Patriots

Doug Pederson has unique perspective on '19 Patriots D vs. '00 Ravens

Doug Pederson has unique perspective on '19 Patriots D vs. '00 Ravens

FOXBORO – We’ve noted several times the historic pace for stinginess the Patriots defense is on through nine games.

Even with the Ravens putting up 30 on them in their last game, the New England defense has still allowed just 70 points. The NFL record of 152 was set by the 2000 Ravens.

The “Who’s the Greatest Defense of All Time” conversation is a subjective one. Opponents, rules changes, the evolution of the game in terms of scheme and technology – not to mention the evolution of the athletes – makes it impossible to declare a “winner.”

About the only objective evidence that can be submitted is how many points a particular team’s defense allowed. And the Patriots are tracking history in that regard.

There is, however, one intimate eyewitness to the 2000 Ravens who can also speak with expertise about the 2019 Patriots. That’s Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

Back in 2000 when he was a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Pederson got the start on November 26 against the Ravens.

The Browns lost, 44-7. Pederson went 8-for-16 for 108 yards with two sacks and an interception. And?

“I think I cracked my ribs in that game,” Pederson added Wednesday afternoon on a conference call ahead of Sunday’s matchup with New England.

I asked Pederson what else he remembers about that team and how it compares to this one.

“It’s an interesting conversation, and you can obviously draw some parallels with those two defenses,” he began. “I think the biggest thing that jumps out to you right now, the glaring thing, is the turnover ratio.

“I mean, the fact that they’ve got six defensive scores this season, the interceptions, the fumbles they’re causing – it’s a brand of defense where they just smother you. They just corral you,” said Pederson. “They’re OK with giving you two, three, four yards, but they’re right on top of you. Their secondary is that way aggressively and their front seven are that way.

“And that’s something I think when you look back, if I remember correctly with that Baltimore team, the same structure, the same style of defense,” he added. “It was a smothering style of defense, and they played fast and they played aggressively. They may not do a whole lot schematically, and I think that’s a positive because it does allow your guys to play free, and to play fast and to play smart. I think that’s a similarity that I see with this Patriots defense today.”

So far, the Patriots have recovered eight opponent fumbles and picked off 19 passes. They’ve also returned four turnovers for touchdowns (not to mention the two blocked punt touchdowns).

The Ravens recovered 26 opponent’s fumbles and picked off 23 passes (26 fumbles on 44 forced fumbles … insanity….).

Because of the bye week, the Patriots' loss to Baltimore has festered. Skepticism that the Patriots' gaudy numbers are more about their opponents' ineptitude than New England’s excellence has gained traction.

Did Pederson see anything from that Ravens game that he can sample?

“The Ravens offense is unique because of their quarterback,” Pederson pointed out. “I’ll just throw that out there – this kid [Lamar Jackson] is special and he’s hard to bring down. So, they can do some things that probably every other team in the league can’t. But, I think you can look at the structure of things, and what Baltimore did and the success that Baltimore had in that game. I think you can kind of match that to what we do, or what we try to do.

“But you’ve got to look at the entire body of work,” Pederson cautioned. “You can’t just focus on one game because there’s so many things. I mean, the Patriots defense changes from week-to-week based on who they play, so we would anticipate maybe a little different structure than what they played against Baltimore. So, we look at it. You’ve got to look at it with a wide lens, obviously, and try to pick a few things that might help you win.”

They go about it a whole lot differently than the Ravens, but the Eagles can run it. They’ve been over 4 yards per carry in every game but two this season and ran for 364 in their last two contests against pretty stout defenses – Chicago and Buffalo.

So this is a legitimate test for the Patriots who, at this point, are a helluva lot less concerned about history than they are the here and now.

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Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Tom Brady doesn't officially become a free agent until the new league year begins on March 18, but the rumors are already flying about the New England Patriot quarterback's future.

A report surfaced earlier in the week that Brady and his family purchased a home in Greenwich, Connecticut. As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran pointed out, that is false.

But that doesn't mean Brady isn't planning on making a move.

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Thursday night on "Arbella Early Edition," Gary Tanguay revealed that a source told him Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen are looking to leave New England.

"I was told today by a source the family is planning to leave the area," Tanguay said. "The priority this time is to let the kids finish school this year, then they're gone."

Tanguay's report doesn't mean Brady is definitely leaving New England, but talks of him and his family looking to live somewhere else continue to gain steam.

If Brady indeed is moving on from New England and looking to start a new chapter, some of that could do with his desire to finally make the money he's worth in free agency.

According to Tanguay, Brady is "embarrassed" by the number of quarterbacks in the league that make more than him and has been fed up about it dating back to the summer, before he signed his contract extension.

Thirteen quarterbacks, including Brady's former backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, make more on average annually than the six-time Super Bowl champion according to overthecap.com.

The truth is, we won't know for certain what's going through Brady's mind until the ink is on paper for the 42-year-old's new contract. Until then, it's going to be a stressful offseason for Patriots fans.

Curran: Is this newfound time a silver lining for Patriots?

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

Needless to say, it's unusual for the New England Patriots to have so much down time in January. Typically, they're playing in the AFC Divisional Round. And the AFC Championship Game. And often, the Super Bowl.

But this year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009. And now, they have a lot of time on their hands.

And while their early playoff exit was surely discouraging, the Patriots could stand to benefit from this extra time.

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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed how the Patriots could utilize the extra time and the positive impact it could have on the organization.

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Curran pointed out that because the team has so often been playing into February, their already thin staff has been stretched thin come draft season, which explains why the team has had some draft misses in recent seasons.

Really, it comes down to 312 days of prepreparation were sacrifice. And so for a bare bones organization in terms of both front office and coaching staff -- these guys have had shorter offseasons by a month on average than any other team in the NFL.

So on one hand, it's remarkable and it's a high-class problem. On the other hand, isn't it somewhat inevitable that you might have some draft swings and misses?

Perry agreed with Curran and brought up that the fact that the extra time off will give Belichick a real chance to thoroughly evaluate his roster.

I think for a team that is looking at a reboot, one of the sort of ironic things about that is that now you have time to really think that through in more detail and not to say that Bill Belichick isn't planning or looking at his roster, how it's constructed, how the contracts set up and trying to plan ahead. I'm sure he is doing that to a certain extent.

But you can only spend so much time on those things when you're getting ready for the divisional round, the AFC Championship Game every year, the Super Bowl every other year.

This surely makes sense and is definitely a positive for the Patriots. Perhaps with that extra time, Belichick can find a way to retain Tom Brady while significantly upgrading his supporting cast.

For more on the Patriots offseason plans, potential changes in their front office, and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.