I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving on Thursday. Perhaps the day off and food induced naps helped you forget about the New England Patriots loss to the Houston Texans last week (although watching Deshaun Watson carve up the Lions like a Thanksgiving turkey quickly triggered Week 11 flashbacks).
So, while you will be focused on the bird left over in your fridge for the next few days, the Patriots have moved on to focus on a different bird: the Cardinals from Arizona. Sitting at 4-6, every game now seems like a must-win to keep New England’s small playoff hopes alive.
With that, let’s jump into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag:
@PatriotsOpinions #PostPulpit What can explain the regression in the secondary? Having an elite unit year after year is difficult but they seem to be having a lot of trouble this season.
The Patriots still have an elite unit in their secondary, but they have looked more beatable this year compared to last. On Sunday, I believe it had to do more with how good Deshaun Watson and the Texans played than a bad performance from the Patriots secondary.
To start, the Patriots defense chose to not blitz Watson very much. Perhaps that was a result of last year’s game, when Watson went 11-of-15 for 169 yards and three touchdowns against New England’s 17 blitzes. In regards to the secondary, covering for more than three seconds is extremely tough to do, so letting Watson run around and extend plays is setting them up for failure. Houston also ran an assortment of rub routes to free themselves from the Patriots cornerbacks, and Watson was extremely accurate with the football to make matters worse.
Now as for what the Patriots could have done better, I believe they did not disrupt Houston’s routes off the line of scrimmage enough - making things to easy for Watson and his receivers. NESN’s Matt Chatham also noted this tendency and went into detail on Twitter:
2 play sequence of exactly what I’m talking about in my illustrations from this AM— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) November 23, 2020
1. 1st play, no reroute, Akins gets to where he wants, pushes off at top of route...completion. Watson never comes off that route free release
2. Next play reroute, Watson scrolls past Akins ♂️ https://t.co/dDl9nyyoAv pic.twitter.com/JcvfmykTEp
@MichiSRS When is the coaching staff going to take some blame?
The coaching staff often takes the blame for poor performances. You often hear Belichick say something along the lines of “Coaches have to coach better.” As for what they can do better, they can start by changing their Tom Brady-style offense. With Brady under center for the past two decades, New England made a living off of short passes and screens. But, that’s not Cam Newton’s strength as you often see his mechanics regress.
Newton thrives when pushing the ball downfield, going 6-for-6 for 115 yards on intermediate passes compared to 18-of-24 for 158 yards on short passes. It’s not just a one game sample either, on the season Newton is 21-of-34 (61.8 percent) for 532 yards with one touchdown and interception on passes that traveled more than 15 yards on the season (103.2 passer rating). On short passes this year, Newton is 148-of-211 (70.1 percent) for 1,368 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions (80.4 passer rating). If the Patriots are going to let Cam throw the ball, they should let him air it out.
@EdwardPettman Why did Harris only get 11 carries ?!?!
When watching the game live, it definitely seemed like New England got away from run game. Watching it back however, that didn't seem completely true. There were still some cases were you could question not giving Damien Harris the ball, such as their last full drive before the half in which they went: incomplete pass, run with James White, completed pass for no gain. But after Harris touched the ball on seven of their first 12 plays, Houston started to bring an eighth defender into the box to try and slow down New England’s top rushing attack. With the extra safety near the line of scrimmage, the Patriots opted to increase White and Rex Burkhead’s usage as they threw the ball more and were forced to handle blitz pickups.
@SteelAssassyn1 With the season now lost, when are we gonna break away from Newton as the starter & see Stidham?? We need to know what he’s got. #PostPulpit
Breaking away from Newton is exactly what they should not do. After an up-and-down start to the season, Newton has been playing like a top-10 QB the last four weeks. If Newton continues to play this well over the last six games, he should be viewed as their best option at the position for next season.
@grayhoodie Which is worse their pass rush, their pass protection, their receivers ability to get separation, the big plays given up in the secondary, or the play calling like when they’re calling a run on 2nd and 19?
We’ve mentioned how they can fix some of their play calling issues, so in my opinion the pass rush is their next biggest issue. The Patriots have just 18 sacks through 10 games this season, tied for 24th in the league. Through just five games last season, New England had a league-leading 24 sacks. They certainly lost their fair share of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but only eight total players have recorded a sack for the Patriots this year and two of them are no longer on the active roster (Shilique Calhoun, Derek Rivers). Whether it’s dialing up more pressures or giving some of the younger players (Josh Uche) more pass-rushing opportunities, getting more pressure on opposing QB’s would go a long way for New England’s defense.
Let’s end with two Patriots-related questions:
@KingOfPrussia16 Does it matter if the New Jersey Jets get the #1 pick? They’ll just ruin whatever they get with that pick.
The Jets couldn't possibly ruin Trevor Lawrence... could they? Lawrence seems like a generational talent at the position that could gel nicely with Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. He also would have his blindside protected for the foreseeable future as the Jets took Mekhi Becton in the first round of this past year’s draft. With Lawrence, they could actually have the key pieces to build a good offense, but we’ll have to see who is wearing the headset on the sideline. (Also, did we just complement the Jets?)
@BostonEvan11 Kind of Pats related but when was Brady’s last good prime time game?
Brady and the Bucs had another prime time stinker Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. Now 1-3 on prime time this season (with the lone win coming against the New York Giants in a two-point game), questions are certainly Brady playing at night. In those four games, Brady has thrown just five touchdowns to go with five interceptions. In his other seven games, Brady has a 20:4 touchdown to interception ratio.
The poor play at night has certainly been noticed by Tampa Bay, as head coach Bruce Arians held practice at night before their Monday night game. So what’s wrong? Dating back to his New England days, Brady really hasn't played a strong prime time game since the Patriots opened the 2019 season against the Steelers. An interesting theory could be Brady’s TB12 method working against him. We all know his pliability methods have kept him on the field playing at a high-level at 43-years old, but perhaps his sleep methods are causing poor late-night play.
The TB12 method focuses on sleep as a key ingredient in your body’s recovery. They recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, which for Brady typically means lying down at 9 p.m. every night. As Brady routinely falls asleep at the same time, he has set his Circadian Rhythm, which TB12 describes as “all the body processes that happen on a regular, near-24-hour interval.” So as the Buccaneers kick-off at 8:15 p.m. for a prime time game, Brady has trained his body to “stop suppressing the production of melatonin”, making him tired at 9 p.m. Now, TB12 also states unnatural light and physical activity (two factors of a primetime football game) will derail your Circadian Rhythm, so perhaps it is just poor play from Brady and the Buccaneers. Either way, it’s an odd re-occurrence that is one to watch as the season concludes.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhinesand @PatsPulpit as well!