A. Normally, the Patriots would like to disguise their coverages when playing the Kansas City Chiefs offense in order to confuse Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs, though, use a myriad of offensive formations - making the disguise difficult because it it tough to predict the Chiefs alignment on any given play. Pats Maven asked Bill Belichick about this challenge Friday. Belichick made it clear that a disguise at the wrong time could be costly, as it could lead to defensive confusion and a wide open Chiefs receiver.
"Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, that’s kind of the chicken or the egg question. So, if you’re in the same formation every time, then it’s pretty easy to read the defense and it’s pretty easy to read, I would say, relatively small variations in the defense. And they might try to disguise it a little bit, but again, a very small variation is a lot easier to differentiate when you’re in the same thing every time or a lot. When you’re in something different every time, sometimes the defense may not even be lined up properly or in the exact location that they want to be lined up in just because they make a mistake," Bill Belichick said.
"It’s a different look, a different formation, a different split, whatever it is. And so, sometimes the read on that can be read incorrectly just because the defense isn’t aligned properly because there’s some, again, adjustment that they haven’t fully made or they haven’t made correctly or whatever. So, it’s like shifts, sending guys in motion, all that creates a lot of communication and possibly alignment changes for the defense. It also creates a lot of recognition for the offense because we move, they move, do they relocate, who’s gone where, where’s the new movement."
"Sometimes that can cause more confusion on the offensive side of the ball than it creates on the defensive side of the ball. It just would depend on, again, what you have called, what you’re trying to do, what they’re doing, then you have to put it all together. Obviously, you wouldn’t do it if you don’t think you’re going to gain an advantage, but when one side moves then the other side moves, there’s some issues there on both sides of the ball. So, just have to decide whether you want to – offensively, you control it offensively. You just decide whether you want to do that, how simple it is for your guys, how comfortable they are doing it, how much you’re going to gain by doing it, what the potential problems are, what the downside is, weigh that out and make a decision."
Based on that answer alone, one can see why Bill Belichick will be in Canton someday (my guess he goes in 2026 which means he retires from coaching after 2021 season).
Don'ta Hightower echoed the sentiments of his coach.
"You don't want to get caught with your pants down trying to disguise something and Tyreek Hill is running 30 yards down the middle of the field," Hightower said.
Added Devin McCourty
"I think it's tough because usually when you disguise you talk about what you are going to do against this look. We want to know exactly what they are doing and be prepared. You don't want to be out of position and then get burnt. If you run one wrong step with these guys then it can be a 90-yard touchdown. Andy Reid is very game plan specific. He always attacks what you do."
When the Indianapolis Colts had Peyton Manning as its QB, they used almost the same formation every time - two receivers to the left, one receiver to the right, a tight end on the line and a running back. It is hard to predict the Chiefs offensive formation.
"Manning could beat the disguise because he was so good," McCourty said.
B. Tom Brady's first prime time game was against the St. Louis Rams in 2001. The Pats lost to the Rams at old Foxboro Stadium. The Pats dropped to 5-5. They would not lose again that season and beat the Rams in the Super Bowl two months later. Bill Belichick realized that blitzing was the incorrect way to proceed against the Rams and changed his game plan in the Super Bowl to play mostly dime defense. Two days from now will be Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes first Sunday Night Game. Brady recalled the game Friday.
"We lost to go to 5-5. They were a good a team. They had some good players. We were competitive," Brady said.
Asked if he was nervous, Brady said he did not remember. But he does not think Mahomes will have too many pre-game jitters. Mahomes was only five when Brady entered the NFL in 2000. Brady joked that there are a lot of players like that now.
"Today, there is so much attention on college guys now - they are playing in front of big crowds in college and are recruited in high school," Brady said. "I think there is always a little nerves and anxiousness before any game. When you play in prime time -- it's always fun you know you are kind of the game. But I think that goes away pretty quick. One or two plays and you are into the game," Brady said.
C. My sense is the locker room is that Pats players really liked having 10 days to prepare for the Chiefs - given the number of offensive formations the Chiefs run.
D. It would be a big break for the Pats if Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston and Eric Berry (both doubtful for Sunday) are unable to play. Houston is one of the best pass rushers in the league and has 72.5 sacks in his career including 22 in 2014. Michael Strahan holds the record with 22.5 sacks in 2001. Although the last sack was controversial when Brett Favre in essence fell down to give him the record. Berry is a good strong safety who can cover the tight end. If he can't play Rob Gronkowski (who is questionable with an ankle injury) could have a big game. Gronkowski has not caught a touchdown pass since the Pats Week One victory over Houston. The Pats biggest worry offensively will be containing Houston pass rusher Dee Ford who has four sacks this season, 21.5 in his career and 10 in 2016.
E. Bill Belichick hosts a charity event Friday Night at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. In attendance will be Bill Belichick's good friend Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. Bill Belichick watched a Red Sox game this summer in a private box with LaRussa this summer. My good friend, Pats radio analyst, and 98.5 Sports Radio host Scott Zolak will MC the event.