The Spy: New England Patriot Games – Dynasty, Destiny, Division, & Dominance
We heard it all for 20 years… Two long decades of Patriots domination and Bills mediocrity. An entire generation grew up under the iron hood and fist of Bill Belichick. The New England Patriots of that era earned their trophies, legacy, and credibility (cheating controversies aside). All the hysteria and fanatical unrelenting praise that the Patriots received was a mass movement worthy of a case study. The reason for pointing this out is that history plays a significant role here. The interpretation of this current 2021 Patriots team is still based in that mass movement and the Patriots teams of yesteryear. This 2021 Patriots team has earned nothing. Absolutely nothing. They have not won anything, yet. No titles, no championships, only trendiness.
“Their time is done. It’s over! I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. SCREW ‘EM! THIS IS YOUR TIME!”– Herb Brooks
The Bills are the defending AFC East Champions. That is the bottom line. Period.
Sure, this Patriots team has some nice stats, but then again, every team has a statistical strength. So many variables play into this, but the point should be to drill down on what matters now and what is specific for these two teams. What it boils down to is ignoring the noise. The Bills players are doing just that, so why should fans not do the same?
So then, what is the profile of this New England Patriots team? What team are we facing on Monday Night Football?
SPY 1: Dangerous Defense
This year’s New England defense has reinforcements. They got players back from opt-outs and injuries last year (including Dont’a Hightower). Add in some key acquisitions (Matthew Judon) and maturations (Kyle Dugger). Even more noteworthy is how Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has evolved.
For starters, Belichick is delegating and distributing more power to his son and defensive protégé, Steve Belichick. This has never happened on such a scale as in 2021. Moreover, Belichick has changed his defensive philosophy entirely. This speaks to a creative and flexible side of “The Hood” previously unknown to casual observers. The hood has accomplished this by hybridizing the coverage scheme, patterns, and protocols of the secondary. In 2021, the Patriots defense is playing zone defense at a higher rate than previous years, particularly in games versus dynamic QBs. The Patriots defense ranks second in the entire NFL (per Lineups). That’s second only to… wait for it… the Buffalo Bills!
The Patriots defense is highly unpredictable, even for the best opposing offenses. They gave Dallas fits deploying this type of scheme (yet lost). The same goes for the Los Angeles Chargers (except they won). The unpredictability inherent in this type of deception scheme is evident in the way the Patriots defense executes a given play. When deploying this scheme, the defense shows a look pre-snap that is completely different from what they shift into during and immediately after the snap.
Whatever read the opposing QB makes pre-snap has a high chance of being wrong when they hike the ball. Normally, a defense doing this over the course of multiple games can reveal tells that an offense can use to counter the deception. However, New England and “The Hood” keep coming up with layers upon layers of deceptions, constantly showing different looks.
The Bills need to exploit man coverage whenever possible. They must aim to be just as, if not more, deceptive on offense as the New England Patriots are on defense. The Patriots defense is vulnerable to dynamic running (enter Matt Breida), the RPO game and play-action, as well as mismatches in the passing game. Josh Allen checking plays at the line may end up being a critical factor that lessens the impact the Patriots’ defensive deception.
SPY 2: The Judon Rush Is On
Matthew Judon is in the middle of the finest season of his career, by a large margin. Currently sitting at 11.5 sacks and 46 tackles, Judon is a terror. Furthermore, Judon has proven himself to be an apex predator at his position. Unlike his first five years in Baltimore, Judon moves around on the defensive line often so that he can have a greater effect as a pass rusher. Moving him causes confusion and disruption of offensive protection calls.
Judon’s athleticism is next level, which makes him an extremely hard matchup. Equally impressive is his rushing techniques. Being both a technical and athletic rusher gives Judon the ability to utilize a vast array of rushing techniques. Fortunately, however, Judon plays little on the interior of the line. The Bills offensive tackles will have their hands full with Judon trying to bend, swim, and spear off the perimeter.
SPY 3: McCorkle Mania
McCorkle Jones will be playing the coldest game of his young career come Monday. He has never, in his entire career, played in a game like what Monday’s will be. He will also be tested like never before against the best ranked defense in the NFL. A defense ranked first in QB pressure rate (30% of snaps). This is also a defense with an elite secondary, even without injured superstar CB Tre White.
The problem with Mac Jones is that he is not asked to do any more than the minimum required. In other words, he is a game manager. His entire game is predicated on short passing within 5-7 yards: easy checkdown plays, planned timing routes, and short/intermediate basic play action passing. The quality of opponents has been mediocre as well. Suffice it to say, he will be deeply affected by the Bills defense. I do not forecast a good game for McCorkle.
SPY 4: Under the Hood
This section will be like Bill Belichick’s pressers: short, bitter, and to the point. Belichick is the greatest threat presented by the New England Patriots. Make no mistake, “The Hood” is still arguably the greatest coach in the NFL and even in its history. He will test the Bills on every level, in every phase of play. We are coming closer to a game about much more than just points on a scoreboard or a place in the standings. “The Hood” is coaching for his legacy. There should be no doubt he remembers being beaten by the Bills twice in 2020. The implications for Monday’s game are made even more serious any time “The Hood” is scowling and prowling on the opposite sideline.
CAPABILITIES & LIMITATIONS
- Excellent Coaching
- Deception and subversion tactics
- Run game
- Quality of depth
- Scoring capacity (relative to opponents)
- Deep passing game
- Inexperienced zone coverage team (relative to man coverage)
- Ability to contend with elite teams
- Passing volume
DARKHORSE BONUS POINT
NE standout Safety Kyle Dugger tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, December 1st. His status for Monday’s game is unknown, as is his vaccination status, which will impact when he returns. Dugger is New England’s leading tackler. He’s a top-10 defensive back in the league, according to PFF’s four major performance categories. (See below.)
If Dugger is forced to miss this game, it is a MASSIVE loss for the New England defense. Imagine Dugger in the same way that you would imagine players like Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Kevin Byard, Budda Baker, and Tyrann Mathieu. He is an all-aspect player that anchors the secondary and can make any play, any time, and anywhere on the football field. The loss of Dugger creates a vulnerability that can be exploited by the Bills. Dawson “Rambo” Knox and others can create mismatches in the middle of the New England Patriots defense.
Each opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale. The higher the number = The greater the threat to the Bills.
Threat Rating = 8
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.
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