2013 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Preview: Patriots Offense vs. Texans Defense
Stemming from my preview yesterday, BST&N will now take a look at how Tom Brady and his squadron will fair against the dangerous Texan defense. Five weeks ago, J.J. Watt failed to record a sack on Tom Brady in the 42-14 blowout. Although he forced three QB hits and a fumble on Danny Woodhead, the Patriots limited the success of the perennial DPOY in a variety of ways. From running Hernandez out of the backfield to attacking the secondary deep, McDaniels kept Wade Phillips and the Texan defense on their heals in Week 14. Let’s take a deeper dive into the Divisional Round Matchup.
What stood out to me in Week 14 was the active play of safety Glover Quin. Starting all 16 games of 2012, Quin logged 84 tackles and 2 INT. Phillips utilized Quin in the blitz often and he recorded a big TFL on a third down before the game got out of hand. Glover also knocked down one pass on Monday Night Football to go alongside his 7 tackles. While he did get torched on deep balls to Lloyd and Stallworth, you can bet your mortgage that the Texan secondary will keep receivers in front of them on Sunday. Keep in mind, CB Jonathan Joseph just returned to the field against the Patriots in the regular season. He has since brushed off the rust and picked off Andy Dalton last week.
Brady put on a clinic in Week 14, posting the following line:
21/35 – 296 YDS – 4 TD – 0 INT – 125.4 Passer Rating
Bringing back Gronkowski will shift the focus for Texan safeties and linebackers, creating more opportunities for Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to cause problems in the pass game. The Patriots ran multiple stretch play actions in Week 14, opening up the middle of the field and causing confusion. New England is known for their intricate screen game, expect a heavy dosage of these cute plays away from J.J. Swatt. His 20.5 sacks and 16 pass deflections are not a fluke, he is a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
New England rushed the ball 30 times for 133 yards in Week 14. Ridley pounded the rock three times in a row on their first possession in hopes of softening the defense. With ball security issues haunting him all year, protecting the pigskin is priority number one on Sunday. That goes for TB12 as well, we all remember how Baltimore stormed into Gillette – scored on their first drive and then stripped Brady on the following possession. If Hernandez does not recover Ridley’s fumble the outcome of this game could have been drastically different.
Houston rounded out the year giving up 97.5 YPG on the ground, good for 7th in the NFL – the Patriots ended up allowing 101.9 YPG (9th in the NFL). Through the air, the Texan secondary averaged 225.8 YPG in comparison to the 29th in the NFL 271.4 YPG that New England surrenders. While it is not realistic to compare Andy Dalton and Tom Brady, Houston did look more feisty than ever against the second year QB.
When it comes down to it, the Patriots just have too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Lloyd has finally clicked with Brady, Welker is Welker, Gronk is back, and Hernandez is just too versatile to account for. If Stevan Ridley can get the ball rolling early, the Texans are in trouble. Yes, Brady is 16-6 in the playoffs but more importantly he has had a bitter taste in his mouth for the past five years. After blowing his chances at an MVP run, Patriot nation can count on TB12 to bring his A game. Let’s just hope emotions don’t get the best of him if New England faces adversity early.
The Texan defense will learn from their mistakes in Week 14 and may surprise a few people on Sunday.