Former Giants coach explains how you beat Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Saturday February 04, 2017


How do you beat Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl? One coach who did it twice has an idea.

Kevin Gilbride was the Giants’ offensive coordinator for both of their wins over the Patriots. And while the Giants defense was a big part of those wins, Gilbride joined PFT Live on Thursday and explained how Belichick tried to slow down the opposing offense. This Super Bowl matches up the Pats’ No. 1 defense and the Falcons’ No. 1 offense.

“We had played them during the regular season (in both years), and both of those games were high-scoring shootouts. He came after us a little bit and mixed in his regular dosage of two-deep, some pressure, some man,” Gilbride said. “And then we get to the Super Bowl, and he decided, in both Super Bowls, 'We’re going to slow this thing down and play a lot of two-high, be conservative, predominantly two-deep zone coverage underneath and see if the Giants are good enough and patient enough to run the ball, throw underneath and win the game that way.'

“There weren’t a lot of big-gainers, 40-yard gainers. We were 30-for-40 in that second game, for 300 yards, ran the ball for a little over 100, but there were not a lot of 25-yard runs or big passes. Did you have the discipline? Did you have the patience? Did you have the flexibility? We fortunately did. We had three receivers you could throw to, so if you ganged up on one, we had a couple other guys that were still good enough to beat who you put on them.”

Belichick is going to take your best strategies away. Having two weeks to prepare allows not only for your regular gameplan, but how to plan for adjustments to every scenario you can think of. So when Gilbride was surprised by the Patriots’ coverage change, he had a plan to adapt.

Gilbride said the Patriots don’t play two-high much anymore these days, but it could be how they try to defend the Falcons’ explosive offense. They may dare the Falcons to run the ball more and play two-high while also defending underneath.

“They’re no longer a two-deep team very often. It’s got to be 3rd-and-long. They’re man coverage, single-high,” Gilbride said. “Even when they went two-high against the Steelers, they always played Funnel, they always had an extra guy. I can see them doing that against the Falcons. There were a lot of three-man rushes. What they would do is take the extra linebacker at D-end back. Even though the safety shaded to (Antonio) Brown, they had an underneath guy. Even when they went two-deep, they played outside leverage in man coverage and had the additional zone player to knock anyone who came on those shallow crosses.

“When I look at Atlanta, they do a lot of similar things. Julio (Jones) running those shallow crosses. I think they’ll try to do that. Will they have enough answers? That remains to be seen.”

And something that is key for every team in every game: You have to tackle.

“The thing you have to do that Pittsburgh did not do, you’ve got to tackle guys,” Gilbride said. “Pittsburgh did not tackle New England’s receivers. How many times did Edelman catch a 5-yard pass an turn it into 20? New England’s going to have to do that.”

The Patriots and Falcons kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 5.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 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 chris@coachingsearch.com.