Brady & Belichick versus Wade Phillips

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Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Wade Phillips has been coaching in the NFL for a LONG time.  Phillips has been a defensive coordinator for 8 teams in the NFL (including Denver twice) since 1981, and has been coaching in the NFL since 1976.  The current Rams DC best accomplishment was being the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos in 2015, who had one of the stingiest defenses in the history of the modern NFL.

Since Tom Brady became the starter in New England in 2001, he has played 9 games against defenses coached by Wade Phillips. Phillips was a defensive coordinator for 8 of those games (with three teams), while he was the head coach for the other (2007 Cowboys).  These games were played between 2005 and 2016.

As we prepare for Super Bowl LIII, seeing how Brady and the Pariots have fared against Phillips’ coached defenses serves as an interesting case study, since the Patriots have only faced a team with Sean McVay coordinating/coaching once (2015 when McVay was the offensive coordinator in Washington).

Here’s how New England has fared against Phillips.

Week 4, 2005

Final Score: San Diego Chargers 41, New England Patriots 17

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2005 Defensive Rankings: 13th in points (19.5/g), 13th in yards (28th passing/1st rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 19/32 (59.38%), 224 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT (78.1 passer rating); sacked once


Starting the list off with a bang. This is the worst home loss of Tom Brady’s entire career.  This was the Patriots first loss at home since 2002, and oh man, it was not even close.

This is one of the first Patriots games I ever remember watching, and trust me, 7-year-old Nick knew the Patriots were back-to-back Super Bowl champions, but I’m watching some guy named Drew Brees walk all over us, and I’m like “what is THIS!?”

The Patriots had 303 total yards, and committed two turnovers, one of which was a Matt Cassel interception that was returned for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter.  The Chargers kept New England off the field most of the day, holding the ball for 36 minutes and 38 seconds.  Although the game was tied at 17 going into halftime, in the second half, the Patriots were shutout, and only got three first downs (one of which was with Matt Cassel in at QB).

AWFUL!

2006 AFC Divisional Round

First 6 minutes are Patriots-Chargers highlights 

Final Score: New England Patriots 24, San Diego Chargers 21

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2006 Defensive Rankings: 7th in points (18.9/g), 10th in yards (13th passing/7th rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 27/51 (52.94%), 280 yards, 2 TD and 3 INT (57.6 passer rating); sacked twice


A game the Patriots were truly lucky to win, Brady had the 4th lowest passer rating of his postseason career, and the 20th lowest passer rating of his entire career, and his three interceptions were the most he’d ever thrown in a postseason game at the time; not good.

Brady made a back-breaking INT late in the game, but was saved by Troy Brown, who stripped Marlon McCree, giving New England the ball back, and a second chance.

The Patriots were trailing 21-13 at the time, but from there, Brady was 5 for 8 with 96 passing yards and a TD, and the Patriots took a 24-21 lead in that time.

Phillips had another great game plan against Brady, but the Chargers could not finish the game.

Too bad by the time San Diego fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer, Phillips had already accepted a head coaching position with another team…

Week 6, 2007

Final score: New England Patriots 48, Dallas Cowboys 27

Wade Phillips’ role: Head Coach

2007 Defensive Rankings: 13th in points (20.3/g), 9th in yards (13th passing/6th rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 31/46 (67.39%), 388 yards, 5 TD (129.6 passer rating); sacked three times


Following his three seasons as defensive coordinator with the Chargers, Wade Phillips was tasked with replacing Bill Parcells as head coach in Dallas.

Entering Week 6, the Cowboys and Patriots were both 5-0, and each team finished with the one seed in their respective conference that season… but the 2007 Patriots were a machine.

This was Tom Brady’s best game against a Wade Phillips’ team, but for awhile it was actually close. In the second quarter, Brady was sacked by Greg Ellis, which resulted in a fumble that was returned by the Cowboys for a 29-yard touchdown, making the game 14-10 New England.

The Patriots had scored 2 first quarter touchdowns, but after that, Dallas went on a 24-7 run (including the defensive TD), taking a 24-21 lead early in the third quarter.

Following Dallas’ third quarter TD, New England scored 17 unanswered points, and Dallas only scored a FG the rest of the game.

Although they had success early, Brady and the Patriots stormed to a strong finished, finishing the game 27-3 following Dallas taking a third quarter lead, and the offense could not be stopped.

