Official website of the New England Patriots

Ask PFW: 3-4 or not 3-4?

On paper there were 2 or 3 games on the schedule that looked like possible "breather" games in between playoff contenders. Now those teams (e.g. Tampa Bay and Miami) look a lot better than expected. Oakland may end up having been the "easiest" game on the 2005 schedule. Still think 11-5 will be disappointing, Tom in Va.? Anyway, I was wondering what you guys think will happen with the O-line this week at Carolina? Holes for CD were few and far between against the Raiders, and here we are facing arguably one of the top 2 or 3 D-lines in the NFL with at least 1 rookie starter on our line. How will the Pats adjust their blocking scheme (or will they?) to give Logan Mankins a little help? And I actually can't wait to have a full-strength secondary against the over-rated Panthers QB and receivers - I love how they talk up how they should have won the Super Bowl 2 years ago, but neglect to mention that NE's secondary was ravaged by injuries by the second half, making their long bomb plays nothing more than the equivalent of a preseason game where one team takes out its starters before the other. Good job scoring on our 2nd and 3rd teamers Panthers! Let's see how you do against our starters.
Nate Stafford

First, I don't think we should overreact to one week of football. Maybe the Vikings and Broncos stink which made Miami and Tampa look better. Maybe Oakland stinks and we didn't get a true indication of how good the Patriots are or aren't. I think the Pats will have trouble running against Carolina this week and even Pittsburgh the week after. Carolina lost Kris Jenkins, but still has talent in its front seven. I don't think there is really anything you can do to help Mankins. If he's out there, he has to do his job. And it was hardly one guy getting pushed off the ball last week. That was the whole front that couldn't move the Raiders to create room for Dillon. On the other hand, the line did a solid job in pass protection. As far as the secondary goes, don't count on it being full strength. Duane Starks could still be out and Tyrone Poole and Chad Scott both got hurt in the opener and may not be available. The Panthers are a good team and were a good team in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Jake Delhomme is underrated. He is a clutch quarterback who always seems to make plays in crunch time. I'm not trying to contradict you on everything, but I don't necessarily see it the way you do. Eugene Wilson was in coverage on Muhsin Muhammad's 85-yard TD catch in the Super Bowl. He's a starter.

Judging from what we've seen thus far (preseason - game one) the inability to stop the run remains a problem. When the Patriots finally shifted to the 4-3, there was much better control of the line. It also produced greater pressure on the QB. Belichick has consistently stated that they will play whatever front is necessary in order to get he best matchup. My question is, what advantage do the Patriots gain by playing the 3-4 as their base defense? Last year, with the two Ted's it was obvious that the 3-4 was a strength and in part a necessity for coverage reasons. This year with all the depth in the secondary it makes more sense to leverage the obvious strengths that the 4-3 presents. What do the experts think? Thanks.
John Farrell

The Patriots prefer to play a 3-4. It's typically a stouter defense against the run and gives the defense more speed by replacing a lineman with a faster linebacker. The Pats version calls for seven players to play two gaps each, which leaves four in coverage. Now the Patriots play a similar two-gap scheme when they switch to a 4-3 defense on early downs so the principles remain the same in terms of defending the run. It's just that a defensive lineman plays the two gaps normally defended by a linebacker. But the 3-4 allows for more flexibility against the pass. In addition to having a faster player on the field who can cover, it forces the pass protection to identify the fourth rusher in a non-blitz situation since that rusher can be anyone of the four linebackers as opposed to using four D-linemen. Rushing more than four adds to that problem for an offense. The defensive linemen prefer a 4-3 because they see more one-on-one blocks when rushing, but that is, in theory, easier for an offense to account for. But if one of the linebackers isn't playing well enough, then the Patriots are flexible enough to turn to Jarvis Green and play a 4-3. They already play more 4-3 in subpackages, but it's a different concept with guys in the gaps and the players more suited to rushing the passer.

OK, a win is a win; it wasn't a pretty one, but at the end we did what was necessary to win: the defense stiffened up in the 2nd half after letting Oakland eat us alive (as well as we did). The 1st concern I have is that we went to the 4-3 defense (although it worked). Does that mean that we are going to see just a larger dose of 4-3 throughout the season or was it just in use because the game plan didn't quite work? I sure hope that we stick to the 3-4 defense because our defense is built for that and it has worked for us the last few years, saying that, I hope the linebackers can grow more accustomed to the scheme and run it the way it is supposed to be run (congrats to Monty Beisel as he had a fairly nice game. I have high hopes on him, even more than my man Chad Brown) 2nd concern: did you catch the Colts/Ravens last night? Shame on Baltimore fans for cheering when Kyle Boller went down. Never in my life had I been more ashamed of being a football fan. 3rd just a comment: Ty Law got his first INT with the Jets. He still remains my favorite player and I think he will return to his Pro Bowl shape (if they throw to him because yesterday they almost never threw to his side) Thanks for your attention and keep up the good work.
Alex Quezada
Panama

