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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Drew Bledsoe interview, defensive stops, Tom Brady Scramble theory

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How can we figure out if the Patriots are going to rush the quarterback or not?

1. Former New England Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe was on a podcast hosted by Seattle Seahawks mindset coach Michael Gervais and Bledsoe opens up on embracing failures, and how his mental approach to life relates to his football experience and his overall aspirations.

Bledsoe talks about backing up Tom Brady (35:10):

“[I] discovered that I’m not a very good back-up quarterback,” Bledsoe admit. “If I don’t have that carrot of being able to go out on the field, I learned that mostly because I’ve been spoiled to be on the field almost all the time, it was hard for me to stay as motivated.”

Bledsoe said the back-up quarterback life can be pretty good and comfortable, but it wasn’t for him. He joked that he probably should’ve given rookie Tom Brady the wrong information to keep him off the field- but that he’s enjoyed watching Brady’s career.

“Ultimately, I’m really proud of watching the success that he’s had, and more importantly to me, watching the way he’s done things,” Bledsoe said. “Where he’s just been highest character, been a great leader, done everything right in the community.”

Bledsoe even had a comment on DeflateGate:

“It was the dumbest story that I’d ever seen in sports,” Bledsoe on DeflateGate. Bledsoe said that the texture of the football was “way more important to me than the inflation level.”

Bledsoe also talks about the Tony Romo and Dak Prescott quarterback controversy (56:00), and he compares head coaches Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and Pete Carroll (64:30).

Bledsoe thinks that the three coaches are portrayed differently in the media, but they’re actually very similar behind the scenes with their demands of their players and control of the locker room.

2. DT Alan Branch is starting to gain some respect for his high level of play this year, and here’s a stat that might surprise you: Branch is tied for the NFL lead in run stops by a defensive lineman with 9.

A run stop is a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage and Bennett is tied with Rams superstar DT Aaron Donald and Seahawks DL Michael Bennett with 9. The only players with more are Bills LB Zach Brown (11) and Panthers LB Luke Kuechly (10). Branch is tied with Browns LB Christian Kirksey (9) and Jaguars LB Telvin Smith (9).

DT Malcom Brown is second on the Patriots with 4, while LB Jamie Collins, CB Logan Ryan, ED Chris Long, S Patrick Chung, and LB Elandon Roberts are tied with 3.

Branch won’t receive as much acclaim on a national level because he doesn’t really play in the passing game, but few players have more impact against the run.

3. I have a theory about how the Patriots decide whether or not to rush the opposing quarterback.

The first question asked by the coaching staff is How experienced is the opposing quarterback? If the quarterback is in their first year of starting, the Patriots will drop back eight into coverage and try to take advantage of errant throws. It won’t be a pretty game by the defense, but the Patriots track record is pretty good.

The second question asked is How likely is this player to scramble out of the pocket? And this is where Patriots QB Tom Brady comes in.

Dating back to 2014, the first time that Brady revealed that he had been working on his scrambling ability, Brady has run for 38 first downs. There have only been 10 quarterbacks to rush for more over that time: Panthers QB Cam Newton (133), Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (90), Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (62), Chiefs QB Alex Smith (58), Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (54), 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (53), Colts QB Andrew Luck (47), Bengals QB Andy Dalton (46), Bills QB Tyrod Taylor (45), and Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (40).

Other quarterbacks that should be considered are Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (23), Titans QB Marcus Mariota (22), and Lions QB Matthew Stafford (22), as these three have as many or more rushing first downs as Brady over the past two years (22). I’d include Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill because he has the athleticism, but Miami just doesn’t know how to use it.

My theory is that the Patriots will not rush a quarterback that is a more dangerous runner than Brady and instead will focus on keeping them contained inside the pocket. Almost half the quarterbacks in the league are dangerous enough to pick up a scrambling first down a few times per game and the Patriots believe it to be more important to stop those scrambles than to generate a more potent pass rush, especially when more than 40% of these first downs runs come on long distance situations.

4. If you missed this week’s Turning Point on Inside the NFL, you can watch it below courtesy of /r/Patriots.

The video includes a nice visual of how Gronkowski was able to pick up his two monster catches against the Steelers defense.

First, Gronkowski was able to split the safeties and Brady threw the ball before Gronkowski even stemmed his route into the open field. This just highlights the chemistry between the two players.

Second, Gronkowski just turned the Steelers defensive back around in the open field by faking the outside move, then cutting inside by “faking the post route,” and then ultimately whipping outside to get open.

5. Happy Halloween from The Kicker, y’all:

“Located on Route 1 between the Dunkin’ Donuts and the other Dunkin’ Donuts.”

This reminds me a bit of our Halloween special from last year. Enjoy.