What Would Buddy Do?
Semi-innovative and/ or hare-brained scheme for defeating (or at least covering against) Patriots
Posted on November 20th, 2007 at 9:22 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

perhaps we just make rocca inactive this weekSo I was¬†browsing the comments on this week’s DVOA update on Football Outsiders when I saw a very intriguing proposal for how to play the Patriots:

To beat the Pats (or at least keep it competitive), why not go for the offensive version of the NHL trap? Assume NE is going to score a TD or at least a FG every drive. Play keep away as much as possible. No punting - play for all 4 downs. Keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Run the clock down every snap. All you need is 2.5 yards a play to keep the drives alive. And if the run is working, some short passing routes will open up.

Whilst we’re sure this would never happen, given that the Birds are (GULP) 23-and-a-half-point underdogs on Sunday and it’s not clear that Dunavin is going to play anyway, I say we tip our caps to TMQ and just get after it.

The master plan: no punting.

Here’s why it’s not completely (that is, only partially) crazy:

1. No one is remotely stopping the Patriots right now. They’re beating people by 25 points per game, and have dropped half a hundred in two of their last three games. They’re certainly not going to struggle against the Birds’ defense (as noted in the FO comment, the Birds have the 21st best passing defense according to DVOA). Is it so unreasonable to say that limiting the number of times the Pats touch the ball might be more important than maximizing the distance between Tom Brady and the goal line? That is, assume they’re going to score most times they have it (whether they start on their own 15 or your 40) and just make sure they have the ball as rarely as possible.

2. Without descending into the why-won’t-Andy-run-it-more meme (I think everyone else in the known universe who typed a word about the Birds on Monday handled that one), the Birds are actually running the ball extremely well. As in, number one in rushing DVOA. Westbrook is the top-rated back amongst qualifying RBs in the FO rankings, and Buckhalter is third among non-qualifying backs (those who don’t have a minimum of 60 rushes). The Birds can run it. Let’s use those guys to grind the clock. For all four downs. All game.

3. The special teams are crappy anyway — 29th of out 32 in special teams DVOA. Rocca’s hitting the ball well, but the Birds don’t cover very well, and they sure don’t return it very well. Why not just skip that part of the game entirely?

4. Finally (and I think this is the best reason), as one of the other commenters on the FO thread noted, how psyched would you be as a viewer if you knew that the opponent wasn’t going to punt against the Pats? As an Eagles fan, I would be absolutely giddy if Big Red deactivated Rocca and played four-down football on Sunday.

I really really like this idea. 

Links:
Football Outsiders Week 11 DVOA Rankings
Football Outsiders Offensive Rankings
Football Outsiders RB Rankings

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