Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick are whatever the opposite of the toast of the town is this week, the former for supposedly calling a weak defensive game plan against Seattle, and the latter for trading two of New England's Pro Bowl defenders. Belichick and Patricia have been getting barbecued in the press all week, because apparently both of them have made the Patriots defense so soft that the UConn Huskies could score on it.
Ask a couple players who played for New England relatively recently, though, and the problem isn't scheme, the defensive play-calling, or the lack of Pro-Bowl-caliber talent; it's the defense making mistakes that they should know better about.
You watched the World Series, right? You saw Javy Baez chopping at pitches at his ankles and his chin? It's those types of mistakes that the defense is making - mental ones that kill any chance of executing a defensive play correctly, let alone stopping a sniper like Russell Wilson.
Our fearless leader Rich Hill already filled you guys in on Jerod Mayo's input earlier today, and Mayo's analysis is fantastic, as usual, so go read that if you haven't already - but it's the other former Patriot that Rich referenced that has a fascinating review of why the defense just blew it on so many plays that deserves a closer look, since him and Mayo are basically right on the same page.
If you're a real X's and O's fan, then Matt Chatham's breakdowns on FootballbyFootball.com are the 20-year Scotch of analysis. You owe it to yourself to watch this whole video, but in case you're short on time or stuck at work or something, here's what you need to know:
On playing too much zone coverage:
"You've got to get out of these soft zones, you've heard that one, right? No, you just gotta play the zones better. It's not about man-to-man. Let's take a look. They actually played a lot of it (man coverage) and there were breakdowns there."
Chatham then points out a play where the Seahawks came out with their receivers in a bunch formation, which he says man coverage has a natural disadvantage against, and then points out that man-to-man coverage actually was what allowed the pass to succeed, due to defenders getting, as he put it, "crossed up".
The point is, there's ways to beat both man and zone coverages, the Patriots used both, and the Seahawks effectively called and executed plays to beat both.
"A lot of these calls were appropriate, they just weren't ran well at all."
(cuts to a clip of the slot corner playing zone and backpedaling instead of cutting off a flat route that, if played properly, quite possibly could have been going the other way)
On D-line and front-seven play:
This one's better just watching the video, but the point is, there's a call from the outside linebacker to Jabaal Sheard, and Sheard goes inside, like he's supposed to, but then the linebacker (looks like Hightower) doesn't stay outside like Sheard assumes he will and cover the cutback, and then the running back has a clear line for a nice pickup when he could've been stuffed if the off-the-ball linebacker stayed put.
On blitzing more to get better pressure:
"Actually, the choices to pressure created some of those vacancies...Here's a five-man, they're bringing five dudes, which means they pulled a guy out of the middle coverage. This ends up being that seam touchdown, the guy that was added in, he would have been right there in the middle, dissuaded that throw, it never happens."
"If they executed what was called, it (the playcalling) was absolutely appropriate and fine."
So, in a very uncharacteristic effort from a Belichick defense, Mayo and Chatham both agree - the problem isn't the play-calling, and it's not the talent level, it's the execution. Guys either don't know where they're supposed to be, or they're executing their assignments incorrectly.
Fortunately, as the old saying goes, you can't coach speed - but you can coach what's between someone's ears.