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Presser Points - Belichick: Saints a 'great team' on offense
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While Bill Belichick has taken part in three conference calls with the New England media since his team’s opening night loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots coach got a little face time with reporters Wednesday morning his traditional mid-week press conference that is generally focused on looking forward to the new week’s opponent.
But Belichick made it clear there is nothing to really look forward to when it comes to preparing for Sean Payton’s Drew Brees-led New Orleans offensive attack.
After noting that New England has had been able to spend a “little bit extra time” on the Saints prep thanks to opening the season last Thursday night, Belichick went full throttle with his praise for New Orleans’ offense.
“Certainly, they deserve a lot of attention. It’s a really good football team,” Belichick said. “I think Sean has done a good job, obviously, through the years. [He’s] one of the top coaches in the league. I have a ton of respect for him. Offensively, this is really a great team. They do everything well. Good quarterback, good skill players, good running backs, good receivers, tight ends, offensive line. They have a lot of explosive weapons with a great scheme. That’s why they lead the league in offense every year, third-down, make a lot of big plays. They’re hard to stop.”
Combine that with the Patriots defensive woes on opening night against now-AFC Offensive Player of the Week Alex Smith’s Chiefs and there clearly is plenty of work to be done this week.
The flipside of that is the fact that Tom Brady and his work-in-progress offense are getting ready for a Saints defense that has its own issues. New Orleans seems to always be turning things over on that side of the ball as it strives for improvement each new season and is coming off an opener that saw Sam Bradford put up an NFC Offensive Player of the Week performance with an 84.4 completion percentage, three touchdowns and a 143 passer rating.
“Defensively, they have a lot of new players. Half of the group is new starters, all new linebackers, a lot of speed at the positons, a faster, [more] athletic team probably than what they had last year,” Belichick said.
But new and faster doesn’t necessarily mean better for a Saints defense that ranked dead last against the pass last season and 31st in terms of points allowed.
Here are a few of the other highlights from Belichick’s big Wednesday press conference in the media workroom at Gillette Stadium.
1. Personnel choice: One of the more prevalent themes of Belichick’s build-up of the Saints was New Orleans’ focus on changing personnel. He noted that Brees’ offense doesn’t do a lot of hurry-up because of its preference to change its own personnel with consistent regularity.
Later, Belichick put a number on the different personnel groups New Orleans throws at a defense in any given game.
“Anywhere from 25 to 30 different personnel groupings depending on – I mean obviously those groupings could be the same grouping but change the back, or change the receiver or change the tight end,” Belichick said. “Well, really it’s the same grouping but it’s a little bit different depending on which guy it is that’s in there, which skill player is in there. When you look at the whole composite of it, you’re looking at, like I said, they call 25 groupings per game. That’s a lot.”
2. Tough week!: A number of former Patriots players pointed out in recent days that in their experiences the work weeks after a loss in New England were not very enjoyable. One reporter referenced such a comment from Ty Law while asking Belichick about that idea.
If Belichick is making things tougher on his players after an ugly loss, he certainly wasn’t willing to share such an approach with the media.
“We’ll try to get ready for New Orleans, go down there and play our best game on Sunday,” Belichick deflected. “That’s what our job is this week.”
The coach also didn’t put much credence in a query wondering if Brady approached his job any differently following a defeat.
“Tom’s pretty consistent,” Belichick said.
3. A G.O.A.T. punter?: Belichick hasn’t been shy in terms of his raving about upcoming opposing punters in recent years. Last fall he drew attention for referring to Rams punter Johnny Hekker as a “weapon.”
This time around while talking up the Saints specialists – “two big legs” -- Belichick put some historic perspective on New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead.
“Morstead’s about as good of a punter as this league has ever seen,” Belichick gushed. “[He’s a] tremendous, tremendous player. Accurate, long, good plus-50, does everything well.”
Morstead finished fourth in the NFL with a 48.3 gross average in 2016, while ranking fifth in the league with a 42.4 net average.