Know Thy Enemy: New England Patriots


You gotta hand it to Bill Belichick.   Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand the MILF-chasing, sneaky videotaping (thankfully, those hobbies don’t overlap) stone face.  But you have to appreciate his ability to spin straw into gold.  This is actually a rebuilding year for the New England Patriots as they attempt to inject fresh talent in to a team which has only a few remnants remaining from the glory teams of the past decade.   And, yet, they don’t seem to miss a beat, winning the AFC East last season and posting a 6-2 record thus far in 2010.

STEELERS DEFENSE vs. PATRIOTS OFFENSE

Coming off knee surgery, Tom Brady took a while to get back into the swing of things last season but rebounded to post one of his usual fantastic stat lines.   This year, not even his ridiculous Bieber-hair has interfered with his ability to get the ball where it needs to go.  A 14/4 TD-INT ratio puts to rest any worries that Tom Terrific is slowing down.   One concern, however, is a sprained foot which kept him out of practice this week.   Not that Brady has ever been mistaken for a Slash but the ability to slide around the pocket to buy the extra second or two may be something to look for when he faces the Pittsburgh Steelers hellacious pass rush.

WR Wes Welker, coming off a serious knee injury, remains one of the best slot receivers in the league.  Although without Randy Moss stretching the field and keeping the defense from clogging the middle, Welker’s numbers have declined sharply (36, 24, and 25 yards in the past three games).  Part of the slack is expected to be picked up by the returning Deon Branch and second year player Brandon Tate.  Although the Pats best receiving threats have been rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Woodland Hills alum Rob Gronkowski.

Shockingly, the Patriots actually rank higher in rushing offense (15th) than passing (17th).  The running back position is a motley crew of misfits.  Oft-injured Laurence Maroney has been shipped out of town in favor of a two-headed monster consisting of Benjarvis Green-Ellis and little Danny Woodhead.   If you watched HBO’s fantastic Hard Knocks this year, you’ll remember Woody as a Rex Ryan favorite.  The 5’8 195 runt has become a New England cult hero because he embodies all the qualities Massholes hold dear (ie:  He’s white).

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Belichick takes a page from his own book and comes out throwing the ball 35 consecutive times like he did in a memorable Monday Night game many years back.  The Browns held them under 70 rushing yards last week while the Steelers remain the top ranked rushing D.  On the flip side, our pass defense continues to slide down the standings on a weekly basis.  Gay covering Welkah or B-Mac giving one of his patented 8 yard cushions to Branch is the stuff nightmares are made of.

STEELERS OFFENSE vs. PATRIOTS DEFENSE

Remember all that nice stuff I said about Billy boy in my introduction?  Well, despite my puke-inducing praise, one fact remains.  The current Patriots defense is garbage.  GARBAGE.

They’re 29th in total yards allowed, 29th in passing yards per game, and 21st in rushing yards per game.  We should’ve seen this coming after the Ravens absolutely humiliated them 33-14 in last year’s playoffs.   But the point was more than driven home last week when Browns RB Peyton Hillis gashed them for 184 yards while Colt McCoy directed a steady attack without throwing a single interception.  Belichick is reloading the defense but it’s very much still a work in progress.

The fly in the Steelers’ ointment is half the team is in desperate need of Tiger Balm.  The offense was decimated by injuries last week.   Heath Miller is battling a gimpy knee.   Mewelde Moore and Issac Redman were both concussed last week but have been cleared by team doctors.  Of course, one bell-ringing hit and Jon Dwyer is a step closer to toting the rock.

Naturally the biggest concern is an offensive line which has been left in shambles.  Max Starks has a herniated disk in his neck which requires season ending surgery.  The Steelers haven’t said exactly what their plan is for Sunday night but I have to think they’ll either move Flozell Adams back to his original LT position or insert Jonathan Scott who started there for Sean Kugler’s Buffalo Bills.  Personally, I’d leave the Hotel on the right side because they’ve been generating great push in the running game.

But wait, there’s more!  Chris Kemoeatu has a double whammy knee/ankle sprain which in his own words is “not good.”  Meanwhile, Maurkice Pouncey is battling a bruised tibia.  Mike Tomlin was hoping both would be good to go but it sounds like only Pouncey is expected to play.  If the line can hold it together with scotch tape and Bubble Yum, Ben Roethlisberger and the offense should have plenty of opportunities against a fairly porous defense.

One final note, I don’t usually mention special teams since I like talking about real football players.  However, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has a bum hip and is done for the year.  They’ve brought in former Bungle Shayne Graham to handle FG duties in his absence.

The Steelers were 6-2 at the mid-way point last year and we were saying, “Who cares how you win or how many injuries you have?   We’re 6-2!”   Then we fell into an epic swoon where we lost five straight games against some of the most pathetic teams in the NFL.  I hate to put too much emphasis on one particular game but I feel this is the tipping point for the entire season.  Win this game and I’ll feel a whole lot better about our chances going forward.  Lose or even have another 4th quarter like the one against the Bengals and the alarm bells will continue to grow louder.

