We all know Bill Belichick is famous for trying to take away one key offensive player from the opposing team away. I think that’s quite possibly what he does again this week. For me? I’d try to take away Travis Kelce, as he wins in the intermediate more than Tyreek Hill does.
One thing the Patriots could potentially do that could help them with both is something that the Steelers used heavily in their victory over the Chiefs in the 2016 Divisional Round.
I re-watched the Steelers playoff game last night, and noticed a couple things. One was that they didn’t blitz much, but the other one was that they were extremely Cover 3 heavy, but added a little wrinkle. Forgive the broadcast view on the screen shot, All-22 wasn’t working when I decided to write this.
When Chris Conley was lined up as an X receiver (bottom of your screen), they were frequently playing a press technique on him. If Conley releases trying to go vertical they were basically playing man principles on him, which you can do with Cover 3 on the outside. Seattle uses this technique frequently.
What this allowed the Steelers to do was play sound coverage with a safety in the middle of the field for Kelce and both off and under both him and Hill. It also had the added benefit of daring Smith and Conley to beat them vertically, which they weren’t able to do.
Also, since they rarely sent more than four, they had six total in coverage for the remaining four receivers outside of Conley. The underneath coverage on Conley’s side even looked as though they were cheating to the remaining four receivers. The reason Smith took a few of those shots last year was because the Steelers were daring him to.
I’m interested to see if this is utilized at all by New England, and if the Chiefs even give them the chance. If Andy Reid thinks the Patriots might utilize some of the same concept, Hill or Kelce could line up at X or in different formations to discourage anyone playing a similar concept. My guess is Hill and Kelce align opposite each other early to see if they tilt or adjust to one of them.