Want to know the secret to the Patriots success over the years? It’s tackling.
That’s kind of it. Good tackling implies good technique and sound fundamentals and that’s the cornerstone of the Patriots consistency over the years. According to Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz, the Patriots have been one of the best tacklers in the league over the past few years.
“Strong tackling technique is one of the reasons the Patriots' defense has been successful the past few years,” Schatz writes. “The Pats allowed just 81 broken tackles last season, second overall. They also allowed the fewest broken tackles in 2014 and the second-fewest in 2013.”
That’s three straight seasons of elite tackling ability by the Patriots and it’s a sign that the little things can go a long way. No one should be surprised, either, since head coach Bill Belichick is incredibly transparent about the importance of tackling.
“For me, I learned a long time ago- my dad told me this and Coach [Bill] Parcells told me this- that the most important thing on defense is to get 11 guys out there that can tackle,” Belichick said prior to taking on the Colts last season. “I mean look, defensively, your job is to get the guy with the ball on the ground. In the end, that's your job. All the other stuff is great, but if you can't do that, then what do you really have?
“I put a high priority on [tackling]. We put a high priority on it in the organization. On our defense, we practice it every single day. I don't think there has been a day we haven't worked on tackling this year or any other year. It's the most fundamental, important thing for a defensive player to do well. That and defeat blocks. Everybody is going to get blocked at some point, so defeating blocks and tackling, those are the two most critical fundamentals that any defensive player needs. So, yeah, there is not really much that goes above tackling for me.”
This offseason we learned that a defensive back’s ability to be able to get the ballcarrier on the ground is one of the traits Belichick looks for in a draft prospect. Belichick also believes that good tackling can be taught.
“You can certainly improve technique, you can improve leverage, you can improve the fundamentals of tackling, just like you can improve the fundamentals of running,” Belichick said. “I mean, look, those are the most fundamental skills in the game, so to not work on those on a daily basis, to not work on them and try to improve them continually I think would be a mistake. I think it'd be irresponsible of me as a coach to not teach blocking, tackling, running on a daily basis.”
Belichick continued on to say, “Devin McCourty is an outstanding tackler,” and that Patrick Chung “is one of the best tacklers that I’ve had at safety.”
It’s the focus on the little things that separates the Patriots from the rest and it’s Belichick’s approach to tackling that allows the defense to thrive on an annual basis.