A Quick Betting Review of New England Patriots’ Defense
To many observers, watching the divisional playoff game between the Chiefs and the Patriots was surprising because of the success that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had against the New England secondary. The Chiefs really only have one elite receiver (Jeremy Maclin), and his ankle was clearly bothering him throughout the game. Even so, cornerback Logan Ryan allowed 8 of the 10 passes thrown at his receiver to be completed, allowing 101 yards and a score. If the Chiefs hadn’t been inexplicably trying to score slowly during the fourth-quarter touchdown drive, they had a real shot at scoring twice and tying the game, because the Patriots weren’t rushing the passer or covering particularly well. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game that his strategy was to take time off the clock so the Chiefs could score, recover an onside kick, and then score again and leave the Patriots with no time to do anything. Of course, relying on a successful onside kick instead of scoring quickly and forcing that three-and-out (which a coach that knows how to use the clock anywhere except Fantasy Land would have done) would have been a lot more effective, but you could see the Philadelphia Eagles fans who had seen Reid do the same thing to blow games through clock mismanagement over and over again in key situations nodding.
But what about that Pats pass rush? They were permitting Alex Smith all kinds of time in the pocket, and he used it, averaging 3.13 seconds per passing attempt in the game — the highest in the NFL. A strong performance on defense for the Pats came from strong safety Patrick Chung, who was one of the few Patriots in the secondary to provide consistently strong coverage all night long, keeping Travis Kelce, the terrific Chiefs tight end, from doing anything in the passing game.
The Patriots did play well against the run, which should give the Broncos some pause as they do their game planning for the AFC Championship. When the Chiefs carried out a designed run (which they did 26 times), the Patriots only gave up 90 yards on those plays (including a touchdown). Chung was a big factor against the run as well, as was defensive lineman Alan Branch, who had four solo stops and kept disrupting the Chiefs’ offense all night long. The whole defensive unit only missed two tackles against the Chiefs’ running corps.
The Patriots will need to repeat that sort of performance next Sunday if they want to advance to Super Bowl 50. They have to bottle up the Broncos’ running game and make Peyton Manning beat them. He was able to deliver the winning throws against the Steelers, but it was clearly taking everything he had, every time he dropped back to pass. If the Patriots can put that kind of pressure on him again, their secondary (which is better than Pittsburgh’s) should have opportunities to defend passes — or pick them off.