Watching Sean McVay call plays on offense is like watching someone paint. True art, beautiful design, Sean McVay is a true innovator. All someone needs to be a head coach these days is have a cup of coffee with him. Let’s take a look into what McVay does best and how Flores and Belichick can stop him.
McVay and his misdirections
To start, McVay makes a living off of misdirections and different offensive line shifts. This freezes the second and third levels of the defense. Against the Saints, he called play actions and pulled his guards to one side of the field, then had Goff throw to the opposite side. This froze the linebackers and forced them to go up and play the run, while his receivers quickly got open. This will be hard for the Patriots to defend against as they will be looking to stop the rushing attack early. Expect these tricky play action passes early in the game to try and create uncertainty for that Patriots defense.
Stop the run
One key for the Patriots will be stopping the Rams in 11 personnel (one runningback and one tight end). The Rams run out of that personnel at the highest rate in the NFL, and will look to find success out of that formation early. The goal is to unleash their play action pass, which is their forte, and a weakness of the Patriots. The Eagles early establishment of their run game last year was extremely detrimental to the Patriots defense, and ended up deciding the game. That defense could not stop a nosebleed. Hopefully history does not repeat itself. Expect the Patriots to take the ball to start the game if they can. They want to dictate the game and make the Rams play catch up with them. Both teams will want to start fast, put points on the board, and expose the other team’s defense early.
Belichick’s starting alignment
Belichick will likely start the defense by lining up one defensive tackle in the A-gap and then another in the B-gap. Look for the defensive starters to look something like Flowers, Butler, Guy, and then the surprising Adrian Clayborn. Belichick will likely line up both ends in a seven or nine technique off the very edge of the tackles to establish the edge. This will force Gurley and Anderson inside. This will also keep Goff in the pocket and give him struggles, as he has struggled identifying edge pressure before.
Fighting against the misdirections and nifty play action McVay calls will not be easy. Although the Bears and Lions had success with the strategy of straight up ignoring it earlier this season.
Will McVay be enough?
The key will be stopping the run early to prevent Los Angeles from really digging into their playbook in that first half. Winning the first half will be key for the Patriots to win as getting into a shootout with this Rams team is not something anyone wants to do. The good news is the gameplan has been similar for the Patriots in both playoff games. If the Patriots can stick to the gameplan on defense and start hot, McVay and his genius mind will not be enough to finish on top.