After four-plus days in Philadelphia, Bill Belichick and the Patriots returned to Foxborough early Saturday morning and spent time later in the day going over the game film of the team's 31-22 preseason win over the Eagles.
From what he saw, Belichick liked the opportunities the game provided for his players to deal with numerous situations that had been discussed in practice.
"I thought there were a lot of situations that came up in the game, more so than normal – not that there’s a 'normal' amount – but we had a lot of things come up: we were backed up, we had four fourth-down situations on defense, we had two-minute drives, the two-minute at the end of the half where we stopped the field goal and then possibly had a chance to get into field goal range," he said during a midday conference call. "(They) were really good teaching situations for our team, things that we’d gone over in practice and either they came up or they came up close to that. It was a real good teaching experience.
"I think the overall week against Philadelphia was a good work week. We had good, competitive practices without any real problems so that was very productive for us. We had a chance to go out there and play football with all the situations – substitutions, the whole game operations – for the first time in quite awhile and that was good for us as a football team; we also had to go on the road, deal with all the logistics that go along with that. I feel like we made a lot of progress."
Belichick said it is too early to make any definitive decisions on things like roster spots, etc., but he sees progress to this point.
He was asked about the 47-yard Michael Vick-to-DeSean Jackson touchdown in the first quarter, and what coverage the Patriots had called. But Belichick tipped his cap to the execution of the play by the Eagles first and foremost.
"As a defensive coach, there are times where you just have to give credit to the offense. That was a great throw – perfectly thrown, a great route by DeSean and the ball was as on the money as it could possibly be," he said. "Overall, our defense wasn't good enough any time you give up a play like that but it was an exceptional play that we were close on, but obviously not close enough.
"There are things we need to do better – coach better, play better – but that was an excellent, outstanding play. It probably would have been a big play on a lot of different players or calls or anything else. It was just very well executed."
Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly has gotten kudos from his new teammates from both sides of the ball, and also from Belichick, who has long liked the play of the former Raider.
"Tommy had a real good spring for us and he’s had a good training camp," Belichick said. "He's a very experienced player, he has good instincts for the game. He's tall, has long levers inside, but a different build from Vince (Wilfork). Both very good, very effective players, they just have different playing styles, they look a little different but they present different matchup problems for the offensive line. Tommy’s been a really, really solid guy for us all the way through. Works hard, in early, stays late, does a lot of extra things, extra conditioning, things like that to really take care of himself and prepare for the game. I have a lot of respect for Tommy. He's had a good, solid camp."
Will Svitek is another veteran free agent who was brought in; though he played primarily at left tackle for the Falcons in 2011 (he was injured in 2012), Svitek has been forced into duty at right guard over the past week due to injuries to Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly.
"He’s been a great teammate. I think everybody likes having Will on the team; I certainly do," Belichick said. "He’s a smart guy that works hard, has done whatever we ask him to do. He’s played at both sides at tackle and has also played some guard, which is not uncommon for our linemen. ... We move them around and they work at more than one position. Sometimes that ends up being useful. Sometimes it just kind of helps them understand how the whole thing works together.
"But he made the switch into guard and did some good things in there. It wasn't perfect, but he handled himself well, played competitively. Maybe somewhere along the line he’ll give us some depth at that position if we need it."
Players have Sunday off, and then will be back on the field Monday. On Tuesday, the Buccaneers will be on hand for joint practices before their preseason game on Friday night.
"There are a lot of things we need to work on, we need to continue to stress and get better at. We need to see and be exposed to different things and we’ll certainly get that this week against Tampa," Belichick said. "We’re looking forward to another similar, hopefully, type of week where we can improve and grow as a football team and continue to compete individually against the top players that they have and continue our preparations for the opening game and a 16-game regular season."