Let’s start with the facts here: the New England Patriots are the best NFL team ever, Bill Belichick is the best head coach, and Tom Brady is the greatest player of all Time. With this win over the then-mighty Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, the open questions were finally answered. You can be a fresh, electrified, innovative mind, but to beat Bill Belichick you have to be prepared; and as Sean McVay admitted after the game, he was not.
It is not a big deal, McVay was simply outcoached by Belichick in each and every aspect of the game. McVay is not the first, and definitely will not be the last, person to falter against Belichick’s genius.
“You know, coach Belichick did an outstanding job. There really is no other way to put it – I’m pretty numb right now. But definitely, I got outreached. I didn’t do enough for our football team,” said the 33-year-old head coach.
In order to overcome the Rams and the mastermind behind them, the key was Bill Belichick’s ability to renew his game. I haven’t watched the majority of Belichick’s 425 games as the head coach of the New England Patriots, but this grumpy old man proved himself on the biggest stage possible once again. He focused on defense – not that you can do anything against the Rams, or so we thought – and held the so-called ‘Future’s Team’ at three points.
The other thing is, as long as even an average Tom Brady is standing at the other side – and in Atlanta that was the case, as Brady moved like any other 41-year-old mortal would have – and you only have a shaking, first-time Super Bowl quarterback in place, the odds are against you.
It’s okay to have superstar wideouts and running backs, but at the end of the day, the better system and scheme win championships. The reality is, the New England Patriots still have it all.
Ok, but what happened then?
There is nothing secret about it: Bill Belichick, the defensive coordinator, and a team of assistants sat down and watched tapes. I mean, they watched a lot of tapes. I had this feeling during the game that the Patriots were always one step ahead of the Rams, like they knew or anticipated the next play before the Rams players decided on it. Sure, it’s not possible, but still, the Patriots were all over it.
We don’t know anything for sure, but Belichick’s plan might have been to let Jared Goff, the aforementioned shaky QB, shoot himself in the foot. The Patriots’ defense closed the routes, covering anything and anybody who moved. The onus to progress was all on Goff and, as Belichick suspected, the quarterback wasn’t able to handle the pressure.
The tricky thing the Patriots’ defensive staff invented was this double-call prior to the snaps. The first one was a pre-snap call, the call they had shown before Goff got the ball; the second one was a post-snap call when Goff dropped back and had only a couple of second to make a decision. In the latter case, the defensive players shifted positions and made Goff think about the play again – remember, a quarterback only has hundredths of seconds. The Patriots’ defense was unstoppable. They put pressure on Goff continuously and gave one hundred percent or more.
The plan worked and it had a huge effect on Goff’s horrendous night: he only had 19 completions out of 38 attempts, for a devastating 229 passing yards, while his running backs struggled too at only 62 yards.
All in all, nothing special happened, though we all have been fooled by the Pats once again. They looked a bit rusty throughout the season, as though they were showing the first sign of aging. We now know it was a trap, and we should have known better. Sure, the Rams may have been considered the most complete team of the modern NFL, but they failed spectacularly at the most important moment.
Until the 2018 season, experts said the defense wins championships; this past year, they said it’s up to the offense, and only the offense. Now, they have nothing to tell. These experts underestimate Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, regularly. This historic duo had them eating their words.
Cover photo by WEBN-TV on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND