The New England Patriots have had a stranglehold on the AFC East for nearly a decade as they’ve captured nine straight AFC East titles. The Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have all failed in their efforts to bring New England’s magical run to an end leaving the Patriots essentially peerless in their division.
While Tom Brady has five Super Bowl wins on his resume, last night’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles marks the third time a Patriots team led by Tom Brady has failed to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
There are lessons to be learned from each of Tom Brady’s three Super Bowl losses. Their latest loss in Super Bowl LII certainly provided a blueprint for how to approach a match-up against the fabled Patriots.
Do what you do
Too often are teams willing to change their entire philosophy leading up to a showdown with the Patriots. Teams that have the most success against New England do what they do, and do it well. While it is perfectly acceptable to throw in a few tendency breakers to keep the Patriots off balance, it is critical to a team’s success to refrain from trying to reinvent the wheel. Coaches must remember to trust their players and their personnel; it’s not all about Xs and Os. If the Patriots can get their opponent to do things they aren’t comfortable with – chances are they’ve already won.
Must overcome mystique
So many teams allow Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ illustrious history to permeate their minds and are mentally defeated before the game begins. Leading up to Super Bowl LII, Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery said he isn’t focused on what the Patriots have done in the past and others echoed the same sentiment. When asked about the Patriots “mystique” coach Doug Pederson said, “These guys [the New England Patriots] have been there. They’ve done it. They’ve proven it time and time again. My biggest focus with the team is: let’s just focus on today. Let’s just win today. Let’s get better today, and we’ll worry about that when we get to the game.”
Hit Tom Brady early and often
Leading to the second half, of Super Bowl LII, it was clear that the hits the Eagles were landing on Brady were beginning to rattle him. His first half performance led to his former teammate turned analyst, Rodney Harrison to say, “When you hit Tom Brady, he becomes an average quarterback.” Harrison might have gone too far with his critique, as Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns, but it is clear that he becomes less accurate under pressure. The Eagles sacked him just once, but the accumulation of hits he took throughout the game clearly had an impact on the outcome of the game.
Corners that mirror are important
By alignment, the Patriots don’t allow defensive backs to get their hands on their wide receivers. They’re often granted free releases because they stack their wide receivers which making it difficult to jam them. The best course of action is to play off to avoid pick or rub plays. Cornerbacks with great hips and are capable of getting in and out of breaks quickly certainly benefits a secondary when facing New England. The Dolphins young cornerback tandem of Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley are press corners by nature, but they are capable of mirroring and will only get better with more experience.
Versatile running backs cause them fits
Look no further than what Kenyan Drake was able to do in Week 14 against the Patriots on Monday Night football. Drake not only rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries, he also had five receptions for 79 yards. Eagles running back Corey Clement posted just eight yards on the ground but LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi combined for 147 yards on the ground. Clement did most of his damage as a receiver against the Patriots as his 100 yards and one touchdown on four receptions kept the Patriots off balance. The Dolphins could see a great deal of success against the Patriots in future match-ups due to Drake’s versatility.