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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 22:46 GMT
Head coach supreme
Bill Belichick makes a call during Super Bowl XXXVI
Belichick masterminded a Giants upset win in 1991
BBC Sport Online's Kevin Asseo examines the biggest reason behind the Patriots' shock Super Bowl victory, the defensive genius of coach Bill Belichick.

Even before the game began, one could sense this was going to be a special night for the New England Patriots.

When it came time for the traditional pre-game player introductions, the Patriots did something that no team before them had ever done.

They refused to be introduced individually, instead running onto the field as a single unit.


We weren't going to let them have an easy time - if they were going to catch the ball, they were going to be hit
Lawyer Milloy
New England safety

The unique show of team unity was quite a change from the typical Prince Naz-type player entrances of past Super Bowls.

And it marked an extraordinary beginning to an extraordinary night for the Patriots and their brilliant head coach, Bill Belichick.

Young quarterback Tom Brady may have won the MVP honour for calmly orchestrating the winning drive as the clock ticked down, but it was Belichick's defensive game plan that truly won the game for New England.

The Patriots used extra defensive backs in pass coverage on almost every play and repeatedly bumped the Ram receivers at the line of scrimmage, disrupting their timing and altering their routes.

"This is the best group of receivers I've seen in my life," said Patriots' cornerback Ty Law.

Tom Brady won the MVP award for his Super Bowl performance
Brady put Belichick's offensive plan in action

"You can't let them get a quick release. We were in their faces as much as we could."

As a result of Belichick's aggressive pass coverage strategy, quarterback Kurt Warner had difficulty finding open targets, giving Patriot pass rushers ample time to pressure Warner into making bad throws.

Even when Warner was able to get the ball to his receivers or running back Marshall Faulk, the Patriots made them pay with big hits and swarming gang tackles.

"Our scheme was to hit," said New England safety Lawyer Milloy.

"We weren't going to let them have an easy time. If they were going to catch the ball, they were going to be hit."

With their physical play early in the game, the Patriots' defenders sent a message that the game would be played on their terms.


This is what every player and every coach works a lifetime for, and it's a tremendous thrill
Bill Belichick

"We made the Rams play our style of football," defensive end Willie McGinest said.

"We're the dark team, we're the bad guys, we're the physical guys, we're the guys that are going to hit you in the mouth. That's our style of play."

The Patriots' victory was reminiscent of Super Bowl XXV in 1991, when the underdog New York Giants were matched against a powerful Buffalo Bills' offence that many considered unstoppable.

The Giants' defence stifled the Bills that day on their way to an improbable 20-19 victory.

Stoic coach

The mastermind behind that defensive game plan? None other than Belichick, the Giants' defensive coordinator at the time.

Belichick now holds the distinction of devising not one, but two of the greatest single-game defensive strategies in NFL history.

The usually stoic head coach allowed himself a rare show of emotion after the win, smiling an ear-to-ear grin throughout the post-game media session.

"This is what every player and every coach works a lifetime for, and it's a tremendous thrill."

Links to more US Sport stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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