GREEN BAY – It would seem to be the question of the week for the most hyped game of the season. How will the New England Patriots deploy their cornerbacks?
“We see how they played on film and have an idea of what they might do, but we’ll have to wait until the game, see what their plan is and make adjustments,” Packers Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said on Friday.
At issue are cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Will Revis be assigned to Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb? Whichever receiver Revis covers, Browner will likely be assigned to the other.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s reputation for scheme-heavy game plans precedes him.
“They’re kind of a theme-of-the-week team. That’s part of their strategy,” Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.
Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field pits two of the keenest coaching minds in the game. Belichick has long been a defensive genius. Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is finally getting his due for offensive creativity.
“They’ve played differently over the years,” Clements said of the Patriots defense. “They used to give you a ton of different looks, pressures. They tend to rely more on matching up their defensive backs.”
It’s on offense that the Patriots are especially scheme conscious. Quarterback Tom Brady continues to be the centerpiece of the Patriots offense, but against the Colts two weeks ago, the Patriots ran the ball 44 times and employed an extra offensive tackle to help clear the way.
“They hadn’t shown that before and didn’t show one snap of it (the next week) against the Lions. They hope you think they’re working on it,” Capers said.
So, what should the Packers expect? History would suggest the Packers should expect the unexpected.
“Early in the game, you’ll get a feel for what their theme is,” Capers said.
That means adjustments will be at a premium for the Packers.
“When you have veteran guys, it’s easy to make adjustments because they understand things. We have a plan. If we don’t have to change it, we’ll roll with it,” Clements said.
Capers’ plan will no doubt focus on Brady and giant-sized tight end Rob Gronkowski, who leads the Patriots with nine touchdown catches.
“He’s very cerebral,” Capers said of Brady.
“He’s a matchup problem,” Capers said.
The matchup problems for special teams will likely involve the winds of Lambeau.
Packers Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum coached under Patriots special teams boss Scott O’Brien when the two were at Pitt.
“They’re fundamentally sound. They do everything the right way. They have a good punt returner in Julian Edelman. The punter is a young guy (Ryan Allen). It’s always a challenge for young guys when they come in here because the winds can be unpredictable,” Slocum said.
Stephen Gostkowski is an accomplished, veteran kicker.
“He’s a good cold-weather kicker. He reminds me of Robbie Gould,” Slocum said.