Giardi: Patriots must pressure Flacco

Giardi: Patriots must pressure Flacco
December 20, 2013, 9:00 am
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The Pats have had a heck of a time generating interior pressure this year once Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly were lost for the season. They've bumped Chandler Jones inside on pass rushing situations and have gotten some bang for their buck from that move. But after a fast start from Joe Vellano, there hasn't been consistent pressure from that group. Take for instance the Dolphins first TD drive. Third-and-10, Pats choose to show five, but rush four.

Vellano is pushed from his RDT position to the left side, essentially helping to create a mass of humanity and partially inhibiting Jones, who was the LDT and looking to work a two-man game with LDE Rob Ninkovick. With Andre Carter getting ridden wide by LT Bryant McKinnie, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is almost casual in his drop and release.

Essentially it looked like a 7-on-7 drill. Dolphins wideout Rishard Matthews wins his 1-on-1 with Logan Ryan for a drive-extending 24-yard gain. Give Joe Flacco that kind of time and the results won't be any different.

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On the game-ending interception tossed by Tom Brady, the Pats simply were overpowered on the right side of the line. Guard Dan Connolly, who gave up six pressures and a pair of sacks on the day, was trucked by Jared Odrick. Right tackle Marcus Cannon wasn't too far behind as Miami defensive end Cam Wake put him on roller skates.

Brady had precious little time to make his read, which helped the Dolphins disguise the coverage.

Safety Michael Thomas was able to peel off and undercut Austin Collie's route.

Meanwhile, give Brady another split second and he would have seen Danny Amendola get 1-on-1 coverage in the slot, with inside position.

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On what turned out to be the game-winning TD, the Pats insistence on keeping Charles Clay from hurting them hurt the overall play. They had Dont'a Hightower lined up across from Clay, with the intention of jamming him.

Hightower largely whiffed on the jam, then faded back into coverage, picking up running back Marcus Thigpen out of the backfield. Initially, Hightower has perfect position, playing Thigen to the outside, with Brandon Spikes ready to help on any move to the post.

But Hightower over-commits to the interior, losing that outside leverage. Thigpen quickly darts toward the flag and Hightower is immediately turned around.

To add insult to injury, Hightower still has a chance to make the tackle short of the goal line. He comes up empty and leaves a bad taste on what was an otherwise strong day for the second-year pro.