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Carter counting on complements

By Greg A. Bedard
November 22, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - Andre Carter’s breakout pass rush performance against the Jets in Week 10 put him on the map not only for Patriots fans, but the NFL at large.

The reality is if the Patriots are to make a postseason run, others will have to emerge to supplement the pass rush.

Because after posting four sacks and five additional quarterback pressures against the Jets, Carter is going to garner a lot more attention.

That wasn’t an issue during last night’s 34-3 victory over the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium - Kansas City has more than one worry as evidenced by its three-game skid by a combined score of 75-16 – but teams know what they see on film from Carter and the rest of the defensive line.

“You’ve got Mark Anderson over there [at left end] that does a pretty good job rushing the passer, too, and you’ve got the interior guys that get pressures,’’ said Chiefs veteran left tackle Branden Albert. “But [Carter] is one of those guys that you have to account for and you’ve got to study your film and you have to make sure you’re on top of your stuff on him.’’

What players mean by accounting for a pass rusher is giving the primary blocker help. That can be in the form of traditional double teams, but most often it means chipping the rusher with another blocker.

Chipping is sending an extra player, most often a running back but it could be a tight end or receiver, to hit a defender who is being blocked by a lineman.

It just about thwarts any pass rush because the defender isn’t expecting it.

Carter has been chipped a lot this season, because while it’s not evident to most fans, teams realized that Carter was one of the few pass-rushing threats for the Patriots.

What was amazing about the Patriots’ 37-16 victory over New York was that the Jets barely paid any extra attention, and they paid the price.

In 48 pass-rushing snaps, Carter was blocked one-on-one 77 percent of the time. On those snaps, Carter produced seven of his nine pressures. He had two sacks when he was dealt with other ways, including chips.

Normally, D’Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the best pass-blocking left tackles in the game. So New York is used to putting Ferguson on an island and letting him take care of the opponent’s best pass rusher.

But Ferguson has been subpar for the past month, and that continued in the Jets’ loss to the Broncos Thursday night.

Carter is not the only person to wonder if Ferguson, who gave up three sacks, a quarterback knockdown, and three hurries against the Patriots, is playing through an injury.

Regardless, the way that the Jets dealt with Carter was out of the norm.

In the two games prior - both losses - Carter was single blocked 48.6 percent (Giants) and 55 percent (Steelers).

In those games, Carter generated one pressure every five snaps when he was single blocked.

When he was chipped or double-teamed, Carter got a pressure every 10 snaps against the Giants and Steelers.

The enduring image of the Giants game was Carter being knocked on his backside on a chip from 6-foot-4-inch, 264-pound running back Brandon Jacobs.

“Yeah, I got a lot of attention that game,’’ Carter said. “I expected that going in. Jacobs likes to throw his weight around and he got me. He got me good.’’

There’s a reason the Patriots couldn’t get a big stop defensively when they needed it in those two games: Without Carter affecting the quarterback regularly, the Patriots lack an effective pass rush without blitzing an extra defender.

“Whoever’s on the field at any particular time, we obviously have to do what we’re told to do in each individual role,’’ said linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who rotates in as a nickel or dime rusher. “If it’s me and Mark with Andre, we obviously know he’s a guy that’s going to get pressure and he’s going to get more attention, so we obviously have to counter that and get more pressure from our end.’’

It may not show up against some of the weaker teams, but when the playoffs arrive, New England will need others to provide rush.

For the most part, that hasn’t happened this season.

Carter has almost double the total quarterback pressures (34) as the next-closest defender, and that’s run-stuffing tackle Vince Wilfork (17 1/2).

All you really need to know is Albert Haynesworth, who was released before the Jets game and played sparingly when he was in New England, entered last night still fourth on the team with 11 1/2 total quarterback pressures.

Anderson (15 1/2 pressures) has shown flashes, and he had a favorable matchup last night against Chiefs right tackle Barry Richardson. Anderson did his part with 1 1/2 sacks and an additional quarterback hit.

“He is coming along real well,’’ Carter said of Anderson. “We complement each other. I think every week as we prepare for an opponent, we just constantly work off each other.’’

Of the extra attention Carter will garner, Anderson stands to be the biggest beneficiary.

“At times they may be chipping me a little bit,’’ Carter said while laughing, “he has an opportunity to win a one-on-one matchup and that’s how it’s supposed to be. So I’m very proud of him and he’s doing well.’’

Ninkovich (10 1/2 pressures) showed much fresher legs rushing the passer against the Giants and Jets after the Patriots smartly reduced his snaps. Ninkovich continued his upward trend with a sack and an additional quarterback hit last night.

Kyle Love (10 pressures) can affect the quarterback from the inside.

And Brandon Deaderick has shown potential with 2 1/2 pressures in just three games since being activated from the physically unable to perform list.

“[Carter’s] a totally different type of player than the other guys,’’ said Chiefs veteran center Casey Wiegmann. “The other guys are big monsters and he’s a skinny, lengthy guy that has produced getting sacks. The other guys are big run stuffers. They get good push but they’re not necessarily pass rushers like he is.’’

Whatever the combination, the Patriots need to use the rest of the season to find the right one to generate pressure.

The performance of the defense against the Chiefs was a baby step in the right direction. In the end, the Patriots had three sacks and another six quarterback hits, including contributions from linebacker Jerod Mayo and tackle Gerard Warren.

When the games get bigger, the Patriots will need more from the others.

Teams will look to take Carter away in the postseason.

The Patriots will need to be prepared for that, and have the right answers or they’ll be left with the same result: Not enough stops when it counts.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregABedard

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