Patriots

Film review: Lawrence Guy a Swiss Army knife at Bill Belichick's disposal up front

Film review: Lawrence Guy a Swiss Army knife at Bill Belichick's disposal up front

FOXBORO -- Lawrence Guy was open with the Patriots when he made his free-agent visit to Gillette Stadium earlier this offseason. He could align at any number of spots, he told them. Just point him in the right direction. 

"I said, 'I feel comfortable anywhere you put me at,' " he told reporters last week. "For me as a player, I found that I needed to play different positions so I could be the best player I could be. So coming into this situation, wherever they need to put me at, I could go ahead and do it. I’m not a great corner -- I’m a little bit heavy -- but I’ll try it."

TANGUAY VS. CURRAN

The Patriots won't be trotting out Guy out to give Malcolm Butler or Stephon Gilmore a breather this season, but they have the option of placing him at a variety of positions along the defensive line. That's exactly what he did for the Ravens over the course of the last three years, and it's part of the reason the Patriots thought he was worthy of the four-year, $13.4 million deal they gave him back in March.

"The whole object is to be able to play multi positions on the field, so you can be out there the most time you can," he said. "If you can only do one thing, you’re not really helping the team."

We went back and looked at Guy's 2016 with Baltimore, and found him making plays all along the line of scrimmage as he took part in about 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps. To give you a sense of what the 6-foot-4, 305-pounder can do -- and where he can line up -- we pulled a series of plays to help illustrate his skill set.  

As you'll notice, he was able to make impact plays as a 5-technique and as a 3-technique. He also lined up as a 1-technique and was even asked to shade outside the tight end.

Because the Patriots use a variety of fronts -- whether it's a 3-4, 4-3 or something else -- and because Guy has a relatively unique body type on the roster, he could be in line to see significant time in his first year with the team. He doesn't fit the prototype of the 265-pound end or the 320-pound (or more) tackle the Patriots had last season, but his value is in his versatility.

"You put me on the field, I’ll do what I’ve got to do to make a play," Guy said. "It doesn’t matter if I’m at nose, 3-[technique], 5, 6 or 7. I’ve seen it and played it all, so I’m just happy to go out there and play and make plays."

For reference: The easiest way to remember the defensive line numbering system -- which is credited largely to legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant -- is that odd numbers generally indicate a player lined up on the outside the shoulder of the center (1-technique), guard (3-technique) or tackle (5-technique). Even numbers typically indicate a defensive lineman is head-up on the center (0-technique), guard (2-technique), tackle (4-technique) or tight end (6-technique). A 3-tech is typically thought of as a pass-rushing tackle in a 4-3 defense . . . think Dominique Easley. A 5-tech is typically thought of as an end in a 3-4 . . . think Ty Warren.

SECOND-AND-10, 1-TECHNIQUE VS. MIAMI

RESULT: Coming out from his three-point stance off the center's shoulder, Guy gets by a double-team to help sack Ryan Tannehill after the snap was mishandled. He's not Trey Flowers in terms of his quickness on the interior, but Guy's length and athleticism allow him to match up favorably with shorter-armed guards and centers. His combination of speed and effort here helped him finish off a play that was doomed from the start. 

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THIRD-AND-15, 2i-TECHNIQUE VS. PHILADELPHIA

RESULT: The 2i-technique is off the inside shoulder of the guard. Guy gets matched up one-on-one with Pro Bowl Eagles center Jason Kelce in this obvious passing situation in the red zone. He flings Kelce to the ground, uses an arm-over move on his way into the backfield, and wraps himself around quarterback Carson Wentz's legs. Wentz is strong enough to get off an incomplete pass, but just barely. Guy's hand-usage and quickness to toss aside one of the game's best pivots . . . impressive. 

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SECOND-AND-16, 2-TECHNIQUE VS. NEW ENGLAND

RESULT: This may be a bit of a camera trick here. Guy looks like he could be considered a 3-tech, but he's pretty close to being aligned head-up on left guard Joe Thuney. Again, it's a passing situation. And again, Guy is inside. He attacks center David Andrews, and though Andrews is able to get an initial push, Guy fights back toward the middle of the pocket to get a hit on Tom Brady and help force an incompletion. Guy's awareness to find Brady, and his power to free himself from the block, helped him make a play on a night when the Patriots offensive line didn't allow a sack.

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THIRD-AND-GOAL FROM THE 2, 3-TECHNIQUE VS. NEW ENGLAND

RESULT: Brady's one real blemish in Week 14 of last season. With a chance to go up three scores with a field goal, Brady heaves an ill-advised pass to the back of the end zone that was picked by Eric Weddle. Though Weddle gets the credit from the Monday Night Football crew during the broadcast replay, it was Guy who fought through a Shaq Mason block to put a lick on Brady and coax the bad throw. 

