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 present of gratitude from New England Patriots owner 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 rent 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 throughout probably the most offense-crazed season in league history.
Then got here the Super Bowl. Then McVay confronted a soccer savant who had 33 years and 5 Lombardis on him. Then came a defensive throttling virtually without precedent. Then came clarity on the prime of football’s coaching hierarchy. Sean McVay may 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’ 13-3 throttling of the Rams on Sunday night time might soon be a part of it. One yr after the Patriots allowed 41 factors in a Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, they yielded the bottom 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 with out solutions. Belichick stunned the Rams by beginning 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 regardless of barely blitzing. He did nothing the Rams anticipated and the whole lot to specially stifle a high-powered assault.
Belichick made McVay his newest high-profile sufferer, 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 apparent throughout four 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 simply 260 yards, recording 12 first down and punting 9 occasions. The one purpose the Rams had an opportunity in the fourth quarter was the protection 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, nevertheless it started two weeks in the past on a quiet subject in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Of their first follow after the Patriots beat the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in the AFC championship recreation, when other coaches may need rested gamers 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.” At the end, players toiled via 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 finish Dietrich Sensible stated.
Patriots players knew to anticipate two weeks of intensive research. Belichick does not use a set system. He has a primary set of elementary tenets, but he alters technique weekly based mostly on his opponent’s options and flaws.
“We switch every week,” Patriots security Devin McCourty stated in the locker room after the game. “We don’t just do something because that’s what we do.”
In the next locker over, his brother Jason, a Patriots cornerback, overheard him and asked, “How about Kansas City vs. this game plan?”
“Totally different,” Devin stated.
Belichick unveiled his defensive recreation plan to his group early in the course of the off week. Belichick and his employees had deduced that the Rams specialized in “man beaters,” Boyer stated – techniques meant to defeat man coverage. Their litany of shifts, bunched formations, and frequent jet motion all thrive towards man protection, which is the type the Patriots sometimes favor, and what they used extensively in Kansas Metropolis.
Towards the Rams, although, the Patriots would begin the game in zone coverage. The Patriots believed it might restrict the effectiveness of how McVay clothes up his simple-yet-deadly scheme, and that it will 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 via the primary week of preparation, coaches switched Jonathan Jones’s main position from cornerback to security. 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 value 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 often blitzed as both an outdoor nook or a nickelback. When he crept close to the road, Goff would assume he may blitz. Then he would drop again – not to a nook’s position, 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 round Jones.
“Early on,” Goff stated, “they were able to keep us completely guessing.”
The Patriots also devised unique move rushes from an alignment meant to stifle the run and pressure Goff to beat them. The Patriots walked up two linebackers to the line of scrimmage, successfully employing a six-man defensive position. The alignment clogged operating lanes on early downs. When the Rams passed, the Patriots would range which defenders rushed and which dropped into protection, ceaselessly utilizing pass-rush mixtures that they had by no means shown.
“Guys who had been rushers all year, different guys were rushing,” Rams left deal with Andrew Whitworth stated.
Together with the combined personnel, the Patriots used an enormous array of stunts, with move rushers crossing and twisting along the line. “You name it, we threw the bus at them,” defensive end Adrian Clayborn stated. “We just tried to mix it up and tried to confuse them.”
From the start, 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 again to man. As soon as they saw how Goff reacted, they realized their concept, and their players’ 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 primary 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 move rush punished him. Despite the fact that the Patriots blitzed solely three or four 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 method, a praise to McVay. He believed McVay would be capable of pinpoint deficiencies in any scheme given two weeks to organize, so he wanted one thing new. “McVay is like us,” McCourty stated. “The Rams are like us.” But switching protection put the Patriots’ defense a step ahead, 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 maximum 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, studying Goff more than overlaying Cooks. He leaped and snared the ball at its highest point before Cooks might flip round, all however sealing the sport.
“It was an easy pick for me,” Gilmore stated. “It was like playing throw-‘em-up in your backyard.”
Patriots coaches could make so many tweaks and changes because they have the best players. Flores emphasised execution mattered greater than scheme, however what enabled execution was intelligence and flexibility. The Patriots’ roster lacks recognizable commodities, however Belichick does not 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 football participant, 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 think about 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.”
However, he added shortly, it’s value it. As the ultimate seconds ticked off, his players dumped Gatorade on Belichick. He smiled, hugged his daughter and felt a euphoric group of gamers whoosh past him. The Patriots had held the Rams and not using a touchdown, another crowning moment in an all-time career. The Patriots have been champions once more, and that was not onerous to consider.