Was Bill Belichick Miffed By Giants’ Preseason Game Plan Vs. Patriots?

The Giants weren't shy about blitzing the Patriots' QBs

by

August 12

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New York Giants’ blitz-happy approach in Thursday night’s preseason opener seemed to irritate New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Asked Friday about the Patriots’ decision not to call any play-action passes in their 23-21 loss at Gillette Stadium, Belichick replied:

“Well, with what the Giants were doing, there’s a lot of reasons for some of the things that we did just to try to manage the game. So, just leave it at that.”

What were the Giants doing? They were coming after the Patriots’ quarterbacks, especially third-string rookie Bailey Zappe.

Teams rarely send extra pass rushers on more than a handful of plays in Week 1 of the preseason, choosing to save their more aggressive and exotic pressure packages for the games that matter. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 exhibition opener, New England QBs faced just six blitzes, per Pro Football Focus. In 2018, they faced nine. In 2019, eight. Last year, a mere five. (The 2020 preseason was canceled due to COVID-19.)

On Thursday, the Giants — whose new head coach, Brian Daboll, is a former New England assistant — blitzed the Patriots 21 times, per PFF, including on 17 of Zappe’s 33 dropbacks.

The fourth-round draft pick displayed scattershot accuracy in his first taste of NFL action, but he held up reasonably well against New York’s pressure, going 12-for-16 for 135 yards and a touchdown with one interception when blitzed.

New England’s offensive line, which has struggled with communication issues in practice as the team introduces a new scheme, allowed one sack and three QB hits, though Zappe also had an in-the-grasp throwaway in the end zone that probably warranted an intentional grounding penalty.

Veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who played the first two series before giving way to Zappe, said the 23-year-old “showed a lot of grit.”

“That’s not easy to go in in your first NFL experience, especially with what they were throwing at us defensively, a lot of blitz zero, a lot of tight man coverage, some overload blitzes,” Hoyer said after the game. “(It was) some stuff that we haven’t seen, and he hung in there, made some great throws.”

Mac Jones did not play in the game, sitting out along with most of the Patriots’ other starters. New England will host the Carolina Panthers for joint practices next Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of their preseason matchup next Friday.

NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

NFL referee John Hussey
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