Former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees holds the same position for the Ravens, and as Tedy Bruschi noted in this week's "Bruschi's Breakdown", his knowledge of the Patriots' offense helps.
Pees met with reporters in Baltimore on Thursday and here were a few of the main takeaways:
1. How the hurry-up offense stresses a defense. Pees compared preparing for the Patriots' up-tempo offense to what it's like getting ready for a team like the Redskins and its pistol-based offense with quarterback Robert Griffin III, noting it's hard to simulate it. Pees has been stressing to Ravens' defenders the importance of getting lined up quickly, because that's part of what makes the Patriots' up-tempo attack so effective. "If you don’t get lined up right and the right way, you’ve got no chance," he said. "On defense, there is always adjustment, there are always checks, there is always some kind of communication. It’s hard to communicate, it’s hard to make a check, it’s hard to make an adjustment if you aren’t lined up right the first time."
2. Prepping for Gronk-less Patriots. Pees shared thoughts on preparing for a Patriots offense without tight end Rob Gronkowski, saying he doesn't envision major changes for the Patriots. "There are other games that he didn’t play in, and when you go back and you watch those games, [formation-wise], running the ball, the types of runs, the types of passes, the formations, all that stuff, none of it changed. Just another guy comes in. They’ve got the same kind of philosophy: next man up," he said. Pees touched on how the Patriots put stress on a defense by being able to run all their formations out of a variety of personnel groups, which highlights the versatility of many of their players.
3. Ravens enter with healthy outlook. The Ravens' defense has been on the field for a lot of snaps this postseason, but when assessing the health of the unit, Pees said, "I feel like this is as healthy as we’ve probably been all year."
4. Reflecting on practice competition with Brady. Pees told reporters what it was like to have a defense going up against Brady in practice for six years. "He’s as competitive of a person as I’ve ever been around," he said. "He can give you this little boyish look on TV, but he is a very, very, very competitive guy. He didn’t even like losing in practice. The more we rode him on defense – because I had a couple trash-talkers – the harder he played. He is who he is. He’s going to play well. You expect him to play. We have to do the best job we can, fundamentally, to disrupt him and do some things to him. I have a lot of respect for him. He is a Hall of Fame quarterback."
5. Facing a Belichick-coached team. From having seen things from the inside-out, Pees knows what it's like to square off against a Bill Belichick-coached team. "I think the thing that you know about Bill, if you’ve ever worked for him, is the fact that when he looks at another team, whatever you’ve done in the past, if there has been a weakness, you better shore that one up because that’s what he’s going to go after," he said. "There are some guys that are going to go out there and they’re going to run Power O no matter who the heck lines up, no matter what your front is. Well, Bill might not run a certain play against us at all that he has shown for the last three weeks, but he is going to run a play or a pass or whatever based on something that they have seen on film that they think is a weakness for us. He’s going to try to exploit either a person or whatever, a scheme that we have on defense, and he is going to do the same thing on offense.
"Being on the other side of it, I’ve heard him stand up in front of the team and say, ‘Here’s the three things that you’ve got to do on offense. This is how you have to attack these guys. This is who you have to attack.’ Maybe he might even be specific with a player. That’s the thing about him – he’s going to do whatever he has to do. There were games that we played 4-3 and then there are games we never played 4-3 and played 3-4. The 2004 Super Bowl, we played a defense with five linebackers on the field that we hadn’t played, ever. So, it was a matter because of [Eagles QB Donovan] McNabb and how we were going to take him and [Brian] Westbrook out of the game. So, it was more specific to things like that. That’s what Belichick does and is phenomenal about.”