PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
December 27, 2023
BB: Alright, so, moving on to Buffalo here. Obviously, this is a really good football team. Then, you look at what they've done over the past few years – just what they've done at home, wins, divisions, offense, defense, special teams, well-balanced team, well-coached team. They lost a tough overtime game to the Eagles three weeks ago, and then a big win against Kansas City, a big win against Dallas, came back and won last week against the Chargers. So, playing really good situational football, winning close games. Again, had a really impressive offensive output – and defensive – against the Cowboys, which we know what a quality team they are. So, these guys do a good job. It looks like they're getting healthier. They've added a couple players on defense who have really helped them. It looks like they're getting a couple more guys back. They're playing well and doing it at the right time for them. So, big challenge for us this week. We'll get to work on them here today and be ready to roll out there on Sunday. Get some extra suntan lotion, sunglasses.
Q: It looks like there's bit of a change with practice being in the bubble, seems to be a shorter session. Just curious about the decision behind that?
BB: Thought it was the best thing to do.
Q: Is that sort of related to the health? Just having so many guys banged up?
BB: That's definitely a factor.
Q: Obviously every team grows and evolves and changes over the course of the year, but how have they changed from the team that you saw earlier this season?
BB: Yeah, it's basically the things I just talked about. They've added few guys who have really helped them, played well in critical times in the game. They've been in a lot of close games. In the Charger game, they scored at the end to go ahead, then [Ed] Oliver got the sack and ended that one. The Kansas City game was tied. They came down, kicked a field goal. Oliver batted down another big third-down pass, and they stopped them on fourth-down. Cowboys game, they were running out the clock in the third quarter. But, Philly, I mean, lost to a good team in overtime. Games they've won, they've made some critical plays in all three phases of the game – offense, defense, special teams – to win. So, that's the mark of a good team. Three weeks ago, everybody was talking about how much trouble they were in, then they come out and rip off three straight wins. So, here we are.
Q: Since Joe Brady took over for Ken Dorsey, have there been noticeable changes in their offensive approach?
BB: Yeah, I'd say there's some subtle changes. Noticeable, I wouldn't say extensive, but they're doing a few things that looks like a little bit differently. It's the same offense, but I'd say just their operation just looks a little bit different.
Q: What made you want to work with La'Michael Pettway, signing him to the practice squad yesterday?
BB: Yeah, we'll see how it looks, worked him out a couple of times during the year, see how it goes. Hunter [Henry] hasn't practiced, didn't practice last week. We'll see what his availability is. Those other guys – Mike [Gesicki] and Pharaoh [Brown] – are playing a lot of football. So, get a chance to take a look at him.
Q: Do you have an update on Hunter Henry?
BB: We'll have an injury report at the end of the day, yeah.
Q: Much larger role for Jalen [Mills] the other night with [Jabrill] Peppers out. How do you feel like he handled that increase?
BB: Jalen's done a good job for us all year in whatever the role has been. He's very professional, ready to play, versatile guy. He's played corner. He can cover, played in the deep part of the field. He's done a good job blitzing, playing the run. We're fortunate that we have good depth at that position – Te [Marte Mapu, AP [Adrian Phillips], Jalen, Peppers and [Kyle] Dugger. So, pretty good group of players.
Q: I've seen some of the players praise Myles [Bryant] for the job he did against the Broncos. What impressed you about the way he played in that game?
BB: Yeah, Myles did a great job. Obviously, he's been handling punt return duties. The way we set the game plan up, he played multiple positions – played perimeter corner, played inside, and played safety –
depending on what they had, and what we had called, and so forth. He really made the game plan flow a lot smoother for us defensively because of his ability to move in and out of those positions against a team like Denver. They use a lot of different personnel groups, and they substitute very quickly. They do a good job. They make it hard on you. But, he really streamlined things for 10 other guys on the field. In addition to playing well, just his overall versatility and flexibility in our defensive scheme was really helpful.
Q: How much does Myles unlock that on a weekly basis? Understanding he's mostly a nickel or rotating to safety, but it feels like you can go from three-corner nickel to three safety just by moving him around.
BB: Right, that's exactly it.
