Bill Belichick's conference call a day after his team's dismantling of the Tampa Bay Bucs did little to shed light on any official changes on defense. But anyone with eyes noticed the athletic linebacker wearing No. 51 wreaking havoc all over the Bucs backfield.
Jerod Mayo spent more time in Josh Freeman's uniform jersey than the Tampa quarterback did. He blitzed, he covered running backs and basically blew up anything the Bucs offense tried to do. And he did this while lined up, at times, on the line of scrimmage outside the tackle box, which is a departure both from what he's done and what Belichick has said he would do. "He's working hard on his blitzing, his man coverage, his tackling, his pass defense, his run defense," Belichick said after the game. "He works hard at everything."
Belichick wasn't getting carried away with the performance, which included two sacks and three quarterback hits for Mayo and an overall suffocating feeling from the new-look defense as a whole.
"A couple times, when we pressured, it looked like they just had a breakdown in assignments," the coach said in his conference call. "They just didn't block a guy. So we had a few of those. And then we had some good rushes up front at times and were able to beat some blockers and get pressure on the quarterback.
"But I would say it was a combination of things. A couple times, it was more them making a mistake than us making a great play. And there were times where we had good rushes when they should have had us blocked, but we were able to be disruptive with even an individual pass rush or a stunt that was called or something like that." Nothing about any philosophical changes, but explaining the nuances of his schemes has never been high on Belichick's priority list. And one doesn't need a doctorate in Defense to know that what the Patriots did is different from what they've generally done.
Belichick was asked about Danny Woodhead, who was lit up by a cheap blindside helmet hit late in the game while covering a punt. The coach offered no update on the running back's condition but had a simply explanation as to why he was on the field at that stage of the game.
"When we go into any game, all players are told to be ready to play the entire 60 minutes. That's what a game is. We don't stop playing. We don't stop coaching," Belichick said. "Everybody's ready to play the whole time from beginning to end. That's every player and every coach. That's part of the game. That's how we approach them all."
According to NFL spokeman Greg Aiello, the league has advised teams they can carry 80 players through the Aug. 30 cutdown date. Originally teams had to be at 75 following the first round of cuts but this move will allow coaches to have five extra players at their disposal.