Bill Belichick: 'To me, the game declared at the end of the first quarter'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday February 06, 2017

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady realized early on that the Falcons were going to mostly play man coverage with one high safety, a lot more than they expected. The question was if they could do enough against it.

The Falcons led the Super Bowl 28-3, but the Patriots came back for a 34-28 overtime win to make history. Brady set an NFL record with 63 pass attempts, 43 completions and 442 passing yards with a receiving corps essentially made up of short slot guys.

It was probably 3-to-1 post-safety man. A little bit of post-safety zone, a little two-deep. It was a Cover 1 game,” Belichick said on ESPN after his fifth title. “We didn’t have a lot of success running the ball, but we were able to make enough throws outside, and that finally was the difference for us. We got the ball on the perimeter, to (Chris) Hogan, Danny (Amendola), Julian (Edelman) on the sideline in overtime.”

There wasn’t much disguising from the Falcons D, and the Patriots got the message.

We saw it about midway through the first quarter. To me, the game declared at the end of the first quarter,” Belichick said. “It was a man game with a free safety, and an outside run game. We didn’t do a great job at either one of them, but it declared early, and we played it from there.”

The Patriots rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries, and their longest play was just 28 yards.

New England was able to move the ball from the beginning, but struggled to finish drives, and they had two turnovers in the first half, including a pick-six. But it continued in the second half. In the end, the Pats had 93 offensive plays, compared to 46 from the Falcons.

“We moved the ball, but we didn’t have any points to show for it in the first half,” Belichick said. We just kept grinding it out, kept trying to find plays. James White gave us some plays, Marty (Bennett) gave us some plays. We were just trying to squeeze out some plays here and there primarily in man coverage. You know how Tom is. He just grinds away. ‘Looks like we can do this, do that.’”

Is there a more helpless feeling in sports when Tom Brady is driving against you late in a Super Bowl? They went 91 yards in 10 plays with 3:30 to go and hit the two-point conversion to tie it up with less than a minute to go.

Belichick and Brady had been there plenty of times. What was the message before the tying drive?

“It’s four-down territory, we’re going to try to use our backs,” Belichick said. “They gave us a couple zones there at the end, and we hit James (White) on those angle routes. They played the weak side zone, Tom saw it and hit it. Josh (McDaniels) called a great game. … Great execution.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to