Belichick, Patriots might be ready to run
After two days of practice following New England's
Week 6 comeback win over the Cowboys, Bill Belichick gave his 5-1,
first-place team a five-day weekend to celebrate the bye week.
While Patriots players were refreshing their minds
and bodies, some of New England's coaches and scouts were working on
the self-scouting process that gets amped up a bit with the extra time
of the bye. Though all teams are aware of their patterns and
tendencies, the picture can become even clearer during the bye.
"We don't just self-scout during the bye week; we
do it on a weekly basis," Belichick explained. "The bye week -- you
have a little bit more time.
"How many times have we called this in this
situation? What's our run-pass breakdown? What's our blitz breakdown?
What tendencies are we forming? Again, tendencies are like anything
else, when it's 50-50, 60-40, 65-35 -- how hard can you bank on 60-40?
But when it's 90 percent or 95 percent that certain things are
happening, now you're getting -- that's pretty predictable. And
sometimes it's OK. Nolan Ryan is on the mound, he's going to throw a
fastball. That's no secret. Is he better off throwing a fastball than a
changeup? Yeah. He's going to throw a fastball; let's see who can hit
The Patriots version of Ryan is Tom Brady. Clearly
heading into a Week 8 matchup with the Steelers in Pittsburgh the
Patriots will continue to rely on one of the most effective passing
game in the NFL.
But leading up to the bye Brady was throwing the
ball a little less often while the New England ground attack was
getting its feet moving a bit more often. The Patriots eclipsed 100
yards rushing four straight week prior to the bye, including a pair of
efforts of more than 150 yards as a team.
The Steelers have been uncharacteristically
average in stopping the run in 2011, while the team's pass defense has
ranked near the top of the league.
Could the Patriots turn to BenJarvus Green-Ellis
and the rest of the team's backs a bit more often? That's certainly a
possibility as Belichick and his staff coming off a week reviewing the
team's tendencies and reassessing its strengths and weaknesses.
Most importantly Belichick hopes the team he
fields on Sunday will be rejuvenated by the bye.
Belichick said he hoped his team would, "come
back, reenergized, hopefully refreshed and ready to go. Hopefully we
can take advantage of those couple days to ... get some rest, get
treatment, get some bumps and bruises taken care of and come back with
a full tank of energy."
Steelers Getting Hot?
The Patriots return from a bye this week to face
an opponent that is on the rise.
For a while, it looked as though the Steelers
wouldn't be much of a threat to get back to the Super Bowl in 2012,
but, as they always seem to do, they've righted the ship just as
quickly as everyone had written them off.
After looking mediocre through four weeks,
Pittsburgh has now won three consecutive games, and it plays host to
New England this weekend in what could be a critical intra-conference
The Patriots are all too familiar with what losing
tiebreakers can do to a team's championship hopes, as was the case in
2008, when they missed the playoffs due to their poor record against
common opponents in the AFC.
While teams always preach the important of winning
division games, it has become equally important to beat anyone and
everyone within the conference, especially if a team finds itself
battling for a wild-card berth down the stretch.
The Patriots are a well-oiled machine offensively,
and they're finally developing some balance in their attack, but the
Steelers boast the league's No. 1 pass defense, and they're pretty
stout against the run, too, ranked 11th in fewest rushing yards allowed.
The key, as is always the case against the
Steelers, is winning the battles in the trenches, such as controlling
the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively. Pittsburgh is also
susceptible to big passing plays.
The Steelers like to run the ball behind their
massive offensive line. The numbers don't show it (15th overall in
rushing), but they're still capable of executing a ball-control offense
that can wear down an opposing defense. They've been forced to come
from behind a lot this year, so no lead is safe -- not with quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger fresh off a game in which he threw for 361 yards and
three touchdown passes.
Once again, the Steelers find themselves right
back in the hunt at 5-2, while the Patriots are alone atop the AFC East
at 5-1 following their comeback win over the Cowboys two weeks ago.
This game could come back to haunt the loser in the event of a
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