By John Turney
|4-3 defensive diagram from Bill Belichick's defensive playbook
In Super Bowl LIII Bill Belichick deployed a 4-3 defense (some call it the 6-1) to slow the Rams running game which worked and, in turn, slowed the Rams play-action passing game.
|Screenshot of George Allen's 1977 Defensive Playbook
|1970, Allen's the 6-1 vs Vikings
As a result, the Rams scored three points and ran for only 62 yards, and had 198 net yards passing as the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl since 2001.
|Patriots 4-3 (though one of the LBers was a safety) in 6-1 alignment
That fall, in 2019, Wade Phillips tried his had at the 6-1 against the Ravens using it as his base (around 30 snaps) in that game. It didn't work.
|Rams in a 4-3 (4 DL, 3 LB), in 6-1 alignment
He used it a little versus Seattle but against running teams like the Cowboys and 49ers, Phillips stuck with his 3-4 under as a base and Dallas found some holes and ran for a lot of yards. Other than that, the 3-4 worked well in 2010. In the 14 games aside from the Ravens and Cowboys the Rams run defense allowed 90.1 yards rushing a game. Against those two the Rams allowed 274.0 yards rushing per game.
|Rams in the 6-1 vs Seattle in 2019
Sunday night, beginning in the second quarter, new Rams defensive Brandon Staley used a 6-1 to slow the 49er run game and it worked fairly well. From the 2nd drive of the second quarter the Rams ran the 4-3 (in 6-1 alignment) 14 times when they were in base and the 3-4 six times hwne they were in a seven-man base.
The lack of a pass rush hurt the Rams more than the run defense. In the first quarter, they allowed a 15-yard run to Mostert. One note: some of the so-called "passes" the 49ers were credited with were essentially jet weep runs, but lateraling to Samual or others so it's credited as a pass but it's really a run.
|Here is the 6-1 Sunday night vs the 49ers
The idea for the 6-1 is not to get flanked (wider alignment) and also keep the first level (defensive line) tough to get through. You wouldn't want anyone to get through because there is one linebacker on the second level or maybe two if safety is walked up. So the defensive linemen are not getting up to run the passer, they are playing run.
In fact, Sunday the Rams used four defensive tackles—Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Sebastion Joseph-Day, and Greg Gaines. Last year it was Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Sebastion Joseph-Day, and end Morgan Fox that were the down linemen in the 4-3 (6-1).
The middle linebacker was Micah Kiser and the left linebacker was Leonard Floyd. On the right, it was either Ebukam or Hollins in the 4-3 (6-1). The emphasis on the 4-3 cut Kenny Young's snaps quite a bit as well as rookie Terrell Lewis who would get more snaps in the 3-4 defenses as a rusher.
Either way, it was interesting to watch. Bill Belichick used this scheme to win a Super Bowl, we've seen quite a lot of teams try it on the Rams in 2019 but none worked as well as the Patriots and when the Rams have tried it the results have been mixed, but nice to take in some old school football from time to time.