I read Ron Borges‘ Monday column in the Boston Herald on the plane back, and I was impressed: He had a good point and made it nicely. And his point was:
I’m not apt to paraphrase Mr. Borges half as well as he expressed himself, so I’ll just quote:
“Falcons coach Mike Smith, of all people, should have known what was coming yesterday. Even when Tom Brady isn’t sharp, if you go soft on him he will make it hard on you.
“Yet despite being armed with knowledge gained from harsh experience, Smith allowed Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to make the same decision yesterday that Smith made Jan. 12, 2008.
“Both paid the same price: They got beat.
“At the time, Smith was the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a divisional playoff game, he decided that his team could not pressure Brady under any circumstance and chose instead to drop seven and eight defenders into coverage.
“Brady carved them up as if he worked in a butcher shop. He set an NFL record for accuracy, going 26-of-28 with three touchdowns in a 31-20 win. His passer rating was 141.4.”
You’ll notice I said Mr. Borges had a good point. But I don’t know that I agree with it completely. To me, the Patriots’ running game (168 yards) beat the Falcons. Brady (27-of-42 for 277 yards) was only OK. He threw a late touchdown pass to tight end Chris Clark but missed every deep ball. The difference was, the Pats were gaining enough yards on first and second downs to put Brady in third-and-three, which is how they wound up with 28 first downs to the Falcons’ 13.
That said, I was surprised at how seldom the Falcons blitzed. Smith noted afterward that the Falcons sent “five or six” men at Brady in the first half, but clearly the Falcons were wrong-footed by the Pats’ sudden emphasis on the run.
“They’d run it 43 times and thrown it 100 [coming in],” Smith said afterward. “We didn’t fit the run as well as we’d have liked. We did not play the run the way we needed to.”
I thought the Falcons would play aggressively, both on offense and defense, than they did. Much of that had to do with New England hogging the ball for nearly 40 minutes. But New England wouldn’t have kept the ball had the Falcons taken it from them. And Mr. Borges’ point is overall a strong one, and one for the Birds to remember:
Faint heart never won the big game.