Bill Belichick's day-after-game conference call made two things pretty clear Monday morning.
First, the coach is understandably pretty happy with the way his team fought to the finish to pull out the comeback win over the Texans.
"I thought we battled for 60 minutes," Belichick said. "It took all of it. All the way down to the last three seconds on the final play. The competitiveness of the team was evident. From a conditioning standpoint we were able to compete for 60 minutes on a warm day. Those things were all things that were on the positive side."
Second, Belichick is well aware that Sunday's game against a very much game Houston squad led by exciting rookie quarter Deshaun Watson easily could have ended much differently.
"We made some plays that were good but didn't have much consistency on offense or defense," Belichick said. "Like we need to have. Like we feel like we should have."
Fighting to the finish is great. Having to fight to the finish, though, is less than ideal.
One thing Belichick didn't, and wouldn't talk about, was the controversy surrounding the entire NFL on Sunday regarding players' national anthem protests in the wake of controversial comments made by President Donald Trump at an Alabama rally.
Before the conference call was opened up to questions, Patriots Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James made it clear the President, politics and protests were not on the agenda of the day.
"I'm going to ask that we keep this specific to football," James said. "On other topics, we'll try to address those at a later time. But for today's call let's keep the questions specific to football, yesterday's game and the upcoming game."
Here are some of the other highlight's of Belichick nearly-20-minute Monday morning conference call with the media.
1. Some things "weren't good enough and aren't going to be good enough":It's always better as a football coach to clean up mistakes and work on weaknesses coming out of a win. That's the reality the Patriots find themselves in this week. For the second straight game at Gillette Stadium New England was a heavy favorite that failed to live up to the outside expectations. On opening night, that led to a surprising loss to the still-undefeated Chiefs. Sunday afternoon it had Brady and Co. in a dogfight with a Texans team that put up 30-plus points while churning out more yards and first downs than the Patriots own supposedly-vaunted offense.
It's good to win. It's good to improve to 2-1. But Belichick knows as well as anyone that doesn't cover up the issues the Patriots need to work on at this early point in the season. And that Sunday just as easily could have ended in another upset home loss.
"We did enough to win. But there are a lot of things we can do better and a lot of things we need to do better," Belichick emphasized. "Had just a couple things gone a bit differently we would have had a different outcome yesterday. So, we have a lot of work to do. That includes everybody and every position and every unit. Pretty much pick out any player and it's going to be the same for all of us, players and coaches. Some good things and then there are other things that just weren't good enough and aren't going to be good enough."
2. Solder's warmup absence not a "big deal":Generally, the players that are active and expected to play in a game are on the field for pre-game warmups. That was not the case on Sunday afternoon with New England left tackle Nate Solder. The veteran was absent from the field during full-team warmups, leaving Cameron Fleming to work with the first unit just prior to kickoff.
By game time, though, Solder was apparently ready for action. He opened the game eligible as a blocker as an extra tight end. By rule he had to miss the following snap before reporting for his regular job at left tackle, where he remained the rest of the afternoon.
Monday morning, Belichick downplayed Solder's absence from warmups.
"Sometimes that happens before the game," Belichick said. "It depends on the circumstances or situation. So, I don't think it's that big a deal."
3. The stop that started the comeback:Houston had a 30-28 lead facing a third-and-1 from the Patriots 18-yard line with 2:34 to play on Sunday. A Texans first down would have been a big step toward the visitors closing the door on the upset win.
But running back Lamar Miller was stuffed for no-gain and Bill O'Brien chose to kick the 36-yard field goal that left the door wide open for Brady's eventual comeback bid.
So while Brandin Cooks' 25-yard touchdown won the game, the key stop by the interior of the New England defensive front shouldn't be overshadowed. The stop, in many ways, started the comeback effort.
Belichick explained what he saw from his run defense on the key play.
"They were in a three-receiver set. We had a lot of guys in there," Belichick described. "Where Miller ran the ball and the blocking angle that [Greg] Mancz took it was hard for him to get to [Alan] Branch. Really there wasn't a lot of space for him to cut back with [Lawrence] Guy behind him and [Kyle] Van Noy. We had a lot of people there. We had really seven guys on the line of scrimmage, eight guys on the line of scrimmage against six blockers. We just squeezed it down and got a good push from the inside guys, from Malcom and Branch and Lawrence Guy."
And the rest of the comeback win, as they say, is history.