Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz has been one of the top defensive minds in football for some time now. His roots trace all the way back to breaking into the league on Bill Belichicks’ staff back in Cleveland. So oddly enough, Belichicks’ fingerprints are all over this defense. Schwartz has been a Coordinator or Head Coach since the 2001 season. He briefly sat out in 2015 before returning to the league with the Eagles. He was the Titans Defensive Coordinator from 2001-2008, then became the Lions Head Coach from 2009-2013 and then spent the 2014 season in Buffalo. In that time Schwartz has played against Brady and the Pats 7 times with varying degrees of success. Let’s go back and see how Brady played in those games as well as some of the other Patriots weapons to get a glimpse as to how the Patriots might go about attacking the Eagles on Sunday.
2002 NE (8-6) @ TENN (9-5) W 24-7
Brady: 14/29 134yds 4.6 YPA 0TDs 1Int 1rush TD 3 sacks 47.2 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – A very young Brady was in his first season as a full time starter after leading the Patriots to their improbable Super Bowl victory over the Rams. Schwartz got the better of the Brady in this one, getting to the future MVP 3 times and holding him to under 50% completion percentage for only 134 yards. Troy Brown was the leading receiver with 8 catches for 73 yards but only a long of 12 yards. Antowain Smith was the next leading receiver with 2 catches for 41 yards. Smith also led the team in rushing with 31 yards on only 6 attempts.
So with the entire offense being held in check (Pats TOP was 18:30) Brady relied upon his slot receiver and RB to get him out of trouble. From the beginning, those were always comfort spots for Brady.
2003 TENN (3-2) @ NE (3-2) L 38-30
Brady: 17/31 219 yards 7YPA 1TD 0INT 3sacks 1fumble (not lost) 88 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – Brady was helped out largely by the running game in this one as Antowain Smith and Mike Cloud combined for 153 yards and 3 TDs. In the passing game, Deion Branch had a solid game on the outside with 5 catches for 68 yards. Troy Brown had a 58 yard TD out of the slot. Smith and Larry Centers had 7 catches for 39 yards combined out the backfield. Christian Fauria caught 2 for 33.
At this point in his career Brady is just a chain-mover. They controlled the clock for 32 minutes. The backs catching balls is pivotal to “dinking and dunking” and winning time of possession. The Titans were largely hurt by not being able to stop the run in this one. They did get to Brady 3 times.
2003 TENN @ NE (Divisional Playoff) L 17-14
Brady: 21/41 201 yards 4.9ypa 1TD 0INT 0 sacks 73.3 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – Again, Brady completed just slightly over 50% of his passes. He spread the ball around very nicely though. Six receivers had at least 2 catches and none more than 4. No one had more than 55 yards receiving. You’re not going to be able to target a specific weapon because he uses them all. Schwartz held him to 17 points here but as usual the Patriots won a close one. It’s nice to see that in a playoff game, with a playoff caliber defense, Schwartz was able to limit the Patriots. Again the Patriots controlled the clock for about 32 minutes.
2006 NE (12-4) @ TENN (8-8) L 40-23
Brady: 15/24 225 yards 9.4ypa 1TD 0INT 1 sack 75.6 QBR 107.1 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – The Patriots didn’t have much to play for as they had already locked up the division. Brady only played 3 quarters in this one but was his usual efficient self. This is the last time Schwartz would face the Patriots as the DC in Tennessee. Again the run game was a huge benefit to Brady as Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney combined for 140 yards and 3 TD’s. Reche Caldwell had a big day on the outside with 4 catches for 134 yds and a TD. Dillon and Heath Evans had 4 catches and Troy Brown had 3. The time of possession battle was even.
2010 NE (9-2) @ DET (2-9) L 45 – 24
Brady: 21/27 341 yards 12.6 ypa 4TDs 0 INT 1 sack 93.4 QBR 158.3 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – This was Schwartz’s one and only time facing Brady as a Head Coach. It didn’t go so well as hoped, as Brady put up a rare perfect 158.3 passer rating. The lowly Lions were vastly outmatched in their annual Thanksgiving Day battle. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 59 yards and 2 scores on the ground, but Brady picked them apart through the air. This is where we start the see the heavy utilization of the tight end come into play in the Patriots offense. In Schwartz’s first test against Gronk, the tight end had 5 catches for 65 yards. Alge Crumpler and Aaron Hernandez also had a big catch apiece from the tight end position. Deion Branch had 3 catches for 113 yards and 2TDs on the outside while Wes Welker feasted in the slot to the tune of 8 catches for 90 yards and 2TDs. They did all that damage in only 29 minutes of possession.
