How They Did It

Monday, February 04, 2019

After reading this analysis in the Guardian, I was confident of a New England victory in yesterday's Super Bowl. The below encapsulates why Bill Belichick has been successful for so long in general, and hints at how the game was going to play out:

MVP Julian Edelman scored the game's only touchdown. (Image by Jeffrey Beall, via Wikipedia.)
The head coach's ability to zig while others zag has kept New England ahead of every team in the league for 18 years, and led to a mindboggling period of sustained success that should be impossible in a league that is designed for parity through a salary cap and draft system. Belichick's genius lies in his refusal to wed himself to one overriding philosophy. He's a shape-shifter, constantly evolving his team's style -- and that flexibility has been on show this season. As modern schemes have expanded the field and the focus has been on the dominance of quarterbacks and smaller, more mobile defensive players, Belichick has returned to an old-school, power running system.

According to a recent study, New England are the third-heaviest team in the league. And that's by design
. Belichick, an economics major, is constantly looking to find market inefficiencies to exploit. He has had great success with quirky schematic innovations, but, for the most part, he takes tried and tested methods and adopts them. [bold added, links omitted]
That said, I was hardly expecting the defensive masterpiece on display, which one of Belichick's assistants delivered. I figured on a close game, possibly with the Rams leading early, but getting worn down over the course of the game. Instead, we got this:
The Patriots only allowed two first downs in the first half, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed just 50 percent of his passes for 229 yards and a championship-sealing interception to Stephon Gilmore with 4:17 remaining.

Using several exotic blitz packages and stunts up front, which allowed the secondary to take some risks in coverage, [Patriots defensive coordinator Brian] Flores had Rams quarterback Jared Goff dazed and confused all night.

"They have done a good job with that," [Rams Coach Sean] McVay said. "Third down, they had their designers and things like that. They did a great job. It was a great game plan. There is no other way to say it, but I got out-coached." [bold added]
Today, Flores will deservedly move on to a head coaching job in Miami. As for Belichick and the Patriots, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

-- CAV

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