For the pessimists
1) No pressure on the quarterback.
In today's NFL if you cannot get any pressure on the opposing quarterback there is a good chance your defense can be picked apart. In Mike Martz's pass happy system this is especially true. San Francisco may not be the greatest show on turf but Martz's offense is effective. They are 13th in the NFL in passing averaging 216 yards per game as well as 124.5 yards per game rushing the ball. There are only 5 teams in the NFL that have less sacks than the Patriots have. Yes these Patriots are at the bottom of the NFL in getting sacks. The Patriots need to protect their young secondary, getting pressure and sacks on the 49er quarterback will allow them to this and get the offense off of the field. If not they will be in for a very long day.
2) The defense cannot get off of the field on third down.
Patriot opponents have had 37 third down attempts. They have made 18 of to the tune of 48.6%. Not good. All this does is tired out the defense and give opponents more opportunities to score. The 49ers average 24.2 points a game. Keeping the Patriots offense off of the field puts more pressure on the offense to score every possession or alter what they are doing to give the defense a rest. San Francisco has allowed their opponents to convert third downs 40.5% of the time. Ball possession will be key in this game to keep the explosive 49er offense off of the field. The statistics favor the 49ers.
3) The Patriots offense has trouble scoring points.
The Patriots offense is ranked 28th in the NFL in offense, scoring 16.3 points a game. They are 28th in the NFL with 271.3 yards per game. The Patriots average 103 rushing yards per game which ranks them 18th. They rank 24th in passing averaging 168.3 yards per game. Many analysts, myself included, have made the observation that Matt Cassel at this point cannot throw the ball down the field. That takes away the Patriots biggest offensive threat in Randy Moss. It is not Randy Moss' game to run five or six yard patterns. It also makes the opposing defense put more people in the box to stop the run or use run blitzes to stuff the Patriot running backs in the backfield for loses. And with Cassel not throwing the ball downfield this plays into the defenses hand and make the Patriots one-dimensional. The limitation explains why the Patriots have only scored four touchdowns all year.
The offensive line has been a problem too allowing Cassel to be pressured without a lot of blitzing. However when blitzed Cassel has made bad decisions, bad throws and seems a bit flustered. To this point he has not shown himself to be a leader and to have an effective offense the Patriots need whoever is playing quarterback to be one of the leaders out on the field.
4) Red Zone inefficiency.
Last year the Patriots converted 50 of their 72 red zone opportunities into touchdown. The first 3 games of last year the Patriots converted 12-14 chances in the red zone They had a conversion rate of 69.4% in the red zone for the entire year. They also had 18 field goals in the red zone. That conversion rate went a long way to them going 16-0 in the regular season. That was then this is now. The Patriots rank 27th in the NFL in red zone touchdowns with a 36.4 touchdown rate. The Patriots have only had 4 touchdowns all year. Any team averaging 16.3 points a game like the Patriots cannot afford to squander opportunities in the red zone.
5) Coaching is limiting the offense.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had an opposing player last week say of the Patriots offensive game plan that they could tell what the Patriots were running. It seems that Renaldo Hill a safety for Miami felt like the Dolphins were almost in the Patriots huddle. When the game plan is simplified for a backups quarterback and lacks imagination, teams can game plan like Miami did in their 38-13 blowout in week 3. The Patriots only have scored 4 touchdowns this year. The Patriots are 28th in total offense and 24th in passing at 168.3 yards per game.
When you have a young quarterback like Cassel who does not read defenses well, cannot pick up the blitz it can limit the things you want to do. However you have to take chances at some point to keep the defenses honest. You have to put in plays that will actually trick the defense and if not create a big play for yourself make the defenses think and hopefully slow them up a little bit. That is not happening with the Patriots.
The offensive play calling is playing into the opposing defenses hand and needs to change to keep defenders honest and off balance. With an offensive line that is performs well enough to encourage Patriots quarterbacks to take out additional life insurance, the play calling could help their performance. If McDaniels cannot do a better job making adjustments to the opponent's defense to allow Cassel and Moss to move the ball, the Patriots will not only lose on Sunday, they're lose all season long.
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