The intense emotions of NFL action, and the physical outbursts that can come from those emotions, have been a major talking point this week.
Certainly Rob Gronkowski's controversial hit on Tre'Davious White last Sunday in Buffalo and the tight end's subsequent suspension ignited the discussion. Monday night's violent matchup between the Steelers and Bengals – leading to multiple suspensions – fueled the topic.
As the Patriots prepare for Monday night's trip to Miami to take on a Dolphins team it defeated in a somewhat chippy battle just two weeks ago at Gillette Stadium, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick admitted in his big Wednesday morning press conference in Foxborough that part of his responsibility is to keep his players from crossing the line on the field. There was plenty of jawing in the last meeting with Miami, so it's certainly an issue to keep an eye on this time around.
"Yeah, that's important for us," Belichick said when asked about having to remind players to keep their cool. "Yep, that's important every week. It's a competitive game. There's a lot of emotion out there. Yeah, as the coach, I've got to do a better job of that."
Even with an extra day of preparation for a familiar Miami foe that New England prepared for just a couple weeks ago, Belichick also spent plenty of time talking about how impressed he is with a Dolphins team the Patriots defeated 35-17 on Nov. 26 at Gillette.
Here are some of the highlights of Belichick's midweek meeting with the media.
1. Dolphins dominated Denver in all three phases: Despite a five-game losing streak with the fifth loss coming in New England, the 5-7 Dolphins are clinging to playoff hopes heading into the final four weeks. Miami kept those hopes alive last Sunday with an impressive, dominating 35-9 win over the stumbling Broncos. Belichick's opening remarks on Wednesday focused on just how impressed he was with the Dolphins work against Denver, bouncing back from the blowout loss in New England.
"After watching the Denver game the last couple of days, really impressed with the way that Miami played on Sunday and I think that's really what we have to be ready for," Belichick said, emphasizing his upcoming opponent's strengths as he does each and every Wednesday. "I thought that they had a real dominant performance in the kicking game – blocked kick, onside kick, covered punts very well, returned punts well, covered the kickoffs well, returned kickoffs. So, they're very strong in that phase. Obviously, [they had] three interceptions, one for a touchdown, one-for-14 on third down, strong defensive performance. Offensively, they ran the ball well and threw it, had good balance, scored 30-something points. [It was] a strong effort and we're going to have to start all over again here.
"We can't pick up from where we left off. That's not where we are. It's not what we're going to do. We just need to start all over again and have a good week, be ready to go here Monday night. It's a good football team. They have a lot of talent. This was an 11 point game in the fourth quarter and they had the ball. I thought the first game was really a lot closer than the score indicated. The score was tight there in the fourth quarter until we made the stop on downs and got the touchdown on that last series. A good team, play hard, tough, explosive, got a lot of big-play players in all three phases of the game. It'll be a big challenge for us."
2. Allen and Co. ready to fill the void: With Gronkowski suspended for Monday's trip to Miami, New England may have to turn to its depth players at tight end with a little more frequency. That means Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and potentially even practice squader Will Tye could be in the mix.
Belichick asked about Allen, in particular, given the veteran's slow start but improved contributions in recent weeks.
"Dwayne works hard," Belichick said. "He does whatever we ask him to do. He works very hard at it, whatever his role is. His role in the Tampa game was different than the role before or however it turns out. Sometimes we're in more three-receiver sets, sometimes it's more two-receiver sets, sometimes it's a fullback, sometimes it's a fullback and two tight ends, sometimes it's two tight ends. He's ready to go and always prepared and always works hard at his job, tries to get it right. We all make mistakes. We all correct them and try to do them better the next time. He's embraced that."
Tye, who has significant playing experience given his 94 career catches, most coming in two seasons with the Giants, is an interesting option. Belichick sounds impressed with the way the veteran has taken to his behind-the-scenes work in Foxborough this fall.
"Athletic, improved a lot," Belichick said of Tye. "We've asked him to do some things that he's worked on and he's shown good improvement in. He's a big guy that can run and catch and has presence on the line of scrimmage to block, so he's done a good job."
Belichick didn't, however, have much to say about having to play this week without Gronkowski.
"Every week, you deal with the players that you have available and the opponent you're playing. You put it together and figure it out. It's the same every week.
3. Suh a "pretty special talent": Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has had a long, impressive career with the Lions and Dolphins. Though he has a reputation for pushing the limits of clean play at times, there is no question that Suh is one of the more talented, versatile defensive linemen in the game. He's a challenge for the interior offensive line as well as the coaching staff that has to game plan for him.
Belichick heaped plenty of praise on the Suh.
"He's a pretty special talent," Belichick said. "He's not always in the middle of the line, though. Last week, they put him out on the end in that overload front and he caused some problems out there. So, they've moved him around more this year than probably they did last year. So, he's normally on the right but not always. He's on the left plenty, and he's even at end on some snaps. They've even stood him up a few times, not really as a linebacker but stood him up so it didn't declare as clearly exactly where he is or what the front was. So, identifying him and making sure that we have that right, I mean, that's one thing. The harder part is actually getting him blocked. He's explosive, very strong, has a good get-off and pursues well. He makes a number of plays down the field – screen passes or runs that cut back. But, he's a very talented player. He's an impressive guy. His effort – and last year against us, he made two or three plays. One I remember was 17 yards downfield chasing a ball carrier, making a play well down the field. So, yeah, he's a tough guy to handle."