After having a full night to sleep on it and study the game film, head coach Bill Belichick talked with reporters Monday morning about his team’s 27-20 win over the Texans.
Perhaps the most pressing issue at this point is the health of running back Jeremy Hill, who left the game early in the third quarter with what looked like a severe right knee injury. Belichick was asked about any news regarding Hill’s diagnosis prognosis, but the coach had none to offer.
Here were a few other nuggets from Belichick this Monday morning:
Team effort in pass protection
The Patriots utilized three players at the tackle position versus Houston: Trent Brown held down the left side, while Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle rotated throughout the game on the right side. Cannon continues to work his way back to full strength following a summertime injury to his left calf.
While Belichick acknowledged that all three men performed admirably against Houston’s vaunted trio of pass rushers (J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus), he credited the entire offense, skill position players included, for limiting the pressure the Texans were able to bring against QB Tom Brady.
“It’s really a team thing. It’s not pass protection, it’s about receivers getting open and the quarterback getting the ball out and all of it going on timing… everything needs to be working together for it to be effective.
“I thought our o-line competed well against a very good defensive front,” added the head coach. “Our receivers and backs and tight ends did a good job, for the most part, of giving the quarterback somewhere to throw. Tom did a good job getting the ball to them.”
Belichick was quick to emphasis, too, that the offense still had plenty of areas that needed work.
Big on Bentley
Building on an encouraging summer, rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley saw plenty of action against the Texans, and wound up the second-leading tackler for the Patriots with seven total takedowns (four solo).
Belichick told reporters that Bentley’s earned his playing time with the way he’s performed throughout the summer, and that the maturity Bentley has exhibited thus far can be traced back to his days as a high school player in Maryland.
“Absolutely. You can go back to [his days at] DeMatha [Catholic] High School and see that. Purdue [University], he started as a freshman. The kid’s been productive in every program he’s been, almost as soon as he’s entered the program. I’m not seeing it as a big shock.
“His first [regular season] game, he did a lot of good things out there – things we talked about during the game, things he’ll improve in,” added Belichick.
Not knocking KO coverage
New England’s normally stout kickoff coverage unit had difficulty against the Texans. On five returns, Houston averaged more than 31 yards, far above what the Patriots normally surrender in those situations.
It seemed as if the plan was for kicker Stephen Gostkowski to kick high and short, placing his kicks around the goal line to force Houston to return instead of settling for an automatic 25-yard line touchback placement.
When a reporter asked Belichick about this, however, the coach wouldn’t come out directly and criticize his kickoff coverage unit. He also didn’t agree that his team should have changed its approach and kicked off out of the end zone for touchbacks.
“I don’t think that’s really the answer. If you can’t kick it out of the end zone, what are you going to do?” he responded.
“You can’t count on touchbacks, especially kicking into the wind like we had yesterday, which was significant, coming from the [Gillette Stadium] lighthouse end.”
Perhaps the new NFL kickoff coverage rules played a factor, but given the team’s strong history as a special teams-focused group, it’s likely they’ll address this problem immediately.
Belichick will next address the media as a whole on Tuesday afternoon in another conference call, along with coordinators Josh McDaniels (offense) and Joe Judge (special teams).