How Peyton Manning inadvertently helped the Patriots defense dominate the Super Bowl

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Albert Breer of The MMQB has an in-depth new breakdown of the Patriots' defense in Super Bowl LIII, led by conversations with the McCourty twins and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. The story is filled with fascinating details, but what stands out is how Hoyer played a major role in helping the Pats get ready for their dominating defensive performance against the Rams - and how he got a little help from old friend Peyton Manning.

At one point leading up the Super Bowl, something dawned on Hoyer when he watched Manning's ESPN+ series "Detail" in which the future Hall of Fame former QB analyzed the Rams offense. He noticed some similarities to something he'd seen before under Kyle Shanahan. Rams head coach Sean McVay happened to coach under Shanahan from 2010-13 with the Redskins, and Hoyer played under Shanahan with the Browns in 2014 and again with the 49ers in 2017.

Manning tipped Hoyer off: McVay ran the Rams offense essentially the same as how Shanahan did with him under center. He even recognized some of the verbiage from McVay's appearance on the Amazon series All or Nothing about the Rams.

"I guess that’s the risk in putting yourself out there like that," Hoyer joked to Breer.

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA: New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer celebrates with he Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA: New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer celebrates with he Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

"Hey Hoyer, what were you seeing there?"

The intel helped Hoyer be a better scout-team quarterback for the Patriots, which Devin and Jason McCourty both explained. Hoyer approaches the defense in practice like any smart quarterback would in a game, exploiting weaknesses and attacking favorable matchups.

"He’s reading our defense for what he thinks it is—‘if it’s Cover-3, I’m going here.’ So the whole time, he’s reading and reacting," Jason told Breer. "So I think for us as a defense, if something gets carved up in practice, it’s ‘Hey, Hoyer, what were you seeing there? O.K., that’s something we need to adjust from a look standpoint.'"

One of those adjustments was for how QBs had attacked the Patriots when they played with all 11 defenders within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Hoyer knew that the opposing quarterback would have to quickly throw it deep, and players in coverage had to adjust by staying back.

The adjustment ultimately led to Stephon Gilmore's interception on Jared Goff, who rushed up a deep throw as Duron Harmon blitzed and others bore down on him.

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA: New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA: New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Hoyer helped Brian Flores prepare to make that call and Gilmore stay in coverage to give himself the chance at the game-changing pick. The play set up the Pats' ensuing clock-killing field goal drive that put the Super Bowl out of reach for the Rams, who lost 13-3. In small part, Hoyer and the Patriots have Manning to thank for their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

The whole story is a must-read for those fascinated by the Patriots' top-to-bottom dominance on defense in the Super Bowl, from Bill Belichick's roster-building and preparation to Flores' play-calling to the players' outstanding execution. The McCourtys break down a handful of key plays in detail, including Gilmore's interception, a big sack by Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and Jason McCourty's pass breakup on Brandin Cooks in the end zone.

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 [email protected].