Tom Brady vs. Dick LeBeau has been a one-sided matchup for over a decade now. And there’s little reason to believe that Patriots-Titans in the AFC Divisional Playoff will be any different.
The defensive strategy for LeBeau, who turned 80 years old just before the start of the Titans’ season, is beyond well-known by now. He often likes to run the zone blitz. But no coach should ever utter those two words in trying to slow down Brady and the Patriots. Let alone use both in the same phrase.
LeBeau is certainly a coaching legend and deserves credit for modifying and popularizing the zone blitz defense. But for Brady, this is one test that he’s had the answers to for years.
Tom Brady vs. Dick LeBeau: An All-Time Mismatch
One of the main reasons that Brady and the Patriots have had so much success against the Steelers over the years is because they had LeBeau running their defense from 2004-14. Brady went 5-2 in seven games against LeBeau-coached defenses in Pittsburgh (including playoffs), and added a win in 2015 over the Titans in LeBeau’s first season there.
The results are ridiculously good, and they’ve only improved over the years. Brady has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,496 yards (312 per game), 19 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. And all three of those picks came in his first two career games against the defensive coordinator, with the last one coming back on Sept. 25, 2005.
In fact, Brady has thrown 234 pass attempts without an interception against LeBeau since 2005.
Tom Brady vs. Dick LeBeau: The Gronk Effect
Brady holds a career 110.9 passer rating against LeBeau-coached defenses. But as you’d expect, it’s even better with Rob Gronkowski in the fold. In four games against LeBeau with Gronk on the field, Brady has gone 100-for-146 (68.5 percent) for 1,247 yards (also about 312 per game) with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Gronkowski has caught 26 of 35 targets for 363 yards and five touchdowns in those four games. And, of course, the Patriots are 3-1 in those games.
To be fair to LeBeau and the Titans, they weren’t too bad against tight ends in 2017. They allowed just five touchdowns to tight ends on the season, tied for the 12th-fewest in the league. However, that didn’t really come to fruition in last Saturday’s AFC Wild Card win over the Chiefs. Travis Kelce caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown before suffering a concussion in that game.
So, like anyone facing Gronk for the first time, the Titans have not had a challenge like this at any point this season. The only remotely comparable player (on offense) lit them up when he took the field. In light of these facts, it’s fair to assume Gronk has a chance to continue going off.
What To Expect On Saturday
It’s possible that LeBeau limits his blitzes against Brady on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. They do have a talented front-seven that may be able to pressure Brady with just three or four down linemen with the rest dropping back into coverage.
But ultimately, the Titans might just have to hope that Marcus Mariota and the offense can keep up with Brady and Gronk. Because it’s unlikely that LeBeau will change much, if at all, from the defenses he deployed over the years against Brady and the Patriots. The quarterback arrived predictably early on Monday to start preparing for a defensive scheme he already knows well. So there’s little hope for Titans fans that Brady won’tkeep doing what he’s always done.