Monday, February 11, 2019

Super Bowl LIII—Old Becomes New

By John Turney

Quite a bit has been written this past week about the Patriots defense employing a 6-1 front and playing a lot of quarters coverage behind it. It worked well for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Here is a shot from the All-22 where you can see the basic alignment the Patriots used to thwart the Rams offense. You can see the six players on the line of scrimmage backed up by one linebacker and the secondary, here showing off-man free, but the Patriots would vary the coverages, often Cover-4 (quarters) but also other coverages.
In Super Bowl III the Colts used something similar. From their 4-3 they used the diamond front with the left linebacker and right linebacker on the line of scrimmage. They played their secondary in the same "look" but usually played Cover-3, but would mix in Cover-4 or Cover-2.

Here is a screenshot of the All-22 of Super Bowl III.
 As we know, Joe Namath figured it out and beat the Colts 16-7. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But, it was fun seeing an old school front employed in the NFL these days.

Belichick used it because it widened the edges and put the Pats in a better position to stop the outside zone runs and the jet sweeps the Rams like. It also eliminates the "bubble" on the line of scrimmage. However, it does leave bubbles on the second level with the one linebacker in the middle of the formation.

Everything old is new again.


  1. John, isn't it also a throwback/variation on the old Greasy Neale Eagles 6-1 that Paul Brown shredded in 1950? Part of what was so great
    about SB 53 (I hate that pretentious roman numeral nonsense) is the refutation of how "2018 proves that in the'new era' that offense rules and defense is dead" reality, as it's been for 100 years, the pendulum continues to swing back and forth.....

    1. Yeah, it's just one of the ways to deploy linebackers in a 4-3. They can be a 6-1 look or a 5-2 look (over and undershift) or a 4-3 look (stack). So, it was around further back than Super Bowl III. Neal, Owen, Landry all used things like this. The "diamond" of 4-3 is in all defensive playbooks going way back

  2. People who don't like Namath and say he is overrated look at his numbers in a big Super Bowl game like this and scream that he is a bum.

    Seems like he actually did a good job calling the game and moving his offense. He called all the plays himself correct?