Friday, November 19, 2010

Patriots Work on Colts Speed, Quickness, and Tempo

As the New England Patriots get ready to face the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, Pats head coach Bill Belichick talked about how the team must prepare for the Colts tempo on offense, while dealing with their speed and quickness on defense. A difficult task for The Hoodie, given the amount of young players on the squad.

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots gives instructions against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
"It’s always hard to get ready for them." Belichick said today.  "They (Colts) do a lot of things; they give you a lot of different looks. I think our players have worked hard: [Brian] Hoyer running the scout team offense, and the offensive guys doing the no-huddles. They’ve done a good job. Defensively, we’re trying to simulate the speed and quickness and energy that they have on defense - the way they play with their stunts and their up-field pressure and so forth. Guys are really trying to give us a good look on that, but it’s different because it’s a lot different style than what we play."

The tempo that Peyton Manning runs the Colts offense poses problems for the Pats young defense and their coaching staff. "That’s one of the real challenges of playing against the Colts." Belichick stated. "First of all, you don’t who they’re going to have on the field, but you know, whoever you put on the field, you might have to live with for 15 plays or until you can get a sub, so, that’s definitely a problem. But you don’t know for sure whether they’re going to be in two tight ends and two receivers or whether they’re going to be in three receivers and one tight end, because they mix back and forth with those groups. Sometimes they sub them in the game or sometimes they leave one group out there and if they feel they have good matchup against your defensive group - whatever that is - then they just leave it out there and they don’t let you substitute, or it’s hard to substitute, [not that] they don’t let you. But if it’s a long, incomplete pass or a run over on your sideline, [then] you can do that, but you don’t necessarily know when that’s coming. So, yeah, that’s definitely a challenge and that comes up a lot in the red area. You see them in the red area a lot of the times, they hurry to the line and the [other] team is in their dime defense on the one-yard line and it just doesn’t look very good. I’m sure that’s not what they want to be in. We’ve been there before where you have that kind of defense on the field in that field position and it’s not really what you want, but you can’t get anybody in there unless you take a timeout if you have them, depending on the situation. But, again, you hate to use your only timeouts just on the substitutions. It’s definitely a challenge. They do a real good job on that - probably as good as anybody in the league that we’ve faced - of preventing defenses from substituting on their [own] terms; you can only substitute when Indy wants to sub. They got Kansas City twice, maybe three times. [They] got Houston a couple times. They do a good job."

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 04:  Robert Mathis #98 and Dwight Freeney #93 of the Indianapolis Colts react after Mathis sacked Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their game on November 4, 2007 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Freeney and Mathis
Defensively, Indianapolis poses problems with their speed and quickness, notably with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Hoodie also addressed this today. "They’re a team that has a certain style of play and I think based on their record, they’ve been very successful. They turn the ball over a lot and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They give up some yards. Historically, they’ve been very good in the red area. Some games have been better than others, naturally, but they’re a good red area team. They don’t give up a lot of big plays for the most part. They hit the quarterback. They have real great team speed and quickness and they turn the ball over. Again, really, it comes down to winning the game and timing. The Cincinnati game is a great example. Cincinnati’s got the ball across midfield. [The Bengals] are down by six. They hold [Jermaine] Gresham up; they strip him [and] get the ball out. They run some time off the clock. They punt it down to him. [Robert] Mathis sacks [Carson] Palmer. [Dwight] Freeney sacks Palmer and the game’s over. So what don’t you like about that defense? They had to make three plays. They made three in a row. That’s the game. I’m not saying there aren’t other plays that are important, but that’s kind of what they do. We can find a lot of examples of that. But I think the big thing when you play them, you have to take advantage of whatever opportunities you get, which aren’t going to be unlimited. There will be some in the game. You’ve got to be able to take advantage of them. You’ve got to hit the deep balls when they’re there. You’ve got to stay out of long-yardage – you definitely don’t want to be in third-and-10s, third-and-12s, that kind of thing. That’s when the problems really increase. [You have to] not have those negative plays: penalties, false starts, offensive pass interference, holding, and all that. Those are all drive-stoppers."

The Patriots have done a reasonably good job game planning the Patriot offense to minimize the opposition pass rush this season. Look for the Pats offense to try to establish the run early. This will allow them to use play action effectively, where they should be able to take advantage of Aaron Hernandez' speed to neutralize the Colts defenders. The effectiveness of Rob Gronkwski in the red zone will make the Pats other weapons more effective as the offense gets closer to the goal line. Once they have a lead late, it'll be Law Firm and Woodhead, as the Pats try to keep Manning on the bench.

Defensively, New England will most likely keep the blitzing to a minimum. This would be a different approach than the Steelers game plan, where the Pats deployed exotic blitz packages against Rothlisberger. The better plan will be to try to fool Manning with coverages. Expect a big game out of McCourty, who will no doubt be matched against the #1 Colt receiver, either Collie or Wayne, depending on their injury status. Both are listed as questionable for Sunday.

The game will come down to whether or not the Pats young players will be ready to take on future Hall of Famer Manning and the Colt offense. Expect Belichick to have them coached up and ready to beat the Colts Sunday at Gillette.

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