PHOTO: New England Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour (93) reaches out to catch a ball while performing a foot work drill during practice in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday morning Feb. 2, 2005. In their second straight Super Bowl appearence the Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Scout Report: Patriots Strategy & Personnel
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Richard Seymour will play this Sunday against the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. How much he plays remains to be seen, but New England reported no injuries on their Injury report, meaning all 53 active players will be ready to go on Sunday. Seymour's absence on the injury report was mildly surprising, but he left little doubt on Wednesday that will be uniform this week.
"I was pretty productive today," Seymour said of his Wednesday practice effort. "It was my best day since I had the injury. I'm happy with the progress I made today. My knee felt pretty good and we'll see how I feel tomorrow. If I can come in and change the pace and be disruptive and get pressure on the quarterback, that's what I want to do. I didn't feel limited. I'm confident I can be on the field Sunday and I think I'll be effective."
- LB Ted Johnson said he was fine Wednesday and his absence from the injury
report after missing Monday's practice means he did not miss practice time
- DBs Je'Rod Cherry and Dexter Reid are working extra this week, preparing
to see Brian Westbrook returning punts for the Eagles. Philly hasn't committed
to Westbrook filling those duties, but he's a major threat in that role and
New England's punt coverage has struggled this season. Punter Josh Miller
has been erratic of late and his longer punts have been low and very returnable.
The Patriots allowed 11.8 yards per punt return this year.
- QB Tom Brady was asked about his contract situation on Wednesday. His current
deal runs through 2006, but the top quarterbacks have recently been rewarded
with astronomical signing bonuses. Brady handled the question diplomatically.
"The business side of this game is very different than the playing side," Brady said. "I can be very competitive and I'm very competitive on the field and I feel like I want to go out and put my best on the field every week and I feel like I work as hard as anybody in the league. I feel like I'm prepared and that's part of what I really enjoy. On the other hand, when you talk about off the field, with the grand structure of things and with what the team is trying to accomplish, you realize that the team has goals and just as much as any individual goal might be important to a player, the greater team goal to win the Super Bowl is most important.
"Anybody who chooses to play on the Patriots realizes that goal supersedes what any player goal might be. You have to make decisions as an individual whether you want to be a part of this team or not. You're going to have make sacrifices like every guy on this team makes sacrifices to fit in to the grand structure of what the team is trying to accomplish. I know what is important to me and I know where my priorities lie and when that decision comes up, I'll make a decision based on what I feel is most important for me. I'm still under contract with this team for a couple more years. It comes down to each individual's decision."
- WR Troy Brown will continue returning punts for New England this week. Kevin Faulk handled those duties most of the season, but Brown took over in the
playoffs and will handle punts again Sunday against Philly.
- DL Jarvis Green will likely start at defensive end in place of Seymour, but Seymour will work in and play more as he works his way in and determines that his knee is stable and can hold up to game competition. Green has been excellent in Seymour's absence and with Seymour's help. "I help him any opportunity I can," Seymour said. "But every time he comes in, he does a good job. We have a lot of confidence in his ability."
GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Patriots will try to establish Corey Dillon and the running game early on. Look for them to run some mis-directions and one-cut runs to try to force the quicker outside Eagle defenders to over-pursue and leave running lanes for Dillon to burst through. The Patriots may also spread out the Eagles when throwing to make it easier for Brady to identify the rushers and where they might be coming from. The Eagles tend to blitz less frequently against teams with strong running games and the Patriots will try to force that strategy, which would make things mentally easier on Brady. But play action will be a critical part of the Patriots' offense and they will use it from the outset and out of spread formations, looks they will also run from with Dillon as the single setback. But initially, look for some two tight end sets with the Patriots trying to establish their physical style of play. Brady will take shots down the field when he's comfortable that a pending blitz will be picked up and coverage will be one-on-one downfield. Look for David Patten to be his man in such instances.
Defensively, New England will employ a physical style that includes jamming the Eagles receivers, tight ends and backs to re-route them and disrupt the timing of the West Coast attack. Jamming running back Brian Westbrook will be a key part of the plan, and he might be spied throughout the game. But New England wants to pressure McNabb, but not in the traditional manner. They simply want to collapse the pocket from all angles to give the quarterback him limited running options. The Eagles like to throw right to the sticks on third down and the Patriots may try to be aggressive in those instances and jump some routes. They will respect Greg Lewis' ability to get deep, but when McNabb uses a three-step drop, the Patriots will try to stress the pocket and make it difficult for him to get the ball out with accuracy while also keeping contain on the edge. The Patriots' outside linebackers will play a huge role in defending McNabb and Westbrook.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
- Patriots LBs Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest vs. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook
and QB Donovan McNabb. This is the most important matchup of the game for
New England. The versatile OLBs will be responsible for keeping McNabb confined
and chipping Westbrook when he releases out of the backfield or when he lines
up as a receiver.
- Patriots CB Asante Samuel, who is the Patriots' best healthy cover corner
vs. Eagles WR Terrell Owens, who expects to play despite two screws holding
his ankle together. If Owens plays, he'll produce and Samuel will not be left
on an island with the NFL's best wide receiver, but he will have to be physical
with Owens when he has help over the top and will drop off when he doesn't.
Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and Samuel
will have his hands full.
- Patriots OTs Matt Light and Brandon Gorin vs. Eagles DE Jevon Kearse, who
led Philly with 7.5 sacks and 21 QB hurries this season. Philly schemes to
create one-on-one matchups for its ends, and Kearse in particular. The Eagles
do that by stressing the middle of the pass protection with blitzes, forcing
the tackles to handle their rushers one-on-one. The Eagles like their ends
matched up that way against any team. Light and Gorin have had their trouble
at times and will need help from the tight end, who might be asked to chip
on one side before releasing into the pass pattern.
- Patriots QB Tom Brady, who threw 28 TDs and 14 INTs this season, but no INTs in his first two playoff games vs. Eagles S Brian Dawkins, who has four interceptions this season and 25 in his career. He also has one in the postseason. Brady must find Dawkins on every play. The Eagles safety blitzes, covers and closes on the ball as well as anyone. Brady must find him and look him off before throwing to his side of the field.
INJURY IMPACT: The Patriots have no injuries.
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