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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
PFW associate editor Kevin Fishbain talked with former Patriots star and current radio color commentator Gino Cappelletti to preview the AFC championship game against Baltimore.
PFW: It seems so many teams defer, including the Patriots. The Broncos even deferred, allowing Tom Brady to march downfield to start the divisional-round game. Why do you think that is?
Cappelletti: The teams aren't ready to roll early in games like that, so the defense might have an edge. I notice more and more teams defer because they want that ball to start the second half when they have a little more knowledge and information on what they're up against in the game. To start the game, you have no idea what they're concentrating on or what their game plan is. I talked to Bill (Belichick) a few times; he said somewhere midway into the first quarter, he gets an idea what they're trying to do to the offense or defense. He gets his position on the sideline; they get a look at all the holes and creases in the line and what the opposition is trying to do.
PFW: Why was the front seven on defense so successful against Denver?
Cappelletti: They went to work right away on that zone option read where (Tim) Tebow puts it on the running back's hip, which means he's going to keep it, or when he stuffs it into his gut after he makes the read, then the back takes it. It's a little bit of a problem of trying to rush and hold your own against a run attack; then again he's been able to do that and is a guy that had a lot of practice at it in college. I think the Patriots came up with a scheme that they were going to have somebody go for the running back, and one player that was just going to stay with Tebow all the way. Anytime (the Broncos) came close to looking like they were going to run that zone play, (the Patriots) were able to do that, and it bottled them right up. You need talented players that can work their way along the line of scrimmage and can get to the ballcarrier. Whoever had the ball, there would be someone ready to handle them. When they took that away from Denver, it took a lot away from them.
PFW: Patriots fans know Ray Rice well from his 83-yard run in the playoffs two years ago. What makes him so difficult to stop?
Cappelletti: He's pretty quick with selecting the crease or the hole that he's going to try and penetrate. Looking at that play as many times as I did, I don't think he hit it at the point of attack; I think he slipped down the line a couple of gaps and found a big hole. He went right through it, untouched, which is incredible. No one touched him until one guy made a last-ditch effort as he was going into the endzone. I don't think he had a real good game last week against Houston — he wasn't as productive. The fact that he is their guy, in this kind of situation, they'll keep using him. He's low to the ground. He's got good balance. He has that quick burst. When he gets an opening through the line of scrimmage, that's where he really explodes.
PFW: How do the Patriots try to keep Ed Reed and Ray Lewis from making big plays on Sunday?
Cappelletti: They have to have someone that can occupy them. Reed, of course, will be able to change direction when he reads a play other than the coverage is dictating. That's one of those guys who can play on his own, like (Troy) Polamalu, and how Lawrence Taylor used to. The coaches know these kinds of people have super instincts in terms of what to do. With that you're talking about some talent that they have. Now it's a question of their physical ability to continue to do it. They're both aging. I'm sure there's enough in there to allow them to continue to play. Will it be in spurts, or are they going to do it throughout the whole game? Certainly, they are a couple of guys who are very intelligent; they know what the design of the play is that they're running. Then it's all out.
PFW: You said at the end of the preseason that the Patriots looked like a team on a mission. Do you think they are playing like that right now?
Cappelletti: I agree with that, all the way. The mission was to honor the memory of Myra Kraft, (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft's wife. They all got together and said they were going to dedicate this season to Myra's memory. I think that has provided them with that inspiration to even go beyond. You can't do that 16 games, but they kept themselves in position all the time. When they saw they had the chance to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which ensures home field, they jumped.