Belichick: "He can ruin the game."

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick is often lauded for being a football genius; after all, his team has won 3 out of the last 4 Super Bowls played. However, when it comes to game-planning against Julius Peppers, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how he can wreak havoc on the opposing teams' offense.

"Well, I think you have to account for him every play," Belichick said on Thursday. "You have to know where he is. He can ruin the game. Just like he did with the Giants. He ruined [Eli] Manning for about a month, too. He went in there, they had him double teamed, he blew past the tackle, strip sacked the ball and messed up Manning's elbow, scooped it up and ran in for a 60-yard touchdown. It doesn't get any worse than that. But, that is the kind of play he can make. And he was supposed to be doubled on the play, too."

Peppers was held largely in check last week against the Saints, when he faced highly-touted rookie Jammal Brown and a quick-firing Saints offense that knew what he could do if given time. Belichick knows too that if you give Peppers time to make a play, he will. "He's an impact player," said Belichick. "You have to know where he is. You have to defend him. He beat us inside on a rush down there in the preseason game last year, I don't know, for about a 15, 17-yard sack, whatever it was. We don't have any quarterbacks that can run away from him. I can tell you that. If he's after us, he's going to get us. He's a lot faster than we are."

"He bodyslammed me last year in the preseason and Coach showed that this morning," Patriots QB Tom Brady said on Wednesday. "It was like I was 150 pounds. He's strong, he runs well and he's very athletic. He plays draws well, he plays screens well, he rushes up the field and he powers the tackle. He can really do a lot of different things. It's challenging for the offense because he can kind of cover everything. You have to account for him. Hopefully he doesn't ruin the game for us this week, but he's very capable of doing that."

"Tom Brady's not going to let you sack him too many times unless somebody just gets waylaid, which doesn't happen very much, talking about up front with the protection," Panthers Head Coach John Fox said on Wednesday via conference call. "They do a nice job with what they're doing. He knows where to go with the ball, so I think what you have to do is pressure him and hurry him. You're not going to get there too many times. We didn't have a lot of sacks, but we had a lot of hurries and hits on him in the Super Bowl."

Peppers will be matched up against Tom Ashworth, who held him without a sack the last time the two met in an official game (Super Bowl XXXVIII). However, Fox and Belichick realize that Peppers is more dangerous now than he was the last time they met two seasons ago.

"Number one he is stronger," Fox said. "Technically he is a lot better as far as using his hands and recognizing things. Like most young players, I think they develop and he has definitely developed."

"He's a hard guy to fool and even if you do get him out of position a little bit," said Belichick. "He's such a great athlete, he has a lot of speed and power that he can recover very quickly. Again, it's different, but similar to coaching a player like Lawrence Taylor who, in all honesty, was out of position quite a bit, but he was such an exceptional athlete and was so fast and explosive, even though he was out of position, he could recover and still get back in on the play, which most players really can't do, or they can't do it as well as he could."

"Peppers is a little bit in that category."

Panther Insider Top Stories