Watching 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan match X’s and O’s with the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick on Sunday is a worst-case scenario for those who easily get queasy from visually induced motion sickness.
Shanahan is known for using a variety of formations, shifts and motions to dictate favorable matchups. Conversely, Belichick’s defense seems to play a brand of position-less football to create confusion.
Shanahan has a given a name for the chaos New England aims to create with all of their moving around prior to the snap.
“I call it an ‘illusion of complexity’ because it looks like a mess,” Shanahan told Greg Papa on "49ers Game Plan."
“And sometimes, it’s like, ‘Wait, I already counted him.’ It’s like there are 15 guys out there. And [the ball is snapped] and it settles down, and it’s like, ‘All right, I see it now.’ ”
All of the pre-snap activity eventually settles down and the Patriots turn into an alignment of 11 well-coached players who implement standard, sound defensive principles, Shanahan said.
The 49ers might be in a better position to deal with the Patriots’ defense after already facing Belichick coaching disciples this season with the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.
But, now, the 49ers will be facing the master on Sunday in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Belichick is known for identifying the offense’s most effective asset and game-planning to take away that facet of the opposing team.
Shanahan believes the 49ers’ offense has enough balance to make it difficult for Belichick to identify and limit just one area that will swing the advantage toward the Patriots.
“I don’t think it will be one specific thing, personally, which isn’t always the case with him -- just because we’re pretty balanced in a lot of areas,” Shanahan said.
After Belichick this week raved about the all-around talents of tight end George Kittle, it is easy to assume Kittle will be the target. But Shanahan believes Kittle is difficult to wipe out of a game because he can impact a game in more ways than as just Jimmy Garoppolo's top pass-catcher.
“I think everyone knows George has been our biggest threat, but it’s very tough to just take away a tight end when he’s run-blocking all the time,” Shanahan said.
“Blocking and running routes, it’s hard to always put two guys on him because that can mess up some run fits. I think it’s a little different. I guess you could say that makes it harder for us because we don’t know as much.”
One thing is for certain, the 49ers must be ready to adjust every series -- or even from play to play within a possession -- as Belichick aims to keep Shanahan guessing.
“Hopefully, we get a feel in the game,” Shanahan said. “But I promise if we get a feel, he’s going to change it. So you just keep dialing it up and hope you can get it right more often than not.”