In the Divisional Playoffs, the Jets exposed how suspect the Patriots’ receivers on the outside were. Gang Green can trust Darrelle Revis to handle any receiver in the league by himself. Deion Branch’s opportunities to scream at the Jets’ bench were thus going to be minimal. On the other side, Antonio Cromartie is less consistent, but since Brandon Tate was the other real deep threat on the outside, New York had an advantage and could also trust Cromarite by himself for the most part.
Because of the ability the Jets had to go one on one with those guys, they could dedicate everybody else to clog the middle of the field against the talented array of slot receivers and tight ends New England had and gave Tom Brady smaller windows and a more difficult job than he was accustomed.
When a team is firing on all cylanders and blowing out opponents seemingly every week like the Pats were heading into the Playoffs, people tend to forget any weaknesses that exist or think they are meaningless. It only takes one bad matchup for it to be exposed.
I cannot help but think back to the 2009-2010 Playoffs when the Jets played San Diego in the second round. A number of Chargers fans came to GGN and stated the way the Chargers stopped the run was by having their passing game produce so many points that opponents fell too far behind to run the ball. Many of them played off their awful rund defense as a non concern. These comments were telling, though, because their team’s success depended on the opponent not being able to get into a position to exploit it. Sure enough, they ran into a team with the defense to slow down the high flying passing game, and San Diego’s run defense ended up costing them dearly.
In this game, the Pats’ weakness on the outside prevented them from keeping the Jets honest and opening things up underneath. This was a stark contrast to their record setting 2007 club. That team had Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth on the outside. Even if a team had a Revis, the Patriots that year would make you pay for not dedicating resources deep because it was very tough for most number two receivers to handle Stallworth all game. I am very skeptical Cromartie would have been up for that task.
How much does this provide a blueprint? It requires a team to have a corner pair like Revis and Cromartie it can trust to handle receivers alone. Few teams have that kind of quality. Branch and Tate did enough during the season against teams with lesser corners to let New England flow without a problem.
If the Pats do not bolster their receiving corps in the offseason, this might still provide a template for something the Jets can do. It probably would be less true for most other teams in football.