Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How will the 49ers Defense Stop Tom Brady?


The short answer to that question is, they won't.  Tom Brady is going to get his yards, the key is to limit the damage as much as possible.  Before getting into how they will accomplish this let's take a look at some tendencies and numbers.  I studied three of their games from this season, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Miami.  I chose these three for the fact that 1 was a loss, 1 was a blowout win, and 1 was a close win, a nice cross section of their year so far.

The Patriots offense operates primarily out of 2 sets, Shotgun with 11 personnel (1RB 1TE), and 12 personnel (1RB 2TE) with Brady taking the snap from under the center.  Let's take a look by game at their use of these packages.


From the Shotgun 11 personnel, the Patriots will use the wide receiver screen as their outside run game from this personnel grouping. The running game is limited to between the tackles, primarily on draws and quick inside traps.  From the 12 personnel, the Patriots  primarily will look to run, with downfield play action passing.  The passing calls are primarily for deeper routes, TE wheel, Dig, Flood type concepts.



Shotgun – 11 Personnel (1TE 1RB) –
  • Against Seattle Brady threw the ball 50 times out of this personnel group.
  • Brady threw 12 of those 50 deeper than 10 yards, and he was 7-12 with 1 TD and 1 Int.
  • Brady completed 24-38 of the remaining throws under 10 yards and appeared to be targeting Browner in coverage as 17 of those went to the left side and Brady was 14-17.  Included in those throws are 4 passes that are a combination of wide receiver screens and rb screens.  
  • He was also 7-14 with 1 int on passes over the middle and 3-7 on passes to the right. 
  • They ran the ball a total of 7 times from this package.
  • Against Indianapolis Brady threw the ball 20 times from this package.
  • Brady threw only 3 of those deeper than 10 yards and was 3-3.
  • Brady completed 11-17 of the remaining throws under 10 yards, primarily over the middle and to the right.  5 of those 17 were wide receiver/rb screens.
  • They ran the ball a total of 1 time from this package.
  • Against Miami they threw the ball 32 times from this package.
  • Brady threw only 7 of those 32 deeper than 10 yards, and he was 2-7 on those.
  • Brady completed 19-25 of the remaining throws under 10 yards and was only 3-6 on passes to the left side. (4-6 under 10 over middle, and 12-13 under 10 to right side)


12 Personnel (1RB 2TE) –


  • Against Seattle Brady threw the ball 6 times out of this personnel group.
  • Brady was 4-6 on those throws with 1 interception.
  • They ran the ball 19 times from this package.  Most of these runs occurred in the 4th quarter as they were trying to run out the clock.
  • Against Indianapolis Brady threw the ball 15 times out of this personnel group.
  • Brady was 10-15 on those throws with 1 touchdown.
  • They ran the ball 20 times from this package.  Unlike in Seattle they came out utilizing the run a bit more to help set up the play action, and 7 step drop pass.
  • Against Miami Brady threw the ball 7 times out of this personnel group.
  • On those attempts he was 2-7 with 1 int. 
  • They ran the ball 17 times from this package, primarily in the 4th quarter.  They used it to go 77 yards in 7:15 in the 4th quarter ending with a FG to put the game out away.


In watching these 3 games there were similarities between how Seattle and Miami attacked the Patriots offense.  These two teams each limited the Patriots to 23 points, 2 of their lowest scoring games of the season.  Both played primarily zone concepts on defense, and mixed in man to man sparingly.  They slowed down the run early on, and allowed Brady to dink and dunk his way down the field.  Both teams eventually forced Brady and the offense into mistakes, in Seattle it was a high pass off the hands of Hernandez into the endzone to stop one drive and later it was Richard Sherman stepping in front of a receiver to take a pass away.  In Miami, it was the safety doing a great job in coverage on Hernandez who was running a wheel route, and taking the ball away.

The Colts did the opposite of the Seahawks and Dolphins, trying to match up with man coverage, and Brady took advantage.  Against Hernandez, and Gronkowski the inside linebacker is at a severe disadvantage, because they both do a great job of using leverage to get open.

Defensive Keys to the Game:


  • Stop the Run- If you allow the Patriots to run the ball, Brady will carve you up all day.  Stop the run early, get him out from under the center and now you can focus on pass coverage. and pass rush.
  • Play Zone- It is much easier to contain the Patriots receivers when you are able to leverage them.  For instance, the TE can only do 3 things on a pass pattern, go out, in or up.  The In and Up routes are covered by the LB in zone, but if he breaks out, the safety or corner in the zone should be there to make a play.  
  • Tackle- While this is a must in any game, but it is especially important against New England.  Wes Welker leads the NFL in YAC with 569 of his 1116 receiving yards coming after the catch.  The 49ers defense needs to do a good job of getting ahold of the receivers and swarm to the ball.
  • Pressure Brady- Again a must in any game, they need to put guys in the face of Brady to make him move his feet and change his arm angles.  Brady is an elite QB in the NFL, however even elite QB's are not immune to pressure.




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