Blueprint To Beat LeBeau Written In 2002
By Dagger, on December 11th, 2007
Brett Keisel was quoted after the Steeler game saying that the defense was “surprised that the Patriots threw the ball as much as they did” and that they expected them to mix run and pass. Huh??? Are you kidding me? Keisel also went on to say that “the gameplan we had coming into the game needs to be thrown into the trash” and that the Steelers weren’t prepared for what the Pats did on offense. uuuummm yeah. Understatement of the year. But how can this be? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Your good buddy, Dagger is here to take you back in time with a quick history lesson. Let’s hope this look into the past doesn’t dig up any old ghosts or fall into the hands of any more Offensive Coordinators.
Alrighty….let’s start off with the basics. The Steelers have lost 6 of the last 7 to New England. Wondering why? Well, the Patriots do what many teams in the NFL are unwilling to do….when they face the Steelers they toss aside conventional wisdom, they often abandon the run, and the attack the Steelers greatest weakness (their pass D). Sure our DLs and LBs are fantastic in the run game. Yes our LBs can blitz and pressure the QB in this complicated defensive scheme, but NO….this defense was not built to stop the spread offense. The spread offense is the Dick LeBeau 3-4 defense’s Kryptonite.
When the Patriots come out in a 5WR formation at their own one yard line, I think that tells you that they have spotted a weakness in the Steelers defense and they’re hell bent on exploiting it. Screw the running game. Who cares how many times you run the ball? Who says you have to be balanced on offense? If your strength just so happens to be your opponent’s weakness, then you’d be silly not to attack it.
I hate the Patriots but I LOVE the way they spit in the face of the old-timer “run-run-pass” offensive logic. One week their opponents dictate that they must rely on a passing attack, the next week they give the ball to Maroney all game, the next week Maroney gets 2 carries, etc….I just admire their aggressive nature. (But I hate them) I hope you understand. I guess I respect the fact that they PLAY TO WIN THE GAME by any and all means necessary. There are so many coaches and teams in the NFL that are so ultra-conservative that they almost handicap their own offense. The Steelers sit nearly $10 Million dollars below the NFL salary cap. This past offseason, the Patriots acquired Moss, Welker, Gaffney, Adalius Thomas, Stallworth, and others. Again, being aggressive and “going for it.” You have to respect that. They build from within just like us, they draft well and all that good stuff, but they compliment their homegrown talent with good acquisitions. While the Pats are out acquiring Pro Bowl talent, the Steelers are playing it nice and conservative….picking up Sean Mahan and Cedric Wilson.
To quote myself and a widely-used NHL saying “Safe Is Death” and the Patriots never, ever, ever play safe.
The Patriots invented the offensive blueprint to beat the Steelers way back in week 1 of the 2002 season. Before we get into specifics, let me describe a defense and you tell me how you think you should/could attack it.
This defense is best known as a run-stuffing defense that plays with 4 LBs, gets 0 pressure from the DL. This team has had below average CBs for an entire decade, has “run stopping safeties…not coverage or speedy safeties” and loves to blitz.
OK….so you tell me. How do you attack this defense? Run, Run, Pass? A balanced offense? Play-action? Smashmouth? No. You spread them out and attack in the air.
Week 1 2002— New England opens up the season vs Pittsburgh and Brady goes 29/43 for 294 yards and 3 TDs. Steelers lose.
*very important note here is that in Week 2 of the 2002 season, the Oakland Raiders and Rich Gannon COPY the Patriots gameplan and come out throwing. Gannon goes 43/64 for 403 yards and 1 TD. Wow. Steelers lose.
2001: Brady/Bledsoe go 22/39 for 217 yards and 1TD. Steelers lose AFC Championship game.
2002: Brady goes 29/43 for 294 yards and 3TDs. Steelers lose.
2004: Brady goes 25/43 for 271 yards and 2TD. Steelers Win.
2004: Brady goes 14/21 for 207 yards and 2TD. Steelers lose AFC Championship game.
2005: Brady goes 31/41 for 372 yards 0TD. Steelers lose.
2007: Brady goes 32/46 for 399 yards and 4TD. Steelers lose.
The Patriots have completed 66% of their passes against the Steelers since 2001. The Pats have only had a “ton” of offensive weapons at WR for one of those games. It’s not the personnel, it’s the scheme and gameplan that kills the Steelers. This 3-4 scheme CANNOT and WILL NOT beat the Patriots as currently constructed. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Steelers this year using 4WR and 5WR sets. The Raiders used the blueprint in 2002 and attempted 64 passes in one game against our D! Let’s thank the football gods that so many teams “play not to lose” and play so tight offensively. Let’s also be thankful that some teams can’t find 5 bodies skilled enough to split all of them out wide and use these formations against us.
The Steelers have had 6 or 7 years to come up with a gameplan to beat the Patriots and their 5WR spread offense and they simply can’t do it. If we see this team again (this year, next year, the year after), then we must come up with a completely different scheme. I don’t care if you drop 10 guys into coverage. I don’t care if you only have one DL on the field, I don’t care if you have 1 LB on the field. Make the Patriots run the ball. They WANT to pass on you, take away the thing they want to do and make them play to your strength. We’d have a better chance stopping their offense if you put the ball in Maroney’s hands and take it away from Brady.
Sound familiar? It still bothers me 3 days after the game that Lebeau won’t change his defense for this one opponent. If the Pats and Steelers meet in the postseason, and Lebeau has the team play a 3-4, the Steelers will lose. Guaranteed. I don’t understand why for this ONE GAME ONLY…for this ONE OPPONENT ONLY Lebeau can’t think outside the box and run a 1-5-5 or a 4-3 (with LBs as DL) or a 3-3-5. Something, anything other than sitting there and looking helpless and confused. The 3-4 defense is such a bad matchup for a quick passing spread offense that no amount of preparation, gameplanning, or personnel adjustments would help a bit. It requires a complete and total overhaul of the Steelers traditional defensive scheme. Is it drastic? Sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If the Pats are capable of changing their whole gameplan when they play us by going all-pass all the time, then why can’t we do the same with our gameplan?