As a veteran football coach when I watch football games I always critique and analyze the little things. During the New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers AFC championship game, one fact could not be disputed, the Patriots did many of the little things great. People either love or hate the Pats, but that comes with being such a successful team, it’s the ‘hater’ mentality. Let’s examine what the Patriots did right in this game, and what why they are so dominant.
7 Things Football Coaches Can Learn From the New England Patriots
1.They do not give up big plays.
The Patriots only gave up two plays that were 20 yards or longer. One of the two plays was a 30 yard touchdown pass during ‘garbage’ time, as the game was already won. Their initial game-plan was to take away Pittsburgh’s best receiver Antonio Brown and they accomplished this by double covering him almost every play. They didn’t allow Brown to beat them deep or run for one of his signature big plays. They also tackled very well and mixed up their coverage. They mixed it up by playing some man to man coverage and Cover 2, Cover 3, and some quarter coverage with trail techniques.
They bent but did not break. The Patriots simply did not allow anything deep, forcing the Steelers to go 10 + plays to score. It’s uncommon for a team to consistently go 10+ plays to score. When offenses have to execute long drives, there is a higher likelihood that a mistake (penalty, turnover) will occur. That is why the Steelers had a ton of yardage but only came out with 17 points.
(See Also) Defensive Philosophy
2. They tackle very well.
The Pats miss very few tackles. Against Pittsburgh, they tackled well in space and were very tough against the run. When a receiver was beat the coverage, they were able to get the receiver on the ground. They didn’t give up a lot of chunk yardage after the catch. Their entire unit- defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs all tackled very well.
(See Also) Open Field Tackling Technique
3. They play swarming defense.
Every defensive coach teaches his players to hustle to the football. However, the Patriots do that on a regular basis. The Pats are experts at gang tackling. Every defender hustles to the ball carrier. This is the main component of why they are such a good tackling team. Their relentless pursuit to the ball carrier helps secure tackles and generates turnovers. When Pittsburgh fumbled the football, the Patriots ran to the ball.
OUR GOLDEN RULE: Regardless if you are playing defense, offense or special teams- run to the football. On offense, if our player fumbles we will have a better chance of recovering because we have numbers around the ball. On defense, relentless pursuit will deter broken tackles, big plays, and allow our team to recover more fumbles and interceptions. The same applies to special teams.
4. Coverage techniques.
We know how difficult it is for defensive backs to track the football when it is in the air. The Patriot defensive backs did an excellent job of playing the receiver hands. When they did not turn their head/ could not find the ball they attacked the hands of the receiver. This lead to many broken-up passes and quiet whistles (no pass interference penalties). This is a technique that all defensive back coaches teach- the Patriots do it extremely well. When playing coverage it’s all about watching the receivers eyes and playing his hands.
(See Also) Man to Man Coverage Techniques
5. They always go for the KILL.
Many wonder why the Patriots keep their starters in during a blow-out, especially as the risk of losing a key player due to injury is apparent. Their philosophy is to never take the foot off of the gas pedal. Even when they are leading by a big margin, they play for the win and go for the kill every time they touch the football.
6. Very few mistakes.
Disciplined. Throughout the Pats-Steelers game the Patriots made very few mistakes, just 2 penalties for 10 yards. They do not turn the ball over and rarely blow a coverage. As I watched this game, I recognized that the Patriots stayed within their scheme brilliantly. They had a set game-plan and it was executed with consistent success. The team, as the world knows, has disciplined players and a great coaching staff. I will say though, having a great QB like Tom Brady always helps.
7. They play awesome Special Teams.
The Patriots did very well on special teams. Many of their starters also play special teams. They did a great job containing Brown on punt returns. They clearly put a ton of emphasis on special teams and it showed last night. They didn’t allow the Steelers to get back into the game via special teams.
(See Also) Coaching Special Teams
I am not a Patriots fan but as a football coach I respect what they do and how they do it. The Pats are a prime example of how to win in football. The things they do well are the same things that great youth football teams do as well. They don’t turn the football over, they don’t take many penalties, they are disciplined, they are well coached, have an excellent QB, they tackle extremely well, and they win special teams.
Tell us your thoughts on the Patriots effort in the comments below.