Bill Belichick has had plenty of experience handling explosive offenses in the Super Bowl. Belichick as a defensive coordinator faced John Elway and the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI and the K-Gun offense in Super Bowl XXV. As a head coach, he faced the “Greatest Show on Turf” and will be facing the NFL’s #1 scoring offense on February 5th. While the Belichick-coached Giants defense featured multiple Hall of Famers, both those Super Bowls had one thing in common and that was the Giants controlling the time of possession. For me, that’s the bigger takeaway from those games as opposed to how the Giants defended Elway and how they defended the K-Gun offense.
In the former famous Super Bowl, which is also the Scott Norwood Wide Right Bowl, the Giants elected to go with a ball control offense. At the time, starting QB Phil Simms was out for the year with backup Jeff Hostetler filling in and the Giants top RB was Ottis Anderson. The Giants used a running game that picked up 175 yards, Anderson doing the heavy lifting with 21 carries for 102 yards and a TD. They complemented that running game with a dink and dunk passing game that helped the Giants convert 9 of 16 third downs.
So what lessons from those games can be learned for the Patriots coaching staff in preparation for the Super Bowl? The biggest takeaway should be how the Giants limited the amount of possessions for those offenses by controlling time of possession themselves. That means the Patriots should run the ball and convert on 3rd downs to control the clock. Atlanta’s run defense is ranked 29th by Football Outsiders and 26th by Pro Football Focus. The Falcons play with a young, light, and fast front, which could mean the Patriots can move those smaller bodies off the line of scrimmage and allow LeGarrette Blount to bludgeon the Falcons defense in the run.
The Falcons defense is not one to be taken lightly, as there is a lot of talent and speed in there. However, I do think the Patriots can take advantage of the Falcons’ small front as other teams have done this season. The Patriots being able to run the ball on offense and eat up clock will limit the amount of possessions the Falcons can have and limit the total number of scoring opportunities. We could also Belichick employ a similar approach to the coin toss against the Falcons as he did against the Steelers and that’s take the ball first and try to score first and put the Falcons behind from the get-go. In this case, the Patriots best defense might be offense.