Slow reaction could be killer against Saints

Slow reaction could be killer against Saints
October 8, 2013, 5:15 pm
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The critical play of Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati -- a third-and-15 completion late in the third quarter that got the Bengals from their 2-yard line out to the 30 -- was set up by miscommunication.

The Patriots were slow to get set up. The Bengals were fast to get the ball snapped. In essence, the Patriots defense got Bradied.

The Bengals are not anyone’s idea of an explosive offense. The Saints, Sunday’s opponent, are the epitome of one.

Bad communication is something Drew Brees sniffs out in a hurry. So the idea of pre-snap skullduggery? Better put that on the back burner, Bill Belichick said Tuesday.

“You have to be careful about trying to do too much with him,” Belichick cautioned. “You better be able to get to what you have, which does mean that a lot of times you have to show what you’re in, in order to match up against their different looks because they create a lot of different formationing.”

In days gone by, the Patriots were a difficult matchup for teams because of their presnap disguises. Quarterbacks would spend several seconds trying to figure out who was dropping, who was rushing, where the safeties were headed by waiting for tells as the Patriots wandered around.

The prevalence of teams that like to push tempo has lessened the effectiveness of pre-snap disguising.

“They use a lot of different personnel groups with the multiple tight ends -- all their backs play, all their tight ends play, all their receivers play,” said Belichick. “They run them in and out of there in a hurry. Then get lined up and get to go, you have to be ready to play when the ball is snapped because he does a very good job of, when the defense, when they miss somebody, (Brees) finds them. They get a bunch of plays every week on I would say, defensive mistakes or alignment errors that (Brees) recognizes and just gets the ball to whoever it is and then you’re chasing him. That’s a big challenge.”

Because the Saints have such diverse weapons -- a third-down back in Darren Sproles, a hybrid tight end in Jimmy Graham, a bell-cow back in Pierre Thomas and a wide receiver corps led by Marques Colston -- there are mismatches that are obvious when they step to the line of scrimmage.

Which is why, Belichick explained, there’s not a lot of audibling by Brees. More than anything, he wants to hit the gas.

“Does he change them?” asked Belichick. “Yes. Can he change them? Yes. Does he do it a lot? I wouldn’t say it’s… we’ve seen other guys do it more. But I would say that he does it probably when he needs to, like if they’re in a play that’s a bad play, he can get out of it. But he plays at a fast tempo and you don’t have a lot of time defensively to see your assignments, communicate them and do them because it all happens in a hurry. They give you a lot of different looks so you have to react to it pretty quickly.”

If Andy Dalton can get Marvin Jones on a key play to run at fast-tempo, Belichick doesn’t have to remind his defense what Brees can do to the New England defense on Sunday.