Patriots

Chiefs cornerback defends Tom Brady amid talk of Patriots QB's decline

Chiefs cornerback defends Tom Brady amid talk of Patriots QB's decline

If you just focused on stats, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks like a good-but-not-great player in 2019.

The 42-year-old quarterback ranks fifth in the NFL in passing yards with 3,268, but he's only completing 61.1 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's on pace to finish with 24 touchdown passes, which would be his lowest total since he had 25 in 2013.

Stats don't always tell the whole story, though, and that's certainly the case with Brady.

Brady's biggest problems are beyond his control. His wide receiver corps has several new faces, including rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, who have been asked to play roles they're probably not yet ready to undertake. Antonio Brown was brought in after Week 1 to be the No. 1 wideout and then was released 11 days later. Josh Gordon also was let go after battling an injury. And, of course, future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn't been adequately replaced.

Brady needs to play better. There's no question about that. However, he's still a really good quarterback. 

One of the Kansas City Chiefs players who will be tasked with helping to slow down Brady and the Patriots offense in Sunday's Week 14 game at Gillette Stadium is cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Here's his response this week to talk of Brady's decline, via Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star.

It’s a myth. People said the same thing about Aaron Rodgers. He’d have slow starts, and then he’d turn it on. Once you’re a GOAT (greatest of all-time) and you have that GOAT status, at any moment you can turn it on. Brady can hit that switch anytime he’s ready.

New England needs a huge bounce-back performance from Brady on Sunday because so much is riding on this result. The Patriots lost control of the race for the No. 1 seed last week when the Baltimore Ravens overtook them in that spot. The Ravens and Patriots both have identical 10-2 records but Baltimore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker from its Week 9 win over New England.

Another loss likely would give the Patriots no chance to secure the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It might not even matter, anyway, because the Ravens don't have a hard schedule the rest of the regular season. But to have any shot at the top spot in the conference, Sunday's game is pretty much a must-win for the Patriots. A lot of the responsibility falls on Brady, who needs to elevate his performance for the Patriots to beat a Chiefs team that scores the third-most points per game in the league.

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Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

The Green Bay Packers are preparing for a battle the San Francisco 49ers on the NFL's championship Sunday. The two will square off in the NFC Championship for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

While Aaron Rodgers and his teammates are doing what they can to be ready for the game, they still aren't exactly sure what to expect from the 49ers.

And Rodgers credited Bill Belichick's influence for that.

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Rodgers explained in a post-practice interview that not knowing what to expect from opposing defenses is something that has been popularized over the course of the past five years. And he called the defense's ability to change up week to week "the Belichick effect".

"I think that’s the NFL in the last five years, especially, it’s kind of the Belichick effect where teams are more reluctant to really try and scheme up opponents instead of relying on their base defense," Rodgers said to reporters.

"There’s less and less teams like the Lovie Smith Bears defenses over the years that say ‘Hey, screw it, we’re going to play four-man front, play Tampa-2 the entire game and make you go the whole field, and strip the ball and tackle securely and stop the run with a six-man, seven-man front.’

"There’s more teams that are scheming specifically up for teams. I think the tough part is it might be different than you saw on film. The drawback from that is a lot of these teams are used to playing coverages they’re not used to playing, they’re not super-comfortable playing, they don’t have a lot of reps in and that can cause some confusion at times."

Rodgers hit the nail on the head as the NFL's best defenses have become more versatile and game plan-dependent in recent seasons. Having multiple defensive looks is essential to success in the modern NFL and Belichick's ability to adjust week in and week out played a big role in kicking off the trend.

Though the Patriots won't have a chance to out scheme anyone on the defensive side of the ball until next season, they can be thankful that they have a forward-thinking coach at the helm. His ability to adjust on defense as well as Josh McDaniels' ability to change the Patriots offense look to match their best weapons have helped to make the team difficult to figure out.

And that's a big part of the reason that they have been able to make multiple deep postseason runs in recent seasons.

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Packers aiming to match rare playoff feat last accomplished by Patriots in 2001

Packers aiming to match rare playoff feat last accomplished by Patriots in 2001

The Green Bay Packers earned an impressive 13-3 record in the regular season, but they haven't always looked like an elite team.

The NFC North champs ranked 15th in points scored, 18th in yards gained and 18th in yards allowed. These numbers don't exactly jump off the page. The Packers also lacked a signature win, and with a chance to make a statement versus the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, Green Bay was dominated in a 38-7 loss.

However, if veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads his team to an NFC Championship Game victory on the road against the 49ers on Sunday, the Packers will become the first team since the 2001 New England Patriots to reach the Super Bowl after being outgained in the regular season (h/t to NFL Media's Mike Giardi).

The Packers defense gave up 5,642 total yards, while their offense racked up 5,528 total yards, resulting in a difference of minus-114 yards through 16 regular-season games.

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This trend continued in last weekend's NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers escaped with a 28-23 win at Lambeau Field, but the Seahawks outgained them by 31 yards. It also was the Packers' 10th game of the season decided by one score, and Green Bay owns a 9-1 mark in those matchups.

How have the Packers won so many games despite being outgained on a consistent basis? Well, it sure helps to have a quarterback as talented as Rodgers.

The future Hall of Famer sealed the Packers' victory last week with two clutch third-down conversions late in the fourth quarter. It wasn't an all-time performance from Rodgers, but when it's winning time, he usually steps up and makes a huge play. 

Rodgers' playoff experience and ability to come through in the clutch give the Packers an important advantage at the quarterback position entering Sunday's NFC title game. Oddsmakers, however, have still pegged the 49ers as an overwhelming betting favorite.