I wrote an article before about 5 things the Patriots could do to improve after Gronk's injury. Now it's time for the playoffs and time for a new list of 10 improvements I think will help the Patriots, 4 for each side of the ball and a couple for special teams.
1. Start Blount throughout the playoffs and give him 10-15 carries a game, mostly in the first and fourth quarters.
Blount's big bruising style of running is reminiscent of Corey Dillon. If the Patriots are to win games against tough defenses in the postseason, they MUST establish the run. A heavy dose of Blount during the first couple of drives will be vital to opening up other options like play action throughout the game. And despite his progress, I would still not trust Ridley in the 4th quarter.
2. On second and short, look deep.
Throw a couple vertical passes down the field. Let KT make a play. If it fails then you still have a manageable third down.
3. Tight end screens.
It seems like whenever the Patriots face a dangerous pass rusher, they align Hooman on that side, to help the tackle. More often than not he stays back to pass protect so the defense often disregards him. A quick screen or two to his side could catch the defense off guard and avoid dangerous rushers like Hali, Mathis, and Dunlap.
4. Get Vereen versus linebackers.
Quite simply he's a matchup nightmare for almost any linebacker. Motion him out and if he isn't open, that spreads the defense enough to open the middle for Edelman and Amendola.
1. Scrap the 4-1-6 nickel for a 3-2-6
It seems like every single game the Patriots are beaten on a 3rd and long on a screen play. Fletcher can't simultaneously take away the under routes and also guard the running back. I have enough confidence in the 3 man rush of the Jones's plus Carter or Buchanan to at least make the QB uncomfortable and not have forever to throw. And for the second LB I actually wouldn't advocate for Hightower but instead Nate Ebner or Duron Harmon. Ebner has impressed on special teams and Harmon probably already has the skills to replace Gregory as soon as next year. Their job will simply be the spy: either spying the RB or a mobile QB like Luck or Smith. The Pats cannot let playoff teams off the hook on third down and expect to win.
2. Never play Arrington on the outside
This one is pretty self explanatory... with a soon healthy Dennard, there should be no situation where he has to cover anything other than the slot.
3. Rotate series with Spikes
It has been very clear that Spikes has been battling a knee injury and is not close to 100%. We must keep him fresh. Subbing in Fletcher for a couple first half drives should preserve him for crunch time.
4. Continue with creative blitzes
Matt Patricia has been creative with his schemes lately and the CB blitzes with Ryan and Arrington seem to be working. Maybe even try some zone blitzes: I like what I see when Collins rushes the QB and I am comfortable with Ninkovich dropping into coverage.
1. Have Mccourty return kickoffs
It is the postseason: no more fooling around. We need the best man for the job back there. Blount was great last week but he was pretty mediocre all other weeks. With Boyce on IR, the decision is simple.
2. Double team the gunners
For some reason the Pats never seem to have a good rush on punts and more often than not Edelman seems surrounded by two or three opponents by the time he catches the punt. Stopping the gunners should help his returns.
And those are my suggestions. Feel free to discuss any points in the comments and I wish everyone at Pats Pulpit a Happy New Year!