#BUFvsNE: Belichick’s Chess Match

Just a quick note on this Bills/Patriots game we’re watching right now off of something Jon Gruden said.

He mentioned that the Patriots had been changing personnel, frequently moving from three tight ends to three receivers and back again. As I think Gruden pointed out, eventually Belichick will catch you with the wrong personnel and take advantage of it.

Off of that I realized that when he does get that wrong combination for the defense against his personnel on the offense, then he can capitalize on that and then exploit it all the way down the field if they stay in the personnel and stay in no huddle so that the defense doesn’t have time to substitute.

Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning, along with my new hobby of watching the UFC, plus podcasts like Joe Rogan, The Fighter and the Kid and Tim Ferriss, have helped me find various ways to re-frame how I think about things related to football. The ability to reframe this then helps me approach an idea from another angle and learn something new. The problem solving mechanism that we find in chess, mixed martial arts and football is the same thing, just in a different arena.

As Ferriss shows through his podcast, if you can learn to tease out what successful people do, you can use the lessons learned across various fields or industries. I think the same kind of thinking applies across these three sports as I’ve illustrated many times on this site. In terms of what we saw with Belichick tonight, I don’t play chess, but I like to think of it like he were to think of his players like actual chess pieces that can only move in certain ways or do certain things.

More broadly speaking, this is another small thing that Belichick (and Brady) do that makes a huge difference. It’s another thing that teams need to be worried about, another thing to be conscious of, it’s another mistake the Patriots could force on top of all the mistakes teams naturally make and their own talents. Meanwhile, the Patriots seem to never make a mistake, never miss an opportunity themselves.

And as I write this, Dan Carpenter misses a 48-yard field goal, something Stephen Gostowski doesn’t do, which gives the Patriots the opportunity to drive from the 38 and they only need to get to about the 35-yard line for what amounts to an almost automatic three-points from a kicker who hasn’t missed in 31 straight attempts.

As Christopher L. Gasper wrote for the Boston Globe this week, the Patriots have a .717 winning percentage in games decided by three points or fewer since 2001 because of this combination of a great coach, a great quarterback and a great kicker, three things that give you that extra edge in close games.

Who’s the worst team since 2001? The Bills with .368. The organization that just missed that kick and the organization of Wide Right in January 1991 against the Bill Belichick led New York Giant defense.

Rather than go into the half up 6-3 with a load of momentum, Ryan and the Bills will go into the half down 10-3 and with the momentum on the home side. Patriots ball to start the second half.

Bill Belichick’s literally playing chess to everyone else’s checkers.

Tweet me @ZackMooreNFL

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  • Jim

    Do you have any sort of statistic for how efficient the Pats offense in their last possession of the first half (and 2nd half in cases were there the game is in question)? It would be very interesting to see a them vs the league over the last… 10-15 years. And their last possession efficiency vs every other possession they have.

    It seems like the score… every… single…. time. Even (especially?) when they are not firing on all cylinders on offense to that point (like last night). All the need, is the ball with under 2 minutes in the first half, and all the sudden, everything falls into place.