Week 14, 2012

Only clip I could find

Final score: New England Patriots 42, Houston Texans 14

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2012 Defensive Rankings: 9th in points (20.7/g), 7th in yards (16th passing/7th rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 21/35 (60%), 296 yards, 4 TD (125.4 passer rating); sacked once


It took 5 years until Tom Brady faced a team coached by Wade Phillips again, and this was the first time he faced Phillips as a defensive coordinator since January 2007.

The 2012 Patriots are a sneaky good Patriots team that never reached a Super Bowl (I’d say they were better than the 2011 Patriots), and this game shows you why.  New England entered the game on a 6-game winning streak, and during that stretch, Brady had 15 TD and 1 INT, looking as good as ever.

He added another spectacular performance to that stretch, as this game was 28-0 early in the third quarter, and reached a score of 42-7 with 7 minutes and 23 seconds to go before a late score by Houston.

Although the 2012 Patriots got their share of karma against Baltimore in the postseason, having stolen a trip to the Super Bowl from the Ravens a year prior, this was one of Brady’s best games of the season, and makes his resume against Wade Phillips look a lot better.

2012 AFC Divisional Round

Final score: New England Patriots 41, Houston Texans 28

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2012 Defensive Rankings: 9th in points (20.7/g), 7th in yards (16th passing/7th rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 25/40 (62.5%), 344 yards, 3 TD (115 passer rating); sacked once


Less than 5 weeks after their thumping of the Texans, the Patriots faced Houston in the AFC Divisional Round.

In addition to Brady having his way with Houston’s defense (again), the Patriots had 24 carries and 122 rushing yards (5.08 yards per rush), scoring two touchdowns on the ground.

The Texans began the game with a 3-0 lead, and were only trailing 17-13 at halftime, but the Patriots scored a touchdown in three of their next four possessions, making the game 38-13 early in the 4th quarter.

Houston was able to get a bit closer, making the game 38-28 with scores in their next two possessions, but a failed onside kick gave New England the ball at Houston’s 47-yard line, and they held the ball for roughly 4 minutes, when a Stephen Gostkowski kick made the game 41-28, essentially ending it.

This was the Patriots third straight time scoring more than 40 points against a Wade Phillips coached defense.

Week 13, 2013

Final score: New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 31

Wade Phillips role: Defensive Coordinator

2013 Defensive Rankings: 24th in points (26.8/g), 7th in yards (3rd passing/23rd rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 29/41 (70.73%), 371 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT (104.8 passer rating); sacked once


The 2013 Patriots were a weird team, and this was far too close of a game.

The 2013 Texans had it much worse than the Patriots.  After going 12-4 a year before, and starting 2-0 in 2013, the Texans entered this game having lost 9 straight, and Matt Schaub had lost his starting job by this point.

The Patriots started EXTREMELY slow this game, having scored only 7 points during the first half.  Brady was 12 for 18, with 108 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT; maybe Phillips finally figured it out. By the end of the half, the Texans were winning 17-7.

The Patriots offense woke up in the second half, putting up 27 points, and Brady looked like a completely different QB.  The first two possessions of the second half alone, he went 8 for 9 with 148 passing yards and a TD, as New England scored a touchdown each time.

Blame the Patriots defense for this game being close, but second half Brady finished the game going 17 for 23 with 263 passing yards and a TD, a completely different game.

Phillips must miss those Chargers defenses (but hey, he got to be the head coach of the Texans their final three games of the year).

Week 12, 2015

Final score: Denver Broncos 30, New England Patriots 24

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2015 Defensive Rankings: 4th in points (18.5/g), 1st in yards (1st passing/3rd rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 23/42 (54.76%), 280 yards, 3 TD (99.3 passer rating); sacked three times


Finally out of the state of Texas, a Wade Phillips-coached defense beat Tom Brady for the first time in a decade.

Patriots fans will gravitate towards the Patriots success (or lack thereof) against Phillips when he was defensive coordinator in Denver and be alarmed; this game is exhibit A.

I cannot even begin to describe how much this game (and the 2015 Patriots) bothered me.  The Patriots were 10-0 entering this game, while Denver was 8-2, and an injured-Peyton Manning had been replaced by Brock Osweiler just two weeks prior.  If New England won this game, a de facto four-game lead on the Broncos in the standings probably would have been enough for home-field advantage in the postseason… but that’s not what happened.

The Patriots were awful on the ground, while Brady was creating most of the offense.  The first play of the fourth quarter was a 63-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bolden (if that doesn’t explain the 2015 Patriots, I don’t know what will), taking a 21-7 lead against Denver.  After that score, Brady was 16 for 26 with 199 yards and 3 TD, and although it was not his best game in terms of volume of yards and completions, he was doing great.