This is the first time Brady really lit up a Schwartz defense and he did it with the tight ends and the slot primarily. However, this was a terrible Lions team that never had a shot at competing with the Patriots.
2014 NE (4-2) @ BUF (3-3) L 37 -22
Brady: 27/37 361 yards 9.8 ypa 4TDs 0INT 2 sacks 83.7 QBR 139.6 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – Schwartz returned to his defensive coordinator role in Buffalo where he had to take on Brady twice a year. Brady was phenomenal in this one and he basically did it all by himself. Steven Ridley led the team with 10 carries for 23 yards. hat’s all the Patriots got out of the ground game. The rest was Brady. Ten different receivers caught a pass led by Julian Edelman with 9 catches for 91 yards. So once again Brady was feasting in the slot. Schwartz again had no answer for Gronk the 2nd time he saw him as the big tight end had 7 catches for 94 yards. Brandon Lafell made big plays on the outside catching 4 balls for 97 yards and 2 scores. The backs weren’t as involved in the pass game with only 3 catches for minimal yards. Again time of possession was about even.
2014 BUF (9-7) @ NE (12-4) W 17 – 9
Brady: 8/16 80 yards 5.0 ypa 0TD 0INT 1 sack 47.7 QBR 64.6 passer rating
Inside the Box Score – There’s not really much to take away from this one. Brady only played a half and the Patriots rested a number of starters , including Edelman and Gronk.
Schwartz had some success limiting Brady early in his career but once Brady matured he put up 2 huge games against Schwartz led defenses. One game can be attributed to playing a terrible Detroit team. The first game against Buffalo was a bad one though. Brady has a career 64% completion percentage but against Schwartz led teams that drops to 60%. If you subtract the final game in which Brady only played a half, Schwartz has held Brady to only a 247 yard per game average. Brady was also sacked 11 times in the 7 games. What Schwartz wasn’t able to do was turn the ball over. Brady finished with 11TDs and 1 INT and 0 fumbles lost. Not to mention that 1 INT came in the first game they played when Brady was very young. Also, despite Brady winning most of these games, they never really dominated the time of possession battle. Winning time of possession has been a key for the Eagles all season.
So from the trends of these games we can decipher how Brady and the Pats might go about attacking the Eagles on Sunday. We can definitely say they will use the backs out of the backfield in the screen game and as safety valves. The screen game will go a long way in slowing down the Eagles rush. Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham will have to be on their game covering these versatile backs. They’re going to need to take good pursuit angles and make solid tackles. Gronk has played very well against these Schwartz defenses and will present a huge problem on Sunday. The Eagles are going to need to throw waves of defenders at him and double him when they can afford to do so.
Expect to see Bradham, Kendricks, McLeod, Graham and most likely Jenkins covering him throughout the game. Also expect Brady to try to exploit the slot matchup. Newly nicknamed “Danny Playoff”, Danny Amendola will present a big problem for the Eagles. Patrick Robinson needs to have a good game and be prepared for the drags and rub routes. You may not see a huge game from Brandon Cooks however. Cooks is a great receiver and can certainly make a huge impact but Brady doesn’t target outside receivers as much against Schwartz.
Lastly, I would expect to see Brady go tempo for much of the game to try and keep the Eagles from substituting their defensive line and tire out the defense. Fletcher Cox and co. need to have the game of their lives to put the Eagles in position to win.
The past is the past. Schwartz has battled Brady for many years with mixed results. What we can say is he never got to battle Brady with this Eagles defense. The last time the Eagles faced Brady they gave him fits all day and came out with a “W”. Beware though, despite the turnovers and the sacks and the special teams TD that day, Brady was right there in that game till the end. Success on Sunday will be determined in 2 parts, Schwartz needs to devise the perfect game plan and the players need to execute it flawlessly. That’s what it’s going to take to beat Tom Brady at this stage of his career.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports