Happy MLK Day everyone! With some time off from work just wanted to compile my thoughts on some interesting information I ran over at Pro Football Focus, NFL.com, and added some perspective on about what to expect against the New England Patriots his coming week against our offense.
In my opinion, on offense we should expect to see a much of what the Patriots ran against the Tennessee Titans last week based on where the two offenses' strengths and the similar areas both quarterbacks struggle). By now I'm sure you know that Bill Belichick is great at scheming ways to force teams do the one thing they are generally not the greatest at. He plays the percentages that this won't be your one in a million great day, and is usually correct.
For our passing game
In coverage, the Patriots run Cover 1 (man coverage with a free safety) on 38.6 percent of pass attempts against them during the season and blitz an extra defender frequently. Teams that are successful against them are the ones who make them pay on the deep ball when in Cover 1.
The Patriots held quarterbacks to a 58.8 completion rate when in cover-1. However, they allowed 14 touchdowns and recorded three interceptions in that coverage.
Last week against Tennessee, New England was consistent with their Cover 1 percentages. Out of Mariota's 48 drop backs he was pressured on 19 (39.6%) while being sacked eight times. Mariota's numbers dropped off significantly while facing pressure/blitzes, just as Bortles struggles with pressure/blitzes, as seen below PFF QB rankings of each quarterbacking area.
The good news
Against Pittsburgh our offensive line did a wonderful job keeping Blake Bortles clean! When kept clean and not blitzed Bortles seems to be at least an average quarterback, and at times a really good one. Bortles was only pressured on 8 of his 28 drop backs against the Steelers.
The bad news
On those eight plays he again struggled against pressure going 2-for-8 for 17 yards (slightly good news here with perspective, as there were no sacks or turnovers surrendered). More importantly, as a Bortles critic I'm less excited that he had no turnovers than I am super excited that he had no turnover worthy plays. What I mean is I'm happy this zero turnover stat is not a reflection of dropped interceptions, but more that Bortles actively protected the ball, even during crunch time. Nevertheless we will need more from him this week under pressure, as he will see much more than usual.
Against much man coverage we will definitely need a big day from Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee, and Dede Westbrook in the vertical game, which has been silent for much of the last four games outside of three plays. On Sunday, Bortles completed just three passes more than 10 yards in the air (one to our fullback). This week we will have to be able to force New England out of Cover 1 by making them pay deep, outside of the hashes.
For our running game
Running backs running to the right side of New England’s defense (offense’s left) averaged 4.44 yards per carry, compared to a 5.02 average when running to the defense’s left.....While Elandon Roberts leads New England’s linebacking corps with 17 run stops and a combined tackling efficiency of 16.0, he ranks 75th among linebackers with a run-defense grade of 41.9. He’s not the only Patriots linebacker that has struggled defending the run, as there isn’t a single member of the linebacking corps with a run-defense grade above 43.5.
On offense, our game plan for this week looks to be the same as the Pittsburgh game - run the ball often, protect the ball, try to stay in third-and-manageable situations, and believe in our running game and defense to keep the game close enough to continue feeding the run game carries (with Bortles helping to convert in key moments).
Just know, that Bortles will likely be forced to overcome a demon that has plagued him for some time. Throwing into tight man coverage, pressure, and a significant amount of blitzing from the Patriots.
Here's hoping for a huge game in the running game and/or to seeing an entirely different side of Bortles against the likely pressures and blitzes this week!