February 6, 2017


Lessons From a Legendary Loss (Kevin Clark, Feb. 6th, 2017, The Ringer)

Other than the henchmen in Bond movies, who fall down at the most inopportune moments, no one makes more mistakes than teams playing New England in Super Bowls. The Seattle Seahawks threw from the 1-yard line against the Patriots with a championship on the line despite employing Marshawn Lynch at the time, and Malcolm Butler promptly picked the pass. The Philadelphia Eagles ran the slowest hurry-up offense in history against them in the Super Bowl, playing with no urgency and all but ensuring they'd never get close late. The Panthers kicked off out of bounds before the final possession of their Super Bowl, giving the Patriots amazing field position and setting up a game-winning field goal. The Rams famously wouldn't move away from Marshall Faulk even though the Patriots were roughing him up on every play and Rams players were begging head coach Mike Martz to change the game plan.

In essence, the Patriots turn every opponent into a Gus Bradley team. That isn't luck; it's strategy. As I wrote after New England sealed its 34-28 victory on Sunday, consistency is the key: Bill Belichick's team does the correct thing over and over until the opponent does the wrong thing.  [...]

From now on, when young coaches come up through the NFL ranks, the vets will show them the Falcons' fourth quarter as a prime example of how not to close out a game. Past Patriots wins have reinforced some basic football know-how -- seriously, people, don't ever throw the ball from the damn 1-yard line! -- and this game reminded us all that running the ball to drain clock is generally pretty wise.

Sure, NFL coaches have theoretically known this for 100 years, but that didn't affect offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who called just five run plays after Atlanta went up 28-3 in the second half. [...]

After the loss, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn admitted that his team ran "out of gas" in the fourth quarter. A few feet away from where Quinn was speaking, the Patriots were widely discussing their outstanding conditioning. Fitness was a talking point for both sides because it truly mattered late. The Patriots ran almost double the plays the Falcons ran, so it's no surprise the defense was tired, but that doesn't account for the Atlanta offense losing so much steam. Also, uh, the Patriots were on the field for all of those offensive plays as well, and they managed to maintain plenty of zip on offense.

Belichick spoke after the game about how important conditioning was in the contest, echoing something he's long preached. He noted specifically that superior conditioning is the main attribute that former lacrosse star Chris Hogan brought with him from his prior sport. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who notably got significantly better in the fourth quarter and made a will-be-shown-in-every-New England-bar-forever catch on a pass everyone who lives in Atlanta bobbled, talked after the game about the New England hills that coaches make the players run. "We've got these stupid hills in Foxborough that we have to run, and we all bitch and complain about it, but we do it," Edelman said. 

And it certainly looked like the two teams could have played forever and the Pats would have scored on every drive while the Falcons never would have scored again.  It was like they got rope-a-doped.

Posted by at February 6, 2017 7:40 PM