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  • Tom G

    I can’t really add anything, because you covered it so well. Dead balls-ons accurate! Great job, brosef.

  • Oreokat

    Great take on the state of both teams, IMHO.

    I don’t know how the re-re-re-re-formulated O Line will do, but Kugler has worked magic so far this year. If they can even perform at a mediocre level Mendy, Ben and our stud receivers should put up 27. Always concerned about our D’s ability to stop Brady, however. He has shredded the Steelers over the years, and our pass defense is looking anemic. Hope I’m wrong, but BMac might be in for a long night. And sure hoping Polamalu finds a way to return to form this week. All things considered: Steelers 27 Pats 20.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Yeah, the best strategy against the Pats’ offense would seem to be copying Cleveland (I can’t believe I just typed that) and running the ball to keep Brady off the field. Which goes back to the whole “offensive line in shambles” and how effective Mendy will be.

      So, naturally, I’m expecting a shoot-out.

  • Ben

    This game makes me nervous. The Patriots almost never lose two straight and Tom Brady is 5-1 against the Steelers. I remember being at the AFC championship game Roethlisberger’s rookie year in particular on a ridiculously cold day when Tom Brady came out in shorts and a t-shirt 3 hours early before going on to dominate our defense.

    The Steelers can win this if they open the game establishing the run. They have to do this without being predictable. More often than not I know when we are going to run just by the formation. If I, a law student with no football experience beyond a lot of Madden, can guess the play by formation, imagine what the Belicheaters could do. I do think Roethlisberger could torch this defense, but I hate when we open with stupid 1-yard screens to Hines. Love the guy, but that was a Santonio play and needs more quickness than ol’ reliable has at this point.

    Anyway, I think the Steelers defense could be in for trouble against the Patriots. We will likely stop the run, but as you mentioned, Belichek is perfectly willing to give up on the run and just throw 70 times if he has to. Unless Gay-ness steps it up or the Steelers switch Ike to Welker in the slot, expect about 10-15 5 yard outs.

    Prediction in the end is that the Steelers take this thing, but it won’t be easy. Probably an early lead followed by a comeback by the Patriots, followed by a comeback led by Big Ben late. 27-24 Steelers

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Those one yard “bubble screens” (as Arians calls them) drive me nuts. Everybody sees it coming because he dials it up 5-7 times a game. Speaking of Madden, it reminds me of when you have Madden suggest the play and it keeps bringing the same ones up over and over again.

      And, yeah, you’re right. It had a chance of working when ‘Tone ran it but it just doesn’t suit Hines at all.

  • Joltin Joe

    Article tries to touch on a few actual football issues but is unprofessional in trying to trash the NE head coach, any attractive women he might be seen with by using negative expressions (milf) and then accuses the entire region of racism because Woodhead is white…as if being a very good player has nothing to do with it…and neglects the fact that he wouldn’t have even come to town if NE’s favorite son Kevin Faulk, a black man, hadn’t had a serious injury. Go find a job more suited to you.

    • Tom G

      Lighten up, Francis. It’s called humor.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Perhaps you’re new to the concept of “blogging,” Joe, so allow me to educate you. This is not a newspaper and I am not a journalist. Nor do I claim to be. I am a Steelers fan writing as a Steelers fan on a Steelers FAN BLOG.

      And where did I trash Belicheat for hanging out with attractive older women? I only shuddered at the thought of a Belichick sex tape. If I wanted to trash him, I would’ve mentioned some of those cougars he’s been seen with are married.

  • Joltin Joe

    Your right, I am new to this. Guess as I was reading I was thinking it was actually a column. That’s a relief.
    Ben says this game makes him nervous. And I guess it should. But it makes all NE fans nervous as well. We know the Steelers are among a group of “contenders” for the crown. We want to be as well…but we’re not sure yet. I hate the word “rebuilding” in regards to football because it kind of infers that your not expected to win. You’ll never hear Bill say he’s rebuilding. Of course Ben also uses the term Belicheaters. He’s a law student so I’m a bit surprised that he did not see that the rule that Bill supposedly violated could be interpreted in different ways.
    If you want to slander someone, how bout a self indulgent sex offender QB…oh no, cant do that…he plays for us.

    • Ben

      As South Park so eloquently put it: when a white person cheats, they just say “I misinterpreted the rules.” But as a law student, I realize there is always room to make an argument. As far as Roethlisberger goes, I will freely admit that he is not an ideal moral person and there is a strong possibility he raped or at least took advantage of that girl. I wish the Steelers would have traded him about the same time as Santonio, and it does really hurt me to say that because I was a huge Roethlisberger fan. Hardly a blind eye. But yeah, I would be the one to call Roethlisberger :”Rapistberger,” and the one to call Belichek “Belicheat” in a football conversation, basically because it is funny.

      Good luck Sunday night. The Patriots and the Ravens are two teams which I hate, but have such a begrudging respect for that I almost secretly like them.

