What trick will Belichick pull from his hoodie sleeve next?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long been a fan of trick plays.
Some of them are even legal.
But he won’t be alone in next week’s Super Bowl: Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll also went deep in his playbook to earn a chance to play for an NFL championship.
Carroll used a fake field goal to help the Seahawks rally from a 16-point deficit and beat the Green Bay Packers in overtime in the NFC championship game. Belichick reached his sixth Super Bowl as a head coach with the help of a touchdown pass to a 320-pound offensive tackle.
That was one week after Belichick pulled out a double-pass and some innovative lineman deployment to beat the Baltimore Ravens, a strategy that impressed his Seahawks counterpart.
”I think it’s great ball,” Carroll said of the man who succeeded him with much success as the New England coach. ”It’s within rules; it’s great ball. They are figuring out a way to get an advantage. … It makes you stay on your toes; I think it’s really good coaching.”
Belichick has long been known as a coach who will pursue every advantage, a doggedness that has helped him win three Super Bowls.
But has also gotten him in trouble.
In 2007, the Patriots were caught videotaping the other team’s signals despite a warning from the league to stop doing it; Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined and forced to give up a first-round draft pick.
Now Belichick is under suspicion again because the NFL found that the footballs used in New England’s victory over the Colts in the AFC championship game were insufficiently inflated. On Thursday, Belichick denied having anything to do with the deflated footballs.
But there’s no doubt that he is intimately familiar with the rule book and willing to push its limits.
For fear of giving up a competitive advantage, he listed quarterback Tom Brady on the injury report as probable every week for three years. Brady played in every game, and the league eventually changed the reporting rules to combat the tactic.
In lamenting the lineman shuffling that confused him, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh acknowledged it was legal – though it would take a Talmudic understanding of the rule book to explain it – but was so frustrated that he took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to give his players a chance to figure out the matchups.
In that same game, the Patriots also scored a touchdown on a pass by receiver Julian Edelman, a college quarterback who had never thrown a pass in the NFL. Belichick has also pulled out the dropkick, the pooch punt and the intentional safety.
The Seahawks have their own history of trick plays.
There was a touchdown pass by receiver Golden Tate against the Jets in 2012, and a flea-flicker to Jermaine Kearse last season vs. Atlanta. Seattle faked a field goal against Washington during this past regular season and another in the playoffs.
”I would imagine that each offense in this league has some number of trick plays, or gadgets,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. ”I don’t think you go into the season with 25 of them and think you’re going to trick everybody every week or anything like that. I don’t think that’s the point.”
Trick plays can make a coach look like a genius or a fool, but that’s not really the point either. Just knowing they are in the opponent’s playbook can keep a team off-balance and force it to prepare for unlikely options at the expense of more useful practice time.
And even if the coaches go conservative in the Super Bowl, that’s almost as good.
”We thought it would work,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said with a sly smile after his pass to tackle Nate Solder went for a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday. ”So, I don’t know. Maybe we have more tricks up our sleeve.”
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