Each week, Bill Belichick holds a day-after-game conference call.
Depending on the prior day’s performance by his team, the coach’s tone can change from week to week.
Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after New England’s 27-13 win at MetLife Stadium over the rival Jets, Belichick had a pretty upbeat tone to his answers following his team’s eighth win of the season.
One of the areas that Belichick was clearly happy to talk about was the Patriots ability to run the football against the Jets, churning out 215 yards on the ground on 36 attempts, including one of the team’s three touchdowns.
First-round rookie running back Sony Michel led the way with 21 carries for 133 yards (6.3 avg.) and a 1-yard touchdown, notching the third 100-yard effort of his debut season.
Belichick was asked specifically about Michel finishing runs and maximizing the yardage on any given snap.
“He’s a strong runner,” Belichick said. “He’s got really good lower body strength. He does a good job of pushing the pile, of grinding out another yard or 2 after contact. He has good balance. He has a little lower center of gravity. He has a little thicker lower body. Sony has very good balance, very good lower body leg strength and he’s a strong, strong guy that can make yards against bigger tacklers. You can see some of the defensive linemen and linebackers that tackle him and he’s a lot of times able to push forward for an extra yard or 2.”
Beyond Michel’s strong running to lead an impressive rushing attack, here are some of the other top takeaways from Belichick’s weekly day-after-game conference call with the New England media.
Officials got the flags right: New England was hit for a season-high 11 flags in the win in New York for a total of 105 yards lost to penalty. It was a sloppy performance, especially in the first half.
Asked about the calls, Belichick supported the work of referee Shawn Hochuli and the NFL’s most flag-happy officiating crew and in doing so somewhat contradicted some players who reportedly thought the game was called a bit “tight.”
“I think Shawn’s crew has…that they, we had them against the Colts and I think that looking at the game I’d say that most all the calls I would agree with,” Belichick said. “I saw what they saw and probably would have called some of the same things that they called. So I think on most of those penalties, both on them and us, on our side of it…I’m not worried about the Jets…but on our side of it we just have to do a better job with our fundamentals and techniques and continue to emphasize as coaching points being in good football position, doing things the right way to that we are not susceptible to being called on those penalties. I’d say with very few exceptions in the game I don’t really have an issue with any of the calls. I thought they were good calls. We have to do a better job of coaching and executing our technique so that we’re not creating an infraction.”
The fourth-and-2 what-if?: One of the biggest sequences of plays in the win in New York came late in the first quarter. New England had a third-and-2 at the Jets 24, a pass to Julian Edelman that fell incomplete. But, James White was called for offensive pass interference on the play. So, Todd Bowles and the Jets had the option of giving New England fourth-and-2 at the 24 or third-and-12 at the 34.
The home team chose the latter and almost immediately regretted it when Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski down the middle just over the goal line for the 34-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.
It was a curious call by Bowles and Monday afternoon Belichick was asked if he would have settled for the field goal had the Jets declined the penalty.
“Yeah…Probably at that point we would have kicked the field goal,” Belichick admitted. “But fourth-and-short, that’s always a consideration to go for it there. So, it happened pretty quickly. As soon as the flag was thrown I saw Todd pointing and signaling that they were going to accept the penalty, he wanted to take us back. It would have put it to about a 53-yard field goal or something like that. I can see why he did that. So as soon as he did it that just put us into third-and-long mode. So I wasn’t really thinking about what fourth-and-short would have been.”
Obi debuts!: Newly-signed safety Obi Melifonwu made his New England debut with early action on defense against the Jets. The big, athletic defensive back was on the field on the first defensive series of the game, though he only ended up logging eight snaps total on defense as the game played out. The veteran former Raiders second-round pick out of UConn also played 17 snaps on special teams.
Belichick was asked how it came that Melifonwu got the early action on defense and whether it had anything to do with veteran Nate Ebner being inactive due to a knee injury that popped up late in the practice week.
“Obi’s been here for a couple weeks. He’s a smart kid. He’s worked really hard to learn things on defense and in the kicking game,” Belichick explained. “And with any player that’s on our roster or any new player that is on our team, roster or practice squad, we just try to move them along and see what they can do, what they are ready to do. Based on our game plan and on our game situation every week, that could affect their availability or opportunity as well. You just never know, even if a player is expected to play or not play, his role could increase or go from not playing to playing based on other circumstances. All those guys do a good job of trying to be ready, staying on top of their assignments and the game plan. If they get the opportunity to be ready to take advantage of it. Obi did a good job of that.”
While Melifonwu did not record any statistics on defense, he was credited with one special teams tackle in the win.