December 3, 2016

Second Look: Patriots at Tennessee

Just some quick thoughts on the Tennessee game the Patriots won this past weekend 40-23. Since a lot of people have moved on to the Jets playoff game and the game didn’t have the significance it could have, we’ll just take a look at the positive things that came out of the game. There were a number of things to like.

First, at quarterback, Tom Brady was on. Like the Jets did last time they met the Patriots, the Titans came after Brady and Brady burnt them in a number of ways. With effective short, long and screen passes, he was able to take advantage all day. Sunday, if the Jets try the same approach, they will have to make the them pay as the Titans did Sunday, as opposed to how they were mostly unable to do that in that last game against the Jets.

Other positives from Sunday included the running backs again getting back into early season form. Corey Dillon has started looking more and more like the back he was early in the season, as opposed to a run-down, tired back he looked for a time a month or so ago. Maybe saving him carries all season has saved him from the wear and tear that is tough on backs in their thirties, as Dillon is, and he is getting his second wind for a strong playoffs.

The receivers and line also contributed Sunday and Reche Caldwell among the receivers was particularly impressive. He has gotten better and better as the season has gone on and he once again stretched the field, catching a long touchdown pass and drawing a long inteference call. Chad Jackson had maybe his best game of the year catching a ball he made a play on, as well as a few nice punt returns.

Other positives included Heath Evans having his best day as a blocker all year, helping to spring a number of long runs. On defense, Roosevelt Colvin stood out and Jarvis Green was very active as well. James Sanders continues his overall good play in the secondary and you have to be impressed with the steadiness of Artrell Hawkins all year.

So, now its on to the Jets the familiarest of foes. The Jets played conservative and relatively mistake free on a sloppy field to slip by the Patriots last time. That isn’t an insult, its how they need to play…penalty and turnover free, smart, patient, take what the defense gives them, a few plays here and there and maybe slip out with a win. The Patriots need to match that play better this time. They need to be just as disciplined and mistake free. Brady, who had a terrible game last time, has to be better in handling the Jets blitz. The running game and particularly offensive line has to be better. Remembering last game, they were great in the first half then pretty much disappeared in the second. They have to stop the run, obviously, on defense. And they have to force Pennington to be one dimensional. It may seem contrart to instincts since Pennington is not a running quarterback, but I have always felt the way you really get to Pennington is to keep him in the pocket and not let him slide a bit left or right, employing a defense similar to you would against a scrambling quarterback like Vick or Young. Keep him in the pockets, don’t give him the sideline stuff and short dumps and make him throw to the center of the field from the pocket downfield and he simply doesn’t have the arm to get it done. He’s actually incredibly effective throwing on the move and sliding from side to side, but when you make him use his arm as a drop back passer, he can’t do it very effectively. That is how the Patriots have beat him in the past. They didn’t do it last time.

It should be an interesting game. Until then.

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