Instead of the New England Patriots sitting in “foxholes” and waiting for the action to come to them, they have adopted an attacking style on defense, and this aggressive scheme is what will make the difference between a close slugfest and another blowout of the visiting Houston Texans.
New England hosts the AFC South Division Champions at 4:30 this afternoon at Gillette Stadium in a game that will decide which team will host the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday in the AFC Title game.
The one thing that can disrupt Houston’s zone blocking scheme is penetration by a defensive line. The Texans scheme relies upon all of their Offensive linemen working in tandem in perfect sync with either a Tight End or a pulling guard sealing off the defensive pursuit from behind, creating cutback lanes for their running backs.
But just one player breaking through renders the scheme ineffective – which is exactly what happened to Houston’s offense in their 42-14 loss to New England on December 10th.
As always, All Pro defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork was the main culprit, consistently pushing his double teams backward, reestablishing the line of scrimmage 2 to 3 yards deep into the Texans’ backfield which cut off Running Back Arian Foster’s cutback lanes and allowing Wilfork’s teammates to converge on the trapped running back.
In other words, the Patriots were able to dictate where Foster could run, which was essentially nowhere.
Just as important is setting the edge. The Texans’ zone scheme allows a wall of blockers moving in tandem toward the edge, and most times creates those cutback lanes – but if those lanes are sealed off, often the edge is available due to sheer numbers of blockers floating to one side or another.
Not many teams have the personnel to disrupt both the zone and the edge, but the Patriots do, if healthy – so the news that Defensive end Rob Ninkovich is healthy and ready to play for the Patriots this afternoon is a boon for New England as he is the Patriots’ most consistent edge setter and is almost always in position to make the big play.
The Patriots hopes for hosting the AFC Championship Game next Sunday rides on their ability to reestablish the line of scrimmage in the Texans’ backfield while setting the edges. If successful, it forces the game into Quarterback Matt Schaub’s shaky hands with no help from the play action.
No need to elaborate on this scenario, because it’s really that simple.