The Oakland Raiders’ continued quest for a turnaround makes a stop in Mexico City versus the New England Patriots.
Stopping the Patriots offense will be no easy feat for the Raiders but we can take lessons from history and study how some teams such as the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, and Giants have had success against them in the past.
The task will not be an easy one despite defensive struggles for the Patriots just as the Raiders continue their own defensive woes. Yet, if the Silver and Black want any hope of a playoff run then they must continue their momentum.
Same Ol’ Patriots
For New England, losing star wide receiver Julian Edelman during the pre-season has not slowed down their offense. What’s more is that in the offseason the team had welcomed additions in Brandin Cooks and most recently, tight end Martellus Bennett after being released by the Green Bay Packers.
Going into Week 11, the Patriots stand 7-2 and once again possess the best record in the AFC. With that said, here are a few strategies that the Raiders should consider employing as they attempt to slow down Tom Brady this Sunday.
Make New England One-Dimensional
Brady, like any other quarterback, has struggled when the defense knows that a pass is coming. In order to accomplish this, the Raiders need to put points on the board early and shut down the run. Raiders have been a good tackling team this year and that will come handy against the elusive Dion Lewis.
Measuring RBs by How Often They Go Down at First Contact
1. Kareem Hunt (58.8%)
2. Dion Lewis (59.2%)
3. Marshawn Lynch (59.3%)
40. Doug Martin (81.3%)
41. Samaje Perine (81.8%)
Last/42. Javorius Allen (85.6%)
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 14, 2017
Easier said than done, but the Raiders need to win the battle in the trenches. Gap integrity, winning one on one match-ups, and holding up against double teams will go a long way in shutting down the run game.
Minimize Gronk with Obi
The Raiders drafted rookie safety Obi Melifonwu in the second round of this year’s draft exactly for games like this. Melifonwu is an athletic freak and is expected to cover big and athletic tight-ends like Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski. If you’re not familiar with this rookie’s athleticism then consult the video below from the NFL Combine via NFL.com.
For the last couple of years, it was a trend to start the tight-end in your fantasy team who was going up against the Raiders. Raiders did not have any linebackers or safeties who could matchup with above average tight-ends. In comes Melinfonwu for this very reason who has both the size and the athleticism to shut down any large bodies. It will be fun to see how he uses his athletic abilities against Gronkowski. If successful, this will allow the linebackers to drop into short zones or surprise the quarterback with an “A-Gap blitz.”
Take Away The Quick Passing Game
One of the reasons that blitzing doesn’t work against Brady is because he never holds the ball long enough for the blitz to hit home. He has his receivers run slants, screens, quick option routes to eat up the field chunk by chunk. And he will certainly exploit the coverage this Sunday as the Raiders’ defensive backfield could continue its struggles.
Taking away the quick throw keeps Brady in the pocket a fraction longer and gives Khalil Mack and Co. that much more time to get home.
See below as we break down the Cover 2 Man coverage needed to slow down Brady.
Discipline! Discipline! Discipline!
You cannot let Brady figure out what type of defense you will be playing on each down. “You have to be able to run all of your defenses out of the same shell. From man to Cover 2, Cover 3, and zone or man blitz. They all need to look the same” says Brendon Ayanbadejo of FoxSports.com. And as one NFL defensive coordinator told Andy Benoit of SI.com, “You cannot let Brady get a beat on your coverages before the snap. He’ll kill you. You have to change it up.”
The defense needs to be lined up and ready to go at all times. Newly acquired All-Pro veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman has to make sure his men are aware of the defensive play call and lined up before the offense on every single play.
Constantly Pressure Brady
Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback in history. Going up against a poor cornerback group with their best talent on IR doesn’t bode well for the Raiders defense. The last thing you want to do, even if you have a strong cornerback group, is let Brady get comfortable in the pocket.
Tom is better than anyone in the game when he has a…nice clean pocket with a clean window to throw through. Brady’s accuracy diminishes once he leaves the pocket and the timing with his receivers is also compromised. Dan Schneier, CBS Sports
They key is to get Brady off the spot and hit him often. And you have to do this with a four-man rush. Brady is no Cam Newton or Russell Wilson when it comes to scrambling and buying time. Rushing four also allows seven to drop into coverage, making it harder for the quarterback to read through the extra defenders.
This strategy was used by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII where they held Brady and the 18-0 Patriots to just 14 points. This was echoed by Justin Tuck, who played on the Giants defensive line in the Superbowl.
Ok for all the Falcon fans on my timeline asking me the key to success against Brady…4 man rush has to hit him early and often.
— Justin Tuck (@JustinTuck) January 23, 2017
Defensive Scheme – Cover 2 Man
Below we break down the defensive scheme Cover 2 Man, and how to use it to slow down the Patriots offense. In a perfect world, the Raiders would play man coverage against New England as pure man gives Brady more trouble than any other coverage. Unfortunately, the Raiders are fielding a below average cornerback group and require zone to be sprinkled in to be effective.
- Cornerbacks David Amerson and Dexter McDonald play press and disrupt routes to take away quick throws.
- Cornerbacks play inside technique, using the sideline as an extra defender.
- Two safeties over the top allows cornerbacks to stay on WR’s hips giving them an advantage on curls, comebacks, outs, and digs (more on the route tree here).
- Melifonwu follows Gronk or drops to zone if Gronk stays to block.
Note that this is the main coverage but not the only one to play. Neither should the defense give the same pre-snap look. A good defensive coordinator always keeps the offense wondering what coverage they will see.
Prediction: It might be too much to ask for a below average defense to slow down a powerhouse offense like the Patriots. Even if they did, the Raiders offense have not played well two weeks in a row. Raiders lose 27-17.