ATLANTA — Julian Edelman sat dealing with his locker contained in the New England Patriots locker room, pulled on a pair of Jordans and chomped on an unlit cigar that had been aged for 50 years, a gift of gratitude from New England Patriots proprietor Bob Kraft. The Super Bowl LIII MVP turned toward teammate Matthew Slater and softly captured the conclusion the rest of America had come to.
“I can’t believe they didn’t score a touchdown,” Edelman stated to Slater.
The Los Angeles Rams’ offense had been dominant all season, so glorified it made Coach Sean McVay an exemplar of recent football, so envious house owners had tripped over themselves making an attempt to hire any coach who lifts weights and makes use of hair gel. The Rams had scored the second-most yards and gained the second-most yards in during probably the most offense-crazed season in league historical past.
Then came the Super Bowl. Then McVay confronted a football savant who had 33 years and 5 Lombardis on him. Then came a defensive throttling virtually without precedent. Then got here clarity at the prime of football’s teaching hierarchy. Sean McVay could also be a genius, but he’s no Bill Belichick.
Certainly one of Belichick’s defensive recreation plans already is on display in the Hall of Fame, from his days as a New York Giants defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXV. The one he and defensive play caller Brian Flores designed for the Patriots’ 13-Three throttling of the Rams on Sunday night time might quickly be a part of it. One yr after the Patriots allowed 41 points in a Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, they yielded the lowest output in a Super Bowl in 49 years.
The Patriots confused Jared Goff, throttled the Rams’ offensive line, shut down their talent gamers and left McVay without solutions. Belichick stunned the Rams by starting in zone protection after enjoying man-to-man all season. He produced havoc by altering the position of an unheralded defensive back. He unleashed a torrent of various cross rushes despite barely blitzing. He did nothing the Rams anticipated and every little thing to specifically stifle a high-powered assault.
Belichick made McVay his latest high-profile victim, a reality McVay lamented in each ornate vernacular and plain English. He talked about Belichick’s deployment of “single-high buzz structures” and “quarters principles” in the defensive strategy. After which he admitted what had been plainly obvious during 4 hours of brutalist football.
“It was a great game plan,” McVay stated. “There is no other way to say it but, I got out-coached.”
Super Bowl LIII was a victory for knowledge over phenoms. The Rams have been obliterated statistically, gaining just 260 yards, recording 12 first down and punting 9 occasions. The only cause the Rams had an opportunity in the fourth quarter was the defense of 70-year-old coordinator Wade Phillips, who had Tom Brady off-kilter all night time. But one coach dwarfed the others, and it was the one who now has eight Super Bowl rings as either a coach or coordinator.
“Bill’s the best to ever do it,” Patriots secondary coach Josh Boyer stated.
The most important spectacle in American culture staged Belichick’s opus, however it started two weeks in the past on a quiet subject in Foxborough, Massachusetts. In their first follow after the Patriots beat the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in the AFC championship recreation, when other coaches may need rested players after an arduous, emotional recreation, Belichick put the Patriots in full pads and went full-bore. He added additional drills and extra apply durations. Errors have been met coaches demanding, “Do it again.” On the end, gamers toiled by means of an additional 12 sprints.
“It felt like we were running forever,” Slater stated. “It was like, what are we doing here? We knew Bill meant business. We better mean business. We had to play a great opponent. I think it prepared for us for what we needed to do.”
“It was a practice that let us know, hey, look: Just because we won the AFC championship, that don’t mean we’re done here,” defensive end Dietrich Clever stated.
Patriots gamers knew to anticipate two weeks of intensive research. Belichick doesn’t use a set system. He has a primary set of elementary tenets, however he alters technique weekly based mostly on his opponent’s features and flaws.
“We switch every week,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty stated in the locker room after the game. “We don’t just do something because that’s what we do.”
Within the next locker over, his brother Jason, a Patriots cornerback, overheard him and requested, “How about Kansas City vs. this game plan?”
“Totally different,” Devin stated.
Belichick unveiled his defensive recreation plan to his group early through the off week. Belichick and his employees had deduced that the Rams specialised in “man beaters,” Boyer stated – techniques meant to defeat man protection. Their litany of shifts, bunched formations, and frequent jet motion all thrive towards man coverage, which is the fashion the Patriots sometimes want, and what they used extensively in Kansas Metropolis.
Towards the Rams, although, the Patriots would start the sport in zone coverage. The Patriots believed it will limit the effectiveness of how McVay clothes up his simple-yet-deadly scheme, and that it might stagger Goff, a 24-year-old dealing with Belichick for the primary time.
“Our philosophy is always, we’re going to give them something a little bit different,” Boyer stated. “Try to get good pressure up the middle and force Goff into some throws deep and try to have it protected deep.”
