Patriots

Carroll: Patriots' offensive play to change other teams

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Carroll: Patriots' offensive play to change other teams

FOXBORO -- Pete Carroll enjoys playing against people that he knows. He said just as much in a conference call on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.
He'll play against a familiar Patriots organization on Sunday. Although, the only thing he'll be truly familiar with is the owner who ousted him in the late 90's.
"It's not a big factor," said Carroll about playing his old team. "It's a long time ago, to me. But I'm aware of it.
"I regret that we weren't able to get it done the way we wanted to. We did some really good things and were close. But I learned so much coming out of that experience, that it changed me."
A lot has changed since Carroll left New England and eventually landed in Seattle, coaching the Seahawks.
But as he prepares his defense to take on Tom Brady's juggernaut offense, Carroll believes that "change" is just getting started.
By now, everybody knows what New England's game plan is, offensively. Call it a "hurry-up" or call it "no-huddle," just don't call it routine.
Carroll believes other teams will soon follow suit.
"There's nobody in the National Football League that's close, at this time," said the Seahawks coach in a conference call on Wednesday. "But there will be. The Patriots will affect other people, I'm sure, because they've had so much success already.
"It's their willingness to go this fast, as consistently as they have demonstrated, that separates them from other teams," added Carroll, while saying the only team in football using this system are the Oregon Ducks. "There's nobody that's tried to play like they're playing. They've taken on a different approach and a philosophy that I think singles them out, in their commitment to the tempo. And that's cool to watch."
The Patriots' no-huddle offense is so effective because of the fact that it wears defenses down throughout an extended drive. But Carroll looks at another aspect -- he believes defenses are conditioned enough to handle it, but they just may not be smart or quick enough between the ears to instinctively line up for the next play correctly.
"Once the ball snaps, we play fast, but it's the problem of getting everybody where they've got to go before the snap, and doing the things we've got to do," said Carroll. "That's the challenge to it. If we line up, and we get our assignments right, and play well technique-wise, then we'll have a chance to show you what we're all about. If not, then we'll look like the other teams that they're playing, and the Patriots will have their way."
So how do you prepare for it?
"You've got to play really fast," said Carroll. "So, we'll see if we can get lined up and execute like we're capable. And that's what they're hoping that we don't.
"We're going to try to practice fast, and see if we can catch up with it."

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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