Q: Does it unlock a lot more calls, or how much flexibility is baked into him just being able to do that?
BB: Again, it depends on the game. Some games, it's not that big a deal. Other games, like Denver, it was a very important part of it. How much they substitute, what our defensive package is for that particular game, how much nickel, how much dime. We have a couple nickel packages; we have a couple dime packages. It would just depend on the circumstances for that particular game, and that week and that game plan. So, there's no set formula for it, but it's nice to have a player like that. The problem is if you count on that and something were to happen to him, you don't have another player to replace that. Now, you have to go to multiple adjustments. But, when he's in there, which he has been, that really streamlines things a lot.
Q: With Mack Wilson [Sr.], we are seeing him rush, I think more than he's ever done in his career. What do you like about him in that role and what went into the decision to play him like that?
BB: Well, we need him. Trying to get our best players on the field. We have some other guys that can move inside. [Deatrich] Wise can move inside. Keion [White] can move inside. Mack's better on the edge. So, we get our best players on the field. We played him more on the edge and moved the other guys more inside. [Christian] Barmore and Keion, Barmore and D-Wise, or some other combination there. Josh [Uche] has been – he's not really a guy you want to move inside. I mean, he can play in there, but most of his snaps have come on the edge. Mack's done a good job for us. He's been out there before. It's not just groundbreaking. We used him out there in preseason, other times during the season. In the past when we had [Matthew] Judon, Uche, Wise and those guys, there was less of a – we played him more off the ball. So now, in passing situations, he's played more on the ball and he's done a good job with it.
Q: A lot of times you talk about rookies and the physical challenge of their first season. How much of it is a mental challenge for guys like Mapu or Pop [DeMario] Douglas late in the season running the correct routes and doing what they need to do on a consistent basis?
BB: It's a big challenge for those guys. It's almost two seasons for them. They played 10 or 11 games at some of those schools. You go through training camp and then three preseason games, which they're all basically playing in or preparing for as part of their grind. It's a long season. The mental, the physical, that's why we emphasize so much the conditioning and treatment and just taking care of things and maintenance. Not waiting until something breaks down to go in the training room, but to stay on top on a daily, weekly basis of keeping up with everything. All the different treatments and things. Strength training that we do so that doesn't slide anymore. It's going to slide a little bit, but you try to minimize it. For the rookies, it's harder. They haven't been through it. Second time through for them is usually – at least they know what to expect and have a better idea of maybe what not to do.
Q: I know we asked you about Josh Allen's development. You called it really remarkable. Just the progress he made in those first three years. I'm curious when you felt that was sustainable given how unusual it was, the leap he made, and how large those leaps were.
BB: What's the question? It feels like you answered your own question.
Q: He made, in my words, kind of an unprecedented leap those first three years. When did you see that and go, okay, he's really good and this will stick in a way. This is who he is.
BB: Yeah. I don't know. Just kind of like [Tom] Brady. Once Brady got to a certain point there in 2003, that's pretty much the way it was the rest of his career. It wasn't really like that in 2002. It wasn't like that in 2001. It certainly wasn't like that in 2000. Once he got to a certain point there about the midseason of the 2003 season and then the playoffs. From then on, it was his level of performance and play and consistency was at the very top of the league. Different style of play. Once those quarterbacks, usually when they get to that point, they're able to sustain it. Sometimes you just don't know what the growth pattern is going to be. It doesn't really matter where he was or where he is right now. He's pretty good. Real good.
Q: Coach, what did you see from Shaun Wade and Alex Austin last week?
BB: Again, a lot of competitiveness. Both those guys have not had a lot of playing time. They're getting more. That's a good thing each week. In practice, they get more snaps, more work with the guys they're playing with. Better communication, adjustments, anticipation, things like that. Then the game experience as well. Not perfect, but improving. Getting better. Trending in the right direction. They've learned from things that have happened and try to keep those from happening again, which for the most part, again, that's trending in the right direction. Then of course, just the overall contact part of the game at that position. Jamming receivers and tackling, open field tackling, leverage, playing off blocks. It's something that is not the same in practice as it is in the game. That's something that game experience is one of the things that provides for guys like that.