However, some bone-head plays let the Broncos back into the game.

A muffed punt by Chris Harper put a stagnant Denver offense on the Pats 36-yard line, and the Broncos soon scored a touchdown.

On the next possession, Brady found Keshawn Martin for 51 yards, but it was negated by a holding penalty (something that became far too common for the Patriots offensive line in 2015).

A pass completed to Gronk on 3rd & 5 later in the quarter was negated by an OPI called on Gronk.

Denver took a 24-21 lead with 1:15 to go, but Brady drove the Patriots far enough down for a Gostkowski 47-yard field goal at the end of regulation.

New England received the ball first in OT, but Brady and the Pats were held to a three and out, and then Denver proceeded to score when they got the ball, winning 30-24.

Tom finished the game 7 for 16 with 99 yards after the Pats took a 21-7 lead, and was sacked once by Von Miller.

Not good.

2015 AFC Championship Game

Final Score: Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2015 Defensive Rankings: 4th in points (18.5/g), 1st in yards (1st passing/3rd rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 27/56 (48.21%), 310 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT (56.4 passer rating); sacked four times


Ah yes, the game giving everyone nightmares.

This is Tom Brady’s second worst playoff game in terms of passer rating and completion percentage, and the Patriots atrocious offensive line was on full display.  Brady was sacked 4 times, but as you could see watching the game, he was hit practically every other play.  Von Miller finished the game with 2.5 sacks, and the Patriots looked overmatched.

All of that, yet they were a 2-point conversion away from taking this game to overtime.

The Patriots were trailing 20-12 with 2 minutes and 9 seconds, but Denver was unable to get a first down on 3rd & 10 (which would’ve ended the game), and the Patriots were able to get the ball at the 50 after a 16-yard punt return by Julian Edelman.

Brady proceeded to throw three incomplete passes, but a 4th down heave to a double-covered Gronk was successful, putting New England on the 10-yard line.

A 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman on 2nd & 10 put New England at the 4, but Brady’s next pass was incomplete.

The Patriots had one more chance on 4th & 4, and Brady somehow connected with a double-covered Gronk for a touchdown, who was also tip-toeing to stay in bounds before attempting to make the catch, making the game 20-18.

New England had to go for 2 (you can blame Stephen Gostkowski for that, as he missed an XP earlier in the game), but they could not convert.

An ugly game, the last Manning-Brady match we would see, yet somehow, a depleted and injured Peyton Manning came out looking better because Wade Phillips and Denver’s defense absolutely destroyed New England and Tom Brady.

Week 15, 2016

Only clip I could find

Final score: New England Patriots 16, Denver Broncos 3

Wade Phillips’ role: Defensive Coordinator

2016 Defensive Rankings: 4th in points (18.6/g), 4th in yards (1st passing/28th rushing)

Tom Brady’s stats: 16/32 (50%), 188 yards (68.2 passer rating); sacked twice


This is the last time Brady and the Patriots have faced a Wade Phillips’ coached defense, and Tom Brady was… eh.

New England really found their success on the ground, rushing 39 times for 136 yards (3.49 yards per rush), while Brady only threw the ball 32 times (his lowest amount against a Wade Phillips’ defense since 2005).

The 2016 Broncos had the best pass defense in the NFL in terms of yards (and touchdowns) allowed, as no team passed for more than 293 yards against them all season.  Even crazier, only 4 teams even eclipsed 200 passing yards against them.  However, their rush defense was one of the worst in the league, which the Patriots used to their advantage.

Brady was sacked twice, meaning during his second stint as Denver’s defensive coordinator, his defenses were able to sack Brady 9 times in three games.

Denver’s offense was not able to do anything all day, which helped New England win the game (our defense was good that year), but this was another example of a defense with the right pieces coached by Wade Phillips being able to contain Tom Brady, although their weaknesses against the rush were exposed.

Conclusion

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Credit: Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG

 

Wade Phillips is one of the most experienced coaches in the NFL, with 36 years as a coordinator/head coach in the NFL (for what it’s worth, Bill Belichick only has 33).  Simply put, he’s been doing this his entire life, and he, like Belichick, has a father (Bum Phillips) who coached too (Wade actually became the interim head coach of the Saints with 4 games left in 1985 after his father resigned).

