The Patriots were back in Foxboro on Monday, reviewing the Bills film and getting ready to turn the page to an unfamiliar opponent in the Washington Redskins. Bill Belichick held a conference call with the media and was asked about two defensive players who had strong performances and played significant roles in the win – Adam Butler and John Simon.
Butler has hit another level in his third season after spending his first two years primarily as a designated interior pass rusher. Undrafted out of Vanderbilt in 2017, he has already racked up two-and-a-half sacks in four games, just below his career high of three and is on pace for a career season.
"Adam's a very intelligent player and he has very good football instincts," said Belichick. "So you can give him a lot of information and he kind of knows when to apply it and when not to apply it. So his ability to do the right thing at the right time based on a call, or based on the way that the line blocks, or kind of the protections they use, things like that in the pass rush, even in the running game; he does a good job of recognizing those things quickly and making good decisions, which is really hard to do when you're in-line like that."
Butler is now playing in all situations, both as a base defensive end and his more familiar role as an interior rusher, which can pose a number of challenges.
"You have so many people close, right on top of you, and especially when he plays on the nose," Belichick explained. "A lot of times there's three guys that can block him, center and either guard, especially if we're in an odd front. So it's a tough position to play, but he does an excellent job of using his quickness, using his length and making really good football decisions based on what happens in a very short amount of time.
"All players get better with coaching, all players get better with experience, but his growth in three years now has really been impressive."
Simon also had strong game against the Bills, finishing tied for second on the team with five tackles to go with a sack, two QB hits and a pass defense. He also had an impressive third-down tackle on the goal line in the third quarter and is showing up as consistently disruptive.
His 57 snaps were a high for him since joining the Patriots in late September of 2018 and he's already close to matching his stats from the 11 regular season games he played in last season, even as part of a deep rotation of ends that runs five players deep.
"[John's] a very instinctive player, he's got excellent playing strength, a great motor," said Belichick. "He does a good job of finding the ball and diagnosing plays, be they runs, passes or plays that guys on the end of the line of scrimmage have to handle, misdirection plays, screens, things like that."
Both Butler and Simon were part of a defense that did a fantastic job keeping Josh Allen off balance and not letting him find a rhythm as a thrower or burn them as a runner. Belichick said it's about finding the right mix between getting the QB off the spot and keeping him contained.
"Quarterbacks that are athletic like Allen, they've seen a lot of this before. They've seen players spy them and they've seen rushes where the ends go up the field to contain them," said Belichick. "I think if you just do the same thing all the time, then it's pretty easy for them to figure out what you have, and what you have covered, and kind of where you're vulnerable and they can do a good job attacking that.
"So like any good player, you want to keep them off-balance and not do the same thing every time, but you have to do something that you can execute. That's really the key, is whatever you're trying to do, how good you can do it."
Locker Room Sound Bites
Ted Karras on the beating a tough Buffalo team:
"It was a really good team, really good defense at all three levels. We did enough to win, obviously there are a lot of things we want to improve on. We got the coaching today, hopefully we're just going to continue to improve and move forward."