With the Patriots getting set to host the Kansas City Chiefs in prime time Sunday night, the theme of the week has been speed. Few offenses boast more fast players than Kansas City's and Bill Belichick has discussed the challenges that presents all week.
On Friday, the theme remained the same but the focus was switched to the other side of the ball. Belichick was asked about Chiefs defensive end and pass rush specialist Dee Ford, and not surprisingly the coach came back to the word of the week – speed.
"Especially the situations that they've been in, like we were in at the end of the game last year, they were ahead, it's third-and-long in passing situations," Belichick began. "He's very quick off the ball, he anticipates the snap count well, he gets a good jump, he's fast anyway. He's a very explosive player. He just needs not even a step, a half step, a quarter step, and he gets the edge there and can be a very disruptive player."
Despite some otherwise dismal numbers on defense, the Chiefs have been able to control the scoreboard and generally have gotten plenty of pressure on quarterbacks while protecting leads. Ford is tied with Allen Bailey for the team lead in sacks with 4 and Kansas City has 15 as a team through five weeks.
"They have guys like [Chris] Jones inside that push the pocket," Belichick added. "Sometimes it's hard for the quarterback to step up because they have the inside pass rush, the outside pass rush and there's nowhere to go. They have a good complementary pass rush with Ford and [Justin] Houston outside and Jones especially inside. They do a good job of squeezing the pocket. It's a good rush."
Otherwise Kansas City's defense has struggled mightily in 2018, ranking at or near the bottom in a number of categories, which is why the bulk of the attention has been on the Chiefs attack all week. That was once again the focus on Friday during Belichick's final press conference before Sunday's showdown.
RPO Speedwagon – Much has been made all week of the Chiefs high-powered offense and their young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Like many teams in today's NFL, Kansas City likes to use RPO looks that are designed to keep defenses guessing.
Belichick was asked about the cat and mouse game that can sometimes result from such plays.
"It could be. It would depend on where the player is located and what he does," Belichick explained. "If he gives a clean read then it's a clean read. If it's not a clean read then it's not a clean read. Quarterbacks have to figure out what the rule is on the play. Some things are a lot cleaner than others. When they're not clean you have to have a rule and whoever is making the determination of what he is doing has to do it. Two guys that are reading it, the quarterback and the receivers, that just adds to the degree of difficulty."
Bait and switch – The RPO continued as the discussion turned to the possibility of turning the tables on the quarterback. Instead of allowing the offense to dictate the matchups, Belichick was asked if it was possible to trick the quarterback and bait him into making the wrong reads.
Belichick explained how that task isn't realistic, however, on such quick plays that require a simple read.
"If the guy they're reading doesn't go with the flow of the play then they hand the ball off. If he goes then they throw it. So, I don't think it's that complex of a read," the coach continued.
"He can't do both. Run and then come back it's too late. Stay and then go after the handoff he's probably not going to get over there fast enough unless somebody else turns it back into him. That would be hard for him to be in two places at once. That's what they're trying to do, make him take one or the other."
Chiefs in disguise – Finally, the Chiefs offense features a variety of pre-snap movements and adjustments. Constant motion and personnel groupings can make it difficult on opposing defenses to determine how best to go about their business.
Belichick explained how sometimes the defense can benefit in such situations as opposed to dealing with offenses that generally like up in similar formations every play.
"That's kind of the chicken or the egg question," Belichick said when asked if the motion made it tougher to disguise the defense. "If you're in the same formation every time then it's pretty easy to read the defense and it's pretty easy to read small variations in the defense. You may try to disguise it a little bit but a very small variation is a lot easier to differentiate when you're in the same formation.
"When you're in something different every time sometimes the defense may not even be lined up properly or in the exact location that they want to be lined up in just because they made the mistake. It's a different look or formation and sometimes the read on that can be read incorrectly just because the defense hasn't fully aligned properly because an adjustment hasn't been made.
"Shifting and sending guys in motion creates a lot of communication and possibly alignment changes for the defense but it also creates a lot of recognition for the offense because sometimes that can cause more confusion on the offensive side of the ball. You wouldn't do it if you don't think you're going to gain an advantage but there are issues on both sides of the ball."