The New England Patriots were 8-point favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly late in 2015, but a disastrous performance by special teams and the short-handed offense saw the Eagles leave with a 35-28 victory.
In 2012, the Patriots were 5-point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers, but QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense ran up an early 31-3 lead. The Patriots mounted a furious comeback, but still lost 41-34.
These were the Patriots past experiences with both Chip Kelly and the 49ers. The coaching staff hasn’t forgotten.
“Certainly, we didn’t do very well last year in the Philadelphia game in both the kicking game and really in any phase of the game,” head coach Bill Belichick said on Tuesday. “Coach Kelly’s a great coach. I have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure that he’ll do things that will attack us as he did last year against Philadelphia so we’ll have to not only do a good job preparing for those schemes but also again with players that we’re not really familiar with or as familiar with, with their skill set.”
When the coaches look beyond the schemes, they can point to their experience in 2012 against Kaepernick as a good starting point for evaluation.
“Sometimes you can watch a guy on film and say, ‘This guy has got a really strong arm,’ or ‘This guy is really quick’ or ‘This guy is fast,’ or ‘He’s got deceptive speed,’ or whatever the case may be,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on Tuesday. “Then you see him live and in person and a lot of times you’re getting a lot of it confirmed or you’re saying, ‘Wow, this guy is a lot faster than we thought,’ or ‘He’s longer or taller or bigger or his arm is stronger,’ or whatever the case may be. So you definitely get that live exposure to someone you don’t play that often. That certainly helps and you’re going to go back and reference that and take a look at it.”
The Patriots won’t be taken by surprise by Kaepernick’s athleticism like they were in 2012. Look for the Patriots defense to avoid rushing the passer in order to play more contain on the edge to keep Kaepernick inside the pocket.
Of course Kaepernick’s cast is a lot weaker in 2016. He’s not handing the ball off to RB Frank Gore. He’s not passing it to WR Michael Crabtree or WR Randy Moss or TE Delanie Walker or TE Vernon Davis. He will be throwing to slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and deep ball receiver Torrey Smith and handing the ball off to RB Carlos Hyde.
“It’ll take a lot of good preparation and film study,” Belichick added. “We have, whatever it is, 10 games on them, so there’s a lot of information out there. Again, this is a game plan team so just because they have or haven’t done something on film doesn’t mean that we’re going to see it. They’ll have things specifically designed for us, so I’m sure they’ll be an element of making adjustments during the game and figuring out how this matchup game is going to be played as opposed to just what our scouting report says on the 49ers.”
The Patriots are 14-point favorites this upcoming Sunday. The coaches will make sure to highlight that both Kelly and the 49ers have beaten the odds against the Patriots before.