Former New England Patriots LB Jerod Mayo participates in a weekly podcast on CSNNE with former Patriots C Dan Koppen and CSNNE host Mike Giardi and it’s fantastic, every time. If you’re not listening to it, you’re missing out on honestly the best Patriots insight you can get outside of FootballbyFootball.com’s Matt Chatham.
Mayo went on an incredible talking streak about misunderstanding the Patriots defense and how it’s not a problem of scheme, so much as it was just terrible execution by the defenders.
“Let’s not blow this thing up,” Mayo says. “They’re still 7-2. Scoring defense, that’s what you really care about, they’re still top 10. 6th. In the upper echelon. Do they have things to work on? Definitely.”
“It’s not a scheme thing,” Mayo adds. “They were rushing three players and they were playing cover three, and playing these different zones, and guys were two yards off of their marks, so it comes down to an execution thing. And that comes down to a personnel thing. And that comes down to losing a guy like Jamie [Collins] and guys still learning the defense, still trying to figure out ‘where do I go?’.”
“They’re not really executing the game plan.”
There were multiple defenders on the Patriots that didn’t do their job, including pretty much every defensive back other than FS Devin McCourty. LB Elandon Roberts struggled in his time replacing Collins, while even LB Dont’a Hightower had a miscommunication with ED Jabaal Sheard.
But Mayo also noted that there was some schematic problems right before the half.
“At that point in time, you’re kind of conceding a field goal,” Mayo says about the Patriots defense after Jimmy Graham converted an early third down. This is an awful mentality and the defense was soft- whether intentionally or not- for the rest of the drive.
“When you’re in zone defense, they always say you have to deliver a guy,” Mayo says. “And when I say zone defense, you’re not chasing guys around, but sometimes if they come in your zone you have to chase them to a certain point and a zone defense can turn into a man defense real quick.
“But what was happening especially with that play with Chung [the Doug Baldwin touchdown right before the half], they [Logan Ryan] didn’t deliver the receiver. So now they’re both looking, ‘well this is my grass here,” now I don’t know if I should keep going and I don’t know what’s coming up from side, so it was a gray area.”
That final drive before the half presented breakdowns by Malcolm Butler- when Mayo says “zone defense can turn to man defense real quick,” Butler needs to recognize that no one is going to enter his deep zone and that he has to cover the man in front of him- Ryan and Chung.
Head coach Bill Belichick seems to pin a little more of the blame on Ryan than Chung because Ryan didn’t deliver Baldwin into Chung’s coverage- he tried to shout to Chung in the middle of the play, although Chung was just watching Russell Wilson in the backfield and wasn’t paying attention to the development of the play in the open field.
“I’d say post-snap communication after the ball is snapped- I don’t think you can ever count on that communication,” Belichick said. “Maybe occasionally you can get it, but look, all of our games are sold out. That’s no secret. So for us to think that we’re going to be able to communicate and talk in the middle of the defensive play I don’t think is realistic any more than we’d be able to have much communication offensively when we’re on the road.
“That’s another thing I don’t think you can count on, especially after the snap. It’s hard enough before the snap but after the snap if you’re going to say something and somebody five yards away is going to actually hear it when you’re dealing with a lot of crowd noise– I don’t think you can coach that way.
“If you’re banking on that then there’s going to be times when you’re not going to have it. If you get it, great, but you can’t count on that. Therefore you have to be able to visually see it and recognize it collectively so that we all see the same thing, we all react the same way and everything gets handled properly based on visual recognition.”
The Patriots defense was supposed to build off its production in 2015 as the majority of the defensive starts returned. Instead, it appears that multiple starters, like Ryan, Chung, Sheard, and Collins, regressed in a major way.
The important takeaway is that the defensive problems that showed up against the Seahawks aren’t a matter of personnel not having the physical capability of succeeding; it was a comedy of mental errors that allowed the Seahawks to skip down the field unopposed.
If the coaching staff and the players can settle down and communicate how and why they have been missing assignments, then they can fix their weaknesses and move forward as the above-average defense their talent suggests they should be.