J.J. Watt has been held to zero batted balls and zero sacks in a game only once this season, and it happened to be against the New England Patriots in Week 14 of the 2012 regular season. Without question, the Patriots need to do this again on Sunday, except better.
In New England's Week 14 victory, their game plan against Watt went seemingly great on "Matt Light Night." However, even though Watt came up empty in the two aforementioned categories, he still hit Brady three times, hurried him twice, knocked him down five times, and forced a fumble on a screen pass, according to Greg Bedard of Boston.com.
Brady played a tremendous game against the Texans, but there was some signs of worry when Brady started out the second half 3-10 (luckily, one of the completions was a 63-yard bomb to Donte Stallworth).
It's always important to stop the pass rush, but the Patriots' offensive line especially needs to stop the pass rush when there are no extra pass rushers. John Parolin of ESPN Stats and Information documented that when facing at least five pass rushers, Brady has an unprecedented 20 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. He also says that Brady's trigger is the quickest in the NFL with 3.03 seconds on average elapsing before the ball leaves his hand (league average is 3.46). Here are Brady's stats compiled by Mr. Parolin:
Brady by seconds-before-pass (2012)
Within 3.0 More Than 3.0
Comp pct 72%* 41%
Yds per att 8.1 6.4
TD-Int 26-4 8-4
Total QBR 87.9 38.4
*17-25, 3 TD in Week 14 vs Texans
Wade Phillips was quick to notice Brady's ability to find the open receiver with efficient and often success.
“We got some hits on the quarterback. He gets rid of the football. He’s not sacked a whole lot anytime in his career, and especially this year. They get rid of the football,” said Phillips after the loss.
All of Tom Brady's six playoff losses have been rematches of regular season games, albeit he has an 8-6 record in these rematches overall. Michael Whitmer of Boston.com is quick to point out that their record in the last five is 1-4.
The Giants beat the Patriots in last year's Super Bowl by getting pressure on Brady, but they didn't do it by bringing extra pass rushers. They rushed three or four and were still able to get pressure while at the same time covering Brady's pass options that develop quickly. Therefore, the Patriots need to protect Brady when less than five pass rushers are sent. If they don't? Then our beloved Patriots could fall prey to a quick playoff exit.