Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It Was Only a Matter of Time….

..before Tom Brady figured out how to dismantle Rex Ryan's defense...

When two teams meet so often, they get a feel for each other. They become familiar with opposing players' strengths and weakness and most of all, they know how to take advantage of them. Look at baseball for example.

The Red Sox have seen Yankees’ ace closer, Mariano Rivera, so many times that they understand him. They’ve figured him out. While he’s such an intimidating force to nearly every other team, the Red Sox aren’t scared of him. They’ve seen him too much – they get him. One need look no further than the 2004 ALCS for evidence of that.

When division rivals face off, it’s only a matter of time before they each figure out how to expose eachother.

With Brady and Belichick, it only took them 5 games to figure out Rex Ryan’s defense. The result? A 45-3 thrashing at Gillette Stadium.

In the post-game show last night, ESPN analyst; Suzy Kolber, revealed something Tom Brady had told her earlier that week. With the extra time to prepare because of playing the Thanksgiving game, Brady said he was able to sit down alone with Coach Belichick for hours for the first time all season.

Brady had historically struggled against Rex Ryan coached defenses. His 54.9 completion percentage against them was considerably lower than his career average of 63.6. However, when analyzing Ryan’s scheme through Belichick’s defensive eyes – it all seemed much simpler to him.

It showed up on game day. Brady completed 72.4% of his passes for 326 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. On his way to winning an NFL-record 26th consecutive home game, he led the Patriots offense to 45 total points – including 28 unanswered points in the second half.

“It’s the biggest butt whipping I’ve ever taken…in my career”, said a dejected Rex Ryan in his post-game press conference. “I've never been of a part of a team, or a game that we gave up this many points”.

While the Patriots offense seemed to have finally figured out Rex’s scheme (perhaps due to the trading of Randy Moss), the defense was able to stifle Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense.

The stats were misleading for a young Patriots defense. They gave up 152 yards rushing and over 300 yards on the night, however, they held the Jets to only 3 points and picked off Sanchez 3 times.

It was another night Mark Sanchez would want to forget at Gillette Stadium as he’s now thrown 7 interceptions in his two games at Foxborough.

Aside from standings in the AFC East, riding on this game was a statement as to which team was a real contender. Many questioned the Jets for struggling against poor opponents, while others criticized a young and last ranked Patriots defense.

Perhaps the most telling stat is the records of each team against playoff contenders. Of the 12 games the Jets have played, they’ve beaten only one playoff team, the Patriots, back in week 2. Overall they are 1-3 against teams in playoff contention and have been outscored, 64-12 in those losses with 0 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have lost to only one playoff contender, the Jets, back in week 2 and have faced more playoff teams than their New York rivals. Overall, the Patriots are 5-1 against teams contending for the playoffs. (Note: this includes the Chargers and Colts who are technically “in the hunt”).

By blowing out the Jets last night, the Patriots proved that their run is not over yet and that they are the legitimate contender in the East. However, more importantly, last night served as an answer to one of the biggest questions coming into last night.

Could Brady figure out Rex Ryan’s defense? Yes, he did.

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