Patriots coaches Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Jerod Mayo spoke with the media via conference call on Tuesday, getting back into their weekly routine as they put the bye week behind them.
McDaniels said they spent their time evaluating what the team has done well, what they can do better and a small amount of extra preparation on the upcoming opponents.
"You can't do everything in a bye week; it's impossible to go over every single thing," said McDaniels. "If you try to do too much – sometimes, I've found out in the past – nothing ends up getting accomplished. I try to pick out a few things that we can figure out to try to make progress in and work with your guys on."
A big takeaway from the Ravens loss was the Patriots offensive success at times as they ran a no-huddle attack. Despite losing the game, the offense showed spurts of being their old selves, even if the results didn't jump off the stat sheet. They finally looked comfortable moving the ball through the air, with Tom Brady directing things from the line of scrimmage.
Could the no huddle be a more extensive tool for the second half of the season? McDaniels liked it as a tool but stopped short of assembling an all-no-huddle-attack all the time.
"I think tempo is one of those variables that you certainly can implement each week if you feel like it's the right thing to do," explained McDaniels. "I think some of that is dependent on our numbers, or our health in terms of how we need to play the game.
"And at the end of the day, it's one of the questions you ask yourself about: "Is this the best way for us to be productive on offense?' which is ultimately the goal every week."
This week brings another challenging team that is on a hot streak. The Philadelphia Eagles have won two-straight games and, at 5-4, sit tied with the Cowboys atop the NFC East standings. Their defense poses a number of challenges for the Patriots offense.
"The Eagles are an aggressive group," said McDaniels. "Coach [Jim] Schwartz does a great job of getting them to play fast and aggressive. They're physical. Their front is really impressive, very disruptive. Their philosophy has always been they want to try to limit you in the running game, force you into obvious passing situations and then get after the quarterback. They seem to be doing that very well now."
Tight end Zach Ertz leads the Eagles with 46 catches for 527 yards with two touchdowns and with Patrick Chung missing from Monday's practice and dealing with multiple injuries, could be a match up problem for the Patriots defense. Jerod Mayo said it will be a group effort in stopping Ertz regardless.
"Anytime you have a player like Ertz or any of these guys, a special player like that, it's not just one person, right?" said Mayo. "It's multiple people, covering him with different people, hitting him from different angles. You just can't show him the same look. He's been doing it – what now, this is year seven for Zach – and he's been playing at a high level. So, definitely going to take all 11 guys on the field to try to slow him down."
The Patriots defense will be looking for a bounce back effort against the Eagles, but it's the offense that is still looking for a signature game. Tom Brady's 505 passing yards in Super Bowl 52 against Schwartz's defense with limited weaponry could provide optimism the Pats will start clicking this weekend. But McDaniels cautioned the Eagles will make the Patriots offense work for everything.
"The one thing that stands out when you watch them is that they're all on the same page, and they all play fast and aggressive because they know what they're doing," said McDaniels. "Any time you play a defense like that, you know they're not going to beat themselves. You know they're not going to make a bunch of simple mistakes and give you easy yards and opportunities. They make you earn everything you get, which is why it's such a great challenge, and they've got really got players and they are extremely well-coached. This is going to be a huge challenge for us."
Conference Call Sound Bite
Bill Belichick summing up a big part of his coaching philosophy and why Super Bowl 52, or any other game to come before, doesn't have an impact on new games being played.
"Each team is its own team. It's a new team. There may be carry-over players, and coaches and some things may carry-over, but I wouldn't necessarily say they're the same. Each year is a new year, and each of our performances from year-to-year is contingent on our preparation and our ability to perform in that season that we're being judged in, not what we did in some other years. Personally, I don't really put a lot of weight or a whole lot of evaluation into what's happened in the past. I try to focus more on the present, and how that can be improved and accelerated to work to a higher level. That's really what it's about for me. If you look back at a team one year and compare it to the next year, there's – whatever the end analysis is, it is. And, there's value to that and merit to it, but the reality of it is we're in a week-to-week business, and this week's about this game, and the preparation and the performance two teams have on Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure that 2015, 16, 17, 18 really have a lot to do with it. I think this year has a lot more relevance to what we're able to do this week to prepare for the game, what we're able to execute out on the field Sunday afternoon."