If it was not apparent against the Denver Broncos, the performance by Ben Tate of the Houston Texans should tell Bill Belichick and his fellow defensive coaches that something must be done to address the run defense.
Tate carved up the Patriots’ defenders, carrying the rock 22 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. It was not all about him though, as the Texans’ offensive linemen continuously had their way with the Patriots’ defensive linemen and linebackers. Mind you, these are the very same offensive linemen that struggled to block the defensive linemen and linebackers of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Texans’ previous game.
Belichick did try to make adjustments as the game went on, continually calling for 3-4 alignments, which is a defense that is designed to stop the run. He even allowed Brandon Spikes to play more than usual. Yet, these strategies were not working. That is because Belichick refused to take his adjustments a step further.
Over the past few years, Belichick has become much more of a conservative defensive mind. Instead of playing in a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense, Belichick prefers a nickel defense. A nickel defense features three cornerbacks, with one usually used in the place of a defensive tackle. While this type of defense is effective in stopping the pass, it can be susceptible to the run because of a lack of big bodies.
One way to counter this is to blitz and go into man coverage. Belichick certainly has the cornerbacks capable of sticking with opposing wide receivers, so he can afford to send more guys up the field. That way, more gaps are filled, which limits the options of an opposing running back.
Belichick has a similar amount of defensive talent as New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan does. They both run similar schemes too, yet Ryan’s defense is much better at stopping the run. Ryan is much more aggressive when it comes to calling blitzes, which increases the odds of a running back getting stuffed.
This strategy will not work against every opposing offense, but it can effective against weaker quarterbacks and in cold weather. Belichick should look into employing this whenever he thinks that an opposing quarterback is at a disadvantage. It is at least worth a shot.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.