HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
VIDEO PRESS CONFERENCE
November 8, 2021
On the team's defense and Jamie Collins' interception:
BB: First of all, I just got to give the defensive coaching staff and players a lot of credit. They were well-prepared. They read their keys well, played physical and aggressive, took advantage of some opportunities. Playing from ahead, stopping the run and creating some passing distances was advantageous for us as well. In general, I thought they did a good job. The two big stops after the turnovers after the sudden change, I thought those were really important series for us. When the Panthers got down there and they were getting into the scoring zone, the turnover there from J.C. [Jackson] and then the interception in the endzone, those are obviously points-saving plays and turned into a seven-point scoring play for us on the interception return. Of course, Jamie's [Collins] play was just a tremendous play. I don't know how many athletes could make that catch, but it was a highlight play for sure. Consistency, playing on all three downs well was really big for us. Players did a great job.
On how the defense stopped Carolina's offense:
BB: Well, it's all about team defense. You can't stop the running game with one or two guys. Everybody's got to do a good job of defeating blockers, and Carolina has a very good running game. Coach [Matt] Rhule and his staff run the ball well. They have good schemes, good ways to attack the defense. There are not any free players. They get a hat on a hat, and everybody gets blocked, so you have to defeat blockers and they do a good job on the backs. They have two really good backs there with [Chuba] Hubbard and [Christian] McCaffrey carrying the ball yesterday and even [D.J.] Moore there on the wildcat. They have good guys with the ball in their hands, and so you just can't afford to give them a lot of space. There were a couple times where we did, and they hurt us on it. I thought from a technique standpoint, fundamentally, our front, linebackers and defensive line played well. There were a lot of times when [Kyle] Dugger and [Adrian] Phillips were around the line of scrimmage, and they fit into those linebacker-level type run fits well too. Really, just good team defense, and the coaching staff did a good job of preparing and then adjusting during the game when we got a couple different looks. The Panthers hadn't shown the wildcat prior to our game, even though we anticipated we might get it, but until you see it, you don't really know how it's going to be played, so we had to make some adjustments during the game as well.
On if it takes time for the run defense to build chemistry:
BB: Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. It all starts up front. The guys at the line of scrimmage, their consistency and their dependability give the linebackers an opportunity to be more aggressive and can attack the line of scrimmage better because they know exactly where the guys in front of them are going to be. When you don't know where the guy in front of you is going to be, then you play with a little bit of hesitation, you're kind of waiting to see where he is, and then where you go. If the defensive line, if the guys on the line of scrimmage, including outside linebackers, if they consistently play things the way that the defense is designed, whether that's in a gap or on a man or on a stunt or whatever it is, then the guys behind them can play aggressively and fit on it accordingly, and that goes to the secondary as well. If the secondary knows where they're supposed to be, but if we're out of position in front of them, whether it's the linebackers, the defensive line, then they have to adjust to that and try to fit it properly based on what they see, but if it's done right in the first place, then they can be a lot more aggressive and get to their area of responsibility and not be kind of in that, "let me see what's happening in front of me and then figure out where to go." It's a lot easier if everybody is kind of where they are and the linebackers and the DBs can then fit to their responsibilities. Again, against a team like Carolina, they get a hat on a hat, zone plays, power players, the aggressiveness and being able to really attack the line of scrimmage and not let them push the pile and pick up five, six yards just on a kind of a scrum-type of play. That really comes in the aggressiveness and technique. It all starts up front, but we did a good job, for the most part, in the running game there against a good running team and good backs, and hopefully we continue to build on that.
On if the team has played more zone coverage in recent weeks:
BB: We've played both. Again, those decisions are game plan-based, and, sometimes, as the game declares there, they go one direction or another based on what the offense is doing, how they are trying to attack us and so forth. I think Steve [Belichick] does a good job of mixing things up on the calls with man, zone, pressure. I think our players are comfortable playing in all three types of calls. The variety is good. Trying to keep the offense off-balance, but we work hard on all three phases, or all three types of calls there in all down-and-distance situations, and I think there's a place for all of them. It might change a bit from game to game based, again, on the way the game is declared or what the matchups are going into the game and what type of plays the opponent runs.
On Jamie Collins' impact on the field:
BB: The interception was a remarkable play, but actually the caused fumble that he had on [Christian] McCaffrey was in the same category where he spun back inside and was able to knock the ball out. He had a couple of good edge-setting plays and continues to help us in the kicking game with his force on the punts and blocking on the punt protection and on the punt return game. He's really contributing a lot of different ways; setting a good edge, playing off the ball, on the ball, special teams, rushing the passer, playing in coverage, so he's helped us in a lot of different ways. It's good to have all linebackers out there. We look forward to getting Chase [Winovich] and Harvey [Langi] back, but for the last couple weeks, we've been able to maintain more of a consistency with our group and rotation and so forth, but Jamie's done a great job of doing whatever we ask him to do, doing it well, and really just helping the team. Not just the defense, but the team in any way he can. That includes practice and, as you mentioned, doing things off the field as well.
On if he thinks Mac Jones should have been penalized for grabbing Brian Burns' leg on the strip-sack play:
BB: What I said on the radio [that Mac Jones thought Brian Burns had the ball at the time] is what I thought.
On if he was surprised by the Panthers' reaction to Mac Jones grabbing Brian Burns' leg on that play:
BB: I don't know. Just telling you what I saw on the play.
On Carolina's pass-rushers and what he has seen from the Patriots' offensive line over the past few weeks:
BB: Again, the Panthers are well-coached. They're a very good, fundamental team. They've got three dynamic players up there, and it's hard to get all three of those guys handled all the time, and then good linebackers behind them as well. Again, very well-coached, disciplined. They don't make a lot of mistakes there. You've got to do a good job and really win each of those battles, and they're hard to win on a down-after-down basis. I thought we hung in there and battled pretty well. Obviously, certainly could've been better, but I think our offensive line has continued to improve throughout the course of the season; our double-team blocks, our combination blocks on the interior of the line, our pass protections and things like that. When the defense stunts, we actually made some pretty good plays against that, taking advantage of that defensive movement. Yesterday, we had to deal with a lot of secondary replacement, man coverage, loading the box with [Jeremy] Chinn down there, and then we block him, and then somebody else would add in. It's kind of a numbers game in the running game. Again, good job by Carolina of making those fits and making it difficult on us, but I thought we battled pretty well, and we were able to get our backs into some space. I thought our backs ran well. We've just got to play good complementary football in the running game, in the passing game, play action. Dealing with the type of front that they presented yesterday was a challenge, but it's the NFL. We're going to see another good one this week, so we've just got to keep stepping up to the challenge and making positive plays. I think one of the biggest things that stood out yesterday, of course, were the negative plays, the penalties. We were in too many long-yardage situations that we should've been able to avoid. It's one thing when they make a play. It's another thing when we have false starts, delay of game penalties, offensive holding and stuff like that that just put us in too many long-yardage situations. They're just hard to overcome, but yeah. I think our offensive line has continued to develop. They've worked really hard. The communication has been really good. We've seen a lot of tough looks here the last three, four weeks, and they've handled those pretty well.