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Friday, August 27, 2010
Rush not the issue; it's coverage

By Mike Reiss

Contrary to the initial impression during the Patriots’ 36-35 loss to the Rams on Thursday night, pressure wasn’t the main issue for the defense.

The Patriots had success in that area, forcing rookie quarterback Sam Bradford to get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted at times. Other times, Bradford’s quick release negated the pressure.

The primary Patriots breakdowns, which came to light after re-watching the first half, were in coverage.

Bill Belichick often talks about how the rush and coverage must be in synch. In this game, the opinion here is that coaches will determine that the coverage should have been much tighter. Players were not disciplined in their zones, or simply weren’t competitive enough in terms of being close to the receiver.

When it comes to the pass rush, one area the Patriots could use a boost is from outside linebacker Derrick Burgess. For example, on Bradford’s 32-yard completion to Donnie Avery in the first quarter, Burgess was handled with relative ease by tight end Billy Bajema in a one-on-one situation on the edge. That’s a matchup that Burgess should be winning more often than not.

Here is the rush-based first-half breakdown:

Four-man rush
Total: 13 times
Bradford: 8 of 12 for 79 yards, TD
Miscellaneous: 1 roughing the passer penalty

Five-man rush
Total: 8 times
Bradford: 5 of 6 for 94 yards, TD
Miscellaneous: 1 Bradford rush for 2 yards; 1 offensive holding penalty

Six-man rush
Total: 6 times
Bradford: 2 of 4 for 16 yards
Miscellaneous: 1 sack; 1 offside penalty