Brady is 5-3 in starts against Phillips as a defensive coordinator, and 1-0 against Phillips as a head coach.  Across the years, Brady has gone full circle against his defenses, having some of the best and worst performances against the longtime coach.

All-time against Phillips’ coached defenses, Brady is 218 for 367 (59.4%), with 2681 passing yards (297.88/g), 21 TD and 7 INT, and a passer rating of 92.71.  His yards per game, touchdown percentage (5.72) and interception percentage (1.91) are above his career average, while his completion percentage and passer rating are below his career average.  He has also been sacked 18 times in 9 games against Phillips’ coached defenses, but if you use the sack percentage formula [times sacked/(passes attempted + times sacked)] you get 4.68%, which is slightly below his career average of 4.8% (although compared to his entire 2018 season, where his sack percentage is 3.08%, it is higher).

This year the Rams boasted a defense that was 20th in points allowed (24.0/g) and 19th in yards (14th passing/23rd rushing).

In terms of total yards, this is the worst-ranked Wade Phillips’ defense Tom Brady will face.  Their passing defense is ranked 14th in yards.  Outside of the 2005 Chargers, Phillips’ defenses have ranked in the top 16 in passing yards each time they faced Brady.

In terms of rushing yards allowed, this year’s Rams have the same ranking (23rd) as the 2013 Texans, while they are better than the 2016 Broncos, who were 28th. The Patriots rushed the ball 27 times against Phillips in 2013, while doing so 39 times in 2016.  Comparing these games to the other times the Patriots have faced a Phillips’ coached defense since 2001, the 2013 game had the 4th most rushes, while the 2016 game had the most rushes.  Since 2001, the Patriots are 6-0 against Phillips’ coached defenses when they run the ball 20 or more times, while they are 0-3 when they run the ball 19 or less times.

If I’m the Patriots, I would be looking to run an offensive game plan similar to their last two games.  In their two most recent outings, New England ran the ball 48 and 34 times respectively, averaging 3.67 yards per carry against the Chiefs, and 4.56 yards per carry against the Chargers.  The Chiefs had the 27th ranked rush defense this past season, while the Chargers were ranked 9th.

New England has seemed to look to establish the running game early this postseason, while looking to open the passing game later on.  They still have the ability to pass the ball, as seen against the Chargers and later in the Chiefs game, but they have made a much more concerted effort to run the ball than in years past.

The Rams have actually had their best performances against the run their past two games, only allowing 50 rushing yards against the Cowboys, and 48 rushing yards against the Saints.  The Saints, who had the 7th best rushing offense in the NFL this season, never really looked to establish the running game, only doing so 21 times (9 carries by Ingram, 8 carries by Kamara) all game.  The Cowboys had a much worse time in my eyes, as Ezekiel Elliot had 20 carries for 47 yards, which was the his second worst performance in terms of yards and yards per carry all season.  Then again, the Cowboys were 0-5 in games where he had less than 70 rushing yards, which shows me they rely way to heavily on him to produce their offense.

Although the Rams run defense looks to be turning a corner, the Chargers came into Gillette having only allowed 90 rushing yards to the run-heavy Baltimore Ravens just a week before, yet the Patriots had no trouble running literal circles around them.

Nevertheless, if Phillips’ history against Brady and New England tells us anything, the years his team’s run defense is not good, the Patriots look to establish the run.  His defenses have had varied success getting to Brady, as they’ve boasted pass rushers like Shawn Merriman, DeMarcus Ware, J.J. Watt, and Von Miller.  The Rams have a similar menace in Aaron Donald, who had 20.5 sacks this past year. If he can get to Brady like Von Miller did in the 2015 AFC Championship Game, then Tom might be spending a lot of his evening on the ground.

However, the Chargers boasted a defense with Joey Bosa, who had 5.5 sacks in just 7 games this season, and Melvin Ingram, and Brady wasn’t sacked once.  Although QB hits can have an impact too, Brady has had a clean pocket to through in all postseason, so he should feel comfortable knowing how well his offensive line has done.

Playing in their 9th Super Bowl in 18 seasons, the Patriots will have a formidable foe in the Los Angeles Rams, and part of their strategy in coming out on top will be to figure out how to perform against a defense coached by the veteran defensive coordinator.

As he looks for his second Super Bowl ring, Wade Phillips will be up to the challenge of beating Tom Brady for a fourth time in his distinguished career.


Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

*some YouTube links involve opening up YouTube in a separate window, where they will work just fine; we apologize for this inconvenience*

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