enough to beat physical corners at the line of scrimmage. If he somehow digs down and finds that in his game, he'll be a focal point. But if he can't -- or the Patriots have already decided that's not his bag -- he may have another quiet game.
As for the counter to the pass rush itself, bet on speed. The Patriots can go warp speed and simply try to wear out the Texans pass rush. At this point, the New England offensive line is conditioned to play at a fast pace. And even if Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly aren't there, every backup has played enough now so that the Patriots can actually run waves of offensive linemen at the Texans. It's an unusual tack to take but it makes some sense.
"Theyre not going to let you off the hook," said Belichick. "They're going to give you the variables every week, youre going to have to decide how youre going to handle them and sooner or later youre going to see them. They do a very good job doing what they do."

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

After undergoing back surgery earlier in the day on Friday, Rob Gronkowski is back on his feet and cracking jokes.

The injured Patriots tight end posted a video of himself on his feet with the assistance of a walker captioned "Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

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In the video, Gronk takes a few steps and says, “Dance floor tomorrow night. . . here I come.”

Watch the video below [NSFW language from Gronk's dad]

Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

A video posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on