Bill Belichick did not sound any better Friday afternoon, after dissecting film from the Patriots’ 40-9 preseason loss in Detroit the night before. True to form, Belichick included everyone in his assessment.
“It just wasn’t a very good performance on the part of our entire football team,” he said in a conference call. “We just have to get back to work and do better than that in every area of the game.
“I don’t think there’s anything different than what the picture was last night. There were a few good individual plays here and there, but overall just … we can’t play like that and expect to do well against a good team.”
Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty said after the game that this is a time for veterans to step up and help the younger players bounce back. Asked if this was a chance to see what type of resiliency this team has, Belichick spun things forward.
“We just need to go out and have a good week of practice and do things a lot better than we did them last night, that’s all,” he said. “Nobody is going to do it for us; we’re going to have to go out there. Nobody but us can make things any better than what they were last night. We have to go out there and do something about it.”
Zach Sudfeld, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen all fumbled against the Lions, and none played again in the first half after losing the ball. Sudfeld and Vereen did get touches in the fourth quarter.
Belichick did not directly affirm that a message was being sent, but he made it clear again that maintaining possession of the football is serious business.
“Our message has been the same here from Day One that ball security is of the highest priority for anybody that handles the ball – that’s a message from Day One,” said the coach. “I think that message has been delivered on a daily basis since we started practicing back in May. I don’t think there are any new revelations about that message.
“Ball security is very important to anybody who handles the ball in any situation. There can be no mistake about the importance of it. There can be no mistake about that message. That message has been delivered ad nauseam.”
Belichick was at his Belichickian best twice during the call.
On the topic of why Vince Wilfork didn’t play (the veteran went through a one-on-one warmup and stretching session with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash a couple of hours before kickoff and was on the sideline in uniform but did not take the field), Belichick said, “We just didn’t put him in. That’s why.”
“Because there were other players who played.”
The second time was on the last question, when he was asked the difference between running a play with two running backs and one tight end versus one running back and two tight ends; that’s when Belichick the Teacher came out:
“Just fundamentally, when you have one back in the backfield and you have four on-the-line receivers, that gives you an ability to get into the defense potentially with four people. Or even if it’s three of them, sometimes the defense isn’t sure which three of them it is. One tight end could be in it and the other guy could be in protection, that type of thing.
“I think you’re able to attack the defense from the line of scrimmage a little bit quicker and with a little less predictability, depending on who those players are, of course. That’s certainly a factor.
“But as far as your running gaps, I mean, you can put more width at the formation by having a guy on the line, whether it’s four on one side and two on the other side of the center or three and three. You just have a wider front, which there are some advantages to that. By having them in the backfield, you can create that same four-man surface or three-man surface after the snap so the defense doesn’t know where the four-man surface or three-man surface is. The fullback has to – he can build that from the backfield.
“And then there are also, let’s say, a greater variety of blocking schemes with the fullback in the backfield because he can block different guys and come from different angles. He’s not always behind the quarterback. He could be offset one way or the other and create different blocking schemes and angles that it’s harder to get from the line of scrimmage.
“Also, depending on who your tight end is, it can be a little bit easier to pass-protect seven men because two of them are in the backfield instead of us having one in the backfield. And then when you start running guys up the middle in the gaps and things like that. I think fundamentally it’s a little easier to pick them up when you a have a guy in the backfield that can step up and block him from the fullback position as opposed to a tight end in the line of scrimmage who probably isn’t going to be able to loop back in and get him, so the line is probably all going to have to gap down or not gap down if the guy drops out and all that.
“It just creates a different – it creates some advantages, I think, and it also creates some things you have to deal with. You just have to decide how you want to deal with them. Obviously when you have a guy in the backfield, it’s harder to get those two receivers vertically into the defense in the passing game. They’re usually running shorter routes to the flat or checking over the ball or those kind of things, short crossing routes – versus having that fourth receiver on the line of scrimmage who can run some downfield routes, again depending on who the individual person is. The skill definitely changes what you can do with that guy.
“So I think those are the things that come into play. Some teams are very settled in one type of offense or another, so all of their plays and their rules or their adjustments come from that particular set. And other teams use multiple looks to, say, run the same plays or the same concepts to try to give the defense a different look. It’s harder for them to zero in on what they’re doing. But they’re able to do similar things from different personnel groups or different formations.”