Patriots

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

It’s quiet time in the NFL. Everyone knows that. 

But the quiet only applies to breaking news (unless the Texans decide to randomly fire someone else and not replace him in the next few weeks). 

It’s never hard to generate a conversation that morphs into an argument that slips into name-calling and finally devolves into a wild speculation about the circumstances under which a person was conceived. 

You can rank the Top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL for instance. That may get some conversation started. 

Or, you can simply post a picture on social media of one of the all-time great catches in Super Bowl history and then let nature take its course. 

That’s what happened when my Twitter buddy Dov Kleiman posted a quick video of Julio Jones’ amazing sideline catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51.  

The coverage from Patriots corner Eric Rowe couldn’t have been better. The placement of the ball by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — probably nine feet in the air, moving at high speed and over the boundary — was pinpoint. And the catch had four elements — the leap/extension, the securing, the toe tap and the collision with the ground. 

It put Atlanta in position for the game-securing field goal. (Spoiler: That didn’t happen.)

The Jones catch was as good as it gets. 

But was it better than Julian Edelman’s catch which came a little more than two minutes later? 

It wasn’t long before someone replied to Dov with the contention that it wasn’t.

Like Jones’ catch, Edelman’s had multiple elements. 

The hash marks on an NFL field are 18 feet, six inches apart. Edelman is in the air above the right hash when the ball is tipped. He lands, gathers momentum, takes a sidestep and dives fully extended in the time the ball takes to drop to the ground, probably covering at least 10 feet. He wrestles the ball from a trio of Falcons defensive backs then — with the ball inches above the ground — releases it so he can secure his grip better. 

And it put the Patriots in position to continue a drive for the game-tying touchdown. (Spoiler 2.0: Happened.)

Which is the better catch? 

Jones’ was the more gracefully classic NFL catch, up there with Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl-winning catch in 2008 in degree of difficulty. If it were Edelman on the receiving end of that throw and not Jones, I don’t think Edelman would have made it. 

But Edelman’s was the more improbable and bizarre catch. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catch quite like it and that’s taking into account the Jermaine Kearse quintuple-touch catch near the end of SB49, Antonio Freeman’s “He did what?!” catch on Monday Night Football and myriad other double-tip catches. 

Edelman covered an insane amount of ground and only someone with the rarest of short-area quickness could have done what he did. Jones might have caught Brady’s pass outright but I don’t think he would have caught it after it was tipped as Edelman did. 

State your case for which catch was better. Show your work. 

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Why Bill Belichick cited Dwight Eisenhower when discussing preparation for Cowboys game

Why Bill Belichick cited Dwight Eisenhower when discussing preparation for Cowboys game

FOXBORO — You might remember it for the moment in which Dion Lewis undressed the Cowboys defense. You might remember it as the beginning of the end for a Patriots offensive line that was slowly torn apart by injury. You might remember it as the game that looked like a Caravaggio painting.

Tom Brady probably remembers it as a game in which he and Josh McDaniels had to throw an entire game plan out the window in order to move the football. 

"Yeah, it was a lot of adjustments today," Brady said at the time. "I don't think we practiced much of what they were doing."

The Patriots won the game, 30-6, so safe to assume they figured things out. But in the first half, they scored what was to that point in the season a low of 13 points. Brady was knocked down five times in the first 30 minutes for just the second time in his career — and the first time in 13 seasons. Coming off of a 40-point outing in Buffalo, a 51-point explosion against the Jaguars at home, and a bye week, Brady and his teammates were left searching for answers early on that week against Dallas.

"They played a few different fronts, few different coverages, stuff they hadn't shown," Brady said. "They came in with an approach. I thought we settled in, made some plays there to start the second half. But we gotta play better."

Why bring this up now? Why is this relevant? 

Well, that was the last time the Patriots played the Cowboys. Since then a lot has happened, but Brady is still the starting quarterback, McDaniels is still the Patriots offensive coordinator, and Bill Belichick is still the head coach. On the other side, Jason Garrett is still the Cowboys head coach, and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli remains the boss on that side of the football. 

Part of the reason the Patriots were confounded four years ago in Arlington was because Marinelli is a he-does-what-he-does type of coach. He's been in the NFL since 1996. He loves his zone coverages. Tampa 2 — essentially Cover 2 with two deep safeties, where an athletic linebacker is charged with taking the deep middle of the field -- is his weapon of choice. He likes four-man "over" fronts, where players slice through gaps to get up the field in the hopes of creating play-altering penetration at the line of scrimmage. 

Ahead of that 2015 matchup, Belichick was confident that the Patriots wouldn't have the rug pulled out from under them offensively. 

"One thing about Rod," Belichick said at the time, "I don’t think you’re going to see much different. I think he’ll be the first to tell you that he believes in what he’s doing, he’s not going to change a lot. He’s had a lot of success — probably no reason to change it. Will there be a couple of game-plan things for us — I’m sure obviously there will — but overall they believe in what they’re doing, they do it well, they’ve had a lot of success with it. 

"I mean, I can’t imagine him putting in a new defense this week. That would be so out of character for them. They don’t need to do that. I don’t think they believe in that. But they have a lot of variety in what they do in terms of the front. They don’t run a million different coverages, but they run them well. They’re sound, they make you beat them. They don’t give you a lot of easy plays. You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to block them, you’ve got to get open, you’ve got to protect, you’ve got to have enough to beat the scheme, and they play hard and they know what they’re doing. That’s what it’s always been. I can’t imagine it’s going to be much different than that."