* * * * * 

SECOND-AND-8, 4-TECHNIQUE VS. NEW ENGLAND

RESULT: Against Bill Belichick's 21-personnel in the first quarter, the Ravens go with a 3-4 look, and Guy is lined head-up on right tackle Marcus Cannon. Guy's strength and length make it rare for him to get washed out of a running play, but that's what Cannon (a Second-Team All-Pro) is able to do off the snap here. To Guy's credit, though, he's able to fight off Cannon's block, work back against the grain, and stop LeGarrette Blount for a four-yard pickup.

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FIRST-AND-GOAL FROM THE 3, 5-TECHNIQUE VS. NEW YORK JETS

RESULT: Guy's hustle makes him dangerous in these situations. The play is designed for running back Matt Forte to take the hand-off and dart across quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's face to the left side of the line and into the end zone. In theory. Guy is lined up away from where the play is supposed to go, and as such he is left unblocked. With the instincts to sniff out the play, Guy tracks down Forte from behind before Forte is able to get back to the line of scrimmage. Loss of one.

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THIRD-AND-SIX, 5-TECHNIQUE VS. JACKSONVILLE

RESULT: Since there's a chance Patriots fans see Guy as a 5-tech fairly often, we've included a second play from his work there last season. Here he is lined up just outside the right tackle in a pass-rush situation late in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville. After working a stunt with tackle Timmy Jernigan, Guy powered through rookie right guard AJ Cann for a nine-yard sack. The Jags, up one, try a field goal on the next play and are blocked. The Ravens kick a field goal on their ensuing drive and win the game. Power, athleticism, want-to, enthusiasm (his celebration of choice appears to be two arms raised over his head) all on display.

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FIRST-AND-10, 6-TECHNIQUE VS. CLEVELAND

RESULT: This is where Guy does some of his best work. Opposing tight ends don't often seem to have the power to be able to match Guy one-on-one. Lined up across from tight end Randall Telfer (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), he explodes into Telfer's pads at the snap, walks Telfer back briefly, then stops running back Isaiah Crowell after a gain of one. 

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FIRST-AND-TEN, 9-TECHNIQUE VS. PHILADELPHIA

RESULT: This is where the technique number system starts to get a little screwy. If the even-odd system were to hold true, then a defensive end lined up on the tight end's outside shoulder would be a 7-technique. Instead, a player on the tight end's inside shoulder is considered by many to be a 7-tech. A player shading outside the tight end is a 9-tech. Guy is certainly not a traditional 9-technique . . . think Dwight Freeney. But Guy certainly knows how to use his leverage and set an edge. That's what he does here on the first play of the game, mauling tight end Trey Burton, then wrestling running back Ryan Mathews to the ground when Mathews tries to bounce outside. 

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Guy also plays special teams. He was a part of the Ravens field-goal unit, serving as a blocker on the edge. He also used his length to his advantage on the field-goal block team, batting down an extra-point attempt in Week 2 that was returned for two points in a win over Cleveland. 

As Baltimore coach John Harbaugh acknowledged during the league meetings in Arizona earlier this offseason, Guy's versatility feels like a good match for the Ravens' rivals in New England.

"He's a very under-rated, under-valued player," Harbaugh said. "I thought it was very Patriot-like to recognize his value and to pay him the way they did."

A little deja vu for Belichick: 'It was a similar ending to the Seattle game'

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A little deja vu for Belichick: 'It was a similar ending to the Seattle game'

When asked on a conference call if Sunday's matchup with the Steelers reminded him of any of his previous close-and-late finishes with the Patriots, Bill Belichick had a relatively quick reply. 

"It was a similar ending to the Seattle game," he said, referring to Super Bowl XLIX, which of course ended on the most famous goal-line interception in NFL history. Even down to the inward-breaking route in the final moments, Duron Harmon's pick had similarities to the one Malcolm Butler made to win a Lombardi Trophy.

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"The difference in that game was they had to score a touchdown," Belichick added. "They were down by four. This one, the field goal changed it, which kind of highlights the importance of the two-point play. Had we not hit that two-point play they would've just kneeled on the ball and kicked the field goal at the end. There were so many big plays in that game."

The two-point conversion that the Patriots executed with less than a minute left can get lost in the shuffle in game recaps, but it was in many ways a game-winning play -- even though the Patriots already had a one-point lead before Tom Brady floated his pass to Rob Gronkowski in the back corner of the end zone.

The fact that Gronkowski was so open, after a quick move at the line of scrimmage, made it seem like a foregone conclusion. But as Belichick explained, it was one of many critical plays in the final minutes that led to the dramatic Patriots win. 

"Just go back through the fourth quarter of the game. Really every play is a huge play," Belichick said. "A difference in any of those plays in the fourth quarter -- maybe call it the second half of the fourth quarter on, the last seven or eight minutes -- a change in any one of those plays could've effected the outcome of the game.

"That just to me showed how competitive the game was, and how critical every little thing is. Each play, each player, each call, each situation. It was a great football game."

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Mix of fear, hubris and disorganization led to Steelers' downfall

Mix of fear, hubris and disorganization led to Steelers' downfall

PITTSBURGH -- A weird mix of fear, respect and hubris led the Steelers meltdown Sunday evening.

