New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bill Belichick hasn’t changed the way he coaches the New England Patriots to avoid roughing the passer penalties. Because he doesn’t have to.

The NFL hasn’t exactly changed its rules on roughing the passer flags for 2018. There’s merely been an increased focus (to say the least) on pass rushers who slam quarterbacks into the ground or land on them with all or most of their body weight. That was already illegal. The league is simply putting those moves under a much bigger microscope now.

But Belichick was already in tune with the rules and has never coached his players to land on the quarterback or lead with their helmet on QB hits. The proof is in the numbers. The Patriots are one of nine teams who have yet to commit roughing the passer this season.

Oct 4, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing different for Belichick, if you ask him.

“Right, so they’re not new rules,” said Belichick during a Tuesday conference call. “I mean, you’re not allowed to lead with your head, you’re not allowed to body slam the quarterback, you’re not allowed to hit him below the knees, you’re not allowed to hit him above the shoulders. And, if he’s out of the pocket, then some of those rules change, and if he’s in the pocket, you’re allowed to horse collar him.

“I mean, the rules are the rules. So, I mean, I hope you’re not implying that we’ve been coaching something that was illegal and now we’re changing the way we’re coaching it, because that’s simply not the case. So, I’m not really sure what new rule it is you’re talking about here. We’ve coached the rules as they’ve been written and as we’ve received them. So, whatever the emphasis is the emphasis is, but that doesn’t change the fundamental of the rule. I’ve never taught anybody to hit a quarterback above the shoulders or hit him below the knees or body slam him or lead with our helmet and spear him – like we’ve never taught that. So, I’m not really sure what you’re referring to.”

FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 30, 2018: Adam Butler of the New England Patriots sacks Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 30, 2018: Adam Butler of the New England Patriots sacks Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Sounded like an oddly defensive answer from Belichick. But it’s true that the Patriots typically don’t sack quarterbacks the way, say, Clay Matthews has to start the season. The Green Bay Packers lead the league with five roughing the passer flags, and Matthews has committed three of them. At least two of the flags on him were extremely ticky-tack, which led Matthews to call the league “soft”. But if the Packers coached him and their defenders better, they might not have to worry about drawing a flag over landing right on the quarterback.

Adam Butler’s sack of Ryan Tannehill is how you typically see the Patriots bring down quarterbacks. Butler gets Tannehill in the grasp and basically has the QB land on him as he drags him to the turf. Helmet contact and body-slams are rare with Patriots defenders against opposing quarterbacks when they get to them. Butler’s technique here would almost never get penalized.

So yeah, Belichick. Not concerned about the new emphasis on roughing the passer, nor should he be.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.