As we wait for Sunday and listened to all the news and notes going down, there were some observations that I'd like to share BEFORE the game for a change. 1. I am pretty much astounded by who are getting these HC'ing jobs this off season. I can't help but wonder why everyone is trying to get "the next John McVay" when one would thing they'd all be looking for "the next Bill Bellick. There is no question that McVay has done a great job with the Rams these past 2 years, but the fact remains that he inherited a team with loads of top end talent that was the result of years of not making the playoffs and tons of cap space to add the likes of Su and Talib among others. To me it looks like everyone is trying to hire the next great OC or QB cooach. I think they have completely forgotten that being a HC or rather chief operating officer of a multiBillion dollar operation is a LOT different than being an OC or rather head of the mid-west division. Both jobs require a vastly different set of skills. NONE of the guys that have been hired seem to have any idea of how to coach anything more than a sliver of the entirety of running a football operation. With the exception of the Fangio signing, everyone one of the new HC's got their job because it has been perceived that they can get the most out of their team's QB as if the other 21 starters just don't matter. One would think that it might be a LOT simpler just to hire a good QB coach. Speaking of "QB whisperers". Tom Brady's QB coach for his first 3 years in the league was none other than Bill Bellichick. Go to any TC practice and you will NEVER see BB "overseeing" his operation. He is down there coaching up everyone from camp fodder to all pros in MULTI positions, That is why he's such a success. He has a grasp on the ENTIRE operation and has an active hand in all aspects of the team. Is Matt LeFluer really ready to take that on? I had been a HS DC and felt I was ready to take over a school's football program. I had worked under an excellent HC. I had taken notes for years. I had ideas galore. And when I eventually got the job, then I found I had NO clue. Tons of stuff I hadn't even imagined was thrown on my plate, Too many things to mention here. And that's just on the HS level. It took a couple years before I felt I was truly a competent HC being able to deal with parents, teachers, administration, staff and the like. Given this week's hiring pattern, it just seems that the coaching gap between the Pats and the rest of the league just keeps on growing instead of shrinking. 2. Speaking of new HC's, relative to the rest of the league, I think the Jets fared well in hiring Adam Gase. At least he has 3 years of experience to go along with that "QB whisperer" reputation. I don't think he did a bad job in Miami, just not a great job. Does anyone else think that one of big reasons he was attractive to the Jets was his 3 wins against the Pats over the last 3 years? Given who else got jobs, they could have done worse. 3. I am hoping that we will see a markedly DIFFERENT Tom Brady starting this Sunday. This Tom Brady will NOT bail out against a hard rush. This Tom Brady will deftly avoid the rush he can expect from the Chargers. And THIS Tom Brady will make the Chargers pay dearly for any blitzing. I choose to believe this because I think Brady was dinged up this season and was essentially trying to get through the regular season relatively healthy. You aren't one of the toughest QB's in the league for 17 years only to turn into a wooss in the 18th year. Now taking those hits are worth it when you can be one and done and playoff time requires another level of focus. And Brady's playoff record speaks for itsself 4. The Chargers have the best roster in the AFC....by far. But I don't think most people are aware of that since they have been hidden out west in the shadow of the Rams and playing in a soccer stadium with half the crowd rooting for the other team. They are easily the most balanced team left. I think there are only 2 position groups where the Pats have an advantage, the OL and secondary and those aren't large gaps either. But while its fun to compare groups against groups, there reality is that it ISN'T about groups, but about how the WHOLE of the team plays on a given night. That's all that matters. 5. So how do the Pats beat the Chargers on offense; a. They have to run the ball effectively use the play action pass game and keep the Charger pass rush honest. The Ravens couldn't do it, so it WILL be a challenge. Here is where the OL HAS to shine b. Establish the Tempo - Do some no huddle or fast position changes. Do NOT let the Chargers get into a defensive rhythm. c. We need Josh to be at his most creative to run some formations and motions that allow our receivers to get separation. Bunches, creative pick plays, etc d. We need to take our share of shots down field. I know the stats say that the Chargers don't cover RB's well. But believe me. They are going to run a LOT of schemes designed to take away the short passing game. That will be their TOP priority. I think they believe that can rush just 4 a great majority of the time. For example they could run a 4-5-2 under coverage in either zone, man, or combo coverages that would be every effective in closing down the short passing game. (See Jets 2010) That is why it is imperative to make them pay when they are in this mode by going deep from time to time. It's the same when they put 5 or 6 DB's on the field, by effectively running the ball.. e. I know we don't have the archetype "deep threat". But there is a pattern that Wes Welker used to great effect back in the day to get deep, and Welker was 4.6 guy. The route came off what looked like one of his usual crossing routes, lining up outside and coming inside to the seam about 8 yds deep. He'd put his foot down and break deep in the seam and more often than not he got open deep. It was a great pattern, that I haven't seen the Pats use much this year. f. Speaking of going deep. Now that you think about it, both Dorsett AND CP have plenty of deep speed. It's just that we rarely see it utilized deep. g. Back shoulders to CP and Hogan. 6. How to beat the Chargers on defense; (disclaimer: I really don't know much about the Chargers offense beyond the obvious stuff we see in the media) a. Stop the run. I know it's cliche, but in this case it's an absolute necessity. The Pats have to recognize the quality of their secondary and make sure they don't present soft alignments that entice the run. Make them EARN it. Hold the Charger under 100 yds rushing and I think we win this game. b. Finally we have a QB who isn't a run threat. So perhaps it is time to release the Claybourn. The Chargers did a nice job against the Raven's amoeba D with better talent, so giving them a different look would seem to be smart. In a standard 4 man rush Claybourn could provide the pressure we need off the edge to at least hurry Rivers' throws c. I'd like to see lots of man coverage from the CB's with S's in zone over the top. Allen vs Gilmore is going to be a great dual of 2 elite players. If Gilmore is effective in minimizing Allen's production, then the Pats chances go up significantly. d. JCJ has the size to compete with Williams, and JMac in the slot is a plus. Like I said, this is a game we win in the secondary. 7. Special teams - Another area where the Pats SHOULD have an advantage. Perhaps the only hole in LA's game this year has been in the kicking game. Sounds like conditions on Sunday AREN'T going to be ideal, which becomes an advantage for the Pats. 8. Kudos to the Chargers for going 8-0 on the road. That is a truly impressive record. This is not the mentally soft Chargers that we've come to expect, and whatever success we've had in the past is just that, in the past. It has ZERO relevance on Sunday. The Chargers will be VERY tough and won't quit. I have always had the highest respect for Philp Rivers ever since that playoff game in Gillette when he played so tough on bad leg. Was that 2007? He's never been to a Superbowl, but he's head and shoulders above a guy like Eli as a QB. 9. We have a HUGE logistical advantage in this game. Home crowd, weather, and west to east travel are all big pluses. But like I said, they traveled to Baltimore and beat up the Ravens pretty well until garbage time. 10. I don't know much about Anthony Lynn except that he's 21-11 with the Chargers and is never mentioned. Going 8-0 on the road perhaps is the greatest testament to his skills. Hell this entire season they Chargers went 12-4 without EVER having a true home field advantage in one of the tougher divisions in the NFL. So while I always go into a game thinking that we have the coaching advantage, I don't think the gap this week will be big one BTW- This doesn't mean that I'm back or anything. Just had a few observations and was too lazy to think of a different title. And while I was very grateful to everyone for their "thank you's", and gracious comments, I'd rather you'd spend your time commenting on what I've written, or just letting me know I'm full of sh!t on a particular observation.