Many fans didn't know, Smith actually was brash enough to not only guarantee a victory, but to also disparage the Patriots' receivers before the game. After he spouted off in the media (on more than one occasion) he continued to talk trash during warm-ups at Gillette. Normally Brady would let something like that roll off his back, but Smith seemed to have the support of the Pittsburgh faithful. Even Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh's head coach, didn't brush aside Smith's comments before the game.
Brady is a very prideful guy, like many in New England's locker room. Obviously having a second year player call out guys like Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth deserved a response. On Sunday you saw Brady respond y defending his receivers. The amazing part of it, Smith continued to talk up the Steelers' ability in the secondary even after he personally gave up three big plays that won the game for New England. We're not sure if Smith is devoid of intelligence or he's just too young to learn from his mistakes. Either way, the Patriots know what the guy can do, and if he continues to question them publicly -- and the teams meet again -- you can bank on Brady going right after the kid.
2)There are a lot of people wondering if the Patriots are too pass happy and this might hurt them if they face tough winter weather in the playoffs. Are people underrating their running game?
Great question Dan. To be honest, I think the whole thing is a setup. When New England wants to run, they can. Almost every back that has carried on a regular basis in the game for New England managed near 4 yard per carry average. When you look at situational football, the Patriots seem to give up on the run far too early. I believe this is to give Brady and company a chance to make huge plays quickly to put opponents on their heels.
When you step back from all the media fueled hype and the stats mongers who say "yeah but" their running game is ranked 14th in the league, you miss the fact that when New England needs to run they can. If not, the 5-yard pass is still an option.
To put it in perspective, compare New England to San Diego – obviously a running team. The Patriots have rushed 365 times for 1,478 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Chargers – boasting the NFL's MVP at running back LaDainian Tomlinson – have rushed 358 times for 1,498 yards and 14 touchdowns.
3)How big a loss was OLB Rosie Colvin?
I think the biggest impact Colvin has is in setting the edge and possibly rushing an opponent. Teams aren't scared of Adalius Thomas rushing from the outside, or even setting the edge. While they weren't afraid of Colvin, they had no answer when he knew it was time to go full out and speed rush. While Thomas has the ability to perform in a similar fashion as Colvin, it's taking a while before Thomas can assimilate Colvin's impact on the edge. With Thomas on the end, the Patriots have lost some ground in the middle. The team is much better on defense with Colvin in the lineup.
4)Why has the Patriots run defense looked so suspect over the last month?
As I mentioned earlier, Adalius Thomas is taking some time adjusting to the techniques used to set the corner in New England's scheme. While he may have the physical ability, too many times Thomas isn't either fighting through the blocks he needs to, or even in the right spot to defense the run. I'm not picking on just him, but he's one of the main reasons the team has issue son run defense. The other problem is when teams decide to run up the gut, it's easy enough to seal Vince Wilfork out of the play and split the gap between NT and DE. It's the linebacker's role to fill. Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau have both had difficulty shedding blocks at the point of attack. If they can't get free to make the play a safety needs to come up for run support. When the safety is playing back to prevent the big play, you see big chunks of yardage gained by the opposition.
This is a result of the scheme. When New England knows teams are going to run, Rodney Harrison, James Sanders or both will crowd the line to stuff the running lane. That's exactly what happened to the Ravens who thought Willis McGahee could keep pounding the ball up the middle and Baltimore could run the clock out. What they didn't see was Harrison and Sanders crowd the line. We wrote about it in the recap. McGahee had gains of 0, 1, 2, -1 and 1 yards on Baltimore's final three possessions. The Patriots knew what was coming and they adjusted. When they do, their defense is much better than the stats indicate.
5)What kind of impact has Richard Seymour had since coming off the PUP list? We haven't heard his name much . . .
I'm not sure what the story with Seymour is. At times it seems he's taken out of the play by an easy block, one you would think he could handle. At other times, he's blowing up the play and one of his teammates makes the tackle, or the stop behind the line. Seymour almost never gets the credit in either situation, but his impact is fully realized on the field.
I've seen Seymour just take control in a game and dictate the opponent's strategy. When that happened, it wasn't' the sack total, or even to total tackles in the box score that indicate d how well Seymour played, it was the guys around him who benefited. All the recaps talked about how well Jarvis Green fared, or Mike Vrabel did, but what they didn't mention was Seymour had two guys he managed to push back 3 yards into the quarterback's pocket to force the QB to scramble into Vrabel, Green or Ty Warren's path. No, what you hear about is how great a game the other guys had. If the pocket wasn't made smaller because of Seymour's presence, then the recaps talk about how much time opponents had to throw the ball.
Like any great interior lineman, Seymour's impact is much greater than what you read in the press. With that said, it seems Seymour is wearing down faster now than in the past. A lot of that has to do with his knee injury. He is obviously fighting through the pain to play.
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