One would think a playoff victory as dominant as the one put forth by the Patriots against the Chargers on Sunday would elicit a lot of satisfaction from Bill Belichick. That assumption wouldn't be completely accurate.
While Belichick was plenty proud of his team's effort during New England's 41-28 victory over Los Angeles, the coach fixated a bit on the final quarter during his conference call Monday afternoon.
"Overall with a few exceptions on defense I thought we played a pretty solid game for three quarters," Belichick began. "We didn't finish the game particularly well in any area. If you look at the first three quarters we were able to run the ball, which helped our pass protection, and we were able to throw the ball, which helped our running game. We scored in the red rea and converted on third down. Defensively we stopped the run fairly well, converted on third down, didn't give up big plays, were able to get the ball back for our offense, we made a couple plays on special teams with the fumble and punt return to set up field position for our offense. So we played a pretty good complementary game.
Unfortunately, in the third quarter we missed a couple of opportunities offensively to get touchdowns, didn't move the ball very well in the fourth quarter, and we gave up three touchdowns on defense. But the offensive line and the entire offense played very efficiently for the first three quarters."
Of course the Patriots held a commanding 38-14 after three quarters, which might explain some of the shortcomings Belichick referenced in failing to finish the game.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and safeties coach Steve Belichick followed Bill Belichick and both mentioned the less-than-ideal close to the game as well. Clearly the Chargers 21-6 edge in the second half wasn't considered "meaningless" by the coaches, but there was plenty of praise as well.
McDaniels spoke of the fast start his team enjoyed, scoring touchdowns on each of their first four possessions.
"In any of these games when it's a one-game season it's always best to try to start fast however you choose to do it, run, pass or whatever," he said. "We wanted to try to maintain our balance and we felt like we had a chance to do that effectively. We felt the guys were ready to go and understood how they played defensively and we went out and executed well.
"There's no magic plays. The guys know that in order to start well we have to play well. We try to give them a plan that they understand and can digest and go out there and play fast and be aggressive. They executed well enough for us to get off to a decent start and that lends itself to have the ability to stay with things and balance out everything as you go. The better you start the more chance you have to be patient and allow things to develop as the game goes on. They go hand in hand."
Looking ahead to Kansas City, Steve Belichick was asked about the explosive nature of Tyreek Hill, who has riddled the Patriots secondary to the tune of 14 receptions for 275 yards and four touchdowns in the last two meetings.
"Explosive is an understatement for him," the younger Belichick said.
"They do everything well. They scored 40 points on us last time. They're doing everything well at this time. Last time we saw [Patrick Mahomes] he was completing left-handed passes and now he's completing no-look passes. It keeps getting more challenging with these guys. We're looking forward to the challenge but they sure do present a great challenge."