Bill Belichick traditionally holds a day-after-game conference call.
But with the coach and his players celebrating Christmas on Sunday with the rest of the world after the Christmas Eve beatdown of the Jets, 41-3 at Gillette Stadium, this week Belichick met with the media Monday morning.
The 20-minute conference call touched on a wide variety of topics ranging including New England's recent run of success forcing turnovers, the challenge of facing Miami's running game and even looking back on the now-defunct football programs at places like Northeastern University, the short-time home of current Patriots touchdown-scoring tight end Matt Lengel.
One message that was quite clear, and reiterated a numbers of times, was the impressive job the Patriots did taking advantage of a litany of Jets mistakes in Saturday afternoon's win. From Malcolm Butler's two interceptions to Lengel's touchdown, Belichick emphasized the many curious and key errors made by New York.
Belichick also bristled a bit late in the call when a question alluded to the idea that the Patriots might want to rest certain players in Sunday's season finale in Miami, though there is still room for the game to matter in terms of AFC playoff seeding for both teams.
Overall, an upbeat Belichick praised his team's recent run of success, highlighted by its work through three games in a 13-day stretch including the Patriots playing "with good energy" in the blowout of the rival Jets.
Here are a few of the key highlights of Belichick's morning two-days-after-game conference call with the New England media.
1. "This isn't like a preseason game":The Patriots have clinched a playoff spot and a first-round bye. Though the first seed is still not locked down, Oakland losing quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg very much puts the Patriots in the driver's seat in the AFC. As such, Sunday's trip to Miami, which has clinched its own wild card playoff spot, offers up the possibility that either team could manage its roster in order to hit the postseason has healthy as possible. It's a line of thought, though, that Belichick wasn't even looking to really get into despite the fact that he's chosen to clearly manage his personnel in a variety of ways over the years at various points in the season.
"Right. Look, I don't really understand that question," Belichick responded when the topic was approached by a reporter in the final question of the conference call. "We have…I don't even know how many starters we have…but we have a lot more than…we can only inactivate seven players. This isn't like a preseason game where you have 75 guys on your roster. This is a regular season game. So I don't really understand that whole line of questioning. I'm not saying I'm a great mathematician or anything, but the numbers just don't add up for that type of conversation. So there is no point in getting involved in it."
2."Still not really sure what [Jets] were doing": New England continued its impressive turnover trend in the win over New York by picking off three passes and taking away a fumble. Belichick, though, certainly looked at the four plays in different ways. He very much praised rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts for forcing the fumble that was then recovered by a blitzing Butler. And he was quite happy, obviously, with the play on the ball made by Eric Rowe on the cornerback's interception down the field. But, Butler, it seemed, was more a case of taking advantage of Jets misplays and miscues on his pair of interceptions.
"Elandon's play was a good play, He hit that down-hill. I thought that was a really fast and aggressive play," Belichick said before moving on to Petty's curious throw. "The first interception, Malcolm was there. I think it was Duron [Harmon] was coming over too. We had two guys right there. [Bryce] Petty tossed it up into a two-deep man look. So we had two guys there around the ball."
Butler's second pick apparently came on an adjustment that Ryan Fitzpatrick made at the line of scrimmage that worked out much better for the home team than the visitor.
"The last one, I'm still not really sure what they were doing on that play," Belichick offered up. "I think it was a running play that they kind of converted into a quick-look pass when they saw pressure coming from the nickel back. The ball was a little high, got tipped and Malcolm made a good play on it. Again, that was really taking advantage of a play we had a chance to make."
3.Ajayi "one of the top backs in the league": Turning the page to the challenges of facing the playoff-bound Dolphins, Belichick had plenty of praise for Miami running back Jay Ajayi. The young star ranks sixth in the league with 1,213 rushing yards at this point. He's coming off his third 200-yard game of the season and, according to Belichick, Ajayi's statistics don't lie.
"One of the top backs in the league. He's having a tremendous year," Belichick said. "He's fast. He's got good vision. He's hard to tackle. Rips off a lot of long runs. It's not all 4 and 5 yarders. He's got a lot of explosive plays. So, we're going to have to do a great job playing team defense across the board. He can find space where the play is designed to go or other places if those aren't defended well. And then, as I said, makes a lot of yards on his own. He can make guys miss. Runs hard. Breaks a lot of tackles. Gets extra yardage. He's having a great year."