Victory Monday in Foxborough is underway and the players got their second straight such day off, but that didn't mean Bill Belichick wasn't available for his weekly conference call. The coach discussed some of the biggest plays from his team's 22-17 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, which were the difference in the narrow win.
One such play came from a player who had an otherwise tough day. Cornerback Malcolm Butler was not at his best trying to deal with New York's big wideout Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, and he was even victimized in a zone by Robby Anderson for a 25-yard pickup near midfield.
But that's when Butler came up with a huge play, stripping the ball from the receiver and recovering the fumble to set up a Patriots touchdown.
Belichick was asked if the play was the result of the player's instincts or coaching and as usual it turned out to be a combination.
"We work on turnovers every day. We work on getting the ball off of runners and receivers and we have basic fundamentals that we coach," Belichick said. "Each situation is different. We talk about it, we emphasize it. That was just a great awareness play by Malcolm to get his hand in there and punch it out when it was away from Anderson's body. It was a very instinctive play to take advantage of a brief opportunity."
That was just one play Belichick discussed as he soon turned his attention to the second turnover caused by his defense against the Jets.
Long and short of it – Chris Long's strip sack sealed the victory as the Jets were trying to rally for a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes. Long came free around the left edge and knocked the ball away from Ryan Fitzpatrick before Trey Flowers recovered to give New England the hard-fought win.
"We were in a three-man rush and he kind of went right into Ben Ijalana to honor a power rush kind of move and he was able to knock his hands off him and make a tight run. He cleared him pretty quickly as opposed to getting upfield and having to go around him. His route was pretty direct. He never really hit Fitzpatrick; he just kind of reached for the ball as Fitzpatrick was throwing and he knocked it out. I don't think Fitzpatrick even went down. He just extended with his right arm and got him. Good tight path to the quarterback. They doubled the other two rushers. They had two on Flowers and two on [Jabaal] Sheard and Chris was able to get there."
Branching out – Alan Branch's blocked field goal was another key play for the Patriots and Belichick was asked what he saw after watching the film.
"The blocked field goal was a combination of a good surge inside from not just Alan but the whole interior part of the rush, and then it was a long kick so he and Malcom Brown were both lined up on the guard and they kind of both moved that back with a little bit of penetration. Alan got his hand up, it was a long kick and the ball was driven a bit to get that distance on it and Alan has long arms that got up there. That's not an uncommon combination on long kicks."
Fitting together – Finally Belichick talked about the run defense, which although the numbers indicated was outstanding the coach seemed less than thrilled about the performance early on. He did compliment the group for the overall effort, however, explaining how things improved over the final three quarters.
"I thought we played the run, I'd say after the first quarter when we got split a couple of times, but overall I thought we played the run with a little less space, a little more tightly the last three quarters. Malcom [Brown] and Alan did a good job of defeating some blockers and being able to get off and make a tackle on some good backs in there. [Matt] Forte's a good back. That improved definitely as the game went on and that was important for us yesterday."