Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why the Patriots dominate the Steelers

 Why is Tom Brady so good against Pittsburgh? ESPN's Trent Dilfer explains.

Last Sunday’s 39-26 thrashing of what many had as the NFL’s best team, was nothing new.

Historically, Tom Brady reigns supreme over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team he hasn’t lost to since 2004, which was actually the only time he’s lost to them. Including playoffs, Brady is 5-1 against Pittsburgh in games he’s finished (thus discounting the AFC Championship game in 2001). In those games he’s averaged an astounding 315.5 yards and 2.5 TDs, throwing only 3 interceptions.

The Steelers franchise has been renowned for having not only one of the toughest and most physical defenses but also the best. So, why is it that Brady and the Patriots seem to have such an easy time with them? The day after Sunday Night’s game, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer appeared on Colin Cowherd’s radio show to shed some light on this. As the former quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens (Pittsburgh’s division rival) he would be the one to ask about their defense.

“[The Patriots are] a very difficult matchup for the Steelers”, Dilfer explained. “If the Steelers are's in a two tight end set. When you put two tight ends on the balances them out. They no longer have the ability to use the smoke and mirrors so you're going to get one of three different defensive looks. So, you get them in predictable looks where now you have the ability to just match up with them where you feel like you're better and handle their protection breakers and their exotic schemes you have a real advantage offensively”.

The way Dilfer explains it - it sounds so simple its amazing more teams don’t have such great success over the Steelers. However, Dilfer goes on, “Now, that sounds real easy, right? Very few teams can do it.”

So what is it that makes the Patriots so special?

“Brady's as good as Manning, Brees or Rivers [at] handling protections at the line of scrimmage”, says Dilfer. “Tom Brady, you see him do the dummy heel or the different points, what he's doing is he's changing the protection. Because they're in the two tight end set, they get a balanced look. Brady makes them show him their mail, so to speak, directs the line - that's why they don't get the overload pressure on Tom Brady. Now, he's matched up down the football field, he's tremendously accurate, his guys get enough separation, they can possess the ball with the passing game”.

Very simply put, Brady’s ability to change protections at the line of scrimmage and force the Steelers’ defense to show their hand. Brady’s high football IQ makes him not only a Steeler killer but also one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Dilfer went on to talk about why Brady is one of the greatest to ever play the position:
“I think the biggest thing is this, [in the short passing game], the location of the ball is so much more important. Just put yourself in the receiver’s shoes, ok?. He's being covered, he turns around, he locates the ball and the ball’s on him now. So it's harder for a receiver to adjust to a ball that doesn’t have great location. [With deep throws], the balls in the air and the receivers can track it. There's a little more room for error in terms of accuracy. 80% of what Tom Brady does is go to that possession passing game - that 10 yard area maybe shorter. You have to be so accurate, you have to change ball speed (you can't knock your receivers over). You’ve got to manipulate [the ball] over linebackers, get it up and down, through small windows. All as well as being able to put it in perfect location. Tom Brady has this ability…When the ball comes off his hand it just goes to that perfect location. He allows each route to maximize it's potential. If it's designed to get 6 it'll get 9 because of the location giving the receiver the ability to move forward [in stride catching the ball]. The Gronkowski touchdown, the first one over the middle. That's a [favorable] matchup but it's probably a 50-50 proposition. I mean, other guys make that throw but [Brady] seems to make it every single time”.

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