Former Patriots executive explains what Belichick's gameplan is really about

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday February 10, 2017

Heading into the Super Bowl, there was a lot of talk about how Bill Belichick will take away the best thing a team does. But what does that mean? Doesn’t every coach try to do that?

It’s about the details. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi worked with the Patriots from 2014-15, and he joined The Rich Eisen Show to explain that it’s not what the opposing team does best. It’s about attacking each individual player.

What he does, is he doesn’t take away what you do best, he takes away what the players do best,” Lombardi said. “For example, if he knows Jake Matthews lacks power at left tackle, he pushed the pocket, Trey Flowers with the first pass rush of the game. Trey Flowers starts pushing Matthews back into the pocket. He knew the guards lacked power, they pushed them back in the pocket. He knew where Julio (Jones) wanted to get the ball.

“It’s not about taking away the best plays, it’s taking away the players’ skill set. That’s what he does.”

The detail is everywhere from the head coach. From the defensive backs to the kickoff team.

“He’s one of the few head coaches that, before the game, if you said, ‘Who’s the L4 on the kickoff team, he’ll tell you,’” Lombardi said. “Not a lot of guys do that. What he’s really good at, every Monday, he’ll meet with Brady, Jimmy Garappolo, Jacoby Brissett and he’ll go over every defensive back of the opposing team. When you’re doing that, you’re involved with the game. ‘Take this guy, attack this guy in a certain way.’

“That’s what the essence is of taking away the best things they do. It isn’t some broad thing. Everybody’s trying to do that. It’s in the details where he operates.”

How do the Patriots take castoffs from other teams and find a spot for them? As Lombardi put it, Belichick’s best attribute is defining the role of a player. That’s how they take Malcolm Butler undrafted out of West Alabama and turn him into one of the top corners in the league. It’s how Kyle Van Noy finds a spot. He sees how a player will fit, gives them a defined role, and they stay within it.

“Define the role, and then work within the system. That’s why he’s so successful,” Lombardi said.

But for all Belichick does, he was still down 28-3 in the second half of the Super Bowl. The Patriots got whooped in the first half. But that’s also a credit to the Falcons and how good they were.

Still, a key part of preparation was part of the comeback: the two-point conversions, including one play the Pats brought “back from the grave.”

“All week, during the preparation for the Super Bowl, the Patriots had two periods on Thursday and Friday practicing their two-point plays. For whatever reason, he felt they needed to have a volume of two-point plays going into the game,” Lombardi said. “It proved to be correct, and the difference in the game. Their two point plays, essentially nobody talks about, won the game.

“The one with Amendola, they ran that play in the third quarter on the first drive, and Amendola lost three yards. They ran it again on a crucial play in the game, and I think they were all holding their breath on the sidelines saying, ‘Can this work?’ It did.”

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