If Patriot nation was sweating the first half, they were breathing a huge sigh of relief after Brady and company put on a clinic in the space of 76 seconds, exploiting the Red two coverage (out of the Cover 2 shell) that the Bills apply in red zone defense by running the smash concept and splitting the field up the middle (pushing the safeties to their zones since they must cover vertical routes), forcing a man-to-man on Tight End Ben Watson.
Not only did they pull this off to perfection, they also did it twice, to squeeze out a narrow victory, 25-24. Matt Bowen of NFP and Chris Brown of Smart Football both provide an excellent analysis of this play, and their websites are recommended reading.
Suffice it to say that it proved in a big way that vintage Brady has returned.
The Jets, meanwhile demolished the Houston Texans, in rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez's first start, setting the stage for a week two face-off that was further inflamed by Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins's declaration to treat the game as the Super Bowl.
It also did not help that Jets Coach Rex Ryan issued verbal pom-poms by exhorting season ticket holders in a recorded phone message to show on Sunday ready to burst their vocal cords.
One would imagine this sets the stage for a colossal confrontation.
However, upon closer examination, one sees that the Jets/Texans game was not a well executed one. The Texans did not rehearse well for the heavy blitzing and pressures that Ryan's Jets brought, and this is all the more surprising considering Ryan's background as the defense coordinator in Baltimore where his forte was to throw the house at the opponents quarterback with overload blitzes or heavy pressure up the middle.
Indeed you could almost say that Ryan imported the Ravens defensive schemes, even going as far as using Kris Jenkins as his own personal Ray Lewis, motioning him to hybrid linebacker and at the snap, running him through the A gap behind ILB David Harris and Bart Scott, as part of a five man blitz.
Instead of going to hot reads or having his receivers run sight adjustments (occupying spots vacated by blitzers) Matt Schaub tried to beat the blitz, which is a losing proposition. Even more mystifying was the lack of minute or even halftime adjustments on the part of the Texans.
Knowing how much Bill Belichick knows the Baltimore defense, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with for this coming Sunday. I believe the key is not to have maximum shotgun protection for Brady because that is giving Ryan a target to throw the house at.
The key will be for Brady to get rid of the ball fast, and for that to happen, Belichick will entrust him with the offense and allow him to throw hot, and have his receivers run sight adjusted. I think we should expect to see a lot of underneath stuff, with short pass completions to the flat, as well as extensive screens.
On the defensive end of things- it is well worth considering that the Jets offensive coordinator is Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer who was at the wrong end of a pink slip after losing the '06 playoff showdown to the Patriots who were underdogs at the time.
Schottenhemier brings a smash-mouth philosophy to the offense which dictates that the Jets will throw in plenty of runs and especially screens which the Patriots defended poorly in their first game. This will be a critical factor in the game.
With that it mind, I would not be surprised to see New England use a majority of 4-3 fronts, with Ron Brace and Myron Pryor activated, especially with Jerod Mayo injured. In fact, when he got injured during the Bills game, the team shifted to a 4-3 front. My expectation is that Gary Guyton will move to the mike position with Pierre Woods occupying the will (weak-side linebacker).
There are a few reasons for this: Sanchez has shown an excellent ability to throw on the move, and outside of the pocket, and this must be contained. It is critical to collapse the pocket quickly and force him to throw, throw, and throw, and especially throw with as little time to make decisions as possible.
In the backfield, we may see a disguised cover two that turns to a cover three at the snap to contain Tight End Dustin Keller splitting the safeties up the middle. Expect a great deal of mixed and disguised looks on the defense, to keep the Jets offense on edge.
The Jets and especially their coach are hyping this game as the next big thing, but odds are it will not be the contest many people expect it to be. The Texans are not the Patriots. The Jets are playing a much more prepared and professional team.