janvier 28, 2023

Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots defense look to blunt Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills | NFL News

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick

How Bill Belichick of him it would be to wobble the Buffalo Bills’ Lombardi wagon. How Bill Belichick of him it would be to masterfully blunt an MVP-contending Josh Allen. How Bill Belichick of him it has been to guide his purgatory New England Patriots into ‘unwelcome thorn’ territory.

Purgatory with Belichick feels like a different kind of purgatory. And Bill’s Patriots keep coming.

Not with the same haunting Championship inevitability or robotic consistency, but as perennial competitors with the ability and earned trust to do more with less. While reigning Super Bowl champions falter, rebuilds stutter and talent-pumped AFC West teams not named the Kansas City Chiefs underachieve, Belichick’s outfit are a flawed, imperfect but respected obstacle minus the title credentials.

Planning for a Josh Allen is as taxing a job as can be found in today’s NFL, but maybe also part of Belichick’s continued love affair with football at the age of 70 and after almost five decades in coaching. How to limit the man that can make every throw, how to contain the off-script outer-pocket magic, how to matchup with Sean McDermott and Ken Dorsey’s steamroller.

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Watch the best plays from the 2022 season by Buffalo Bills' quarterback Josh Allen.

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Watch the best plays from the 2022 season by Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen.

Watch the best plays from the 2022 season by Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen.

Belichick has a rich history for feasting on young quarterbacks. Allen, albeit now young-ish rather than rookie-young, is 4-4 against the Patriots (including one playoff meeting) since entering the league in 2018. He lost three straight while managing a completion percentage no higher than 50 to start his career before winning four of his last five and surpassing 300 passing yards in three of those victories amid his emergence as one of the league’s A-listers.

The Patriots’ only triumph against Allen since the start of 2020 came last December when Mac Jones attempted just three passes as New England turned to a run-driven game-plan in 40mph winds and erratic rainfall to thwart the Bills 14-10. But it was Allen who would claim the crowning moment of their dual thus far when he threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 66 yards during Buffalo’s 47-17 blowout victory in January’s Wild Card playoff.

It marked the most points any team has ever put up against Belichick during his time as a head coach, including in the playoffs, as the Bills became the first side since 1950 to not punt, attempt a field goal or record a turnover in a game, while scoring a touchdown on each of their seven possessions aside from kneeling at the end of the first half and lining up in victory formation at the end of the game.

It prompted Belichick to approach his foe post-game to offer his praise while conceding his side’s failure to find an answer for him. Before he walks away as the greatest coach in NFL history, Belichick would like to find that answer.

« They’re explosive [in the passing game] on offense, » Belichick said on Sunday. « Allen’s the leading rusher, so that tells you all you need to know about what you have to defend every time he touches the ball, it could be any number of things and does them all well. Great player, certainly an MVP candidate. He does a lot for their team in a lot of ways. »

Highlights of the New England Patriots against the Minnesota Vikings from Week 12 of the NFL season.

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Highlights of the New England Patriots against the Minnesota Vikings from Week 12 of the NFL season.

Highlights of the New England Patriots against the Minnesota Vikings from Week 12 of the NFL season.

New England sit first in the league in defensive EPA/play (expected points added) and tied-first in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), while ranking second in most sacks (37) and sixth in takeaways (18). They meet a Bills offense ranked second in EPA/play, first in success rate and sixth in DVOA on the year behind a quarterback in Allen who is third in EPA/play and first in success rate. Chess match material.

The Allens and Patrick Mahomes’ of the league embody the modern conundrum for Belichick and his coaching peers. The mobile quarterback that has obliterated pocket convention while stressing coverage design; sinking into two-high safety shells with a goal of four-man pass-rush production is a trending avenue to eradicating chunk plays downfield, but that is only half the challenge with a point guard that can slip, slide and create his own shot.

Belichick is a master of anything-but-traditional-base defense with extra defensive backs and window-dressed nickel and dime packages as a plot to taint a quarterback’s field read and an offense’s design. It makes post-snap safety rotation difficult to diagnose and gives the Patriots extra speed and athleticism in a defense that uses press-man coverage more than most in the league. The problem against a quarterback of Allen’s skillset being his ability to take off with the ball in hand once backs are turned in pursuit and the gaps appear.

Despite the Cover-2 and quarters popularity, Belichick also remains a leading advocate for the single-high Cover-1/Cover-3 looks that position a sole safety at the middle of the field and trust in the support of those in more shallow starting points in order to bait tougher throws outside the numbers. It relies on disciplined personnel and brave coaching, but it also offers the potential reward of aggressive arm talent like that of Allen falling into a trap.

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the Detroit Lions from Week 12 of the NFL season.

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Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the Detroit Lions from Week 12 of the NFL season.

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the Detroit Lions from Week 12 of the NFL season.

The Patriots have the option of tasking a linebacker to serve as a quarterback spy in wait of Allen’s escape from the pocket, while they are better-equipped this time around to test the Bills pilot in zone coverage with a pool of multi-faceted safeties that can drop down to the second level to combat a more patient dink-and-dunk short-to-intermediate middle-of-the-field approach from the Bills. With that said, teams have tried zone replacement blitzes in a bid to unsettle Allen only for him and Dorsey to pick them apart.

Belichick has long placed an onus on generating pressure in the backfield via water-tight coverage downfield and has been blessed with the freedom to do so this season by a resurgent Jonathan Jones, who has given up just 12 receptions on 32 targets, along with fourth-round rookie revelation Jack Jones, a 35-year-old McCourty, 30-year-old Adrian Phillips, Jalen Mills, Kyle Dugger and Myles Bryant. Meanwhile, up front, Matthew Judon has racked up a career-high and league-leading 13 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and 50 total pressures (PFF), alongside 6.5 sacks from Deatrich Wise Jr. and five from Josh Uche.

A large part of what has seen this Patriots defense thrive has been the versatility to shift corners to safety and to drop the likes of Jabrill Peppers and Phillips into the second level and to have linebacker Mack Wilson float as a sideline-to-sideline spy and for an unsung Jahlani Tavai, a former 2019 second-round pick for the Detroit Lions, to play his way to a new contract after splitting his time between athletic off-ball linebacker and edge option.

The Buffalo Bills' Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen and Tyler Bass reflect on their dramatic late win over the Detroit Lions and celebrate with a Thanksgiving turkey.

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The Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen and Tyler Bass reflect on their dramatic late win over the Detroit Lions and celebrate with a Thanksgiving turkey.

The Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen and Tyler Bass reflect on their dramatic late win over the Detroit Lions and celebrate with a Thanksgiving turkey.

Belichick’s unit can keep them in games, but only for so long. Jones had his best outing of the season in last week’s Thanksgiving defeat to the Minnesota Vikings as the Patriots teased signs of reverting to play-action having bizarrely abandoned what had worked so well for their quarterback as a rookie during the offseason, but this limping New England attack still sits 25th in DVOA and devoid of both consistency and a recognised identity.

Thursday is the latest opportunity to build on their Minnesota performance against a banged-up Bills defense that is allowing on average 37.6 yards per drive since Week Five, third most only behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.

The Patriots sought to bulk up on some added zip and range across their defense in preparation for the Allens of the NFL. The Allen test has arrived.

For the Bills, it awaits as a chance to take another step towards the postseason as they battle the Miami Dolphins for division title honours and for the Patriots the start of their chance down the stretch to chase what had looked an unlikely and yet possible playoff berth.

Watch the Buffalo Bills (8-3) face the New England Patriots (6-5) live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Friday morning.



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