Posted: Tuesday February 8, 2005 12:34PM; Updated: Wednesday February 9, 2005 12:59PM
Charlie Weis displayed his brilliance in his last game as the Patriots' offensive coordinator.
Sorry, but you will have to go elsewhere for further comment about the pregame or halftime show. Ditto all the talk about the greatest of all time this or that. People are always quick to rush to this kind of judgment, and the silliest decisions are made immediately after an event. Time is what's needed, to distill the facts carefully before evaluating them. I will give you my feelings about the game, though.
It soon became obvious, at least to me, that neither team was going to run much against the other club's regular base defense. Those defenses were just too sound against the run. If there would be any running, a team would have to trick it up with misdirections, reverses, runs out of multiple wideouts, etc.
It was also obvious that neither team could fully handle the other one's rush scheme. The Patriots had opened with their nickel-rush personnel up front, two linebackers on the wings, two linemen inside, backed up by three linebackers and four DBs. The beauty of the New England system is that the Patriots are not only willing to run in new plays and formations week to week, but complete personnel groupings. I had never seen this alignment from them, and it seemed to confuse Philly.
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The Eagles, though, looked like they were getting a functional TerrellOwens back, which I never thought would happen. Maybe not as a deep threat, but valuable enough in the short-to-medium ranges. And this meant they could go with four wideouts (Greg Lewis as the fourth), which they hadn't done since Owens got hurt, and they could probe the depths of the Patriots secondary.
The Patriots offense was in a quagmire, though. Penalties, indecision by Brady, failure to handle the rush -- four bad series to open the game, as Philly took a 7-0 lead. Then, ingenuity kicked in. The Pats went to four wide, "to spread 'em out," as Charlie Weis said, "and let Tommy see where his pressure was coming from."
OK, the book says that you beat four wide with gut pressure. You blitz it up the middle (which fits in well with Eagle coordinator JimJohnson's normal inclinations anyway) and make the quarterback pay when he goes to his hot read. In other words, you murder him, Buddy Ryan style.
So what did Weis do? He had Brady throw screens out of the four wide set. "I can't remember us ever doing that" Brady said. "We screen from our base offense." He completed two in a row to Corey Dillon and got his team out of a hole. Later he completed two to Kevin Faulk to set up a TD.
It made the Eagles scratch their heads. It blunted their rush. It shifted the balance of power and put the Patriots in command. Last game, against the Steelers, the Patriots threw exactly one screen pass, a five-yarder to Dillon. But they killed Pittsburgh by protecting with seven and sending Deion Branch on the deep post. They did not run that once against Philly, and they called no end arounds, either. The play had worked well against the Steelers.