September, 23, 2014

A weekly look at what the New England Patriots must fix:

The Kansas City Chiefs rank fourth in the NFL in sacks per opponent pass play, which makes this game a bad match for a Patriots team that is struggling to protect quarterback Tom Brady.

Specifically, the Chiefs can bring the heat off the edge with outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. One way for the Patriots to combat that is to duplicate what they did on one of the key plays in their 16-9 victory over the Raiders this past Sunday — a 22-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski on third-and-15 with 9:48 remaining.

On that play, the Patriots had Brady in the shotgun, lined up running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen on either side of him and had them chip the edge rusher to their sides before releasing into pass routes. The chips by both running backs were effective in slowing down the rush, kept the pocket clean and gave Brady some rare time to step up in the pocket and deliver an accurate strike.

In having a running back chip often, there is a sacrifice because the player isn’t getting into his route as quickly as he could otherwise. But if the reward is slowing down a ferocious rush, it’s worth devoting resources to it, based on the struggles the Patriots have had protecting Brady.

  • Covered Patriots since 1997
  • Joined ESPN in 2009

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