The Super Bowl was Super Bowled on Sunday night, and naturally the Detroit Lions weren’t in it. There was fervent hope that maybe they might come in as a surprise contender, maybe cash in that suitcase with the surprise contract to turn this match into a three-way deathmatch. No such luck. But the Lions did play a part, in spirit, in the defeat of the Los Angeles Rams—at least, according to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
On ESPN’s NFL Primetime, Belichick discussed how the Week 13 matchup between the Rams and Lions helped to build a blueprint to stop Los Angeles’ high-flying offense:
We felt like if we could make them drive it, make them earn it, similar to what the Lions did. Make them run a lot of plays and if we get them in third down, we felt like we could get them off the field.
Of course, the Lions game ended with two touchdown late to the Rams, giving LA the edge 30-16. But still, Belichick got something useful from it! At least someone did.
While Belichick’s words don’t really illuminate too well what he looked for in the Lions game—”make them earn it” and mumbling about third down is incredibly generic coach talk—football strategist James Light helped to pinpoint examples on what worked effectively against the Rams offense.
In a Twitter thread created prior to the game, Light honed in on how both Belichick and the Lions worked in the past to take away middle of the field passes and outside zone runs on the weak side, and predicted that this would become a strategy Belichick would follow.
Both Belichick in 2015 and Matt Patricia this year really tried to take away MOF throws. In 2015, 19 of the first 45 plays Belichick had a low hole player to cut crossers, whether it was 1 Cross, 1 Rat, 1 Funnel etc. Forced McVay/Cousins to make throws outside the numbers to win pic.twitter.com/c5CfcDkhmB— James Light (@JamesALight) February 2, 2019
Patriots/Lions 1 Cross Examples vs Sean McVay pic.twitter.com/UROMN4kjx5— James Light (@JamesALight) February 2, 2019
It’s a cool bit of praise, although obviously the result for the Lions was wildly different than it was for the Patriots. Not to mention, Belichick was already employing these techniques for years prior, and it was doubtful it was some unique stroke the Lions had stumbled upon against the Rams. It’s more proof than anything that such strategies could work, when employed by Belichick and a team talented enough to go to the Super Bowl, and not just one of his disciples with a struggling season.
But it’s nice to be recognized all the same.