The Patriots won by 10 and it wasn't pretty? Was it perfect? No. Would you have liked to prevent that first Raider drive and the big play to Randy Moss? Of course. But did you ever feel like the game was in doubt? I didn't. So sure there were problems … blocked kicks and the like, but they scored 30 points, which will win most weeks. As far as the defense goes, I agree with you. Sure New England has the ability to switch to a 4-3 front, but Bill Belichick prefers to play a 3-4 and his personnel is built around that, especially at linebacker. As I just said, the DL would prefer a 4-3 front but guys like Vrabel and McGinest are 3-4 players and Colvin is better suited for that as well. The problem is inside where the linebackers are not experienced in this scheme. Fortunately, the Patriots can play both and will. They switched to a 4-3 in 2001 during the season and went on to win the Super Bowl. But they want to play a 3-4 if they can do it successfully. It's mildly concerning if they can't, but not the end of the world since Jarvis Green is hardly a slouch coming in as the fourth D-lineman.

Hello, I read this section all the time. A real fluff question, who decides what players are chosen for the commercials that the Patriots are in? I really got a chuckle out of the Pepsi and Credit card commercials and was wondering if the team decides or is it just who wants to do it?
Best, Chris Morris

I imagine the company making the commercial. They pay the players for their endorsements. I suppose in some instances they may not seek a specific individual in which case it could be out there for a number of players to consider, but I would say that the company requests certain individuals and pays them accordingly. I'm sure the Patriots didn't pick Tom Brady for the Visa ad. Visa picked him. A very funny spot by the way.

Some plays are reviewable and some aren't, but what is the rational behind making a catch/drop like Watson's against Oakland NOT reviewable because the whistle blew? If the review concludes the play was incomplete no harm done, if the play results in a catch... Pats get a complete and the ball at the spot of the catch, if not downfield at the point of the tackle? What is reviewable and what is not?
Otis Hill

That play was absolutely reviewable, but since it was in the last two minutes of the half, the Patriots could not challenge, and the folks in the replay booth obviously felt that it was not a catch or even close to it. How they came to such a conclusion is beyond me. He caught the ball. But that hazy rule that was supposedly changed after the 1999 postseason because of a Bert Emanuel catch ruled an incompletion in that season's NFC Championship Game is never clear to me. The ball was the first thing to touch the ground, which apparently makes it incomplete despite the fact that Watson clearly had control of it as it did hit. I couldn't believe they didn't review it and I still don't understand if that rule was changed or how it is enforced.

What were those things painted on the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium in Game 1, against the Raiders?
Frank Baldwin

Frank this isn't your fault. You must be new to this forum, but for the last time, that is the Gillette Stadium logo. It is the bridge and lighthouse that stands as the stadium's signature marking.

What is the song that was played when the 2004 banner was revealed during Opening Day? I can't get it out of my head and I can't find it anywhere.
John Grunbeck

It is Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. It's the same song played every week before the Patriots come on the field. It precedes Crazy Train every week.

The Pats seem to use Ben Watson more for blocking than anything else. I always get excited when I see the Pats throw the ball to BW as he always seems like he is a beast to bring down. Why won't that Pats get the ball in his hands more often and challenge the defense to stop him? Is he that good/valuable on the o-line that they don't want to send him out? I know early on in his career here w/the Pats he had a case of the dropsies getting adjusted to the NFL game speed, but at this point I don't understand why we don't dish the ball out to him more often.
John James

John, I think you are confusing Watson and Daniel Graham. Watson missed all of last season and has played in only two regular season games in his career. He has never had the dropsies like Graham has at times. Graham also is the one with a reputation as a terrific blocker. That said, I think the tight ends will be a big part of the offense. Both Graham and Watson will make some big plays this year. Watson had two catches for 55 yards last week, both on the first drive, while Graham had a 17-yard grab. That's 72 yards from that position. Not bad. That said, they are valuable blockers as well, especially since the Patriots will use their two-tight end set quite a bit.

I saw Brady yelling at Dillon at 1 point during yesterday's game. Any idea what he was telling him?
Moses

Not exactly, but I'm sure he was just trying to fire Dillon up to get the running game going and not let him get frustrated by how well the Raiders were defending the run. Brady is emotional and he must have sensed Dillon becoming frustrated with the lack of room to run.

Can you review for me the rules on clock stoppage during a game? I had thought that the clock stops on out of bounds plays, penalties, and incomplete passes until the next snap of the ball. But I noticed in the Pats-Raiders game for most of the game that on out-of-bounds plays and penalties, the clock would begin again on the whistle signaling the ball was ready for play and NOT on the snap of the ball. Does this procedure change at some point near the end of the half or the game to where the clock doesn't start until the snap of the ball again? This seemed to be the case on the Patriots drive with 4:20 left in the game where the out of bounds plays would now stop the clock until the snap of the ball (e.g. Deion Branch pass and Corey Dillon sweep). Is there a clear-cut rule that explains this variation in the way the clock is stopped during different stages of the game? Thanks!
Evan Shu

The clock is now re-started when the ball is spotted except in the last two minutes of the half and the last five minutes of the second. Then it stops until the ball is snapped after a players goes out of bounds.

