Bill Belichick liked a lot of what he saw on the coaches' tape from Sunday night's convincing, well-rounded 23-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Rather, Belichick liked a lot of what he could see on the coaches' tape, portions of which were rendered almost useless thanks to the heavy fog that settled in at Gillette Stadium for the Super Bowl LI rematch that was dominated by the same team that took the Lombardi Trophy last February.
While Belichick downplayed any effects the fog had on the game during his postgame press conference, the Patriots head coach admitted in his Monday morning conference call with the local media that the unique atmosphere limited what the coaches could see when they went back to watch the film from the impressive victory.
"It affected us a lot this morning," Belichick said with a chuckle, "because it's hard to see the game. The fourth quarter is pretty close to a white out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium. So that's a tough shot. The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot. So the picture is a little bit clearer. But on that shot a lot of times you aren't able to see all the guys on the perimeter, it's kind of an in-line shot. Yeah, I'd say the first half and the start of the third quarter…it's all right. As you get into the middle of the third quarter and on it's, for those of us with aging eyes it's a little strain to see it and then there is a point where it's, you can't really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, that affected it."
Belichick then expanded on his belief that the fog didn't really alter the way the game was played, despite some complaints from Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in the losing postgame locker room.
"I didn't really think it affected it that much during the game," Belichick continued. "I mean it wasn't a clear day, I'm not saying that. But in terms of doing anything different…I thought the receivers were able to catch the ball, the returners were able to handle the punts and the kickoffs. It might have made it a little bit more difficult, but they were able to do it without a lot of problems. It was more, just tougher for the … whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. There's just too much interference there. It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series…as you know I don't look at the tablets so I won't get into that…but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."
Beyond the interesting weather, Belichick touched on a wide variety of specific players and aspects of his team's win in the 20-plus-minute conference call. Here are some of the highlights of the call, including reaction to David Harris' first extended playing time as a Patriot, praise for Johnson Bademosi's week of work for the improving pass defense and a focus on Brandin Cooks' unique touchdown "catch" and run.
1. David Harris "did all the right things":Prior to Sunday night's starting nod against the Falcons, Harris' Patriots career had included just seven snaps played on defense, being a healthy scratch twice and dressing but not playing in another game. Against Atlanta, though, the former Jets tackle-machine saw a season-high 19 snaps on the New England defense.
According to Belichick, Harris not only finished with three tackles but was perfect in his role as a signal caller and communicator despite his previously limited playing time.
"As always, I think David works hard and is very well prepared. Did all the right things that we would want him to do from an assignment standpoint," Belichick said. "He gave us some good plays. Was in on a few plays. Again, handled the communication and the front well. We'll see if we can build on it. We got a lot of good play from a number of guys and he's certainly part of that group."
2. Johnson Bademosi responds "well" to starting job: A week ago in New York the veteran Bademosi was a surprise starter against the Jets after Stephon Gilmore was an unexpected Saturday scratch due to a concussion. Thrown to the fire playing 73 of 76 defensive snaps at MetLife Stadium after having played only on special teams through the first five weeks of his New England career, Bademosi had a chance to be far more prepared for Sunday night's starting nod against Atlanta.
With Gilmore absent from practice all last week – and with Eric Rowe continuing to be sidelined with a groin injury – Bademosi clearly had a much better idea that he might play a big role against the Falcons and more time to prepare for that action. He was on the field for 55 of 57 defensive snaps, and finished tied for the team lead with seven tackles.
"It was a totally different week for him this week in that respect," Belichick said of Bademosi's preparation to play a big role on defense. "But (he responded) well. JB does a good job. He prepares hard every week. He's ready to go whatever his role is whether it be on special teams or a unit on defense or last week it was a starting role on defense. But he's very professional. He's smart. He takes his job very seriously and really has a good work ethic and goes through all the steps in the preparation that he can to prepare himself for the game whatever that role happens to be. So he's done a good job of that for us."
Bademosi helped a Patriots pass defense that gave up a season-low 233 yards through the air and avoided the big plays that had been such a big problem, only allowing one Ryan completion longer than 20 yards, that coming on Atlanta's final drive of the night with the game well in hand.
3. Brandin Cooks' "good job" using blocking on TD:Cooks opened the scoring on Sunday night with a unique 11-yard touchdown "catch." The play had the look of a jet sweep, but with Brady lightly tossing the ball to Cooks it ended up as a pass in the official stats. The speedy receiver's third touchdown of the season saw him follow tight end Rob Gronkowski right into the front left corner of the end zone.
"I thought he did a good job of using the blocking," Belichick said. "A lot of times, runners sometimes get impatient with the blocking and they feel like the blockers aren't going fast enough and they want to run past them, but they usually end up just running into defenders. I mean, sometimes they don't want to slow down because they don't want to get caught from behind, but you know, they just want to go and gain yardage. I thought Cooks had a good awareness of where he was. He was already outside of everything. There wasn't really anybody behind him, so he had good patience, let the blocks develop and then Rob kind of pushed [Robert] Alford out of bounds there and he was able to cut it up inside and get into the end zone.
Though the little toss to Cooks rather than a handoff gave the play a different look and had it scored as a pass rather than a run, Belichick didn't think it was a big deal either way.
"Ball handling -- I mean, it could have been a hand off. We've seen that plenty of times" Belichick said. "We've done that ourselves, so we felt like that was the best way for us to run that play, but it certainly -- there's a couple different ways we could have done the ball handling. We just ended up doing it that way."