As the New England Patriots prepare for their final task of the regular season, figuring out how to defend the Miami Dolphins‘ blitz will likely be a big part of the gameplan. Mac Jones and Bill Belichick talked about that this week.
“(The Dolphins) can bring pressure, but they can also not bring pressure,” Belichick said. “We’ve played games against them where the game was almost exclusively three-man rush and we’ve played games and seen games, like the Baltimore game this year, where they bring in max pressure in the ballpark of, call it, 20 times.
“Then,” Belichick continued, “we’ve seen them in between, where it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that, some blitz-zone, some blitz-man, some man-to-man, some zone, and I’d say that they’ve, over the course of the season this year, from where they finished last year and where it looked like they started this season, that they’ve added more variety to their defensive play-calling: more zone, more blitz-zone, some safety blitz pressure that they’ve added.”
New England suffered an opening week loss to Miami, a game where Miami blitzed the Patriots heavily. The Dolphins had a total of nine QB hits on Jones while tallying one sack in their Week 1 win.
Belichick calls Miami ‘a gameplan team,’ says New England has to be ready for ‘a lot of things.’
“They’re a gameplan team and you have to be ready for a lot of things,” said Belichick. “We’ll just have to see what we get, but I think it’d be a mistake for us to sit here and practice every snap of max pressure or every snap of three-man rush. It could be any of those and it could come in different quantities, depending on how much success they’re having with it too. We’ll have to be ready for all of that. I’d say, at this point in the season, we’ve pretty much seen everything.”
Belichick talked about Miami last season and he talked about how to attack the Miami defense that has had a disappointing year compared to last year’s lethal defensive season.
“Last year, their pressures were a little bit different than Miami’s because most of theirs out of four-man line,” Belichick said. “Miami’s more of an odd-spacing team. Regardless, it’s still kind of the same concept of, ‘You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a hat on a hat.’ You’ve got everybody picked up and, if you don’t, you’d better know what your outlets are in the passing game. In the running game, it’s the same thing. When they pressure from the outside, that usually involves some type of interior line movement. If you can anticipate that, that can really help you in the running game. If you can’t and get surprised by it, then that creates a problem too.”
The Patriots will be without Kyle Dugger, and nine players are questionable for their Week 18 matchup.
Belichick says it’s a team effort to stop the blitz, and that the Patriots have to do a better job compared to Week 1 in stopping the Dolphins’ defense.
“Again, it’s really team execution,” said Belichick. “One guy can’t handle a blitz by himself. You’ve got to have receivers doing the right thing. You’ve got to have the pass protection working together. The quarterback’s got to know who the protection has, know who they don’t have, get the ball out accordingly, and see the roaming players that are in a blitz-zone or that drop out in a man-blitz, that kind of thing.
“The biggest thing from the first game is that we have to do a better job, obviously, in the red area,” Belichick added. “We have to do a better job of ball security, offensively. If we’re going to score points, then we’re going to have to do those things better. We’ll see how it goes this week, but that’s really the big challenge against Miami. They do a good job of not giving up a lot of points and we’re going to have to work harder to score.”
The Patriots have allowed 26 sacks as a team this season, compared to their 35 sacks from their own defense. That’s compared to 37 sacks allowed last season. Trent Brown has given this offensive line a major boost since his return this season, and the line has held their own in the weeks without Brown.
“Overall, I wouldn’t say (the blitz has) been a major problem this year,” Belichick said. “I think we’ve handled that pretty well, but there’s always room for improvement and every game’s different, so how it matches up this week and, again, as I said, these guys do a little more odd pressuring than some of the teams… we’ve really been four-man line teams here for the last, I don’t know, six, seven, eight weeks, whatever it’s been. It’s been a lot. So now we’re into a little bit of a different look here and we’ll have to make sure we’re straight on all that too. We’ll see.”
The Patriots will be AFC East Champions with a Bills loss to the Jets and a win over the Dolphins. However, with Buffalo having the tiebreaker over New England — with division record — a Bills win will secure the division for Buffalo no matter what.
However, the Patriots can still clinch the No. 1 AFC seed through a few hectic scenarios, whereas the Bills cannot — though it’s likely that the Bills will beat New York for their second straight division title.
“(The Dolphins have) done a really good job getting after the quarterback, creating negative plays, obviously, with sacks and all that,” said Jones. “They’ve done really good there and have given quarterbacks they play against a lot of different looks, so we just have to be ready, follow what we know, and follow our rules. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Like you said, they’ve done a really good job, so we’ve just got to be ready.”
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