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What is the most important period in a game for a coach to manage? The last two minutes? The first drive? It is a period called the Middle 8. If you have listened to our podcast you will have heard myself and Dan talk about this passingly. But I think it is worth diving into here.

Bill Belichick the middle 8

The Middle 8 is the last four minutes of the second quarter and the first four minutes of the third quarter. Winning this mini-game can increase your chances of winning your game by eight percent. So, it is something that all coaches should be aware of.

So, let’s boil it down into its simplest form. If I’m coaching, my ideal scenario is that I’m receiving the ball to start the second half. If I can stop my opponent on their drive and then milk the clock and finish the first half with a score, and then start the second half with a score I instantly have a 14-point advantage over them.

Now, obviously, if you are kicking off to start the second half you will want to put the onus on your defence to get a stop on the first drive and then for your offense to come out and score on their first possession.

This does require buy-in from your coaches and players, you need to consciously think of this period which can be hard in the British leagues as we don’t have clocks readily available that we can look at to see how long is left. This last year I was a pain in the arse for referees, asking constantly how much time was left. But you need this information so that your coaches can make sound decisions when calling plays. It is easy to forget some of this when you are in the middle of the game.

But as I have mentioned earlier being aware of the Middle 8 can pay dividends. According to Sportsource Analytics at the FBS level teams that won the Middle 8 went on to win 74% of the time.

So where did the Middle 8 first come from? Well, unsurprisingly it came from New England and Bill Belichick. According to Michael Lombardi “Belichick actually built an entire game-management theory around this simple realization. If the Patriots could manage a drive at the end of the second quarter, that would keep the opposing offense off the field for almost an hour of real-time. For a guy like Manning, that’s an eternity. No offense, no points. No plays, no rhythm. When Manning does finally get back in the game, he and his offense have lost their edge.”

You can find a full Breakdown of a Patriots series against the Chiefs here and it explores the concept in some more detail.

Is this something that your team already employs? How has it worked for you? Let me know in the comments.

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