Well, the week of preparation is mostly over for the Patriots and Titans as they gear up for Sunday. Interviews here in Nashville are over, and now it’s time to make sense of what I gathered over the past few days before I go on and talk about it on NFL Network’s First on the Field and GameDay Morning Sunday.
Want a quick and interesting nugget, though? Let’s end the work week with one…
One of the biggest challenges for the Titans is to deal with the Patriots no-huddle offense, should they choose to use it. It is fast, furious, and incredibly hard to stop. The logistical issues abound for a defense, notably how to call plays that quick and how to get lined up.
But Tennessee does have a valuable resource in defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. He’s a former Auburn assistance who spent months preparing for Oregon’s lightning no-huddle before his team’s national championship game a few years back. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray told me the team has been going to Rocker for his experience.
Rocker was on the sidelines for Auburn’s 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS Championship following the 2010 season. The electric Ducks, averaging a nation’s best 49 points, ended up with just 19.
So, what did he learn facing the Ducks that will help facing the Patriots?
“Going into this game, I don’t think we’re going to be able to substitute,” Rocker told me, assuming the Patriots go hurry-up. “I don’t see it. If we do, it’ll be great. But going into the game, no I don’t expect to get any substitution.”
The Patriots and Tom Brady can get going, and they really go. As Bucs poet Gerald McCoy said so perfectly last preseason, they don’t even let you line up. Based on his experience vs. Oregon, Rocker can counter that by keeping the same guys on the field.
There are other things, too. He expanded.
“You don’t slow ‘em down,” Rocker told me. “They’re going to go at the pace they’re going at. The key for us is that we’re fine. That we line up and we do what we’re supposed to do. We’re not ever going to slow them down. That’s their pace and we just got to be at that pace and have the composure of what we’re doing and how to get aligned and you’re assignment. If you’re out there making all the gestures, wondering what the hell is going on, you got a problem. So, it’s going to be fast. If your mind knows it’s going to be fast, you have a focus. You got to know where that guy’s at. As a D-linemen, who’s out there? You got to know what’s going on when you’re on the sidelines and hey, the ball’s closer to my side. In college football, the hashes are wider, the ball stays in the middle in the NFL. So, the travel distance is a problem in pro football (making subbing harder). Those are things you have to look at, but you’re not ever going to stop the tempo. But the key for us as a defense, as long as we play at the tempo and do our job at that tempo, get aligned, play football (we’ll be OK).”