While preparing for games against the Houston Texans in both the regular season and playoffs this year, the New England Patriots employed an interesting tactic at practice.
In order to try to simulate the pass-swatting ability of the Texans’ linemen – in particular J.J. Watt – they had their own defensive linemen wield tennis racquets at the line of scrimmage. The idea was to help quarterback Tom Brady get used to having even more obstacles in his passing windows.
It worked. Watt did not bat down a single pass in either of the two games, both New England wins.
Perhaps the Pats should have done the same thing while preparing for the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens defensive lineman Pernell McPhee swatted not one, but two Brady passes in the AFC Championship Game. The first of the two popped high in the air and was intercepted by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, a critical play in the fight for the right to go to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
According to Robert Klemko of USA Today, McPhee noticed a flaw in the throwing motion of Brady, who is unquestionably one of the greatest QBs of all time.
Tom Brady has a flaw, significant enough to be fatal, if exploited, one Baltimore Ravens defender insists.
It’s not obvious, unless your job is to study hours and hours of game film of No. 12 of the New England Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens second-year defensive lineman Pernell McPhee discovered it ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Patriots: The 6-foot-4 Brady releases the football too low, McPhee says.
“He throws all of his balls low,” McPhee says.
So how has he gotten away with it through three Super Bowl victories?
“He just throws it fast and he always gets good pockets,” McPhee said the Ravens’ victory. “But I tried to stay in front of him after watching film and knowing where he likes to go and how he likes to do it. So that was my best advantage, just get my hands up.”
McPhee has been a bit of a disappointment in his sophomore campaign, registering just 1.5 sacks after putting up six last year as a rookie. He has been limited by injuries, playing in only 12 games during the regular season, and was also dealing with a personal loss.
Head coach John Harbaugh touched on McPhee when discussing the adversity his team has been able to overcome this season.
“Art Modell passed away this year, earlier in the season, and it had a big impact on our guys,” said Harbaugh. “Everybody knew him to some degree. Some guys knew him as a good, close friend. One guy spoke at the funeral. So, that was big. And then Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee, and all the other things – Chris Johnson’s story – and you can go with so many guys who have so many things going on this year that were personal, and then obviously, the football stuff, too. It’s a professional livelihood and they fight through things – the wins and the losses and all that stuff.”
It’s been a tough year for a lot of guys, McPhee included. However, the former Mississippi State Bulldog saved his best game for when it mattered most, making important plays late in Foxboro to help the Ravens punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
McPhee and the rest of the Ravens defenders now have nearly two weeks to prepare for a much different type of quarterback, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
Let’s hope the film reveals similar “flaws” in Kaepernick’s game that the Ravens can exploit to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to Baltimore.