  • CaptainAge

    Now, in light of the comments about 4th quarter issues – I mentioned in one of my first posts
    ever on this board that I thought the problem with the defense was brought to light during the
    Cardinals superbowl. So, I went back and had a look at the 4th quarter scoring against the
    Steelers since that game. Here is what I found:

    Year Team Score 4th % Score
    2008
    Arizona 23 16 69.57%

    2009
    Titans 10 3 30.00%
    Bears 17 10 58.82%
    Bengals 23 14 60.87%
    Chargers28 21 75.00%
    Lions 20 7 35.00%
    Browns 14 0 0.00%
    Vikings 17 7 41.18%
    Broncos 10 0 0.00%
    Bengals 18 6 33.33%
    Chiefs 27 10 37.04%
    Ravens 20 3 15.00%
    Raiders 27 21 77.78%
    Browns 13 6 46.15%
    Packers 36 22 61.11%
    Ravens 20 0 0.00%
    Dolphins24 14 58.33%

    2010
    Falcons 9 3 33.33%
    Titans 11 8 72.73%
    Bucs 13 7 53.85%
    Ravens 17 7 41.18%
    Browns 10 7 70.00%
    Dolphins22 3 13.64%
    Saints 20 14 70.00%
    Bengals 21 14 66.67%

    On average, the 2009 Steeers gave up approx 40% of their points in the 4th quarter.
    The 2010 version has it sitting at 53% – and this is just to date. The last two
    weeks have been especially troubling. Almost 70% for the both of them.

    I understand that some points are “garbage” points – Titans, Bucs, Browns – but if you
    look at the game as a whole – 25% of the game the opposition is scoring 53% of their points.
    Which in my opinion is cause for concern.

    We expected that the drop off last year was due to the injuries. But they are on pace to be
    worse this year even with Troy healthy. It isn’t helping that we have MacFadden doing his
    best bull fighter impression with the receivers and William Gay not being able to cover
    my grandmother.

    I think the problem is the lack of adjustments the Steelers make at half time/during the
    game. During that 4th quarter comeback, the Defense wasn’t mixing up their scheme very much.
    They were blizzing on almost every down leaving that crap secondary to fend for themselves.

    • CaptainAge

      Sorry folks – that “table” looked better formatted on my screen. The “columns” if you can call them that – is:
      Year, the team the played, the final score, the percentage of points scored in the 4th quarter.

      • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

        Sorry, my site hates formatting columns. I tried putting one in a post a few weeks back and it took me 25 minutes. Good hustle, though. Way to make all the other commenters (and myself) look lazy. lol

        Anyway, all you really needed was to note how 53% of the total points are being scored in the 4th. That seems inordinately high and speaks to their struggles the past two seasons. I don’t think anybody denies this, though.

        I would strongly disagree that we need more adjustments. Dick LeBeau is one of the best D-coordinators not just in football but football history. I wouldn’t presume to ever question him. I don’t think anybody knows more about football strategy than him.

        HOWEVER, I do see his dilemma. His choice comes down to playing a dime with a bunch of DBs or playing a nickel and keeping his better players on the field. Do you take out Harrison and/or Timmons so you can get Anthony Madison or Keenan Lewis out there? I wouldn’t. The only problem is for some reason in the 4th they seem to get to the QB a lot less and other QBs seem to find one-on-ones to exploit a lot more.

        • CaptainAge

          I’m not disagreeing with you regarding LeBeau’s credentials – that being said, LeBeau isn’t infallible. Something is happening at the end of the game and it would appear that the offense has made adjustments and the Steelers have not. The statistics are there to prove it.

          Does age play a role in these late game struggles? Potentially, there is a reason why a player hitting the 30 mark is a big milestone. This would also explain the tendency to hold the opposing offense down for the first three quarters of the game.

          In any event, I obviously do not have the answers and based on the statistics it would appear that the people being paid millions of dollars do not either. But why are the Browns able to fool the Saints into throwing 4 interceptions, or why were they able to out scheme the Pat’s last weekend with less talent on their defence then the Steelers have. This leads me to play calling and making adjustments on the fly. Whether it’s on offense OR defence.

          As an aside – I put the breakdown in my first comment because it’s easier to make a statement of 53% of blah – when you have numbers to back it. Call that my science background paying dividends :)

          • CaptainAge

            Out coached and out played yet again against New England. They beat the Steelers the same way every time they play.

            The good news, at least they won’t have a 4th quarter meltdown this week.

  • Tom G

    Agreed. It’s sickening that they do this every time, and the Steelers seem powerless to stop it. I really don’t understand that one…

    • CaptainAge

      How bad is Keenan Lewis, if he can’t get on the field with the way those other two pylons are playing MacFadden/Gay.

  • Brian Grenier

    Big mouth with a bigger imagination. Not talkin’ too much now that “Has Ben” and the rest of the “Anemic Curtain” got a good ol’ fashioned fanny-smack, are ya? Hmmm… wish I could see you wash the egg off your face this week!