PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What did you see from the collective effort of the defensive front, especially as it came to stopping the run?
BB: Well, I think, as I said going into the game, you can’t stop the Dolphins with just one guy. They have a very good group of skill players and they have a very good offensive scheme and system. So, it’s about team defense, and I thought our team defense was good yesterday. We had contributions from a lot of different players, but the line, the linebackers, secondary played well together in their units and between the units so that we had good team defense. Our pass rush and our coverage were fit together, and our run force and our run fits fit together. We tackled better than we have the last couple weeks, certainly, so we were able to create more long-yardage situations, and our fundamentals and our execution were better. So, all the players did a good job on that. Again, there’s no one guy that can stop that offense, but collectively as a team, I thought that our execution was better than what it’s been.
Q: John Simon played 20 snaps, and it’s uncommon for a new player to come in and handle that responsibility. What did you see in him that gave you the confidence to put him in that position, and what did you see yesterday?
BB: Well, I thought John played hard and he gave us a good effort on defense and in the kicking game. There’s certainly a lot of things that we didn’t get a chance to fully cover with him and rep, but we got some things done to get done what we could do and I’m sure that will be better going forward. But, he had some opportunities that came up and he was aggressive and able to make some plays for us, and it’s great to have that kind of contribution, especially as you said, from somebody with so little time here. But, John’s a smart player. He’s got quite a bit of experience and has some experience in a similar system when he played in Houston, so some of the terminology and some of the fundamentals that we use are things similar to what they teach at Houston. So, that probably benefited him a little bit. But, he worked hard in practice and worked hard to get the calls and the communication and his assignments down and certainly was able to step in there and contribute and make some good contributions for us yesterday.
Q: How would you assess the way Josh Gordon has learned and grasped what you guys are asking him to do?
BB: Josh has worked hard, he’s a smart kid and he’s got quite a bit of experience. He’s, obviously, played in a lot of different systems with different coordinators and so forth. So, I think one way or the other, he’s probably experienced things that we’re doing in one of those systems that he’s been involved in. So, he’s been able to pick things up quickly and has experience doing different things, so it was good to get him out there. We’ll just see how it goes, take it week-to-week here.
Q: You mentioned that the run fits were fitting a little bit better. How critical is Dont’a Hightower’s presence and experience when it comes to that aspect of the game? How valuable is he to the operation on those plays, and how much of that is film study versus instinct and game experience?
BB: Yeah, Phil [Perry], we’ll start at the end. I mean, that’s a great question. I think about that and talk about it quite a bit, to be honest with you. Sometimes, players, maybe they can’t even tell you how they know what the right thing to do is, they just know what the right thing to do is. Sometimes they anticipate it. Sometimes it just comes to them just instinctively. But, High’s a smart player. He can play multiple positions. The mental part of the game seems to come very easy for him, going between mike or sam or will or defensive end or a different position in pass rush on third down. Assignment wise, all those come pretty easily for him, and athletically he has a great combination of size, power, pass rush, zone, man coverage – he’s done all those things for us. How does he know what to do? I’m sure it’s a combination of all those things, like it is with a lot of great players. You could ask [Patrick] Chung and [Devin] McCourty and Malcom Brown and [Kyle] Van Noy and guys like that all the same question, and I’m sure each play and each situation might give you a little bit of a different answer. Through my experience with players, sometimes they can’t even give you an answer. They know, but they just don’t know. They just kind of – it just sort of looks a little different and that’s how they knew it was a screen or that’s how they knew it was a play-action pass or that’s how they knew it was something that was a little bit different. They could just, instinctively, figure it out. But, yeah, that position, the middle linebacker position, is a key communication position for us on defense, as it is for every team – middle linebacker to safety, like center-quarterback are on offense. So, when you’re in the middle of the formation, that’s the person who has to coordinate the things in front of them, and the communication works from the inside out, not the outside in. So, Dont’a does a good job of that, and again, because of his experience at all the different linebacker positions, as well as defensive end, I think he has a real good feel for what everybody else needs to know and how important it is that they get the proper communication because he’s played all those spots. And, so, he does a great job for us in that area – so do Kyle and Elandon [Roberts] and [Ja’Whaun] Bentley when he was in there. They’re all good communicators. High has the most experience and he does an excellent job of it, but those other guys do a good job, too.
Q: It seems like Jason McCourty has been pretty consistent over the last three games. Is this pretty much what you expected out of Jason when you added him to the team?
BB: Well, we expected Jason to be able to contribute for us at corner, and he’s certainly done that. As we got to the end of preseason and into the early part of the regular season, we had a need for some depth at safety, and he was able to transition into there pretty well, too. You know, for somebody who really has never played that position, I thought he did a great job of adapting to it and embracing the opportunity and working hard to be able to do it, and he’s done a good job for us in there and he’s done a good job for us at corner with Eric Rowe being out. He’s moved him back a little bit to corner. When Pat was out, he gave us a little more depth inside. And, he’s shown in a pretty short period of time that he gives us good depth in the secondary at a couple different positions, and that’s really valuable for us, not just for our overall depth but in terms of matchups against an offense that – like Miami went from 12 to 11 to some no running back formations to two running backs and three receivers, you know, things like that. It might not seem like much to the average fan, but defensively, it makes a big difference who those players are and where they can line up and what they can do. And so, to have a player like Jason or Devin or Pat Chung that can handle those kind of variables and adjustments really helps your defense. As well as just giving you good overall depth, they help you on personnel matchups and certain defensive calls. So, somebody has to make a move, and when you have guys that can do it easily, that really helps your defense.
Q: How much do you have to accelerate things on a short week? Are there things that you just might not be able to get to this week with only three days until the game?
BB: Well, definitely, yeah. There are things that we’re just – or, I’d say we’ll get to them, but maybe not in the same type of depth that we normally do. I think the challenges are dual. One is a physical challenge coming off a tough game like we had yesterday, tough division game, and being ready to play on Thursday night physically is challenging because you just have three less days to do it in. Mentally, to have to forget about everything that we’ve worked and studied on for a week and then in really a matter of a few hours, turned that around and totally get into the new opponent and the new personnel and all the things that they do – I mean, this is similar to last year when we played Thursday night against Tampa. This is a team that we don’t know very well at all. There are very few players on this team that we’ve played against with the Colts, and certainly with the new staff, even the ones that we have played against, it’s a new system. So, we’re starting from scratch with the Colts, pretty much like we did last year with Tampa on a short week. So, that’s a big challenge for us, along with the physical part of it, and so you just have to compress it all into a four-day window instead of a seven-day window. Both teams will get it done, both teams will be ready to go and both teams will compete hard Thursday night, but it’s just in a much shorter time frame. And so, as you said, you either have to leave some things out, or what you spent 20 minutes on last week, you spend 6 minutes on this week and you just have to try to get it covered in a shorter amount of time. We had, I would say, a situation similar to this – different, obviously, but similar – in the first preseason game where we didn’t practice on Sunday and then, when we came in on Monday to get ready for the first preseason game on Thursday night, was kind of that same timeframe. So, it was obviously a different type of preparation, but just in terms of here’s a Monday to Thursday type of window, that’s what we did for the first preseason game. That’s what we’re doing now, so it’s different, but it’s kind of the best we could do to simulate this.