Cowboys keying on interior pressure and resilience against Bucs
It’s not exactly breaking news to say Tom Brady’s kryptonite is pressure up the middle. The blueprint to beat the all-time winningest QB has been in place for years and for years he’s been winning regardless. So it should be no surprise the Dallas Cowboys’ interior defensive line is focused on both realities.
First, it’s the desire and fortitude to control the middle of the pocket. Recent statements from Johnathan Hankins indicate he and his fellow defensive tackles know the task at hand.
“I think internally we need to get some pressure on him,” Hankins said. “Not allow him to step up and make passes.”
This season has been Brady’s worst performance under pressure, with a 2:5 TD:INT ratio and a Tampa Bay-high 4.8% rate of turnover-worthy throws when feeling the heat, per Pro Football Focus. However 2022 has been a Tampa Bay-low 19.4% of plays under pressure despite the Buccaneers offensive line issues, so the Cowboys are going to have to get creative with their rush like they did earlier in the season.
Brady relies on a significant step forward when he distributes passes. When the pocket gets pushed up the middle and pressure prevents him from taking that all-important step forward, things fall apart for him.
Again, this is nothing new.
Scouting reports dating back 10-years outline this magic elixir to beat Brady. The key to making it work is knowing it isn’t always going to work. Cowboys starting defensive tackle, Osa Odighizuwa, was asked why he’s better equipped to play Brady and the Buccaneers this time around and he highlighted the resilience factor:
“Being familiar with how quickly the ball is coming out, knowing that, that can’t stop you from rushing, Odighizuwa said. “You’ve just gotta rush.”
He went on to describe how many players on film appear to slow down their rush against Brady. His quick release is discouraging to them and they alter their attack because of it.
“Just keep rushing, rushing, not getting there,” Odighizuwa explained. “But you’ve just got to keep going. You’ve got to keep going. And like I said, if we’re executing at a high level, he’s going to have to hold onto the ball and eventually you’re going to get home.”
Both tackles spoke of creating pressure up the middle, both highlighted Brady’s desire to step up into his passes and both discussed that they aren’t expecting a windfall of sacks.
With managed expectations, the Cowboys interior linemen know they must be resilient and work to attack the middle of the pocket every down. On most occasions it won’t work. Brady has made a career not letting that work. But if they don’t allow themselves to become discouraged and don’t let fruitless efforts slow them down, they will eventually “get home.”
Same blueprint but a different attitude.
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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire