The Patriots were back at Gillette Stadium on Friday, fresh off their sixth-straight win to start the 2019 season. While playing on Thursday night is always a challenge, Bill Belichick was looking forward to his team getting a chance to catch their breath a bit.
"[W]e're glad we have a few extra days here to kind of rest, recover and evaluate where we're at here and be ready to move forward for the Jets, which comes on a long week so when you add them all together, other than a bye it's about as much time as you're going to get during the NFL season," said Belichick on his morning conference call with the media. "We'll try to take advantage of that and utilize whatever time we have, which is what we always try to do, utilize it efficiently. There's certainly a lot of things we need to work on."
A big part of the challenge against the Giants was the demands it put on the personnel as three significant weapons went down in Matt LaCosse, Jakob Johnson and Josh Gordon. The offense was forced to play solely out of 11 personnel for the rest of the game, with running back being the only position where they had any depth at all.
Josh McDaniels was impressed by how the players responded to the adversity.
"I mean, we had I believe 10 players that played about the last 50 plays of the game with no rest because we didn’t have a substitute," McDaniels told reporters on Friday morning. "They deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that, and they really did a good job of playing a lot of roles and doing a lot of things in the game that they hadn’t necessarily walked through last week or practiced with very few mental errors."
The key players to step up? James White and Julian Edelman, who sparked the Patriots to victory with some clutch plays when the offense needed them most.
Belichick explained what helps White make so many key plays.
"James has good quickness," said Belichick. "He has good pad level. He drops his pads well so that sometimes defenders don't get a solid hit on him and he's got good balance and so he can take some hits and gain positive yardage."
Edelman chipped in with his 13th career 100-yard game, setting an example for the young receivers to follow.
"There’s a lot of good things that Julian does, obviously, to be as productive as he is, and our receivers are trying to study those things," said McDaniels. "But, like I said, you’ve kind of got to build it the right way when you’re a young player. It’s like trying to tell a young quarterback to do everything that Tom does. That’s impossible."
The rookies saw extensive action and did a good job impressing the coaches.
"There were some good things, certainly a lot of things we need to work on, things we need to improve, techniques and just coaching points, but both of those kids work hard and they're both trying really hard," said Belichick. "They're getting better. They just have a lot of ground to make up relative to receivers, experienced receivers like Phil [Dorsett] and Julian [Edelman], guys like that. Making progress."
McDaniels was even more effusive in his praise of Meyers and Olszewski.
"Really proud of the contributions that Gunner [Olszewski] and Jakobi made last night. Like I said, those guys both played over 50 snaps last night, and that wasn’t necessarily the intended plan. Really excited to see those guys come in there, answer the bell."
Another who answered the bell was tight end Ryan Izzo, who nearly played every snap after just three days rest since playing the Redskins.
"Ryan’s got a great attitude and a great approach," said McDaniels. "He works extremely hard and Ryan’s just continuing to develop as a young player in all areas of that position, which is a difficult position."
But overcoming the adversity in this short-week, injury-laden game was what McDaniels enjoys the most.
"Again, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of coaching is just trying to handle the adversities with your guys, and I thought our players had a great attitude and resolve about themselves last night," said McDaniels. "It certainly wasn’t perfect, but grinded it out and the guys that were in those positions really stepped up and made a lot of plays that helped us."
The Patriots had a number of injuries on Thursday night, with Josh Gordon (knee) and Patrick Chung (chest) leaving the game and not returning. Gordon seemingly avoided disaster, as he remained on the sideline, often riding an exercise bike, while Chung was ruled out after the first half.
Unfortunately, Friday did bring a report that Jakob Johnson, one of the feel-good stories of this Patriots team, would be placed on IR with a shoulder injury. Johnson saw his snaps spike last week in Washington and looked to be another significant part of the game plan early on against the Giants. From being the 91st player at the start of training camp to becoming an actual game contributor, Johnson's journey was a remarkable one. We'll get another look at him next summer, but his presence will be missed, making him the second fullback to be placed on IR this season.
There's no question the Pats can use a weekend off to try to get healthy in a number of spots, especially Gordon, Chung and Rex Burkhead.
Locker Room Sound Bites
Kyle Van Noy on the way the defense is playing, forcing turnovers and scoring points:
"It's good for fantasy football right? We're playing really good football. We're enjoying playing together, but like I said we have so much more to get done and a long ways to go."