- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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The question posed was how vulnerable the Patriots are given the offseason loss of Wes Welker, and Clark's analysis was particularly noteworthy given that he's a current player who has game-planned against the team's offense.
“I think what’s really underestimated is Wes Welker’s importance to not only the New England Patriots, but Tom Brady. A lot of what they do is timing. A lot of what they do is option reads, when you’re working inside against that nickelback or against those linebackers. Losing him is huge," Clark said.
“I know they think Danny Amendola can come in and have the same type of numbers he had with the Rams, but we also have to remember, he’s fragile. He’s not a guy who has completed a whole season, especially playing inside in what can be a physical AFC East. You also think about Gronkowski and the injury; that is going to be bigger than anything for the New England Patriots coming in this year. Also Aaron Hernandez …
“In 2010, we saw it start with the Jets in the playoffs. When Tom Brady gets pressure and when you’re man-to-man and bumping those guys and making it hard for him to throw, he sees ghosts. Even when guys aren’t around him, even when he’s not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we’ll see him duck, we’ll see him flinch. When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots mystique goes away.”
Clark was then asked what the game plan was when the Steelers played the Patriots.
“I’ll be honest, the years we tried to go in there and fire zone and play Tom Brady in that way, he was able to pick us apart. In that, you’re not overloading the offense -- one-on-one rushes, only rushing five, so he’s able to find places to go,” Clark answered. “Two years ago we played them and dominated them because we went man-to-man and had a big corner in Cortez Allen on Gronkowski, and made it hard for Tom Brady to get the ball off, in timing, and made him to have to make plays. It was hard for him.”
The Patriots host the Steelers on Sunday, Nov. 3.
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