Attack mode suits Patriots' defense to a T

191543.jpg

Attack mode suits Patriots' defense to a T

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
TAMPA BAY - Bill Belichick has long since become exasperated with questions about 3-4 vs. 4-3 and whether his defense will attack more often. He doesn't get into it and his players have clearly been coached to not talk about it either. But the game don't lie. And Thursday night in Tampa Bay, the Patriots went after Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman like he'd been dipped in BBQ sauce and they hadn't eaten in weeks. The two-gapping, read-and-react defensive style was on ice. Pressure was the name of the game. Tampa tackle James Lee was on the other side of the mayhem. "Its a little different with those bigger guys pushing upfield shooting those gaps," he explained. "They require at least a double-team. Youre talking about 350-pound guys. Its hard for one guy to get up under and move that. It causes a lot of double teams and opens holes for linebackers to flow through. And thats what was happening out there tonight.With Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren and Myron Pryor crushing the interior of the Bucs offensive line, Andre Carter, Eric Moore and Mark Anderson were coming off the edge hard. With no chance to stepup in a passing pocket that had been pushed into his face, Freeman was under siege. Jerod Mayo had two sacks and several more pressures. Carter was nipping at Freeman's back on at least five different plays. It was a sight rarely seen from the Patriots defense."Well take a look at it on the film," Belichick said when asked what he thought of the pressure his defense brought."Looked like we made a few plays."Mayo was at the top of that list.A tackling machine in his first three seasons in the league, he was unleashed Thursday to get upfield instead of waiting for the action to come to him. "Coach wanted to be aggressive," said Mayo, who also had two passes defensed and three quarterback hits along with the sacks. "It felt pretty good, but whatever Coach Belichick wants to do. I just like winning games and I love playing football."On the first snap of the game, Mayo lined up off the right shoulder of Carter on the blind side of Freeman. Carter attracted the attention of left tackle Donald Penn and Mayo swooped in to bring Freeman down as he released.
Later, Mayo had a sack of Freeman with a well-timed blitzup the middle."I feel comfortable," said Mayo. "Im going into my fourth year, Coach Belichick is doing different things with me."Carter - who was told by Belichick that his job would be to put his hand in thedirt and get upfield - was an eye-openerThursday night. Even if he played down his performance. "Ill leave that up to the coaches," he said when asked how he did. "Im my own worst critic. But theres definitely room for improvement. Im getting a feel for the guys next to me. I did my best to try to play fast. But Im still remaining humble and still remaining hungry."As the pass rush becomes more orchestrated, it should continue to improve. Pass rushers need to work together to set up blockers and flush quarterbacks to areas that are locked down by other defenders.
"Thats just through practice and through the games," Carter said when asked about working in concert with the rest of the line. "Any defense is always talking about fits. Where you belong and where the guy next to you belongs. Once you have that concept and understanding the skys the limit as far as making big plays, tackles for loss or sack."

It's been a while since big plays were the norm for this defense. And to think that neither Shaun Ellis nor Albert Haynesworth have been dusted off yet. It could be scary.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it. 

"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."

Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance. 

He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection. 

Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.

"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . . 

"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."

He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."

Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.

Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.

"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Terrell Suggs keeps doing his best to pump air into his one-sided “feud” with Tom Brady.

Ever since Brady begged for a flag on Suggs after a benign hit back in 2009, Suggs has made it his mission to speak truth to the perceived power of Brady.

“Everyone just seems to worship the guy so much,” he once said. “Not me, though.”

So, Suggs has called basically derided Brady as a crybaby and occasionally called into question the validity of the Patriots championships.

It’s clearly all for show. When Deflategate was at its height in June of 2015, Suggs said of Brady, “The guy is a winner. He’s won with whatever kind of personnel that he’s had. So I don’t think [Deflategate] really tarnished it … Everybody needs something to write about and needs something to talk about. It’s always something. I’m leaving that alone.”

This week, Suggs smirkingly refused to use Brady’s name when discussing the Patriots leading up to Monday night’s game.

Asked about Brady earning his 201st win as an NFL starter, Suggs said, "He's pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don't lie. He's pretty good."

Suggs went on, avoiding Brady’s name. It’s something he’s done in the past for whatever reason. But he’s also been complimentary of the Patriots and Brady as well, saying that, when it’s done, there will be three quarterbacks in the conversation for best-ever: Montana, Unitas and Brady. 

The only time Brady’s verbally stepped out against Suggs and the Ravens is in response to their barbs. In 2010, Brady stated that the Ravens, “Talk a lot for beating us once in nine years.”

Brady also chastised Ravens coach John Harbaugh – now there’s a guy who whines! – after the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game when the Patriots snookered the Ravens with intricate formations. That’s about it for return fire.