When you think about how to defend the Hail Mary desperation play to end a half or game, a few things immediately come to mind.
1 – Only rush a few guys
2 – Have your guys who play the ball in the air best deep
3 – Man up on receivers, or drop deep and give up the short stuff
4 – Get your best players on the field during this critical situation
5 – Don’t go for the interception. Knock the ball down to the ground. Don’t tip it.
Even doing all of those, or any other strategy worthy of making that list, doesn’t guarantee a win on that play, as sometimes the Football Gods see to it that an offense defies the odds with an answered prayer.
That’s why this specific strategy Bill Belichick shared during yesterday’s presser my eye. What has Belichick found to be the most successful in defending the Hail Mary? There are a few basics, starting with having just one guy designated to jump for the ball. Everyone else stays on their feet.
“We have a basic set of rules for how we want to do that. Each position is a little bit different depending on where their guy is and where the receiver is, where the ball is, and so forth. Basically, we just try to coach the play the best that we can knowing that each one is a little different and the situation’s a little bit different.”
“We don’t want everybody jumping for the ball and then have it tipped and nobody’s on the guys that are standing there to catch it and grab the rebound. So, we try to take the players out.”
The strategy got tested Sunday as the Patriots had to defend a Hail Mary from the Bears to end the game.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the play quite the way we wanted to but Duron, Jay made a good play to know where they were on the field and make the tackle short of the goal line, which in the end is all that mattered. But yeah, those plays are a little harder to defend sometimes than they look, especially against a quarterback with a strong arm and big receivers that can go and get the ball,” Belichick shared.
Reflecting on some of the best Hail Mary’s from college football history, Belichick’s coaching points would have come in handy for a whole lot of them.
See for yourself, and judge that if the defense had just one guy jumping and the rest of the defenders were “taking guys out” after a tip to prevent a miracle touchdown and seal the win for themselves. A whole lot of these games could have had a very different ending.