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BOSTON (CBS) – Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has an arsenal of ways to prepare his team for unique situations.
Before they would play the Colts in the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Belichick would have the Patriots practice indoors with music blasting over the sound system to simulate the loud Indy fans. Just last week, he had them inside the Dana Farber Field House with the heat turned up, trying to let his players get a feel for the Miami humidity that awaited them in their game against the Dolphins.
This week, he is trying to simulate what Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt brings to the field. He does it all on for the Texans, but what the 6-5 end does better than nearly everyone else in the NFL is knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. He’s been credited with 15 passes defended — more than most corners and safeties.
So in order to get his offense ready, namely quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick is employing the services of a few racquets in practice.
“It doesn’t always make me very happy, but that’s probably a good way to prepare for it,” Brady said of his racquet-welding linemen. “It’s like throwing over this wall. It’s hard. You just have to try to find an area. We played other big D-lines before; tall guys that are rangy and are really instinctive. The Giants did a great job of that last year, and this is another team that really challenges you to do that.”
Belichick joked on Wednesday he might have to break out brooms instead of racquets to get the full effect of what the Houston line does against the pass.
“It’s not just knocked down balls, it’s tipped balls for interceptions and everything else,” said Belichick. “They’re a very disruptive front.”
Not only do the Patriots need to worry about Watt’s ability to knock down passes, but his ability to get to whoever has the ball — including the quarterback. Watt already has 15.5 sacks this season, and has four in the Texans’ last two games.
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“He’s an incredible player,” Brady said of Watt. “The way that he gets after the quarterback, stops the run, I think he does both of those things well, as well as defending in the pass game with those balls batted down. He’s impressive as a player, as you can see on film with his agility, his quickness, his length, his instinctiveness in getting his hands up in the air and getting ready to jump and bat balls down. He’s a great player for that defense; they really rely on him.”
But Brady says he won’t lose too much sleep thinking about Watt. Instead, his focus will be on the Houston secondary, which has been beatable this season.
Brady will rely heavily on his offensive line to contain Watt, as they’ve done very well with pass-rushers so far this season.
“There’s a lot of trust that you have to have in the offensive line, so I don’t concern myself so much with worrying about a particular pass rusher on the D-line. For me, it’s more coverage oriented and trying to read out the coverage so I can try to get the ball to the open guy as fast as I can. It can’t be too much about looking at where they’re at,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like there’s any special formula to blocking a good defensive lineman. You just have to stand up and try to go out and play a great game. That’s what makes it so hard for an offense to stop a guy like that who is so capable of winning his matchups.”