Column (David Cassilo): Note to San Diego: The Patriots have some weaknesses

David Cassilo

For 17 weeks teams have tried to beat the New England Patriots, and each and every time their attempt has fallen short. Each blitz didn’t get there quick enough, each coverage didn’t do the job and each offense didn’t score nearly enough points. Every opponent has had its idea of the perfect way to beat the New England Patriots, and every one has been wrong. After watching these teams walk away losers, I have found the way to stop New England. So listen up San Diego; I’m about to tell you how to punch your ticket to the Super Bowl.

Every team knows you have to get to Tom Brady in order to beat the Patriots, but they are going about it the wrong way. The first time he gets the ball, knock him down. Even if it is a personal foul, it has to be done. Once it is done, do it again and again. Three straight massive hits, legal or not, will undoubtedly make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket the rest of the game. By no means am I saying go out there and injure Brady, but there is no harm in a personal foul penalty if it has its purpose. New England is obviously going to score at least one touchdown, so are there really any negatives in getting to Brady’s head by racking up penalty yards? Brady is without question the straw that stirs the drink of the New England Patriots’ offense, and if a defense can do anything to make him get rid of the ball just a second earlier than he wants, it is something that has to be done. In addition to this, if Brady knows that the defense is willing to take a personal foul just to deliver an extra hit, he will be on the lookout for more all day.

Now that the defense is in Brady’s head, the next step is to make sure the correct coverage is out there. A lot of teams try to take away Randy Moss by double teaming him and allowing the short passes, and as we have seen the past few weeks, this just does not work. The Patriots are more than content hitting the NFL’s leader in receptions Wes Welker or dumping it off to the vastly underrated Kevin Faulk. The short passes are what gets Brady in rhythm and what open up the big plays later in the game. What the short passes also do is allow long double-digit play drives that usually result in touchdowns. After enduring these exhausting drives all game long, the opposing defense typically has little energy left when they need to stop the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

The solution to this is to double team Welker instead of Moss. This would eliminate the receiver Brady is most comfortable with and force him to make riskier passes. In addition to that, the defense should take one linebacker and have him cover Faulk man-to-man every time he is in the game. Once this is done, the rest of the defense should crowd the area from the line of scrimmage to the first down, while leaving Moss in single coverage.

A defensive scheme like this would eliminate many of the Patriots’ biggest strengths. The short passing game would be significantly cut down, and Brady would be forced to make more difficult plays in order to complete passes. The obvious negative is that there is little coverage on Moss, but even in his best games he only beats someone deep for a touchdown three or four times. Even if Brady and Moss do connect for a couple deep scores, they would come quickly enough where that the defense would not become as tired as they would if they were forced to endure multiple long drives. This would keep them fresh for when they are most needed, in the fourth quarter. By eliminating the short passes and focusing on Welker and Faulk, the defense is forcing the Patriots to either make the big play or punt.

With the defensive scheme now all laid out, here is the secret to how to beat the Patriots’ defense. This supposedly perfect Patriots team does not have a good defense. It is slow, old and vulnerable to the big play. In no way does the Patriots’ defense match up with its prolific offense. The last few weeks the defense has proven to be average at best. There is no reason why a team should change its offense when preparing for the Patriots. Whatever works best for a team will work when they play New England. When teams begin to force things is when they wind up making mistakes like turning the ball over. Sticking to what got you to the playoffs will lead you past the Patriots.

With that being said, one wrinkle early in the game will most likely throw off the Patriots. It isn’t something that should be done all game, but one trick play may give the opponent crucial momentum and confidence if it is successful. An onside kick, halfback pass or hook and ladder would all be smart options if they are practiced thoroughly in order to lower the level of risk involved. Even if they do not work, it will have the defense uneasy and will allow the opponent’s normal offensive scheme to be even more successful.

So there you go, San Diego, and if you decide to ignore the way to beat the Patriots, Green Bay and New York better take a look. All other game plans have failed thus far, so stop watching tape because everyone else did it the wrong way. It will take the highest level of excellence to beat the New England Patriots, and this is the way to do it.


David Cassilo is a sophomore communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].