[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="369481"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Patriots coachBill Belichick had a lot to be happy about following his team's fourth victory of the season, a 30-6 decision over the banged up Dallas Cowboys. One area that he was particularly pleased about was the run defense, and in particularly the play of safeties Patrick Chung and rookie Jordan Richards.
It was those two who received some praise from the coach for their work in limiting Dallas to just 100 yards on the ground on 24 carries – that against a team that likes to run the ball behind its dominating offensive line and working with a backup quarterback.
Belichick praise of the safeties highlighted his Monday afternoon conference call.
Tough tandem -"Our defense yesterday, we got a lot of support from the safeties in the running game. Patrick played very well, he tackled well as he usually does. Patrick's one of the best tacklers on our team. He has a real good sense for how to fit on those runs, when to shoot the gap, when to stay back and play over the top. He's a very good inline tackler. Has good fundamentals and wraps up well. Jordan's a little bit the same way. He has an instinctiveness in the running game that's good. He's a strong kid that tackles well. Both those guys, you see a lot of those qualities transfer to the kicking game as well. They both have those qualities. Our run defense was definitely better yesterday, not perfect but we made progress on it.
"That's a positon, similar to linebacker, that physical testing doesn't do it justice. When you talk about vertical jump, bench press and 40 speed and all that … when you're playing safety and linebacker and you have 15 bodies in front of you doing a lot of different things – play action, run, pull, misdirection – there are a lot of things that can happen. Some players are very quick to sort that out and other players who may have timed speed or great physical testing numbers but just aren't able to mentally see everything and process it and react quickly there's sometimes a big gap on that.
"It can be a very hard positon to evaluate at times because there's an instinctiveness and awareness and feel for all that is going on that's a lot different from playing corner. The ability to recognize that and make the right decision quickly – Patrick and Jordan do a good job of that. Really all our safeties do. Tavon [Wilson] does that well too. Devin [McCourty] and Duron [Harmon], even though they play back. Coach [Brian] Flores does a good job of coaching that group."
Belichick stuck with the safety position, this time praising McCourty for his work on Cowboys All-Pro tight endJason Witten.
Safety blanket -"Witten obviously is one of the top players in the league at his position and I thought Devin and Patrick, who had a lot of coverage responsibility on Witten, really did a good job. They also got some help from the ends jamming and then our linebackers had a presence there in the throwing lanes. It was definitely a team effort. It wasn't just one guy covering them but I thought both Chung and McCourty in particular – McCourty was on him on a lot of critical plays, third down, red area. Witten is a guy you have to get on and he really didn't hurt us too much."
Belichick was also asked about the increase in offensive pass interference penalties early in the season. The Patriots were flagged twice against Dallas, and probably could have seen a third called against them on Julian Edelman's 59-yard touchdown catch and run. The coach said the officials have done a nice job of explaining how those plays are being called, and how he and his staff are trying to get the players up to speed. He was asked about Edelman's touchdown and explained how close those plays can be to a penalty.
There's the rub -"We were running a crossing route in there and there was some traffic. I thought Danny [Amendola] did a good job of giving [Dallas cornerback Morris] Claiborne some clearance to get through there and not aggressively hit him. Then I thought Julian did a good job with the ball in his hands, he outran [Rolando] McClain at the end but [Jeff] Heath had a shot at him, [Sean] Lee had a shot at him and he did a good job of breaking tackles.
"When you run those crossing patterns you never really know where the defenders are going to be. Sometimes they're up on you, sometimes they're off. It's a hard thing to practice and it's a hard thing to know exactly where the defenders are going to be. You can run the same thing 10 times and really get eight or nine different looks on it.
We really try hard to avoid those offensive penalties. I know it didn't look like it yesterday. We're definitely trying not to get that [penalty called]. We have to find a way to get through traffic without doing anything we're not allowed to do.
"I'd say the officials have done a really good job in that area this year. They've talked about how much tighter they were going to call the OPIs this year, not that there's been any rule change but mote of an emphasis of not allowing the offensive player to restrict the defensive player's movement. Sometimes there's a fine line between incidental contact and the receiver also has a right to run his route but to impede the defender. There's a gray area there that's tough for the officials to officiate. They've done a really good job of trying to explain that.
"In my opinion the consistency of that call has been pretty good throughout the course of the year. We had a situation on the crossing pattern to Danny that we didn't get quite the right mesh that we needed and there was contact and I think that was a good call too. We have to do a better job on those mesh routes and it starts with me. We have to make sure we don't get those plays called back. We'll keep working on it."