Apparently, for the first 30 minutes of that game — seeing more three-man fronts and defensive-back heavy packages — it was. The question now is, do the Cowboys have the ability to do that again?

They're a better defense now than they were then. In 2015, Dallas finished 23rd in yards allowed and 16th in points. This year, they're 15th and seventh in those respective categories. And the Patriots offense might not be as equipped to post 30 points as they were when they had Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Lewis. 

They were loaded with smart, experienced players that day at Jerry World. Players who'd been through battles with Brady and might be more prepared to toss a game plan out the window after the first half or the first few drives. Edelman remains, and James White can adapt without question. But what about Jakobi Meyers or N'Keal Harry or newly-acquired Mohamed Sanu? Or Isaiah Wynn, for that matter, who's expected to make his return off of injured reserve Sunday?

"You can't practice everything," Brady said after beating the Cowboys, lamenting some of what the Patriots did offensively that day. 

The same holds true now. It may be even more so given the experience level of New England's offensive personnel. 

Asked about facing the unknown on game day, Belichick acknowledged it's impossible to be ready for everything. But that's not something that will be any different this week against Marinelli because it's true every week. 

"I would say when you game plan in this league," Belichick said, "you never really know what the other team is going to do, all right? I know there are a lot of experts out there who have it all figured out. Unfortunately I'm not in that group, all right? The team's played four, five, six other teams and they've done different things against different teams for different reasons. They play you. You haven't played them so you don't really know what they're going to do. 

"Are they going to treat you the way they treated somebody else? Are they going to treat you differently than the way they treated somebody else? It's not the same plays. It's not the same players. There's always an element of, 'Here's what they did the last four games.' But that's not against you. Teams will do different things against your team than they've done against other teams. As they should. Might not be a new play. They might just run different percentages of man coverage or zone coverage or split zone versus post-safety zone, or blitz zone versus regular zone, whatever it is. That's the way it is every week. 

"This is 45 years. I wish I could tell you a week where it hasn't been that way. But I wouldn't be able to. You take the information that you have. Sometimes the last three or four games may not mean anything. Maybe the only thing that means anything to you is just the last couple times you played a team. If you look at it that way, you might be right. You might be wrong. But you have to figure out what you're going to prepare for. So you're not going to prepare for eight games. There's 500 plays and they're going to run 60. That's just ridic ... You can't do that."

And, again, Belichick said that Marinelli probably won't unleash a bevy of unfamiliar plays against his offense at Gillette Stadium this week. But Belichick is expecting wrinkles.

"I don't think Rod's going to come up with six new blitzes and four new coverages this week," Belichick said. "But is he gonna play us the way he played Detroit? I don't know. Go ask him. Is he gonna play us the way he played Philadelphia and the Jets? I don't know the answer to that question. Not all those games are the same. There's elements that are the same, there's things that carry over, but they don't do the same thing on every play. 

"It's the same every week. You prepare for what you prepare for and then you get in the game. It's just like Eisenhower said: Preparation is important for the war and then once the battle starts, you can throw it all out the window. You play the war, fight the battle. That's what we do. Once the game starts, we try to figure out how the game is going, make adjustments, do the best we can at that point in time. The rest of the preparation doesn't really ... might be relevant but it might not."

There's been an unbelievable amount of information laid out by both the Patriots and Cowboys — Belichick and Garrett, McDaniels and Marinelli — since 2015. Trying to trace meaning from a game four years ago to this week's might be a fool's errand.

But the Patriots found out that day that Marinelli wasn't as predictable as they thought. Which may lead them to prepare for more this week, which could be a challenge given the challenges this offense is already facing. 

While this week will be about Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and the others that've made this offense one of the most efficient in football in 2019, it's worth remembering what Marinelli and his defensive staff did to open that game four years ago. 

You can bet Brady and McDaniels will. 

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Bill Belichick gushes over Dak Prescott, whom Patriots scouted before NFL Draft

Bill Belichick gushes over Dak Prescott, whom Patriots scouted before NFL Draft

Dak Prescott will play his first NFL game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

But Bill Belichick already is very familiar with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

Belichick confirmed Wednesday the Patriots scouted Prescott ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, where they eventually selected Jacoby Brissett with the No. 91 overall pick.

"We do some work on everybody, but we used to hit those Mississippi State guys pretty good," Belichick told reporters in a press conference. "Got a lot of connections down there."

Among those connections is Joe Judge, the Patriots' special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach who played football at Mississippi State and worked there as a graduate assistant out of college.

Belichick, Judge and the Patriots could have drafted Prescott, who fell to Dallas at pick No. 135 in 2016. Since then, Belichick has watched the 26-year-old develop into one of the NFL's most well-rounded quarterbacks.

"Right now, he's super impressive," Belichick said. "This guy can throw the ball. He's very accurate, he's got great poise in the pocket, stands in there. He extend plays and run if he has to, but he doesn't do much of that unless he really needs to.

"He has great poise and discipline in the pocket, gets his eyes downfield. He's a great intermediate to deep ball thrower. 

" ... Just a great, great quarterback. Sideline throws, inside throws, in-cuts, posts, over routes, flag routes; you name it."

Prescott leads the NFL in passing yards through Week 11 with 3,221, well ahead of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2,752). Dallas' 6-4 record suggests there's still room for Prescott to improve -- his nine interceptions are tied for seventh-most in the league -- but Belichick still ranks the fourth-year pro among the best QBs in the league.

"He’s having a great year this year," Belichick added. “Hard to see anybody playing much better than him."

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