Bill Belichick held a conference call with the New England media on Monday morning, which is the norm.
Most weeks the Monday conference call is a day-after-game breakdown of the contest that just transpired.
But with New England having played last Thursday night, this call dealt with more general topics as Belichick and his Patriots begin preparations for Sunday's meeting at Gillette Stadium with Rex Ryan's suddenly-confident Bills.
While Belichick will give a more detailed breakdown of his thoughts on Buffalo in his traditional Wednesday press conference, he was asked to opine on the Bills impressive running game that churned out 208 yards on the ground in Sunday's win over Arizona.
There was also a lot of special teams talk, including a deeper dive into how the new rules putting touchbacks on kickoffs have played out across the NFL through the first three weeks of 2016.
Here are a few of the highlights from Belichick's conference call to kick off the fourth week of the season.
1. LeSean McCoy "is as good as it gets": Buffalo got into the win column with an impressive victory over the Cardinals led by the running game. LeSean McCoy led the way with 110 yards on just 17 carries (6.4 avg.) with a pair of touchdowns. McCoy currently ranks ninth in the league with 227 yards on the season, part of a Bills ground game that ranks eight in the NFL prior to Monday Night Football. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor adds to the attack, but McCoy is the centerpiece.
"Obviously, McCoy is as good as it gets," Belichick said. "The production that he has had is outstanding so he's a very difficult guy to handle. So yeah, they give you a lot of different problems there between, like I said, not only the players but also the different schemes that they employ.
"Their running game definitely gives you a lot of problems and I think that in addition to those points that you made, which are very solid ones, the overall scheme that they employ is challenging as well with the read-option scheme, zone schemes, and then some blocking scheme plays. Double teams, pullers, combination blocks; they have all of that."
2. LeGarrette Blount was "really needed" in Patriots last two wins: In the course of little more than four days, New England got a pair of pretty impressive performances from its own lead back. LeGarrette Blount closed out the win over Miami by tying a career-high with 29 attempts for 123 yards and a touchdown. Later the same week, on Thursday Night Football, Blount topped the century mark again with 24 attempts for 105 yards with a pair of scores, including a 41 yarder that was the final nail in the Texans coffin.
Blount leads the NFL with 298 yards rushing through three games. It's impressive production in any situation, but even more so for a Patriots team that's had to win with its backup and then third-string quarterbacks to open the season, the last of those wins coming on a short week.
"We really needed it in both games," Belichick said of Blount's consecutive 100-yard efforts. "LeGarrette has a lot of skill as we know. I mean he's a big back that has very good quickness, and feet, and balance and speed for that size. So, we just kind of always feel like if we can just get a hole, get him started, get him going that he has a lot of ability to make yards on his own if we can just get him going, get him downhill, and get him some space to run. He has done a good job with it. He has broken tackles. He has run through some arm tackles and things like that. He has gotten some good, tough yards for us. Hopefully we continue to do that. Hopefully we can continue to get him the ball with some momentum, some space, and give him an opportunity to do some things on his own and not have to deal with four or five guys there at the line of scrimmage but try to get him going. He has worked hard, he's in good condition, he has done a good job of gaining yards in the fourth quarter and at the end of the game. He hasn't gotten worn down in those situations so that's all been very positive and we needed it."
3. Kicking off the kickoff talk: Belichick was asked multiple questions about special teams and the new situation for 2016 on kickoffs, in particular. At times this year, New England has had Stephen Gostkowski kick high and short of the end zone, something the All-Pro has done reasonably well, many times getting the ball outside the numbers as is ideal on such kicks.
"I think what most teams try to do on the corner-type kicks is to force you as the return team to either take the ball right up the sideline where you catch it, which means you have a limited amount of space to work on, or to bring the ball all the way across the field which means you're doing a lot of running without gaining yards and there's the potential that you could really get caught inside the 10 or really get pinned down there deep if somebody's able to cut off the returner before he can get all the way across the field," Belichick explained. "And if you put hang time on that ball that makes it tougher to come across the field with. Obviously, the best option for you in the kickoff return is that the ball is straight down the middle of the field with not very much hang time. That's the best returnable ball. The toughest returnable ball just on the kick alone – forget about the coverage, that's a whole other discussion – is a ball with good hang time that pins you in the corner. You just have a lot fewer options there."
Belichick made it clear that the new rule putting touchbacks on kickoffs at the 25-yard line has clearly changed the philosophy on kickoffs for some teams, at least in some situations. And how some teams make decisions on whether to return kickoffs or not, especially ones in the front of the end zone.
"I think the 25 – getting the ball out to the 25-yard line is obviously harder than getting it out to the 20 and those touchbacks that put it on the 20, I mean I know it's only 5 yards and 5 yards is 5 yards, but it just seems like it's a lot easier for teams to just touchback and put the ball on the 20, whereas now there's just a little more incentive to make them return it to the 25 as opposed to just handing them the ball on the 25-yard line," Belichick said. "And I think there are really a lot of teams where if the ball is a yard or 2 yards deep in the end zone, they're pretty content to just touchback it and take it on the 25. I think that extra 5 yards has enticed the return teams to do that more."