The Patriots added a wrinkle inside the wrinkle. Halfway by way of the first week of preparation, coaches switched Jonathan Jones’s main position from cornerback to safety. Jones, an undrafted free agent the Patriots out of Auburn in 2016, has toggled between the positions all season, and his versatility is one cause the Patriots worth him.
“Whatever coaches need from me, I’m a baller,” Jones stated. “I’m a game player.”
“We played him in a new position this whole game,” Boyer stated.
All yr, Jones had ceaselessly blitzed as either an outdoor corner or a nickelback. When he crept near the road, Goff would assume he may blitz. Then he would drop again – to not a nook’s place, but to the middle of the sector, where he defended a deep quarter of the sector. When Goff audibled, Boyer stated, the Patriots might change their defensive call simply by shifting around Jones.
“Early on,” Goff stated, “they were able to keep us completely guessing.”
The Patriots additionally devised exotic move rushes from an alignment meant to stifle the run and drive Goff to beat them. The Patriots walked up two linebackers to the road of scrimmage, successfully using a six-man defensive position. The alignment clogged operating lanes on early downs. When the Rams handed, the Patriots would differ which defenders rushed and which dropped into protection, regularly utilizing pass-rush mixtures that they had never shown.
“Guys who had been rushers all year, different guys were rushing,” Rams left deal with Andrew Whitworth stated.
Along with the combined personnel, the Patriots used an enormous array of stunts, with cross rushers crossing and twisting alongside the line. “You name it, we threw the bus at them,” defensive finish Adrian Clayborn stated. “We just tried to mix it up and tried to confuse them.”
From the beginning, the plan worked to perfection. On the Rams’ first third-down play, Clayborn burst inside on a stunt, rushed Goff into a throw and smashed him into the turf. (Clayborn admitted he had truly made a communication mistake with a linebacker on the play and would receive a film research demerit from Belichick.)
The Patriots entered the game ready to modify back to man. Once they noticed how Goff reacted, they realized their concept, and their gamers’ execution, and unfolded precisely as they hoped.
“There were some changes to it along the way,” Boyer stated. “As a staff, we went back every day and said, ‘Is this what we want to do? Is everybody comfortable with this? Is this what we’re going to get?’ When we started with the zone stuff, and we saw it was all the manbeaters schemes, motions and shifts, we were like, ‘This is exactly what we wanted. This is why we wanted it.’ We just kind of stayed with that.”
Throughout the first half, the mixture of the zone and Jones’ new position flummoxed Goff. “That was our goal, to try to rattle him,” Clayborn stated. The zone prompted Goff to carry the ball longer looking for an open receiver, and the cross rush punished him. Regardless that the Patriots blitzed solely three or 4 occasions, Devin McCourty stated, they sacked Goff four occasions and hurried him one other 12.
“In order to be successful, we had to get him frustrated,” defensive finish Trey Flowers stated.
Belichick’s zone gambit was, in a means, a praise to McVay. He believed McVay would have the ability to pinpoint deficiencies in any scheme given two weeks to organize, so he needed something new. “McVay is like us,” McCourty stated. “The Rams are like us.” However switching protection put the Patriots’ protection a step forward, and Belichick maintained the edge all night time.
“We knew they would make some adjustments in the second half,” McCourty stated. “But we were prepared for them.”
Goff led the Rams on their greatest drive late in the fourth quarter, when the Patriots led, 10-Three, taking them to the New England 27 with less than four minutes remaining. Having hardly blitzed all night time, Belichick and Flores referred to as for a most blitz, leaving Stephon Gilmore alone on the surface towards Brandin Cooks. Safety Duron Harmon pressured Goff into an early threw. Goff floated the ball into the top zone. Gilmore had drifted again, reading Goff more than overlaying Cooks. He leaped and snared the ball at its highest level earlier than Cooks might flip around, all however sealing the game.
“It was an easy pick for me,” Gilmore stated. “It was like playing throw-‘em-up in your backyard.”
Patriots coaches can make so many tweaks and adjustments as a result of they have the proper players. Flores emphasized execution mattered greater than scheme, however what enabled execution was intelligence and flexibility. The Patriots’ roster lacks recognizable commodities, however Belichick doesn’t prioritize qualities that equate to fame.
“We don’t have stars,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy stated. “We have elite football players.”
It isn’t straightforward turn out to be an elite soccer player, particularly for Belichick. It means operating in full pads in late January, or subjugating ego to study a brand new, hybrid place on the eve of the most important recreation, or worrying about what Belichick will take into consideration a mistake made on a quarterback hit throughout a Super Bowl victory.
“Even when we win games, it feels like we lose sometimes,” Gilmore stated. “It’s hard.”
But, he added shortly, it is value it. As the final seconds ticked off, his players dumped Gatorade on Belichick. He smiled, hugged his daughter and felt a euphoric group of players whoosh past him. The Patriots had held the Rams and not using a touchdown, one other crowning second in an all-time career. The Patriots have been champions once more, and that was not arduous to consider.