FOXBOROUGH — On Thursday, Patriots safety Devin McCourty commented that sometimes it seems as if Peyton Manning knows an opposing defense as well as the players on that defense.
When facing a player of Manning’s caliber — as the Patriots will when they take on the Broncos Sunday night —
A defense can simply get ready for the coming play, not trying to hide how it plans to cover, but that doesn’t work for very long, said the Patriots coach.
“I mean, you can do that, it’s just a question whether you can hold up in it or not,” Belichick said. “I’d say the odds of that aren’t great, to be honest with you.
“I mean, usually when he sees what it is, he gets to the play he wants to get to. I would say they’ve hit a lot of big plays on plays like that. He sees the blitz, calls a tear screen to Demaryius Thomas and he goes 75 yards for a touchdown.
“You can be in whatever you want to be in, but if they have a play to beat it, and it’s well-executed, which it frequently is with Denver, you’re just playing right into their hands. They’ve been waiting all day to run the play against that situation. You tell them, ‘OK, here we are, we’re going to be in Cover-2 zone, go ahead and run your best play,’ well, they will.
“Or ‘We’re going to be in man-free or we’re going to be in blitz or we’re going to be in man-under two-deep, what are you going to do about it?’ They can usually do something about it. I don’t really think anybody has had a lot of success playing them that way.
“If you just out-personnel them at every position across the board and say, ‘We’re all just going to lock up on one guy and we’re going to take everybody and we don’t care that they know where we are because we’re that good,’ I just don’t think anybody has been able to do that.
“They’ve scored more points than anybody in football. I’m just saying, it’s hard to do. Somewhere along the line, they have a good matchup, if they know exactly what you’re in. I don’t think anybody has played them that way very effectively in whatever it is they’ve tried to play — man, zone, blitz, man-free, two-deep man, two-deep zone, three-deep zone, three-man rush.
“If you tell them what you’re in, I think you’re probably not going to like the way it’s going to end up. Now, you know, sometimes it’s situational. Then you have to, sometimes you have to live with that. I don’t think down after down, anybody has really had that much success doing that.”
Successfully disguising things as a defense takes the effort of all 11 men on the field; it can’t be one player doing one thing and a separate player doing something different.
“You have to be very well-coordinated on that,” said Belichick, “because what they do with the cadence, they make it hard for you to do that. Sometimes they run up and snap the ball real quickly, so it forces you to get lined up.
“Other times they go up there and they delay and check the play and get into a formation that kind of makes you declare so they can see what you’re in and then get to the play they want to get to and go at a very slow pace.
“It’s hard to over-disguise, because if they go quick, then you could be way out of position. [Manning] does a real good job of that, of changing the tempo to kind of force the defense to show what they’re in so he can get to it and then obviously the plays they go quick on, they don’t really care what the defense is in because they’re kind of all-purpose plays.”