Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addressed the media in his usual Wednesday morning press conference today and self scouting and internal team reflection was the topic of the day.
According to Belichick the coaches have taken of the first couple days of the bye week to look at film of all the team's early-season games in an attempt to come up with possible solutions for what is now a three-game losing streak. He was quick to point out that at 3-3 the Patriots are lumped right into the middle of the pack of the NFL, as no more than an average team.
"There are a lot of teams ahead of us," Belichick said. "There are a lot of teams behind us. We're with some other teams in the middle and it's going to go one direction or the other. We're going to have to change it to go into a positive direction. Nobody else is going to do it for us and that's the approach I think we need to take this week."
As much as critics are pointing to obvious Patriots deficiencies as red zone defense, third down defense, penalties and turnovers as reasons for the team's struggles, Belichick took the problems to a much more microscopic level. He points to the simple fact that the team is losing a large number of one-on-one battles on both sides of the ball as a reason for recent struggles.
"I think we need to do a better job in one-on-one situations," Belichick said. "It comes down to the one-on-ones, those matchups, the more you win them the better off you are going to be. I think we've got to do a better job of winning a higher percentage of them."
Belichick listed such areas as pass protection, pass rushing, blocking and coverage as the many areas in which the team has been hurt in one-on-one battles. In a team sport that has a high level of intricacy and complexity in terms of schemes and assignments, the Patriots are being hurt most by what is essentially the foundation of football. Take away what has become the glitz and glamour of NFL offenses and defenses, and the game still boils down to a battle between players in individual matchups. Right now, according to Belichick's film study, the Patriots are losing more of these battles than they are winning.
"There are different things that go into it, but it's fundamental football," Belichick said. "It's being aggressive, it's being physical and playing from the snap to the whistle. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of those things, in the end it's winning and losing those individual matchups. We can help ourselves by being a little more productive in that area, and that's not isolated to any specific area, it's general."
With that being said, the team will spend more of its practice time over the next two days to focus on the improvement of these one-on-one battles and other fundamental skills of football. Belichick and the assistant coaches will have a chance to focus more on the fundamentals than preparing for another opponent.
After Sunday's loss to the Packers Belichick said the team had to start all over, with very little to build on from the first six games. After a few days of reflection and film work, that starting over has literally worked its way down the core of football, one-on-one battles. Over the next two days the players will have a chance to work out the bugs against each other on a microscopic basis creating a situation that should lend itself towards some intense practice battles. Players on both sides of the ball will look to show the coaches that they can succeed in one-on-one battles, even against teammates looking to prove the same thing.
According to Belichick that lends itself not only to a competitive practice setting, but on the lighter side the coach will always have somebody to harp on after each battle.
"That's the good thing about coaching like that, you can find somebody to yell at on every play."
And hopefully the one-on-one battles that occur in practice over the next two days will prepare a now-vulnerable Patriots team for the final 10 team battles of the 2002 NFL season. At 3-3 the team is essentially starting over with a clean slate and should the players hope to revisit last season's success, the practices over the next two days could go a long way in turning things around from the ground up.
Practice squad transaction
The Patriots announced a minor roster move on Wednesday. The team released wide receiver T.C. Taylor from the practice squad and replaced him with wide receiver Scott McCready. Taylor had been with the Patriots in training camp, before being cut in the final wave of cuts on Sept. 1. He signed to the practice squad on Sept. 17. McCready was also spent time in New England's training camp before being cut on August 24 and had been the team's practice squad for the second half of last season. Belichick said that the move had a lot to do with the fact that McCready is rather familiar with the Patriots offensive system.
Belichick also addressed some of the more notable moves that have been rumored surrounding the team. It appears that the possible signing of Jamal Anderson has become a very unlikely option. "It looks like Jamal has pursued a career in broadcasting at this point," Belichick said.
Recent reports on ESPN.com stated that former Browns offensive lineman Orlando Brown is looking to return to the NFL following a reported forthcoming settlement of his $200 million lawsuit with the league. The report also said that Brown will meet with the Patriots later this week and hoped to play tackle for whatever team he comes back with. Belichick addressed the rumor on Wednesday, but chose his words carefully as he acknowledged that Brown is still in the midst of the unsettled lawsuit.
"We're interested in doing anything we can to make our team better," Belichick said when asked if the Patriots were interested in Brown. "So as a blanket statement, I think that would cover any player. Specifically, I can't make any comment on that player because of the current situation that he is in. He is still involved in a situation with the league. So I am not going to make any comment on the player until that is resolved."