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For the first coaching tape I watched in preparation for the Super Bowl was me taking a look at the Patriots defence and how they contained the Chiefs offence, holding them scoreless in the first half and limiting them to under three hundred total yards. In fact their two hundred and ninety total yards was the lowest for the Chiefs’ offence all season and only the second time they were kept under three hundred yards.

So how did the Patriots manage this and how did the Chiefs score thirty-one points in one half of football?

Well the game plan was pretty consistent through both halves and I will start with the coverage choices and work my way forwards. It is a well known fact the Patriots will often double cover a team’s best receiver, but they will use their best corner to cover the teams second best receiver. Now I confess that I didn’t track which corner was covering each player through the entire game as I have to limit what I track to get posts out. If someone wants to pay me to go more in depth I’m all for it! What I can say is that the Patriots doubled Tyreek Hill for the entire game and played with one high safety. This was a gamble that paid off and it needed to as this meant they were effectively playing cover 0 for the rest of the Chief’s receiving options. However, Hill was only targeted three times in this game and had one catch when running a route from the slot where he got a clean release and therefore was able to use a fake in and out break to find a soft part of the bracket coverage and catch his one pass that did go for forty-two yards. The rest of the receivers were then singled covered and whilst Sammy Watkins did catch four balls for one hundred and fourteen yard, he got no touchdowns. The other thing to mention regarding the Patriots’ coverage was they were hardly ever in what would be considered a base defence of 3-4. Mostly they played a mixture of 2-4 nickel and 3-2 dime, using the extra defensive back(s) to cover Travis Kelce, who himself only had three receptions from three targets although he did get a touchdown.

The counter to lining up with this kind of personnel and formation would be to run up the middle with more power, but whilst the Chiefs did use more 12 personnel in the second half, full back Anthony Sherman only got one snap on offence in a goal line formation. In case you are curious, Sherman did have twenty-three snaps on special teams so it is not like he was not contributing to this game, but he was not a part of the offensive game plan. The Chiefs were not however, able to get their run game going consistently on this game anyway. Their longest run of the game was a ten yarder by Damien Williams, and if you remove that from his rushing totals then Williams’ pedestrian three yards per carry drops to a woeful two point two. The second longest run was Patrick Mahomes, who scrambled for nine when the defence opened up before him but he is not a rushing quarterback and with that I have covered all the Chiefs’ runs in this game!

Now part of this is to do with game flow. The Patriots set out to run the ball and control the clock, which they managed to do and having put up a lead and amassed double the time of possession, the Chiefs had to rely on their explosive offence to catch up. It took time for Mahomes to adjust to what the Patriots were doing and to find ways of completing passes. Often there were no receivers open and Mahomes got bailed out a couple of times by defensive holding or pass interference penalties, several of which were given away by JC Jackson. Mahomes also got sacked four times as the Patriots racked up ten quarterback hits, but the good news for the Chiefs going forward is that Mahomes did find those ways in the second half and going forward he is only going to improve in such situations as he gains experience.

I’ll finish up with the two players in the front seven who particularly caught my eye. The obvious candidate is Kyle Van Noye who lined up all round the linebacker spots and racked up ten tackles, eight of them solo, as well as two sacks and a quarterback hit as well as forcing a fumble. If Van Noye was the all action super star, then Trey Flowers was the man causing the disruption in the front seven with his hand in the dirt. He may have only got two tackles but he paired that with a sack and two quarterback hits as well as getting one of those tackles for a loss.

It is kind of appropriate for a team like the Patriots to not have people leaping of the screen all over the defence, but to posses a collective doing their jobs to make an effective whole. There’s no guarantee that the same players will shine in the Super Bowl, or that the same scheme and personnel groupings will be used. I suspect they could well use the coverage trick I described a start of this piece again, but seeing what they come up with to limit the Sean McVay and the Rams’ offence is probably what I’m most looking forward to watching this Sunday. Until then, I shall take a look at the Rams defence given that I watched the Rams offence only a couple of weeks ago.