FOXBOROUGH – It was a fairly low-key and uneventful press conference with Bill Belichick on Friday morning, held before Belichick headed to the practice field.
One of the storylines this week has been the problems the Patriots’ offense in particular has been having in the red zone – their 13 trips inside the 20-yard line are second to Green Bay and Seattle, but they’ve come away with just four touchdowns, a 30.8 percent conversion mark that ranks last in the league.
Asked why his team has struggled and what they’re trying to do to fix it, Belichick was blunt:
“Because we haven’t performed well enough. We have to coach and play better down there. What are we going to do? Coach and play better,” he said flatly.
Defensively New England is faring a bit better; though they’ve allowed opponents to score touchdowns on half of their opportunities, the Bills, Jets and Buccaneers only made a combined six trips into the red zone. Only Kansas CIty (four) and Baltimore (five) have allowed fewer opportunities thus far.
But Belichick wants to see improvement from both sides of the ball.
“Offensively and defensively, we just need to perform better down there. We need to coach better, we need to execute better,” he said. “We have to do a better job; it’s an important part of the field. Certainly, when you look at a team like Atlanta that’s been in three real tight games, you have to think that could potentially be the difference in this game, as it was in their other games. It’s a big area of emphasis for us.”
Playing the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, for a prime-time game, means the volume level will be high when the Patriots’ offense is on the field and that it may need to use hand signals and non-verbal communication.
Since Fridays often include football history-related questions for Belichick, he was asked about the origins of silent snap counts.
“I’d say it was really a shotgun formation. I think you could operate [verbally] with the quarterback under center. It’s loud, but you can still do it,” he said. “As the stadiums have gotten bigger, we’ve gotten away from the baseball stadiums where there might be 70 or 80,000 people but in a lot of those stadiums, the fans at midfield were 40 yards from the sideline because they were pushed so far back and the majority of the people were in the end zone so a lot of times it just got loud in the end zone.
“I think there are a lot of circumstances. You have a lot of artificial crowd noise that there are different regulations on and so forth. Over the years, that’s changed. Some of that was pumped in, now there’s different rules on that. There are a lot of different forces at work here. Certainly being in the shotgun, not under center, pistol, gun, whatever you want to call it, the crowd noise situation, the stadium configuration, all that, I think, all played into it.”
Belichick said Seattle has long been one of the noisiest stadiums in the league, “but you get stadiums like RFK or old Mile High, where the seats where aluminum seats and they would beat on those and it was like 60,000 sets of cymbals going off at the same time. Literally the whole stadium was sort of reverberating, particularly in Denver where they had the Mile High, they brought the third baseline in, kind of like they do in Candlestick where they bring that in to put it next to the field and so it’s not real stable to begin with. But those were some loud ones.”
New England has long tried to prepare the team for a lot of noise by blasting music at practice. Although the Patriots will play in a dome this week, it doesn’t appear they’ve spent any practice time inside their fieldhouse to try and more closely duplicate the noise they could be combating on Sunday night.