The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII and a lot of credit should go to head coach Bill Belichick and the defensive coaching staff for drawing up a game plan that completely confused the Rams’ offense.
In this year’s final snap count analysis, we’ll see how the Patriots schemed to beat the Rams.
The Patriots offense didn’t rotate that much
All five offensive linemen- Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon- along with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski played all 72 offensive snaps in the Super Bowl. Julian Edelman played 69 snaps (96%) and Chris Hogan played 63 snaps (88%), with Hogan coming off the field on the Patriots touchdown drive when the team leaned into their heavy sets with two tight ends and a fullback.
This means that the Patriots really only rotated at the remaining two roster positions.
The Patriots running back rotation was pretty balanced
James White and Sony Michel each played 27 snaps (38%), while Rex Burkhead played 19 snaps (26%) as there was a running back on the field pretty much at all times. While Michel produced as a runner against the Rams base defense, Burkhead faced a lot of sub-packages to remove his potential as a receiver.
Josh McDaniels countered this defense of Burkhead by playing him in that aforementioned heavy sets to create favorable match-ups. Either the Rams would continue to play a lighter sub-package and Burkhead would be able to run, or the Rams would play their heavier base defense and give Burkhead a favorable match-up as a receiver. Los Angeles opted for the latter and New England scored a touchdown.
The other offensive position went to a rotation of James Develin (30 snaps), Phillip Dorsett (26 snaps), and Dwayne Allen (21 snaps), depending on what the Patriots hoped to accomplish on those downs. Basically Develin and Allen played with Michel and Burkhead, while Dorsett played with White.
The New England secondary had a fun wrinkle
The Patriots decided to play Jonathan Jones as a safety in order to let Patrick Chung play closer to the line of scrimmage. That allowed Chung to cover the running back, while Jones covered the tight ends down the field at various times. Jones played 64 of a possible 65 snaps, joining Jason McCourty (65 snaps), Devin McCourty (65), and Stephon Gilmore (65) as the defensive backs most frequently on the field.
Chung played 26 snaps prior to his injury, which opened the door for J.C. Jackson (29 snaps) and Duron Harmon (27 snaps) to have more playing time. The loss of Chung also forced the other players to shift their roles around, as Harmon played the deep safety and Jones moved into the slot.
The Patriots linebackers had a heck of a game
Speaking of players impacted by Chung’s injury, the linebackers really stepped up. When Chung was healthy, he lined up opposite of Kyle Van Noy (65 snaps) at the line of scrimmage with Dont’a Hightower as the middle linebacker (56 snaps). When Chung was injured, the Patriots put Hightower in the vacated role on the edge and brought Elandon Roberts (17 snaps) on to play middle linebacker.
Van Noy and Hightower have been lights out this postseason. The Super Bowl saw their take their already excellent play to another level.
The Patriots defensive line was Trey Flowers and a rotation
Flowers finished the day with 61 snaps as the obvious cornerstone of the defensive front (pay the man!). Deatrich Wise (31 snaps), Adrian Clayborn (26 snaps), and John Simon (14 snaps) rotated on the opposite end.
On the interior, Lawrence Guy led the way with 36 snaps, with Adam Butler (26 snaps) playing a big role on long-distance third downs. Malcom Brown (20 snaps) and Danny Shelton (15 snaps) had smaller roles, but were extremely important for stopping the Rams rushing attack.
The following players played 15+ snaps on special teams:
Nate Ebner (23), Matthew Slater (21), Brandon King (21), Ramon Humber (21), Rex Burkhead (18), Keion Crossen (18), Jonathan Jones (17), Adam Butler (16), Albert McClellan (16)