Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick have developed reputations for being schematic experts on their respective sides of the ball – Childress has tutored explosive offenses with both the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles while Belichick’s staple is tenacious and versatile defensive strategies.
In analyzing each coach’s ability to find success within their expertise it’s easy to focus on higher-profile names. Childress has utilized Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota while Belichick has coached players such as Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Asante Samuel. But in reality, each coach would tell you that much of their success is due to players getting the job done in the trenches, along the offensive and defensive lines.
With that in mind and in light of the Vikings upcoming matchup with the Patriots, let’s take a look at New England’s offensive and defensive line to see what the Vikings have in store this Sunday when they travel to Gillette Stadium.
Patriots Offensive Line: In last week’s win the Patriots starting offensive line consisted of LT Matt Light, LG Dan Connolly, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal and RT Sebastian Vollmer, the same group that has started all 6 of New England’s contests so far in 2010. So continuity is certainly no issue for New England. The Patriots rank 14th in yards per rushing attempt (4.1) and rushing yards per game (111.2) and they have 5 rushing TDs on the year, which is tied for 12th most. Also, in 3rd-and-4 or less situations (they’ve had 21 such situations), the Patriots have converted 1st downs via the rush 8 out of 9 times. This means that in likely run scenarios the Patriots have been able to consistently find success.
In terms of passing offense, the Patriots have the NFL’s 3rd best passer rating (96.0), which is obviously more of a reflection on QB Tom Brady’s performance than the offensive line. But the line does deserve credit, because Brady has been sacked just 12 times in 198 attempts.
I’m not familiar enough with New England’s offensive line to suggest where the Vikings may be able to exploit mismatches. But I’m willing to suggest 2 areas where it might be most beneficial for the Vikings to find success. The first area is obviously at LT, where DE Jared Allen will be going against Light. It’s been well-chronicled that Allen’s sack totals are down to this point, but he has been pressuring opposing QBs and he also has an INT this year. In this game, though, the Vikings will stand a better chance of defending New England’s passing attack if Allen can not only pressure Brady but also put him on his back. Even the best NFL QBs, which Brady might be, don’t play as well when they’re consistently being hit.
The second area where the Vikings would benefit from production this week is DT Kevin Williams. If Williams is able to win his matchup this week and be a disruptive force, it will help stifle New England’s rushing attack and it will also force Brady to move around in the pocket instead of stepping into his throws.
Patriots Defensive Line: New England is labeled as a 3-4 defensive team, with Gerard Warren anchoring the defensive line at NT and then Vince Wilfork at LE and a combination of Brandon Deaderick and Mike Wright at RE. But as Childress mentioned on Wednesday while meeting with reporters, the Patriots also have the ability and willingness to switch to a 4-man front when they deem necessary.
“It’s a multiple defense,” Childress said. “He (Belichick) has the ability to play two defensive linemen and the rest linebackers in there. You’re going to get unscouted looks. Primarily they’re lining up with a 3-4 look. They have the ability to play a four-down package by putting their outside linebackers on the ground. You have to prepare for a number of different looks.”
Childress cited his experience in Philadelphia coaching against Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, where the Eagles anticipated a 3-4 alignment and faced a lot of even fronts instead.
“It’s a great question and it’s one that we kind of lived first-hand when we played them in the Super Bowl,” Childress recalled. “You prepare for 3-4 and they play even with two guys standing in the A gaps. They’re doing some of that now.”
Tags: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
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