Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has good reason to believe the Los Angeles Rams don’t know what’s coming Sunday night in Super Bowl LIII.
Frankly, Belichick himself won’t know what is coming until he sees players execute it flawlessly on the field the next three days.
Belichick said if players don’t exhibit flawless proficiency on the field when working on a certain play, scheme or design, he eliminates it from his game plan. The approach is underscored this week.
“We don’t have a lot of plays left in our season,” Belichick said at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon. “Everybody wants to feel good about the plays we do call.”
The Patriots pride themselves on restructuring their approach and “opponent-specific plans” for every game.
“We see a lot of different things over the course of the year. It’s hard for us for one size to fit all,” Belichick said. “That’s just kind of the way I was brought up. I want to match up against our opponent as best we can. Sometimes that might mean doing something different than you’ve done the week before, or month before.
“I hear the phrase a lot, ‘once they have it, they have it’ about players (retaining). That doesn’t work for us. A lot of our learning is reteaching every week. It takes a certain type of individual that can have the motivation and discipline to continue to do that. Throw away last week’s game plan ... Rebuild the house each week. And at the end of the week move on and start a new one. We demand a lot.”
Belichick reminisced Wednesday about sharing his love of football history and books - they owned more than 4,000 combined, mostly predating the 1950s - that feeds his meticulous attention to detail. How meticulous? Belichick requires a study of the opponent and circumstances of game day before deciding how to handle the coin flip.
An element of preparation for Belichick this week was studying film of the Rams against the Detroit Lions. The Lions are coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Not because effective concepts can be copied and pasted into the New England game plan binders for Super Bowl LIII, but to gauge what worked conceptually.
“One of the benefits - a lot of it we’re familiar with,” safety Devin McCourty said. “You know, within this defense, having the ability to adjust to change the game plan within that week. We know there’s some crossover there.”
As per usual, Belichick is leaving little to chance in preparation. Multiple players repeated key statistics coaches have emphasized - including the five non-offensive touchdowns for the Rams this season - as they brace for the game plan quizzes Belichick delivers.
“We need to know every player that’s on the active roster. The ones that get eliminated on the inactive list before the game, you don’t worry about them,” Belichick said. “If a player has a tendency in one particular thing more than another, or the way a team utilizes a player differently, we need to know that too.”
Why the written tests in support of on-field preparation? The Super Bowl is the ultimate pass-fail exercise.
“There’s no play really to relax on these guys. Screw up one play, they’ll have it in the end zone,” Belichick said.
—By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media