The Patriots returned to Foxborough following their eight consecutive victory, a 23-3 pounding of the Bills in Buffalo, and Bill Belichick joined the media for his Monday morning conference call. The coach had some praise for the running game, particularly a couple of the guys doing the blocking for Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.
While he was complimentary of the effort, which accounted for 191 yards on the ground against Buffalo, he also cautioned against reading too much into one aspect of the game from week to week given New England's propensity to switch things up depending on the game plan.
"The run blocking and how it could go this week or next week could be two very different things," Belichick said. "The things we're able to do in one game sometimes are due to circumstances due to the way a team is playing against us. Each week is its own challenge.
"We had a couple of explosive plays and that made a big difference in the yardage. Whether that will be able to happen again, we will have to go out and do it again. [We were] efficient yesterday and we'll have to see if that happens again in the future."
The explosive plays Belichick referred to came from Lewis and Burkhead, who each turned in the longest runs of their respective careers. Lewis went 44 yards down the right sideline while Burkhead's 31-yarder up the middle in the third quarter was a big play as well.
The work on the ground was even more impressive considering it came on a day when the offensive line was working with third-string tackle Cam Fleming.
"I thought Cam played hard," Belichick offered. "He was aggressive. He had a lot of good plays. As in every game we all had plays that we'd like to have over again. Cam has been a solid player for us for four years and he's always been ready to jump in for us. I thought he gave us a solid performance yesterday."
Fleming wasn't the only blocker Belichick credited after watching the Patriots near the 200-yard rushing mark for the second straight game.
Not all about the numbers –Dwayne Allen has largely been the forgotten man around Foxborough. Over the first half of the season he failed to catch a single pass and was targeted just six times by Tom Brady. Then the team claimed Martellus Bennett off waivers, and ever since it seems the backup tight end manages to catch at least one pass each week.
That was the case again on Sunday, when he finished with modest numbers of one catch for 3 yards. But it's Allen's work in other areas that has drawn his coach's admiration.
"Dwayne's had a pretty solid role for us all year long," Belichick said. "He works hard, does what we ask him to do, tries his best to do it the way we ask him to do it. He's been very receptive to whatever we've asked of him. He's been a great guy to have on the team and has a great attitude. He's willing to do whatever we've asked him to do to help the football team. You can't ask for anything more than that."
Clarity on Gronk –Belichick was asked about the situation involving Rob Gronkowski. The tight end was guilty of a late hit during the fourth quarter of the win in Buffalo, and there has been speculation that he could be suspended for his actions. Gronkowski apologized to Tre'Davious White after the game, but there remains some uncertainty surrounding the situation.
The coach offered little to clear things up. First he was asked if he felt it was important to get some clarity on the situation sooner rather than later for game-planning purposes.
"On anything that is out of our control like injuries and game-time decisions, things that out of our control are out of our control. We'll address the things that we can address," he said.
After the game on Sunday Belichick said he didn't get a great look at the play so he was asked Monday if he had a chance to add anything after seeing the tape.
"I think Rob addressed it. I don't have anything else to add."
Malcom back in middle –Defensive tackle Malcom Brown isn't known for his ability to collapse the pocket and create pressure but he was able to do just that in Buffalo. He finished with 7 tackles and shared a sack with Kyle Van Noy.
Brown returned to the lineup last week against Miami after missing three games with an ankle injury and Belichick felt the second week of work helped his performance.
"It's good to have Malcom back," Belichick said. "Malcom works hard and is very attentive and in tune to the game plan. I think after playing last week, this week was a little bit better for him because the extra week of timing and the repetition and confidence of doing it and doing it with speed in practice and again this week was better for him. Another step from where he was when he came back last week."