QC's Super Bowl
QC's Super Bowl 53 preview advised to "expect the unexpected," but
not even QC had a 13-3 defensive grudge match on the radar screen.
That Belichick would flummox the Rams' boy-wonder, HC Sean McVay, mabye should
not have come as such a surprise. After all, he had done the same thing to
Buffalo's "K Gun" in Super Bowl 25, the Rams' "Greatest Show on
Turf" in Super Bowl 36, Seattle's Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson deep
in Q4 in Super Bowl 49, and Atlanta's Kyle Shannahan in Super Bowl 51.
The media has such a short memory.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve--barely over 30 days ago--after New
England had lost a tough road game at Pittsburgh, we saw headlines like:
* "Michael Lombardi Says 'This Is Not A Good Patriots' Team' -- Is He
Right?"--CBS Local Boston (November 16, 2018)
* "What's wrong with the Patriots this year?"--Boston Globe
(December 17, 2018).
* "'Blood in the water': Former players worry about the wounded and
vulnerable Patriots"--Washington Post (December 20, 2018)
* "Vic Carucci's Take Five: Patriots vulnerability feels more legitimate
this time"--The Buffalo News (December 21, 2018)
* "Michael Lombardi thinks Patriots will get exposed in
playoffs"--USA Today (December 29, 2018)
* "Woody: Patriots more vulnerable, not threat in AFC"--ESPN
(December 31, 2018)
Las Vegas handicapper Bill Krackomberger did not buy it. To the contrary, on
December 22, 2018, he bought a 10-1 future on the Patriots winning the Super
Belchick reminded everyone in Super Bowl 53 that he is still the master--what
Krackomberger was betting on--by doing what he does so often. He took away what
the Rams wanted to do. In a Tweet after the game, long-time NFL offensive line
coach Paul Alexander noted that LA had used 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) on
90% of its plays this year and used two tight ends (21 personnel) only 7% of
the time. Belchick's defensive design virtually demanded McVay to use 2 tight
ends and, until almost the end, McVay would not do it.
But don't dump on McVay for being stubborn.
As long as the Rams trailed by no more than a field goal, which was the case
until almost half way through Q4, there was no urgent need for McVay to flinch
and abandon what he knew his team does best for what he knew Belichick wanted
him to do.
QC was actually quite impressed with McVay's steely fortitude. It showed wisdom
and mental toughness beyond his 33 chronological years. He was patient and gave
Super Bowl 53 every chance to come to his team. He did not chase it, as so, so
many HC would have done. And, after Tom Brady threw a gorgeous pass to TE Rob
Gronkowski and Patriots' RB Sony Michel banged into the end zone to give New
England that 10-3 lead that finally ended any chance that McVay's patience
would be rewarded, he adapted and deployed 21 personnel. QB Jared Goff led the
Rams down the field and if WR Brandin Cooks had been able to hang onto a
gorgeous pass from Goff in the end zone, LA probably would have tied the game
10-10 and sent it to OT.
The difference was really just two plays. Gronkowski caught the ball and Cooks
did not. If those two plays were reversed, LA probably would have won.
But it was not to be.
As Kansas City learned last week when DE Dee Ford's offsides penalty nullified
what would have been a game-clincing interception of Brady, there is usually
little room for error against Belichick. In the playoffs and Super Bowl, there
is usually even less. The Patriots are like vampires. You have to finish them
while they are in the box and the sun is up. If you do not and that sun sets,
well, bad things are almost certain to happen to you.
Before last night, the last time we saw Belchick in Super Bowl 52, he had been
thoroughly embarrassed. He had inexplicably benched DB Malcolm Butler and
Philadelphia not only tricked his team with a TE reverse pass to QB Nick Foles
for a TD--the now famous "Philly Special"--but also had flat run his
team over. That defeat probably stung personally more than his prior two Super
Bowl defeats to the Giants, for whom he still has a soft spot from his days as
an assistant coach in New York.
Given Belichick's Super Bowl 52 embarassment, in hindsight, perhaps we should
not be surprised at the stifling defense the Patriots threw at the Rams in
Super Bowl 53.
Perhaps we should have expected it all along.