What a difference a week makes.
Last Monday Bill Belichick held his traditional day-after-game conference call with the media following a loss in Detroit in which pretty much nothing went right for the Patriots.
This morning, though, the coach and his team had a different outlook in the wake of Sunday afternoon’s dominant, well-rounded 38-7 blowout of the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
Much of New England’s dominance came on the defensive side of the ball where success up front stonewalling the Dolphins run game seemed to be the foundation of an effort that held previously-undefeated Miami to 172 total yards and just 27 percent third-down conversions.
Asked about stopping the run, Belichick responded in a more generally-praiseful fashion.
“As I said going into the game, you can’t stop the Dolphins with just one guy. They have a very good group of skill players and they have a very good offensive scheme and system, so it’s about team defense. And I thought our team defense was good yesterday,” Belichick said. “We got contributions from a lot of different players. The line, the linebackers, the secondary played well together in their units and between the units so that we had good team defense. Our pass rush and our coverage were fit together. And our run force and our run fits fit together. And we tackled better than we have the last couple weeks, certainly. So we were able to create more long-yardage situations. And just our fundamentals and execution were better. All the players did a good job on that. There is no one guy that can stop that offense but collectively as a team I thought that our execution was better than what it’s been.”
Beyond Belichick’s praise for his defense’s all-around impressive performance against the Dolphins, here are some of the notable takeaways from his Monday morning victory-driven conference call with the local media.
John Simon steps in and steps up: After joining the Patriots as a street free agent early last week, veteran edge defender John Simon was on the field for 20 defensive snaps and another eight on special teams against the Dolphins. He finished tied for second on the team with five tackles, including a 10-yard sack in the second half.
Belichick noted Simon’s ability to hit the ground running in New England, which may have been aided by a past stop in Romeo Crennel’s defense in Houston.
“I thought John played hard and he gave us a good effort on defense and in the kicking game,” Belichick said of the sixth-year former Raven, Texan and Colt. “There are certainly a lot of things that we didn’t get a chance to fully cover with him and rep, but we got some things done. We got done what we could do. I’m sure that will be better going forward. But he had some opportunities that came up and he was aggressive and able to make some plays for us. It’s great to have that kind of contributions, especially from somebody with so little time here.
“But John’s a smart player. He has quite a bit of experience and has some experience in a similar system when he played in Houston. So some of the terminology and some of the fundamentals that we use are similar to what they teach in Houston. That probably benefited him a little bit. He worked hard in practice and worked hard to get the calls and communication and his assignments down. Certainly he was able to step in there and contribute and made some good contributions for us.”
Josh Gordon able “to pick things up quickly”: Another player making his Patriots debut on Sunday was former Browns All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon. After sitting out last week’s trip to Detroit in part due to a hamstring injury, Gordon played 18 snaps against Miami. He caught both passes thrown his way, drew a penalty to extend a drive and had a nice block on James White’s touchdown run. Overall it was a solid first effort.
“Josh has worked hard. He’s a smart kid,” Belichick said. “He’s got quite a bit of experience. He’s obviously played in a lot of different systems with different coordinators and so forth. So I think one way or the other he’s probably experienced things that we’re doing in one of those systems that he’s been involved in. So he’s been able to pick things up quickly and has experience doing different things.
“So it was good to get him out there. We’ll just see how it goes. Take it week to week here.”
Short week “challenges are dual”: As the Patriots celebrate their most impressive win of the season to pull to 2-2 to close out September, the team also has to swiftly turn the page to Thursday night’s matchup with the Colts at Gillette Stadium. Belichick explained the challenges of the short preparation week, and how the team prepared for the situation in the summer.
“I think the challenges are dual,” Belichick said of the abbreviated week. “One is the physical challenge. Coming off a tough game like we had yesterday, a tough division game and being ready to play on Thursday night physically is challenging because you just have three less days to do it in. And mentally to have to forget about everything that we worked and studied on for a week and then really in a matter of a few hours turn that around and totally get into the new opponent and the new personnel and all the things that they do. This is similar to last year when we played Thursday night against Tampa. This is a team that we don’t know very well at all. There are very few players on the team that we’ve played against with the Colts and certainly with the new staff. Even the ones that we have played against it’s a new system. We’re starting from scratch with the Colts pretty much like we did last year with Tampa on a short week. That’s a big challenge for us along with the physical part of it. So you just have to compress it all into a four-day window instead of a seven-day window. Both teams will get it done. Both teams will be ready to go and both teams will compete hard Thursday night.
“We had let’s say a situation similar to this, different obviously, but similar, in the first preseason game. We didn’t practice on Sunday and then when we came in on Monday to get ready for the first preseason game on Thursday night was kind of that same timeframe. It was obviously a different type of preparation but just in terms of here’s a Monday-to-Thursday type of window. That’s what we did for the first preseason game. That’s what we’re doing now. So it’s different but kind of the best we could do to simulate this.”