If someone had visited you from the future yesterday, it certainly wouldn’t have been shocking (other than the shock of being visited from the future) to learn the Patriots would beat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. But even if said time traveler presented you with the box score, I’m not sure you would have believed your eyes when they studied the Rams’ offensive numbers: 198 passing yards, 62 on the ground, nine punts — including a Super Bowl record eight consecutive drives ending with a punt — one play of more than 18 yards, zero snaps from inside the Pats’ 25-yard line and three points.
The anticipated chess match of Bill Belichick’s defensive mind against Sean McVay’s offensive wizardry was a complete rout. And Belichick won because he figured out a way to box McVay out of the equation and compete directly with Rams quarterback Jared Goff. From Albert Breer’s MMQB recap:
The idea on defense, through what Flores and Belichick planned, was to force Jared Goff to think on the fly. It’s well-documented that McVay uses to the coach-to-quarterback communication to adjust calls based on what the defense is showing, up to the point where that communication cuts off, with 15 seconds left on the play clock.
The Patriots wanted to negate that creative advantage, so they essentially sent in two calls on every play. One was what they’d show before the snap. The other was what they’d switch into post-snap. And if you want to see how it worked, go back and watch how Goff held the ball, and doubted what he was looking at, over and over and over.
You could see every time Goff threw into coverage, every time he bailed from the pocket knowing someone was coming but not who, and in his final numbers: 19-of-38 for 229 yards with no touchdowns and a game-clinching interception, plus four sacks. His 57.9 rating was the third lowest since his rookie season.
“We wanted to make it tough on him,” defensive back Devin McCourty said. “We knew we couldn’t just give him the same looks, because he does a good job with McVay of being able to lead defenses and get to the play they want. So we knew if we switched it up and made it tough, it would give us a chance.”
It’s a reminder for all coaches: game plans should be designed not with the opposing coaches in mind, but the opposing players.