Something was wrong with Corey Dillon...and I'm not talking about the moment on the sidelines when Tom Brady was trying to fire him up. All night long, Dillon kept bouncing the ball to the outside when he could have, and should have, gone upfield. It was almost as if he was constantly searching for the sideline (maybe he's having a problem cutting?). The most glaring example was on a screen pass to the right; downfield, Dillon could have cut under Dan Koppen's block, but instead just continued out of bounds. I didn't notice this in the preseason, but I am getting concerned about the health of Corey (physical or mental)...Was I the only one to notice this?
Kurt F.

I didn't notice what you saw. I noticed Patriots offensive linemen being pushed back and Raider defenders penetrating. They forced Dillon to string out runs and then pursued well while preventing him from finding or getting to any cutback lane. I just thought it was terrific run defense by the Raiders. I guess I'll be more mindful of what you're talking about when viewing this week, but Dillon doesn't generally have trouble cutting upfield and running north-south. He has no injury that I'm aware of.

Hey guys, great column. Is there a spot on the website were you can find the 45 man game day roster.
Benard Derek

If you look at the official game book, it lists the inactives, the starters, the subs and those who were active and didn't play. If you're looking before the game, the website should list the inactives an hour or two before kickoff. Then you can take the 53-man and scratch off the names.

PFW: Can you please pass this on to the Patriots community: Don't you dare take this team for granted. If Tom Brady says on National Television that he wishes the fans were "more into it"; and the MNF team notes that half the seats are empty, then you people who left and you people who sat quiet don't deserve your seats. That the game was sold out in 5 minutes, yet the stadium was half-filled with quiet fans with ten minutes to play is inexcusable. We should be ashamed. Spoiled by the Super Bowls we may be, I for one don't want to be forced to remember what it was to be the worst team in the league (or even just a normal team in the league). So show a little energy for your team, guys, okay? This run will not come again in our lifetimes. We will never again have Belichick and Brady at the top of their games. Walsh and Montana are at home on the couch now. Just like Belichick and Brady will be in 15 years. So appreciate it while it's here because it'll be gone before you know it.Jason Jarvis

Well said Jarvis. It happened in Atlanta with the Braves. The crowds went from rowdy fans in the early 1990s to more of a business-like approach. It was like the Barves games were the in-thing and the more rowdy fans weren't there. It became a much more sterile atmosphere and now they don't even sell out playoff games because they have been spoiled by the team's success. I think Patriots fans are way too quiet during the game. They barely make noise when the opposing offense is on the field except for, occasionally, on third down. I've said that for years. And I don't need to hear how your section is loud. I watch and listen. I see people sitting and chilling out when the Patriots are on defense. It's not nearly as loud as other stadiums where the fans are much more vocal. I think New England fans have a fear of yahoo-ism. It's not cool to cheer just to cheer. Patriots fans are not typically among the league's loudest even though the Patriots seem to have a remarkable home field advantage with 21 straight wins at Gillette Stadium.. I know someone is going to email me about how loud it was during this playoff game or that. They will say it was really loud in section 119 or wherever they sit. They will call me names. I know what I see and I know what I see elsewhere. I think Patriots fans are passionate -- no doubt. Please don't confuse what I'm saying. Patriots fans love their team every bit as much as any fan in the league loves his or hers. I've seen the contingent travel to the Super Bowls. I see Patriots fans raising a ruckus in other team's stadiums. I've seen fans greet the busses at the stadium late at night after a playoff game and seen them line up at the stadium to wish the team well as it leaves for the Super Bowl. I've seen a million-plus fans line the streets of Boston in bitter cold temperatures. You are great fans. But you're just not loud inside the stadium when the Patriots are playing defense. And Jason is right. Too many people left early last Thursday.

As a diehard Pats fan, who now lives in Nashville I thank you all for your fantastic and up to the minute coverage of the Patriots, I can't get enough. My question is this, now of course I trust in BB and his play calling abilities, but where on earth were the tight ends in the second half of the opener. Did you all not see how awesome Ben Watson looked and Daniel Graham as well (in the first half). There were no plays to the tight ends in the second half and the Patriots drives kept stalling.
Thomas Raymond

It's a good question. The Raiders went to a nickel defense in the second half to get more speed on the field and do a better job covering the tight ends down the field. That said, they were still at open at times, but on plays where Brady went somewhere else with the ball. I think the Raiders, though, made a decent adjustment to handle that problem. Unfortunately, the Pats weren't able to take advantage of the smaller lineup by running the ball.

Did Bill Belichick visit Charlie Weis and/or talk to the Notre Dame football team before last week's Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh game? If so, please give me some details. Thank you.
Tom Crocker

No. That's apparently only a rumor.

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