LeBeau finally gets the better of Brady

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LeBeau finally gets the better of Brady

PITTSBURGH -- There was a lot of talk leading into Week 8 about Dick LeBeau's defense.

In the football world, the term rolls off the tongue with gravitas: Dick LeBeau's Defense. The product of a Hall of Famer. The brainchild of a defensive innovator.

And the plaything of quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady's dominance over the Steelers became a focus of the matchup. Would it continue? Would he add to his 6-1 career record against the Steelers? It was his numbers in those wins -- 14 touchdown passes and one pick -- that made the feat so stunning.

But Dick LeBeau is a genius!

The coordinator is once again a winner as of Sunday. Brady completed 24 of 35 pass attempts for 198 yards and two touchdowns in New England's 25-17 loss. His 101.8 passer rating is deceptive; the Patriots never established consistent offense and was downright bad compared to Pittsburgh.

And the numbers grew lopsided early.

Total yards through the first half: Patriots 83, Steelers 261

Time of possession through the first half: Patriots 8:47, Steelers 21:13

Brady's offense had 19 total first downs to Ben Roethlisberger's 29.

The Patriots went 3-fior-10 (30-percent) on third down. Pittsburgh went 10-for-16 (63-percent).

When it was all over, Brady walked through the tunnel to the locker room alone. It took him longer than usual to take the podium. He arrived in a three-piece suit, the eye-black and scowl washed away.

"Well, we just didn't execute very well on offense," he said. "We didn't compliment our defense well. In the first quarter we had an opportunity to go answer their score and we go three-and-out. There was too many three-and-outs. Just a poor level of execution all the way around. We need to look in the mirror and figure out what we need to do better, try to go out and play better next week.

"We never really played with the lead, we never really played on our terms. I think they played very well defensively. They have a lot of great players over there, great scheme, great coaching. We give them, certainly, a lot of credit and we understand that if we play like that we're not going to beat many people at all."

Brady lamented their lack of adjustment. LeBeau set his secondary in man coverage, at times using six defensive backs. And they blitzed, blitzed, blitzed -- a trademark of his 'D', even though not in zone. Three times Brady was sacked (twice by LaMarr Woodley) and the last was the worst: New England was down six with 19 seconds to play. First-and-10. Brady comes out of shotgun and gets pulled down by Steelers lineman Brett Keisel for a loss of three. Fumble! Keisel touches it at the New England 15 before the ball bounces into the end zone and out of bounds.

Safety.

"They blitz 50 percent of the time anyway as a defense, and certainly a lot more than that on third down. It's a lot of pressure," Brady said. "You've got to be able to stand up to the pressure. You've got to be able to complete tight throws and we just didn't do that.

"I think they played more man coverage then they've showed all year. And the way you beat man is you make plays against it and get them out of it. And we didn't do enough of that."

Not having a clear downfield threat is a problem. Chad Ochocinco was on the field for less than 10 snaps and got his feet tangled with a defender on the one deep post route he was targeted on. Brady only looked at Taylor Price once (incomplete). The longest ball caught by any Patriot was tight end Rob Gronkowski's 23-yard reception.

The offense did finally string a second touchdown drive together in the fourth quarter. It was exactly what the team needed: 10 plays, 67-yards and two Pittsburgh penalties in three minutes and 28 seconds. Brady fired his gun quickly, accurately, finding all his favorite targets: Welker for eight, Branch for 16, Gronkowski for 19, Faulk for 18. They were battling. In those minutes, the Steelers looked soft and the Patriots had purpose.

It just wasn't enough.

Pittsburgh failed on its ensuing drive, but so did New England. And it all ended with that fumble.

"It's a good football team. We played them on the road. There's not much margain for error when you play a good team on the road. We certainly made plenty of errors," Brady said.

Just as Dick LeBeau designed it.

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”