It's been about 5 months since I last gave my Keys to the Game, and I'm glad to be doing so again. I have been told I should through a poll, so I hope to give my Keys to the Game about 1-3 days before the big game.
For me, it felt like the offseason went by quick. Plenty of draft talk, camp stories, and awesome previews regarding where our team is at on depth. However, I'm willing to bet for most it felt like a lifetime, and it's been a long time coming where we can finally watch the Pats play yet again in a fresh season. We brought in Lloyd, who looked great in camp. Our two first round picks will be starting, and as of now our defense looks healthy and ready to go. On offense we will have the pleasure of seeing Ridley hopefully live up to his potential this year. Last year we watched him run like a rookie, but after this preseason he has looked great so far, and is primed to take over for BJGE and add that dimension we have been missing since Dillon.
Yes, this year is understandably exciting, and at exactly 1 P.M. tomorrow the Pats season will officially begin against the Titans in Tennessee. Keys to the Game right after the Jump!
Since this is the first game off the regular season, we do not know fully about where either team is at. So I will be mostly going off of preseason performance, and their performance last season.
1) Set the Edge:
Ah yes. I'm sure you all know why we must do this. The Titans have this really fast RB named Chris Johnson. Fast being only one of his attributes. He is also quick, and has pretty damn good vision. At any time, he will break out a 50+ yard run, and you would probably shake your head, but at the sam time expecting it. But this key actually has a double initiative.
Yes, we need to set the edge against Chris Johnson to prevent those dangerous outside runs, and force him inside to the likes of Kyle Love, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Spikes. But also, we must set the edge against Jake Locker himself. I don't think Locker will be able to run forward with Love and Wilfork swallowing up the middle, but if Locker doesn't see anyone getting open, most definitely he will run to the outside. See..... I have an issue when people say something like "He can run the ball and throw! You can't stop him!" Wrong. And here's why:
No matter what, you have to set the edge. If you do that, you will be successful. You see, when you have pocket QBs you pass rush him on the outside. With QBs who run, you contain the outside, and force pressure from the middle. That's what we need to do. Set the edge, and let Love and WIlfork push toward him as if he is turkey on Thanksgiving. Now, even if they don't rush him in the middle, I would rather have Locker beat us throwing then running the ball. Oh yes, I know he can throw, however when you have both the DC and LBs worrying about the rush to the outside, then when Locker rolls out it will lure LBs up toward him, resulting in a potential HUGE play because the LBs had to ease out of their assignments.
Hopefully that won't be the case. All we have to do is set the edge. Heck, our End swill still be rushing him, but the #1 priority is to set the edge to prevent Locker from rolling out. And oh yeah.... Chris Johnson is a very good RB.
2) Look for Wimbley:
I know Wimbley well, and most of you know why. Playing on the Raiders he was alright against the rush, but pass rushing? The guy is a monster. Very underrated. The Titans pass rush last year was virtually non-existant, I believe 2nd worst in terms of sacks. Adding Wimbley instantly give them a pass rush. At least in my opinion. But you know what I would do?
Well remember watching the Cowboys vs. Giants game? I can;t remember which team it was, but it was either Romo looking for JPP or Eli looking for Ware. Either way, the guy always moved his TE to the side where their best pass rusher was. And that's what we should do here. Wherever Wimbley lines up, move Gronk there, and let Gronk give him a Terrel Suggs-like chip (lol), before going on to his route. Or at least help block for the play. Either way, move Gronk to where Wimbley is, and negate Wimbley's rush.
3) We must establish a running game:
Notice I say "must." Know why? Because the Titans have a pretty good secondary last I heard. I would prefer not to stay one-dimensional, and take advantage of the Titan's run defense. Last season we all knew that they key against the pats is to rush 4, drop 7 into coverage. Getting a running game going will force the defense to move up, and thus, make our offense more dangerous and more versatile than it already is.
4) Don't Turn it over!!!
This is more general. Of course, every game not turning it over is key. However reason why I wrote it here is because there is more to worry about than just Brady throwing a questionable football. We know that Brady can make a few mistakes, we know that our OL is spotty, and we know that Ridley's fumbling problems last year APPEARS to be solved. But taking those three into account, it's tough to know whether or not turning the ball over may be more serious this year or not. This game will give us a decent idea. And also, taking into account of more risks regarding turnovers, we don't want our defense to be on the field a ton, and we dont' want to give the Titans more morale and rally to beat us, which I believe they could if we make those mistakes (which as I said, there is more risk that we will this year than last year).
5) OL blocking (looking at you Solder!)
I thought Solder had more downs than ups this preseason. But the OL as whole must play like we expect it to this year if we want Brady to survive long enough till Mallet is actually ready. Solder..... my man... you were drafted for one reason, and that is to be our future LT. After serving as our RT last season, and this being your first season as our LT, expectations are high. I wish you the best, and I hope that you turn out to be the next Joe Thomas. This first game is the time to shut those up who have been your biggest negative nancy's the entire preseason. Prove 'em wrong!
We'll get Mankins and Vollmer back in the lineup, so that will definitely boost our OL compared to having Cannon and.... Wendell I suppose? I liked Donald Thomas for the most part, but I forgot who played opposite of him (Connely? For a bit?). Point is, our OL is improved, and hopefully ready. We don't want Brady to get hit a bunch okay guys? That would be nice.
If the game goes as planned, I expect us to score in the 30s, and the Titans under 24. If our defense meets up to our expectations, as well as our offense, I just cannot see the Titans winning this game. At all. But hey, any given Sunday, and you never know what can happen.
But for me? My prediction: 34-20 Pats. With the amount of weapons the pats have, and the improvements on Defense, the superbowl team looks better than they did last year.