The Tennessee Titans defense knows it faces a major challenge Saturday to try and slow down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
But it is a task they readily welcome in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, where they make their first appearance since the 2003 season – ironically, a game in New England against Brady.
The key, the Titans say, is to get enough pressure on Brady to get him out of his comfort zone and off his rhythm as a passer. That philosophy is one that all the Titans’ defenders seem to be buying into.
“You have to put pressure on him regardless of whether you’re hitting him or making him move out of the pocket. We want to make him uncomfortable, whether we get the sacks or not,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Brady wants the pocket to be comfortable. That goes for any quarterback. It’s not just about the hits, to be honest. We’ve got to get in his face, and if we’re working the edges, we’ve got to make sure we keep him contained, because you see a lot of times on film, where it’s almost like a bubble. He steps right on up and his whole vision is clear now. We’ve got to make sure his vision is not clear.”
The more the 40-year-old Brady can be moved in the pocket, the better things could be for a Titans secondary that will have to contain the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and others.
“It will help us out tremendously,” safety Kevin Byard said of moving Brady around. “Brady wants to be a statue back there and just stand in the pocket and be comfortable. It’s easier said than done, but when teams are successful against him, they move him off his spot and to try to get him flustered a little bit.”
Linebacker Erik Walden, who has faced Brady and the Patriots in the postseason when he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts, knows it will take a clean game and the Titans’ best effort on Saturday night. And in that effort, the Titans must make Brady uncomfortable whenever possible.
“You’ve just got to go line up and play. You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t get penalties. You’ve just got to be sound for 60 minutes,” Walden said. “It’s very important (to pressure Brady), because he’s a pocket passer. Once you get him off his spot, he’s not the same guy. Get him off his spot and make him move his feet and get a little antsy and he’ll play into your hands.”