Belichik’s other contribution to anti-spread D

I mention it in my new post on Football Study Hall breaking down the 2018 Mississippi State offense against the Auburn defense. This solution maybe didn’t totally originate with Belichick, but I think he made it particularly popular.

The Patriots created a 46 front after the snap against the Seahawks zone-read game. That meant there was always an edge guy to contain the QB run and then they’d get 1-on-1 matchups to try and beat the zone blocking. Since then, I’ve seen that approach go spectacularly wrong for a few teams with two notable examples in 2018.

One was Greg Schiano’s Ohio State defense against TCU. The other was this Tiger unit against Mississippi State. I’m more and more a fan of Belichik as I observe how he solves different opposing teams, he generally has pretty simple gameplans that are built to execute a simple strategy. The people copying him seem to seize on the tactics without understanding the strategy behind it.

The goal is to force your opponent to play left-handed and create the kind of fight where you’re necessarily at advantage, not to try and outsmart him.


  1. Matt

    Simms gives frequent insight into the mind of Bill and why he does the things he does and how few teams even try to copy him. One of Bill’s strategies that Simms often talks about is when facing in-line TEs that a pass catching weapons, Bill will line up a DE directly over him to jam him and slow him down in coverage. Another one is Bill’s strategy behind big ILB even in today’s game: matching them up against 3rd down pass catching backs by forcing the offense to keep that back in pass protection. Instead of going out for a pass, they’re tasked with blocking a 270 lb behemoth. Bill really is the GOAT.

    • ianaboyd

      Until the offense is spread out and the QB is Mahomes (or Murray) and they can scramble and hit the RB in space, turning those big ILBs against them. But yeah, Belichik understands the game and not a specific system. He’s the best.

      • matt

        Its why on the sidelines of the Super Bowl, McVay was on the mic saying “I can’t wait to see how he plays us. I can’t wait to see what he does.” Now, months after the game, McVay said his problem was watching too much Patriots film when he should’ve been watching his own film and figuring out his own tendencies. The Pats change their approach every game to whatever is going to slow down their approach most.
        On the other hand, I think its interesting that they still run more man coverage than everyone else even in the spread era. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues when the air raid invades the NFL.

        • ianaboyd

          They played man coverage on the Air Raid Chiefs, worked out well until Mahomes started throwing to the RBs on those big ILBs. There’s plenty of examples of spread teams in college struggling against man coverage, I remember Gundy explaining why his Cowboys got shut down by Texas in 2009 that “they’re playing man coverage with NFL corners.”

          Sounds like McVay got into his own head and then learned a valuable lesson.

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