The Patriots are coming off of one of the most pathetic offensive showings that I have ever seen from a Tom Brady led offense. They produced a mere six points, while failing to surpass 300 total yards of offense. This will have to change if they want to come out of week six with a victory, as they welcome Drew Brees, and his explosive Saints to town. The good news is, New England expects tight end Rob Gronkowski to make his 2013 debut in this game, which will help the Pats aerial attack immensely. There is also some good news on running back Stevan Ridley, who missed last weeks debacle with a thigh injury. He returned to practice yesterday, which only points to positive signs concerning his health for this Sunday.
Key To Success:
Run The Football
As I mentioned above, Gronkowski is expected to make his long-awaited return for this game. Now, with him and Danny Amendola being back, the first impulse for the Pats will probably be to spread it out, and attack the Saints through the air. But what I think will be the most effective strategy for New England, is to run the ball early and often with Stevan Ridley.
The Saints defense, much like the Patriots, is a much improved unit from last years group. They currently rank 12th in the league in pass defense, and 18th on the ground. These numbers may not suggest that they have a solid defensive team, but they are only a year removed from having the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL (dead last). Their new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, has come in and almost instantaneously improved their defensive statistics.
The presence of Rob Ryan on the sideline is what I am basing my ‘key to victory’ on. The last two times that Tom Brady has faced a Rob Ryan led assault, the results have not been in Brady’s favor. In 2010, the Pats faced off against the Cleveland Browns, who’s defense at the time had been led by Mr. Ryan. The Patriots lost that game by a score of 34-14, and they managed only 283 total yards. Brady was under pressure all day long, largely due to the fact that the Browns had no worry of a running game (only 68 yards on the ground that day). Thus, Ryan dialed up exotic blitzes for Brady, and even the great Tom Brady will suffer from these kinds of blitzes (blame it on the ground attack). The second time the Pats faced a defense that was led by Rob Ryan, was a year later, when they squeaked out a 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Once again, the Pats offense struggled all day, getting stoned by the Dallas defense drive after drive, until Brady pulled off some “Brady magic”, and led them down the field for a last second touchdown. But once again, Ryan managed to slow down one of the best quarterbacks of all time. How did he do it? He brought pressure, and his defense stopped the run. Brady was sacked twice in this game, and the Cowboys held the Pats 101 yards on the ground, with a mediocre 4.0 yards per carry. When you give Rob Ryan the chance to bring his exotic blitz packages, you are asking for trouble, and the first thing that leads to it, is the lack of a ground game.
Now back to my original premise. If the Patriots give Stevan Ridley the ball, not only will he be given the opportunity to pick up solid yardage, and wear down the Saints defense, but he will help keep them off of his quarterback. The number one factor you can contribute to the success that Ryan has had against Brady, is the different blitzes he attacks him with, which were set up by the deserted effort to run the football (45 combined attempts in previous two games against Ryan). By keeping the threat of a running game there, it will force Ryan to keep a lid on his blitz packages, which will allow Brady to effectively use his returning weapons. Hopefully this will help the Patriots struggling passing offense to get on track, especially with their monstrous tight end likely returning.
Will New England run the football effectively this Sunday? Grab some Patriots tickets to find out yourself. Hopefully Ridley, Blount, and Bolden can wreak havoc on the Saints front seven.