What you see isn't always necessarily what get, at least not in the case of the Oakland Raiders offense. That's the way Head Coach Bill Belichick described the Raiders attack on Tuesday when he addressed the media.
"[Raiders Coach] Jon [Gruden] has a great background with the West Coast offense," Belichick said. "He uses such a wide array of not only plays but shifts, motions and ways to disguise plays. In addition that, they really employ just about every trick in the book an offense can use to deceive a defense – be it cadence, no huddle, plays specifically designed to attack a particular defense.
"They're very disciplined in the way they run their routes and block their plays and handle their protections. Even though they do a multitude of things, they don't screw up much. It's hard to defend because it's so complex but at the same time there's a high level of execution as well."
Belichick offered examples of ways Gruden tries to exploit matchups by describing a typical play where the Raiders base offense starts out on the field. Backs Charlie Garner and Jon Ritchie join tight end Roland Williams and receiver Jerry Rice and Tim Brown before backups Jerry Porter and James Jett trot onto the field. These substitutions, according to Belichick, lead a defense to believe the Raiders will be throwing.
The opponent then counters by sending out it nickel or dime package and Gruden counters by having the backup receivers replace Brown and Rice. The result: maybe a Garner run up the middle with fullback Ritchie leading the way through a vulnerable defense full of extra defensive backs.
"When you watch Oakland play you're going to see, and there should be some kind of rule outlawing this crap, but they're going to use every personnel group in the book," Belichick said only half in jest. "They're going to shifts, they're going to motion, then they're going shift again. Sometimes they motion twice in one play. Mix that in with all different personnel combinations, running guys on and off the field. Then they have a million different plays.
"We've seen everybody but the quarterback go in motion and I think we have to defend against every formation except the nine-foot line splits – they haven't done either one of those yet. Everything else they've done. Defensively, it's just not fair."
All of that motion and shifting make the Raiders very difficult to defend and double-team. Belichick explained how tough it is to actually find the guys you're trying to take out of the game and how that approach can really slow down a defense. When the opposition is constantly moving, it makes it tough to formulate a plan of attack.
"They're disciplined enough and they're good enough to kill you running the ball, they can kill you with short passes and they can kill you with long passes," Belichick said. "[Quarterback Rich] Gannon is a very good decision-maker. He doesn't have many bad plays, interceptions or sacks. When he has the ball I'm sure they have a lot of confidence it's going to the right spot."
The Patriots defense will certainly be put to the test by the Raiders potent attack, which registered 399 points in the regular season. That total was the fourth highest in the NFL. But the Patriots allowed the sixth fewest points in the league, making this matchup all the more intriguing.
"We'll show up," Belichick deadpanned. "We'll be ready to go come Saturday."
But will he and his troops be able to find the Raiders?