Yesterday I posted what I thought were three keys to success on the offensive side of the ball for the Patriots, that piece can be read here. Now, as I am sure that you all have been waiting on the edge of your seat for three defensive keys, and you are in luck because I have done those too.
The Bucs offense is a talented one, but it is also a unit that has severely underachieved thus far in the 2013 season. With that being said, they still present a formidable challenge to an improving Patriot defense, and it will take a strong effort from New England to shut down this Tampa Bay attack.
Here are my three keys to defensive success come Sunday.
1. Limit Doug Martin
It is no secret that stopping the run is one of the most important aspects of playing defense in the NFL, and it will be key on Sunday against the Buccaneers Running back Doug Martin is a rising star in the league, and I am positive that Bill Belichick will key in on him, and make the Bucs beat the Patriots somewhere else. However, if the Patriots front seven is unable to contain Martin, then the entire defensive unit could be in for a long day. Not only is Martin extremely dangerous in running the football, but the play-action passing game would be opened up to Josh Freeman and company, and trying to stop that, along with a dangerous Doug Martin, would guarantee a Patriots loss in my opinion. If New England can contain Martin, and not allow him to gash the interior of their defense, then the odds of winning this football game skyrocket for the Patriots.
2. Chandler Jones And Rob Ninkovich
Even though the Patriots secondary has improved a good amount since last season, I have no doubt that they will struggle a little bit against the likes of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are both very talented corners, but Talib’s aggressiveness will hurt him against Jackson, and Dennard’s lack of…height, won’t do him any favors against these taller receivers. That is where Jones and Ninkovich come in. Jones is coming off a terrific performance against the Jets, as he totaled two sacks in that contest, and made a number of positive plays throughout the game. Jones’ added muscle over offseason, and his training with a boxer seems to have helped his pass rushing skills, and I am really excited to see what he has in store for us throughout the remainder of 2013. As for Ninkovich, he has been great as usual, and in a sense he is a lot like Brady in that he seems to get better with age. His ability to set the edge against the run is unrivaled on the Patriots roster, but what makes him special is that he can then he can turn around the next play and make a great pass rush to the quarterback. Ninkovich already has 14 tackles on the season, to go with one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Both Jones and Ninkovich will have to be on their game come Sunday, because I know that Jackson will get free on more than one occasion facing the Patriots secondary, and if Freeman has time to throw, he will hit him.
3. Blitz The Linebackers
One problem that has re-surfaced among the Patriots linebackers from 2012, is their ability to cover tight ends and running backs across the field. They got burned in week one by Scott Chandler, and to a lesser extent in week two by Kellen Winslow of the Jets. However, the Bucs don’t really have a guy that can exploit this weakness of the Patriots. Because Tampa doesn’t have much of a threat at tight end, I think the Pats should blitz their linebackers as much as possible to help out with the pass rush, as well as stuffing Doug Martin. I would much rather see Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes heading up-field towards the quarterback as opposed to seeing them drop back in coverage and get burnt like they usually do. This may help limit the amount of big plays the Bucs produce, and possibly shut down the Bucs offense entirely. Freeman is a streaky quarterback, and I think the best way to force him into his customary bad throws and bad decision making, is by pressuring him as much as possible. Blitzing the linebackers provides another option to make Freeman feel uncomfortable, and that is a win for New England.