I know this is the wrong Super Bowl to breakdown at this point in time, but former New England Patriots executive Michael Lombardi just shared some insight about the 2014 Patriots on The Rich Eisen show that I thought was worth sharing.
Lombardi gave a concrete and justifiable reason why Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t call a time out at the end of Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks.
For context, since Super Bowl XLIX was a lifetime ago, the Seahawks were driving against the Patriots and had the ball on the goal line, looking to score. If Seattle scored, there likely wouldn’t be enough time for the Patriots to respond.
So when Belichick dialed up a goal line defense against the Seahawks and let the clock run, people scratched their head. Lombardi explained Belichick’s decision:
“When I first joined the Patriots in ‘14, they had just lost to Denver in a playoff game,” Lombardi said, “and one of the things that they were really bad [at] that season was in the red zone [and] goal line defense. So Belichick was obsessed with trying to find a goal line defense that could stop the run. And so that became the three corner defense. That defense was practiced all spring, was practiced all during the fall, never called until the Malcolm Butler interception play.”
“Get out of here,” Eisen interjected.
“This is true, Rich,” Lombardi continued. “This is true. So when you hear Pete Carroll, people say, well [you have] Marshawn Lynch, it [throwing the ball] was the dumbest play of all time. Why wouldn’t you run the ball? They couldn’t have run the ball. It was a goal line defense. Marshawn Lynch would have lost a yard on the play.
“So when Pete Carroll says they’re in goal line, he sees the goal line front, but they’re in goal line [with] three corners- first time they ran it all year- and Belichick didn’t want to give them time to adjust to what they saw on the field, so that’s why he let the clock play out.”
And there it is. The Patriots called a defensive package that they hadn’t used all season to defend against the Seahawks goal line offense and a play that the Patriots had been practicing to stop. This is where coaching plays such a big role in the strategy of the game.
How often will a coach use a defense that hadn’t been used all year at the most crucial point in the year? It would probably take a coach that uses plays from 13 years ago to feel confident making the decision.
Fortunately for the Patriots, Belichick’s gamble paid off- and Lombardi gives the best reasoning why the head coach was willing to push his chips all in at the goal line.