FOXBOROUGH Ė After asking if the assembled media had a good Thanksgiving and reporting that his was good as well, Patriots coach Bill Belichick launched into his final pregame press conference of the week on Friday morning.
Among the topics was the play in Thursday's Ravens-Steelers game when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was nearly hit on the sideline by the Ravens' Jacoby Jones as he returned a kickoff. Belichick was asked if he's ever found himself a little too close to the action.
"Yeah, Iíve been blown up a couple times," he joked. "Thereís one play in particular where I was kind of watching the pass rush of the front and the ball was thrown. I didnít really follow the ball that quickly and all the sudden the guy caught it and was right on top of me and [I] ended up under the Gatorade bench.
"Obviously if youíre watching the ball, it shouldnít be that big of a problem. But if youíre trying to watch something elseÖ Obviously we have to give the officials and the players room to play. Sometimes that just happens where you get guys caught up a little bit on the sideline. But yeah, I saw the play last night. I was like, ĎOh my God, yeah.í That could easily happen to any of us. Itís a good lesson, I have to be careful."
Without saying which game it was, Belichick said he clearly remembered being on the ground, "looking up at the cups and the Gatorade dripping down."
Belichick reiterated his belief the Texans, whom the Patriots face Sunday in Houston, are better than their 2-9 record indicates.
Houston quarterback Case Keenum, a second-year player who has started the last five games, is completing just 55 percent of his passes, but has eight touchdown passes against two interceptions, a far better ratio than Matt Schaub had in his six starts (8 TDs, 9 INTs, five of them returned for touchdowns).
"Heís been a real good decision-maker," Belichick said of Keenum. "The defense hasnít had their hands on very many balls. Even the interception at the end of the game last week was on a tipped ball; it was a good throw. Heís got pretty good judgment, pretty good accuracy. Heís athletic.
"They run a lot of bootlegs anyway, but heís athletic in the pocket to get away from the rush, buy a little more time. Like I said, heís done a good job of not turning the ball over. Heís been disciplined with his decision making. Still getting the ball to his key guys Ė obviously [Andre] Johnson, [DeAndre] Hopkins Ė but at the same time not really putting it up for grabs very often. Look, heís made some tight throws, especially if youíre fourth down in the red area and that kind of thing, you have to have a play, you have to throw it in there. But Iíd say overall his decision-making, his judgment, heís an athletic guy, he can buy time, extra time, to throw which puts more stress on the coverage and the defense. All those things."
With Marcus Cannon (ankle) unlikely to play on Sunday, Will Svitek is in line to become the third player to start a game at right tackle this season for New England (Sebastian Vollmer started the first eight games of the season before going on injured reserve).
Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Svitek is a veteran with starting experience from his days with the Falcons and Chiefs.
"Willís got a lot of experience. Heís a dependable player. He was with all us all spring, all training camp, had a good preseason," Belichick said. "Then he missed a little time there at the end of the preseason, the beginning of the regular season [with a knee injury] before he was able to come back. He has a real good understanding of what we do.
"As we know, in preseason he played not only tackle but guard, so heís played both tackles, both guards. He has a lot of position flexibility. When Marcus [Cannon] went down, he stepped in the game against good players and stepped up there and competed well. Not perfect, but he hung in there. Weíll see that again this week. Weíll see how itís going with him and Marcus. I know he knows he has to be ready. Everybody has to be ready, thatís what the NFL is. Thatís a good example for everyone too, that on any play you could go from not expecting to play a lot to being in there on every snap. Itís all about having everybody ready to go and taking advantage of the opportunities and having guys step in and be able to do the job when theyíre counted on."