The many faces of Bill Belichick - Part 2
MatchQuarters takes a look at four games to illustrate how diverse the Patriots defense can be week to week.
The Patriots’ defensive personnel can sometimes look like the Island of Misfit Toys. The personnel is an amalgamation of hybrids that can morph into anything Bill Belichick thinks will give the offense issues. With so many players that can play in multiple spots, each week can look completely different than the next.
One part of the roster that illustrates this more than any other position is the Safety room. Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers, and Adrian Phillips are all over 210 lbs, with Dugger coming in at 220. Adding Marte Mapu in the draft only enhances the Patriots’ ability to play with multiple larger DB hybrids simultaneously.
One of the trends at the higher levels of football is using more 12 personnel formations to manipulate defenses into base personnel, only to attack their “heavier” players with speedy WRs and a “flex” TE. The Bills, for instance, just drafted a TE to go along with their established starter in, Dawson Knox. Even against teams like the Dolphins and the 49ers that will use 21 pers. to get defenses into unfavorable groupings, the Patriots have created a way to match up with limited issues. In short, it is on Belichick’s radar.
Belichick has assembled a secondary that can hold up in the box and in coverage against teams that want to attack the Patriots with “big” groupings yet run Spread plays. It is not rare to see Peppers aligned as the $-backer (to the TE) while Dugger and Phillips play Deep Half coverage, then on the next play, see both Dugger and Peppers near the line of scrimmage (LOS).
One of the reasons Belichick is such an elite coach is that he understands you cannot sacrifice technique to install a scheme. Holding a bunch of plays on a sheet does not make a defense great. Players reduce themselves to their fundamentals when the heat of the game is applied. Teams that focus more on what play is being run than the techniques used usually will falter.
Because of the focus on technique, Belichick can create a “fluid” defense that can place players in different spots each week. What is confusing for the offense is simple for the defense. “This is similar to this” principles accelerate the learning curve for players. The Patriots’ defense, assembled by Belichick, can quickly adjust each week to whatever the offense throws at it because his players understand the fundamental building blocks of the scheme.
To illustrate the fluidity in which the Patriots can jump to and from schemes was demonstrated last year against some of the best offenses in the NFL. Each game plan had a unique concept Belichick employed to neutralize the offense. The following clips feature games against the Lions, Bills, Bengals, and Dolphins, all of which had high-powered offenses, and the games illustrate how Belichick changed the shape of his defense to counter their issues.
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