Pats' defense breaking down in all corners


Pats' defense breaking down in all corners

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., -- On the play that started the Bills' first drive of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a 33-yard pass over the head of Patriots corner Leigh Bodden.
On the play that started the final Bills' drive of the day, Fitzpatrick completed a 29-yard pass over Patriots corner Devin McCourty. McCourty was a 2010 first-round pick and was a second-team All Pro last year. Bodden was the team's best corner in 2009 and then re-signed with the team for a fat payday before 2010. Good players.

Just not good enough. Not good enoughto lock down on the perimeter against receivers with no safety help over the top and not a whiff of a pass rush. For the third straight game, the Patriots corners -- good players -- got bludgeoned on the outside. Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Donald Jones combined for 19 catches, 279 yards and a touchdown. Last week, the Chargers' Vincent Jackson had 10 for 172. In Week 1, Brandon Marshall led Miami with 7 catches for 139. After the training camp and preseason, it appeared the Patriots were changing to an attack-style 4-3 defense that would create some pressure on opposing quarterbacks and allow the secondary a little more time to make plays. Problem is, there have been precious few blitzes, there's been very little pressure and on the back-end, where the Patriots have gone man-to-man, they are getting abused. Bills receiver David Nelson, a 6-foot-5, 217-pound target for Fitzpatrick explained what he saw from the Patriots defense going into this game. "We saw a lot of man-to-man," he explained. "We saw alot of 1-on-1 coverage; it comes down to you beating your man. And that's something we pride ourselves on -- being able to beat man-to-man coverage and as a receiver, you have to. If you can't beat man-to-man coverage you can't play in this league."They were a solid man-to-man team the first two games," Nelson continued, and by "solid" he meant "unwavering." "They came out today and kind of changed it up which gave us some problems in the first half. But they went back to it in the second half and that's what we saw on film: An aggressive team that plays man-to-man. We knew we had to beat them at that."And they did. Because, going up against 5-foot-10 corners who are backpedaling and failing to create any disruption at the line with jams, it's a total mismatch. Mentioning this to Nelson and asking if that's why he thinks he should win that matchup, he said, "I like to think so. That's what it comes down to. You hit it right on the head. I know where I'm going. A lot of times, a lot is made up in preparation and film study (but) I know where I'm going, I know what I'm doing they have to come and stop me. That's the mindset you have to have."McCourty didn't just get beat on the long pass to Jones. He also got beat on an 11-yard end zone fade toJohnson. On both plays, he was in press coverage in the face of the receiver. On neither play did he make contact with his jam and that put him in chase mode right away. "He made a good release on me and it was just bad technique," McCourty said of the Johnson touchdown. Asked if he failed with his jams when he didn't make contact, McCourty said, "You go up there and you want to disrupt timing and down the field make the play. You're never screwed at the start of the play. It's all about the finish."That's postgame spin, though. Physics says that, if you lose a step to someone as fast or faster than you within the first 5 yards, you are in trouble as a cornerback. And McCourty basically said that later, pointing out, "In the secondary, it always comes down to technique. (Any small thing), a step the wrong way and he gets an advantage, especially at the corner position, it's all about technique."And the Patriots' technique has been awful.Last week, Bodden got called for two illegal-contact penalties because he maintained contact past 5 yards. This week, nobody seemed to make much contact. Without a pass rush -- andFitzpatrick was not hurried or flushed at all on Sunday -- it's like a 9-on-7 drill. The Bills quarterback finished 27-for-40 for 369 yards. Nelson explained that the Patriots appear to bewaiting for offenses to shoot themselves in the foot. "We knew they weren't a big blitz team," he explained. "We knew they were going to try and sit back, play man-to-man, read the run. If it wasn't run, they were gonna drop seven guys back . . . We knew we would be able to drop back and throw the football. They pride themselves on being able to drop back and make you make errors as far as penalties, dropping balls, bad decisions on routes. They pride themselves on that, making you beat yourself. They're not going to blitz you and make you make turnovers, they're going to wait for you to make mistakes."TheBills made their share. But then the Patriots did as well. And this defense isn't good enough to cover for them. And the scheme doesn't work right now. Asked about the lack of blitzes, linebacker Jerod Mayo said,"I don't make the game plans, I don't call the schemes. That's something you can ask Coach Bill Belichick and (de-facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia). Whether it's stay back or blitz, it's up to them. We just have to get better. We'll lick our wounds and go back to work. It stings. It stings because it was in the division and we felt like we were in control of the game, we just didn't make the plays when we needed to."You can wonder what might have been different if Patrick Chung, Albert Haynesworth and Ras-I Dowling played or if Josh Barrett hadn't had his right hand in a cast. The answer is, probably the same thing that ended up happening. Because even when those players were healthy, the Patriots' pass defense looked sick. If this team wants to get where it ought to go, they need to get well soon. Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats


Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats

FOXBORO -- When Dion Lewis wasn't spotted at Wednesday's practice, we had to make it clear when we mentioned his absence: He had only, as far as we knew, missed the start of practice. Though unlikely, there's always the chance a player emerges from the locker room once practice has started and goes through the remaining periods of the workout. 

Now that we have the injury report for Wednesday, we know that wasn't the case for Lewis. He did not show up on the report as a limited participant, meaning he didn't participate at all. 

There were no surprises on Wednesday's injury report, with nine players listed as limited, including tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (hip) and receiver Julian Edelman (foot).

For the Bills, running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) did not participate. Bills coach Rex Ryan explained on Wednesday that McCoy aggravated his hamstring injury against the Dolphins on Sunday, but he did not rule him out for the Patriots game this coming weekend.

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury related)
LB Zach Brown (illness)
DT Corbin Bryan (shoulder)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
TE Cordy Glenn (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring)
LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
DT Adolphus Washington (illness)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring)
RB Mike Gillislee (foot)
T Seantreal Henderson (back)
LB Jerry Hughes (hand)
G John Miller (shoulder)
WR Robert Woods (foot)

Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?


Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?

FOXBORO -- As far as Tom Brady is concerned, there were no silver linings to Deflategate or the month he spent in exile from his team. Don’t try to put whipped cream on that particular mound of fecal material.
Found that out Wednesday when I gingerly asked Brady whether he’s ever felt this good in mid-October.
“I feel good,” said Brady. “I felt good at this time last year though, too. From one year to the next, I’d say I’ve become pretty efficient with how I get ready to play.
So the missing of September?
“I always wish I could be out there playing,” he pointed out. “I’d much rather be playing than not playing, but it is what it is. I feel good at this point. But like I said, I felt good last year, I felt good the year before that, and I think every year at this time of year just based on the right routine and kind of doing the right things to get yourself feeling good.”
The line of questioning was prompted by two things.
First, Brady’s played 256 games -- regular season and playoffs -- since 2000. His 31 postseason starts are the most in NFL history and he’ll add to it this year. No quarterback’s ever had a schedule like Brady’s for as long as Brady and the punishment he takes (witness Denver last January) would have destroyed the Montanas and Mannings with whom he’s compared. The extended layoff had to do a body good. And the level at which Brady’s playing right now -- and may continue to because he’s fresher -- can only mean good things.
Second, all the band, resistance and quickness work Brady does will never make him fast. But it has seemed to make him more decisive and determined that -- when he does opt to run -- the body will cooperate and arrive at the appointed destination without disaster.
Sunday, Brady both bought time for completions and embarked on short-range scrambles that picked up key first downs.
When Brady talked last week about making Pittsburgh “defend every inch of the field,” Brady scooting into open areas was a perfect illustration of that.
“If there are two or three plays a game that you can make just moving the pocket, or sliding, or buying your receivers more time, or scrambling on third-and-two, it’s just one more thing that they have to defend,” said Brady. “We made – Jimmy [Garoppolo] made a bunch of those when he was in there early. Jacoby [Brissett] made some.
“It’s nice to be able to do that because I think it’s a little discouraging for a defense when they feel like they’ve got you covered or they’ve got the right call on it, and all of the sudden – I mean, I don’t think they’re preparing for me scrambling for first downs. I know they’re not working on that. They’re working on stopping Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], and stopping Julian [Edelman], and Danny, and Hogs [Chris Hogan], LeGarrette [Blount] and James [White]. That’s not one of their top 10 things on their hit list, so I think it’s pretty discouraging when it happens and hopefully we can keep it going.”
At this point, Brady’s running has to at least be in the scouting report.
Although Rex Ryan isn’t buying.
“I’d like to see him do it more often,” said Ryan when asked if the scrambling of Brady was becoming annoying. “Put him in the option, that’s one thing that doesn’t scare you much, you live with that. What scares you is when he lets the ball go. He’s able to pick up a few first downs, But I think we may have the edge in running ability this week. I may go out there and make that bold statement. They may be worried about (Tyrod Taylor) more than than we’ll be about Tom running.”