Patriots

Brady versus Ryan: Part II

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Brady versus Ryan: Part II

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- In a seven-day span Tom Brady will throw against two Ryan defenses; he dodges Rex to dance with Rob. And for as good as the Jets 'D' can be, the Cowboys aren't far behind.

Dallas, statistically, is toughest against the rush, allowing just 61.8 yards per game. The team's total defense is ranked fourth (291.8 yards per game), surrendering 230.0 passing yards on average.

Brady is up on these numbers. Of course.

"He's a great coach," Brady said about Rob. "He gets those guys playing hard. I think they're very talented. They've got a bunch of good skill type players over there . . . They really get pressure on the quarterback from everybody. They get pressure on the three-man rush, they get pressure on the four-man rush, when they blitz they get pressure. . . . So, we've got to make sure we really stand up to them."

Ryan had Brady's number last year in Cleveland. The Browns' 34-14 win over the Patriots sticks out sorely because it was the second of New England's only two losses in 2010. And because Cleveland's defense held the Patriots to its lowest point total of the season. (Rex's Jets beat them 28-14 on September 19.) Brady went 19-for-34 in front of a giddy dog pound that November day.

Despite the different personnel in Dallas, he knows what Rob Ryan can do.

"Everything's very well coordinated," the quarterback said. "They've got a bunch of different things that they do . . . it's certainly not easy to prepare for. They've got a bunch of different blitz looks, a bunch of different defensive packages. It's kind of a gameplay defense and you're never really sure what you're going to get until you get out there, so you've got to prepare for everything."

But then there are those guys you just have to brace yourself for. Like DeMarcus Ware.

Ware is the linebacker Texas Pop Warner quarterbacks hear ghost stories about. He doesn't currently lead the NFL in sacks (he's tied for fourth), but, firstly, the Cowboys are coming off a bye and secondly, the minute you think he's off his game he'll have you on the ground.

Brady was sacked three times when last these team's met -- a 48-27 New England win in October of 2007. One of the takedowns belongs to Ware.

"He can get after the quarterback as good as anybody we play," Brady said. "He's powerful, he's fast off the edge, he's got a bunch of different moves. It's not like you just set on the speed rush and he'll speed rush you and then he'll power you right into the quarterback.

"The first play of the 2011 season he sacked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez . . . If he gets going early he's going to be a problem all day, so we've got to make sure we really account for him on every play."

There are new worries, too. Rob Ryan inherited a sneaky winner in Sean Lee, a 6-2, 245 pound linebacker, when he took over the Dallas defense. After a year of digesting an NFL system, Lee has been a bear on the Cowboys line this season. In his first career start, that 27-24 loss to the Jets, his 15 tackles lead the team. Lee also picked off a Sanchez pass and ran it back 37-yards, which set up a Dallas touchdown. He even threw in a fumble recovery to round things out.

Lee's pace through the subsequent weeks wasn't slowed: 36 stops, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries. And more homework for Tom Brady.

"He's not big in stature, almost Zach Thomas-like," Brady said, comparing Lee to the former Dolphins linebacker who made the Pro Bowl eight times, "but really dissects the passing game, reads the quarterback really well. That return he had for a touchdown against the Jets was a phenomenal play: read the quarterback, kind of figured out the route, anticipated the throw, made a great catch and a great run. He's very good.

"He's obviously very smart, you can see that from just watching him play," Brady added. "He communicates a lot. When the play is called into the defense you can see he's one of the guy's that's always trying to get everything communicated to the rest of the guys, which tells you how the coaches feel about him. And that defense, I would say, is not very easy. There's a lot that they do, so to put that on a second-year player, that tells you what they think of him."

The esteem of Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is more than enough of an endorsement to caution Brady. As the backlog shows, that's how it should be.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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