The New England Patriots won three of the last five Super Bowls, and after every one of those victories NFL Films produced two specials: America’s Games, which annually chronicles the story of the last championship team, and Do Your Job — the latter being a format specifically designed for the Patriots with the intention of shining a spotlight on their coaching staff and its role in continuously bringing Lombardi Trophies to Foxborough.
Yesterday, NFL Network premiered them both — and we at Pats Pulpit were not going to miss them. Now that the two hour-long documentaries are in the books, here are five takeaways:
The Belichick-McDaniels relationship is special
In the past, Do Your Job focused on the entire coaching staff. The third installation in the series, however, was all Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels — and it became pretty obvious how integral both men are to the Patriots’ success, and how special their relationship is. In the opening scene of the documentary, set at New England’s Super Bowl party in June, Belichick already set the tone when he expressed his happiness about McDaniels not leaving to join the Indianapolis Colts during the 2018 offseason.
“Josh... glad you didn’t go with Indianapolis, let’s start with that,” said Belichick about his protégé during the ceremony. The feeling very much appears to be mutual as the quotes from New England’s long-time offensive coordinator show as well: “It’s hard for me to imagine somebody being a better role model and a better leader for a young coach. He gives you responsibility and then he lets you do your job,” said McDaniels.
“I give him a little bit of input, but 90 to 95 percent is his plan, his vision. Rarely do we see things that differently,” added Belichick. Needless to say that the two working alongside each other has played a tremendous role in the Patriots’ success over the last few years.
The Patriots out-adjusted the Rams in Super Bowl 53
One of the biggest stories to come out of New England’s victory in the Super Bowl was the team’s ability to always stay one step ahead of one of the most potent offenses in the league. The de facto game-clinching interception by Stephon Gilmore in the fourth quarter was a perfect example of that, as Belichick and McDaniels explained when looking at the blitz package employed to counter Los Angeles’ spread look.
Offensively, meanwhile, the team struggled for most of the game. However, Belichick and McDaniels came to the conclusion that all the Patriots needed was a single successful drive to possibly put themselves in a winning position. “At some point in the game you have to just be willing to say ‘we’re not going to score 32,’” said McDaniels. “I think the realization for us happened somewhere in the middle towards the end of the third quarter. It was like, ‘look we need a drive — a drive.’ And that might be enough.”
Consequently, the team went to its 22-personnel look with two backfield players, two tight ends and one wide receiver. This, in turn, allowed the Patriots to exploit the favorable mismatches created against the Rams’ base defense.
The Patriots thrive on adversity
Max Kellerman, Rob Parker, Nick Wright — you name them. They all played a supporting role in America’s Game as the leaders of the ‘New England is not good anymore’ club. And while no other organization in the NFL has been able to ignore the noise quite like the Patriots, it became evident during both shows that the players used the chatter as motivation to fuel their postseason run. One moment exemplified this.
In a postgame interview after the divisional round win against the Los Angeles Chargers, Tom Brady mentioned how “everyone thinks we suck” — a rally cry around which the entire team gathered. “He just brought up something that everyone’s been saying about us throughout the whole year, and he’s sticking up for our whole team. He’s sticking up for the whole organization by saying that,” Rob Gronkowski pointed out during America’s Game.
The Patriots were able to thrive on adversity the whole year, and were able to become a better team because of it.
New England established its offensive identity late in the season...
Coming off back-to-back losses against the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots decided to go back to basics on the offensive side of the ball as McDaniels pointed out in Do Your Job: the team focused on running the football again like it did earlier during the year, and built momentum based on the success it had over the last two games of the regular season against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets.
“What are we really good at? What’s the most consistent part of our team, offensively? And then you commit to it,” said McDaniels. “We had been a pretty decent running football team, and it’s something that we felt our personnel fit.”
...which led to power-i runs winning all three playoff games
New England’s willingness to run the ball when going against high-octane passing offenses proved to be a successful plan throughout the postseason. One formation and play in particular — the classic power run out of the i-formation — was a go-to call for McDaniels that helped the club win all three of its playoff games. In fact, the game-winning touchdowns against both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Rams came on the same play design.
“That was the same play we ran in the Kansas City game,” said McDaniels about Sony Michel’s 2-yard scoring run in the Super Bowl. “We don’t have any problem doing that. If it’s the best play for us to run and our guys have confidence in doing it, then that’s the call at that time. In this situation we executed it pretty well and were fortunate to get it in there.”