How to Beat the Patriots


Hold up, hold up … we might have to change the title of this article. It’s a little misleading. Maybe we should go back and just call it Football 101. Is it too late for that? Because to beat the Patriots, you gotta do the little things right. And more than anything, you just gotta keep it simple.

When we play the Patriots, this is the game plan:

Sack Tom Brady.

That’s it.

End of article.

We good here?

Nah, nah … there’s more to it than that, of course. But let’s start there because when you play the Patriots, getting to Tom Brady is where everything starts.

Tom doesn’t like to get hit. No quarterback does. So you gotta get to him … a lot. You need two — not one, but two — legit pass rushing threats on the outside. It’s gotta be a two-sided rush because if it’s just one guy, the offense can shift, slide, double-team, chip — they can take him out of the game. Some of my best games against the Patriots came when I had DeMarcus Ware on the other side, because the offense can’t account for both of us without keeping an extra guy in to help. And that takes away one of Tom’s options downfield. So it forces them to pick their poison.

You also have to get a good push up the middle and shrink the pocket so Tom can’t step up to avoid the outside rush. He’s gotta feel like he’s surrounded. Like he’s got nowhere to go.

Here’s an example:

That’s the perfect play. I’m coming from one side, D-Ware from the other, and the defensive tackle gets enough of a push that when D-Ware and I meet in the backfield, Tom has nowhere to go.

We also only rushed four guys on that play, which is something else that’s really important. You have to be able to get a rush with only four against Tom Brady. You can’t get blitz-happy and be sending five or six every play, because Tom is so good at reading defenses and forecasting coverages, so he always knows what the defense is giving him, and he gets rid of the ball so quickly. So if you’re sending too many guys, leaving you undermanned in the secondary, Tom’s gonna find the open guy. Every time.

Getting to Tom Brady is like trying to beat King Koopa in the final stage on Super Mario Bros. Sometimes it feels impossible … but it can happen.

Mario can get it done.

Joe Mahoney/AP

His overall game is just so much greater than the sum of its parts. And Tom Brady just wins. He knows voodoo

When we played the Patriots back in 2013, we were up 24–0 at halftime. I remember going into the locker room thinking, That’s a wrap. There’s no way they’ll be able to come back.

And then … Boom.

They beat us 34–31 in overtime.

I learned my lesson that day.

I learned that even if you’re executing your game plan — you’re pressuring Tom and sacking him and doing it with only four guys — there’s another part of the formula that you can’t forget.

You have to do it for four quarters.

A while back, when I broke down , I said that one thing Tom does so well is keep drives alive, and that wears a defense down.

He’s still the best in the league at that.

Just look at the Jaguars game a couple of weeks ago. Their last sack came with 11:35 left in the fourth quarter. When it got late in the game and it was winning time and the Patriots were coming back, Jacksonville’s pass rush was almost non-existent. Over the course of the game, Tom wore them down.

The Jaguars had three sacks in that game.

They needed five.

We saw the same thing in the Super Bowl against the Falcons. It was like Tom was slow-playing them, like, O.K., you guys burn yourselves out. Leave it all out there. And when y’all are done playin’ around, I’m gonna go get mine.

It’s kind of a paradox, when you think about it: You can’t win without having the lead … but against the Patriots, no lead is safe.

It truly is a 60-minute game.

It’s kind of a paradox, when you think about it: You can’t win without having the lead … but against the Patriots, no lead is safe.

The biggest reason the Patriots are never out of a game is because they don’t beat themselves. They rarely turn the ball over. They don’t commit costly penalties at crucial times. They’re very well-coached.

But they also do a lot of things that you can’t coach.

Like … are you one of those people who gets mad because it feels like the Patriots get every call?

Well, regardless of what the Internet says, it’s not because the refs are helping them out.

It’s because people do dumb stuff when they play the Patriots.

I’m telling you, most guys’ intensity meter goes way up when they play against Tom Brady and the Patriots. And when you’re overexcited or just trying too hard to make a play, that’s when you make mistakes.

I want to sack every quarterback I play against. But do I want to sack Tom Brady any more than the other guys? Of course, I do. I like to compete against the best, and let’s face it: Tom Brady’s the G.O.A.T. That’s why when I sack him, it just feels … better. It’s not just another sack.

So if you’re a defensive back, don’t tell me that when the ball’s in the air and you have a beat on it that you’re not out there thinking, Im’ma get me a pick off Tom Brady!

know that’s what you’re thinking.

And Tom knows that, too.

So what he’ll do is, he’ll try to draw the pass interference penalty. He won’t just put the ball where only his receiver can get it. He’ll put the ball where the DB has to go through the receiver to get it. Because Tom knows how bad the DB wants that pick, and that he’s gonna be overexcited, and he’s gonna go balls to the wall to try to make a big play instead of making the smart play.

And that’s when the flags come out.

That’s why you can’t get caught up in, Oh my God, it’s the Patriots …. It’s Tom Brady.

You just have to go out there and play your game.

It’s all about the mentality. Every team has three different kinds of guys. There are guys who, when they play against somebody like Tom or in a big game like the Super Bowl, they get starstruck and they fold under the pressure. Then you have guys who treat a big game the same as if it was just flag football on the beach. They don’t get fazed. Their game doesn’t change.

Then you have the dogs — the hardcore bad motherf*****s who, when everything’s on the line, they take their game to a whole ’nother level.

Every team has 53 men, and each of them falls into one of those three categories.

And most of the time, the Patriots seem to have the most dogs.

Elise Amendola/AP

So let’s recap.

To beat the Patriots, you have to sack Tom Brady. You need to do it with a legit threat coming from both sides while rushing only four guys, and you have to do it for four quarters. You have to play mistake-free football. You can’t get caught up in the Tom Brady hype or the Patriots lore. You have to play your game.

I could add in a lot of other little things, like you not letting Tom dink and dunk you to death … getting off the field on third down … having an offense that can score points, because you know Tom’s always gonna get his. You need all that, too.

Basically, to beat the Patriots, you need to play the perfect game.

And then you need a little luck.

You need the football gods to bless you. You need a helmet catch or something crazy to go your way at just the right time. Because Tom Brady is good at reading defenses, but he’s not the best — Peyton was the best at that. Tom is definitely cerebral, but he may not have the strongest arm. He may not be the most accurate.

But his overall game is just so much greater than the sum of its parts.

And Tom Brady just wins.

He knows voodoo.

The Eagles are gonna have to have a hell of a game to pull out a win. But I think they have all the right pieces.

They have a great defensive line. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan can definitely get that push up the middle we talked about, and Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Vinny Curry — even though they didn’t put up huge sack numbers this year, they’re definitely capable of putting the pressure on Tom. They just have to do it for four quarters.

The Eagles also have great corner and safety combos. They have athletic linebackers who can cover in space to try and neutralize Gronk. And if Nick Foles plays the way he’s been playing, the Eagles offense can definitely score enough points to get the job done.

I don’t do predictions. But I can definitely see the Eagles giving the Patriots some fits.

We just have to see, come Sunday, who’s got the most dogs.