The Patriots defense and blitzing:
I was thoroughly impressed with the defense over all. Really the only stuff I had much of a problem with was there was some shody tackling late in the game. Outside of that I just thought it was tremendous.
The thing that really jumped out is that the Patriots blitzed 21 times in that game and percentage wise that's the most since the Steelers game in 2010. They went after them non stop. It didn't stop at any point. Even when Talib went out, it only increased after that.
They were blitzing 38% of the time before Talib went out with an injury. Then they blitzed 68% of the time, even with the scoreboard tilted like it was. It was 52% of the time that they blitzed, I've never seen anything like that as far as percentage. That's the most since 2010 that i've been keeping track of.
Even the Steelers game I was talking about, the percentage was a little bit worse just because of how many times Roethlisberger threw in that game.
I thought this was a similar game plan to what we saw against the Colts, where they blitzed 31% of the time.
Both those offenses are very similar in that they do a lot outside running and then they try to run play action off of it and then they take a lot of deep drops.
Also, I think that the quarterbacks are a little bit similar in that they wanted to make sure Luck and Schaub got a little bit flustered because if you let them sit there they could pick you apart. One of the constants in the game was Matt Schaub constantly had happy feet and he was having a lot of trouble and I think that was because of the Patriots speeding him up because of the blitzes.
Now, is that going to continue? I don't know. We've seen them rise up in blitz percentage some games, then it drops down. Against the Dolphins it was 8%, this one it's 52%, before that was 20%. It's very much a game plan thing. But you can tell that the defense is gaining confidence and their executing much much better than they were before.
Will the offense ever slow down?
We'll get our answer Sunday night because this is without question the best defense in the league, it's the best defense by far that they've seen this season.
I know the Texans stat wise, "blah blah blah, they're really good." But as far as, without Cushing, without Brooks Reed, with some of the injuries in the secondary - not as good as their statistics would indicate. Especially if Josh McDaniels is calling a game like he did the other night where he's just spinning the dial between the running game, between short passes, between deep shots. It was very impressive what Josh did the other night.
This San Francisco defense is a completely different challenge and we'll know exactly how much of a juggernaut this Patriots offense is on Sunday night against this 49ers team which is just...you don't get much more physical than this defense. Even though the Patriots are trying themselves.
The 49ers offense in a shoot out:
They can play that style of game but that's not what they're built for. They are built for a lower scoring grudge match but there's no question that Kaepernick gives them much more explosive ability than Alex Smith does, and also his ability to work outside the pocket...That just makes the defense have to game plan for some much more and also have to worry about so much more on play fakes and anything else. It puts more pressure on a defense and I think that's why they went to him.
[Aldon Smith's] pretty good but as we saw with J.J. Watt, the Patriots are better than anybody at limited explosive guys on the other side. To me, it's going to be the inside linebackers - Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. Jerod Mayo's playing at an extremely high level right, which is good to see. I think that Bowman and Willis are a step above him at this point.
That's one thing about this San Francisco team, if you limit a guy like Aldon Smith, you still have all these athletic guys from Willis to Bowman to Brooks. Justin Smith is almost as good as J.J. Watt, was the best 3-4 defensive end in the game until Watt's season this year. Ray McDonald can get after people. They'll blitz linebackers, they'll blitz corner backs.
They will be relentless and the problem with this team is you don't know where it's going to come from. In a way the Patriots are starting to become like that which I think is benefiting them big time on defense.
Why is the Patriots defense improving?
It's just the play calling to me. I think they're just letting the guys be more aggressive. This is something that a lot of us were calling for in the wake of the second Bills game, right before the Colts game, where they were playing extremely passive. They only blitzed 10% of the time in that game and they were getting picked apart in the secondary.
I think they're now taking the game to the opponent, they're being much more physical instead of being reactive.
Now, this is something that we've seen from them in the past. If you remember last year, the Patriots were terrible on defense for a good portion of the season but towards the end of the season, end of November, into December they played much better, started coming after the quarterback much more. I just think this is a natural progress that Bill Belichick moves toward and they've done a nice job of it again.
Will Aqib Talib always go one on one with a top wide receiver?:
I think it's a game plan thing. It's whatever they think is going to be most effective. I think with the Texans - like the Colts with Reggie Wayne - while the Texans have a few more weapons, really at the end of the day you just don't want Andre Johnson to beat you and, you know, it wasn't all the time. They kind of mixed it up a little bit but they put Talib out there on him a lot and they also gave him safety help and linebacker help underneath so I think it's very much a game plan thing. Talib definitely gives you that flexibility and I think that they like - just based on his size when you look out there - instead of throwing against Kyle Arrington and Dennard, throwing against a guy that's 6'1" out there. I mean, just the appearance of that makes you want to look elsewhere. I think in that regard the Patriots like that and I do think that's a factor