Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage


Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage

There was once a time when opposing wide receivers feared the Patriots defense.

Rodney Harrison. Ty Law. Lawyer Milloy. Tedy Bruschi. Mike Vrabel. The list goes on.

If Hines Ward was to skip a game against the Pats in those years, it wouldn't be because he wasn't needed by his team. It would be because the Steelers would be worried that Harrison could end his season.

You can understand then why it was so painful for Harrison to watch the Patriots secondary get run all over.

"Well, I think the biggest thing for me is when I look at that secondary and that defense, they blitzed Pittsburgh, yes they did, but I saw those corners and those linebackers playing so timid, playing soft coverage," Harrison told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran on 'Quick Slants'. "You need to get up there. I know those guys are fast, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and those guys, they're very fast, but you have to get up there and challenge these guys. I just see just such soft coverage and I'm very disappointed in that."

So now the offense is a "finesse" style and the defense is "soft". Hey, when did the Patriots cheerleaders make the 53-man roster?

The secondary is a glaring weakness on the Patriots, one that opposing teams (at least the ones who did their homework) will surely take advantage of on a weekly basis. Curran points out that the Jets and Cowboys didn't do it, but why wouldn't anybody else?

Harrison is quick to note that the young and defenseless Pats are supposed to make up for inexperience with speed -- speed that they don't seem to have.

"Well, I mean, when coach Bill Belichick developed this defense and he brought younger guys in, the one thing I hear everyone say is, 'Well, he wants to get younger, he wants to get faster.' Well, where's the speed? I don't see a fast defense. I don't see an explosive defense out there.

"When I look at other defenses I see the speed. I see the speed on Green Bay's defense or even Pittsburgh's defense. But I don't see that fast speed with the New England Patriots. I'm just very disappointed because I look at that team and I say, you know, get up there and jam those guys, play some man-to-man coverage, blitz, and force the quarterback to make some mistakes."

At least the Patriots can fall back on their offense, right? It's bailed them out many times before, but when the playoffs roll around, it's got to be a team-wide effort, or again they'll be one and done.

"I think the thing is Belichick understands the strength of this team is in the offense," Harrison said. "They believe that they can go out and score 30 points a game even if they give up 23 points or 400, 500 yards on defense, it doesn't matter.

"But my problem with that is, when you start reaching in November and December in those critical months and the playoffs and stuff like that, you're going to have to be able to come up and play good defense and you can't rely on your offense because now you have to run the ball more and you have to have shorter passes."

Rex Ryan ready to be done seeing Tom Brady: 'Maybe that dude will retire...'


Rex Ryan ready to be done seeing Tom Brady: 'Maybe that dude will retire...'

FOXBORO -- Rex Ryan says he was just kidding. He didn't really mean it when he said he had a "mole" at Gillette Stadium telling him which Patriots quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, would play in Week 4. 

This week he doesn't need a network of spies to tell him who to prepare for. 

"My sources tell me Brady will be the quarterback," Ryan joked on a conference call Wednesday. 

Brady and Ryan have met 15 times dating back to the start of Ryan's head coaching career in 2009 with the Jets. Their matchups date back even further when factoring in Ryan's years as a defensive assistant and then defensive coordinator in Baltimore. 

But after three games this season, three games in which Brady has completed 75 percent of his passes for 1,004 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions, Ryan said it's hard to imagine a time when the Future Hall of Famer has looked more at ease. 

"Well, I mean, it’s almost like, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him better . . . I mean he he’s played in the league for 17 years, 18 years, something like that," Ryan said. "You know, obviously, he puts the work in and everything else and it’s just a real credit to him. 

"Like I keep thinking if I stay in this conference long enough, that maybe that dude will retire but I don’t see that happening anytime soon."

The respect is mutual. While Brady has the edge in the win-loss column, he clearly appreciates what Ryan's teams are able to do on the defensive side of the ball. 

They can be an annoyance in the way they deviate from what they've shown on film. 

"I think there’s an element of what you prepare for, you may not get many of those things," Brady said Wednesday. "We’ve played him sometimes when he’s been blitzing a lot, and he doesn’t blitz as much at all. Then he hasn’t been blitzing much at all and then he blitzes us at all. 

"I think you just have to be prepared for everything, which is a bit of a challenge because there’s only so much time in the week that you have to prepare. You’ve got to try to nail down what you think you’re going to get, then practice it and be able to adjust if need be when you get out there."

The philosophy behind Ryan's plan for Brady and the Patriots is a simple one, even if it results in complex pressures and coverage schemes. 

"He’s too good," Ryan said. "If he could just sit back and without challenging him, you know, it’s tough enough when you present something he hadn’t seen, but it’s damn near impossible when he hasn’t seen it."

Benefitting Brady in those types of what-the-hell-are-we-looking-at scenarios is that over the course of his 16 years as a starter, he's seen just about everything. And offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been by his side for just about all of it. Together they are often able to delve into their memory banks and pull out a game plan from their shared past, scrap the week of practice and preparation they'd just gone through, and roll with something different. 

If you're Ryan, you hope you can keep Brady guessing for 60 minutes. At the very least, you hope you can buy your team some time before he figures things out -- because odds are he will. 

"Same guy like he always is," Ryan said. 

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but . . . can I have your jersey?

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but . . . can I have your jersey?

Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster. 

Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh. 

The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad."


Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request. 

"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."

Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment. 

"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."