ATLANTA - Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is nothing if not calm. After about 40 years in coaching, Phillips, 71, has perspective that talent is far more important than scheme. Bill Belichick praised Phillips last week for consistently playing the 3-4 defense while Belichick consistently has adjusted his scheme. Phillips scoffs at the notion that there is one type of defense to play against Tom Brady.
"He beats man, zone and combination coverages. You have to be careful when you play anything against Tom Brady," Phillips said.
Phillips joked that one must stop the running game to force Tom Brady to throw the ball.
"Not exactly what you want to do - but that is what you have to do," Phillips said.
Even though Phillips has not changed his scheme that much in his long coaching tenure, he has run variations of the 3-4 defense. When he was the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos team that beat Tom Brady in the 2015 AFC Championship Game he used more linebacker blitzes than at other points in his coaching career.
Phillips considers the 2015 Broncos defense one of the best in NFL history. That defense beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, Patriots and the Carolina Panthers (who averaged 40 points per game) to win the Super Bowl. Phillips knows that this Rams defense is not as good as that Broncos defense. However, this Rams teams has a better offense than that Broncos offense.
"When we had Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware we were bringing those guys a lot," Phillips said. "We were bringing them as the Sam and Will as the outside backers. When you have Aaron Donald he is coming up the middle on every play. You stunt him, but others guys you can't stunt."
Phillips knows that it is important to be physical with the Pats receivers. On the two third-and-10 plays in overtime of the AFC Championship Game, Edelman received a free release. Phillips credits that to the play design because Edelman is too quick to jam at the line of scrimmage.
"You can't bump him when he comes in motion. You are not able to hit him because he is too quick," Phillips said. "It was the play design that got him free."
Phillips appreciates the opportunity to be coaching in his second Super Bowl in the last four years. He jokes that at his age - one wonders if it is the last time you will do anything. Phillips said he has been with great coaches and players who have never won Super Bowls or been to them. Phillips has been impressed with the Pats offensive line.
"The one thing about Belichick on defense and on offense in the running game is they can run any scheme. The one-back offense with zone blocking, gap schemes, power blocking and all kind of things. They can hit you basically anywhere, which a lot of teams can't do," Phillips said.
With all the formations the Pats use, Phillips will not allow his defense to be overwhelmed. Phillips might see some surprises from the Patriots, but he wants his defenders to be confident that if they play well they can win.
"We are going to play what we play," Phillips said. "We are going to play it well. Once you get a feel for it - you should be OK."