All day and into the night, they did all the right things. Minimal mental stupidity. Great resilience. Mostly outstanding execution. Unforced physical errors at a minimum. 

For 59 minutes and 26 seconds they were on it. They had the Patriots where they wanted them. The elephant in the room? The Steelers had embraced it. There were fireworks. The kitchen was lit. Every other metaphor Mike Tomlin had used to whip up his team and fanbase worked. 

Then they short-circuited and kicked it away in the final 34 seconds.  

First, they burned a timeout at the end of the Juju Smith-Schuster catch-and-run that put the ball at the 10. That left them no way of stopping the clock aside from spiking the ball or throwing incomplete, which -- as we would see -- the Steelers opted not to. That bad time management was Mental Gaffe No. 1. 

PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 24

We’d seen that before. Coming out of the two-minute warning in Super Bowl 49, the Seahawks burned their final timeout ON AN INCOMPLETION and that set the stage for their unprecedented (until Sunday) mental disintegration. To adeptly work clock management and manage down, distance and score while understanding how the game is playing out demands a little bit of zen. Bill Belichick praised Pittsburgh's outstanding game management earlier in the week. And those weren't empty words. The Steelers had been brilliant in executing comeback after comeback and recording four buzzer-beating wins. Now, though, they were on a slippery, sloppy slope. 

Next came the touchdown throw to Jesse James and Mental Gaffe No. 2. 

The reality of the reversal that hasn't been highlighted is simple. Either James didn't know the rule, chose to ignore it or, he too got swept away. His first job was to make the catch. He’s not a rookie. He's not a scrub. Presumably he watches games. It’s December. They coach this stuff every day. Or should. 

You can’t stick the ball out and put the fortunes of your team at the mercy of your grip strength. James did.  Forget the chest-puffing “trying to make a play . . . ” crap that’s pouring forth. One job. Catch it. Don’t bring the officials into it. Monkey roll into the end zone if you have to. 

From there, the Steelers threw in-bounds to Darrius Heyward-Bey and he wasn’t able to get out of bounds. Tick, tick, tick. Mental gaffe No. 3. And now the Steelers were on the precipice, clock running. 

In the 2015 season opener, the Steelers came undone in a loss at Foxboro. They didn't cover Rob Gronkowski on multiple plays. They looked unprepared. They got croaked. After the game, Tomlin complaining about headset interference. Ben Roethlisberger complained about the Patriots synchronized shifting on the defensive line. The loss was anybody’s fault but theirs. 

Now, with homefield and a chance to exorcise the Patriots demon in this game Tomlin walked the verbal plank for, confusion reigned. 

Roethlisberger said he got to the line with the intention of clocking it. The Steelers would kick the field goal and take their chances in overtime against a reeling defense.

 “I felt like that was the thing to do,” Roethlisberger said. “But it came from the sideline, ‘Don’t clock it! Run a play!’ At that point, everyone thinks I’m going to clock it and we didn’t have time to get everyone lined up.”

Terrific. Play of the year and you’re disorganized. And you’re trying to get the most well-prepared and anal team in NFL history for fall for the banana in the tailpipe.Like the Seahawks figuring the Patriots would never expect a pass and opting to throw into the teeth of coverage rather than taking a calculated risk with a fade. 

And here’s where the hubris comes in. Asked about the end-zone slant to Eli Rogers that was ricochet-picked, Tomlin said, “We play and play to win. That’s what we do.”

The words are “we play to win.” What he meant was, “we played to win on our terms..” With Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley lobbying to clock it and send the game to overtime, Tomlin -- who built this game up for a month -- injected himself and led with his chin. Mental gaffe No. 4.

This isn’t the NHL. You don’t get downgraded for the win if it comes in extra time. The Steelers are most likely traveling to Foxboro in January because Jesse James wasn’t tight on the rules -- blame him or the coaches for that -- and because Tomlin didn’t want to win the game, he wanted to win the game a certain way.

If that’s luck, the Patriots are lucky.

Back in 2009, Bill Belichick, iin a game at Indianapolis, went for it on fourth-and-2. That, obviously, was a diceroll that -- like Tomlin's on Sunday -- didn't work out. But here's the difference. The Patriots gambled because they didn't like their odds playing straight up. Take the chance to end the game, but don't give it back to Peyton Manning. It was understanding game situation and defensive shortcomings. Appreciating your weakness.

That's not why the Steelers gambled Sunday. They didn't fear overtime. And even though Tom Brady just went through them like poop through a goose, they didn't need to. The Patriots had forced one three-and-out all day. The Steelers were 10-for-16 on third down. They went for the win because winning right there would FEEL a certain way. It would make a certain statement about the Steelers and Tomlin. It would satiate their fans and their egos to see the Patriots on the canvas rather than seeing both teams standing after overtime with one having its hand raised on a decision. 

It took the Steelers an hour of football to push the Patriots to the ledge. But in the final 34 seconds, they were the ones that lost their footing. 

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