Why Is Romeo Smiling? … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From Providence, Rhode Island

Romeo Crennel walked into the room with a smile on his face.

How that was possible after spending a week preparing the Chiefs defense to face the New England Patriots offense of Tom Brady and Wes Welker says quite a bit about the veteran coordinator. For the last 40 years, Crennel has been coaching defensive linemen and creating defensive game plans to stop the other guys. He’s seen and tried to devise ways to stop dozens of Hall of Famers and other great offensive threats for a long time.

He’s had another week of that in the past seven days as Crennel got a struggling Chiefs defense ready for the Patriots. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. with the telecast on ESPN and in the Kansas City area Channel 9.

Quite possibly, no opponent has been as vexing as the Patriots and their quarterback. He spent five years working in the same building when Brady broke into the league and they shared three Super Bowl championships. There is information Crennel knows about Brady that other defensive coordinators can’t dial up.

But does it matter?

“He has great command at the line of scrimmage and great command of that offense,” Crennel said just before putting his defense through its final practice of the weekend. “He will get them into the best play that gives them the best chance for success. That’s the difficult thing about defending him. He’s so sharp, he reads well, he recognizes fronts, he recognizes coverages and then he knows exactly where he needs to go with the ball. The combination of all those things makes him extremely difficult to defend.”

“You have to be in position to do your job when the ball is snapped. Tom does a good job of mixing the snap count, he goes with the quick count, he goes with the hard count, he goes with the double count. It’s going to be tough, especially with young guys. With a veteran secondary, you can disguise a little bit more. But we’ve got young guys that are playing, so I’m going to have to get my young guys in position to give themselves a chance to defend his passing game.”

That’s a tough assignment for any defense because when it comes to throwing the football Brady is the only guy in the league besides Drew Brees that can get close to what Aaron Rodgers is doing with the Packers this year. After nine games, the Patriots quarterback has:

  • With the exception of one week in 10 weeks in the 2011 NFL schedule, the Patriots have been the No. 1 passing team in the league. The week they were not, they were No. 2.
  • Brady has two of the three biggest passing yardage days of the season, throwing for 517 yards against Miami in the season opener and then 423 the next week against San Diego.
  • We won’t debate the NFL passer rating formula here, but in six of nine games Brady has finished with a rating of 100 or above. His worst rating was 75.4 against the New York Giants. His best was 135.7 against San Diego when he threw for 423 yards, while completing 77.5 percent of his passes.
  • Going into the weekend’s games his passer rating for the season was 102, topped only by Rodgers (130.7). Among all NFL quarterbacks, Brady was second in completions (238), yards (3,032), TD passes (23) and rating (102). He was third in completion percentage (66.1%) and fourth in attempts (360).

All that is just what has happened this year. Total is career stats and few passers in league history have been as productive, accurate or victorious as Brady.

Defenses in the NFL have taken to approaching Brady and the Patriots passing game the same way NBA defenses used to handle Michael Jordan – he’s going to get his 30 points, just don’t let him go off for 50 or more.

“The thing we’ve tried to emphasize is they are going to make catches, let’s keep the yards to a minimum,” Crennel said. “Don’t let a 10-yard pass become a 30 yard pass with runs after the catch. That seems to happen a lot with these guys – the run after catch. If we can keep that to a minimum, that will increase our chances of being in the game in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win.”

One of the surest signs of a passing offense that’s got things going is yards after the catch. There are many ways to foster those yards, but the easiest is to have a quarterback and receivers so in tune, that the ball is in front of them when it arrives and they don’t slow down to catch it – they just keep running.

New England is among the league leaders in yards after the catch. They’ve thrown for 3,032 yards and 47 percent have come after the catch. WR Wes Welker is the NFL leader in yards after the catch with 486 of his 1,006 receiving yards coming once the ball was in his hands. There isn’t another wide receiver in the league that comes close to that number.

“If you go man coverage, Tom is so good and Welker has the option on the routes, and he and Tom are on the same page,” Crennel said. “If his guy is playing outside leverage, then Welker stems him outside and runs away from him to the inside. Now he catches the ball and he’s running full stride, it becomes a run and catch situation. So let’s double him, now (Deion) Branch becomes a run and catch guy. Now let’s play zone. Well zone has holes in it too. It’s a catch 22.”

Actually they’ve got to do what they can to make sure Welker or TE Rob Gronkowski don’t catch 22 passes apiece. Ok Romeo, what do you do?

“You have to mix it on Brady,” Crennel said. “If he knows what you’re doing, he’ll eat you alive. You’re trying to get him to make some post-snap decisions. Now, if he was under center and having to drop back and make those decisions, that’s tougher. But he gets in the shotgun and he can see it, he knows where he needs to go. If you double Welker, he looks to Branch. Generally if you double Welker, that leaves Branch one-on-one. He and Branch have a good rapport. And now they’ve got that big tight end (Gronkowski) who has done a nice job for them. He’s got some weapons they can use. Plus, their offensive line does a pretty decent job. I think we have our work cut out for us, we have to go and try to mix it up for him.

“You’ve got to go out and do everything and you’ve got to do it good.”

Romeo Crennel laughed as he said that.

One Response to “Why Is Romeo Smiling? … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 21, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Bob; Pass me over some of those Romeo smokes. They must be pretty good.

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