Bill Belichick held his customary Monday morning conference call to go over the Patriots’ 27-17 come-from-behind win over the Dolphins and said as part of his opening statement that he didn’t believe there was anything dramatic New England did to turn the tide in the second half.
“Certainly a lot better half for us in the second half than in the first, I don’t know if we can really pinpoint anything in particular, just the overall execution level, we were able to execute more plays,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t say there was a big, dramatic shift in what we were doing, but it was also certainly a lot better. We got contributions from all three phases of the game; it was a team-wide effort.
“The Dolphins obviously came in and did a good job early on on us – we didn’t have much yardage, couldn’t move the ball very well and they moved the ball well, did well on third-down, all that, so we were able to swing that. The players did good job of showing mental toughness, fighting through all the situations, wind was definitely a factor in the game, particularly in the kicking game, but it showed up in the passing game as well. They did good job with all those things. There’s plenty of room for improvement, we just have to keep working. We did enough things to win, and that was the biggest positive.”
One case where the wind came into play for the Patriots was at the end of the third quarter. With it looking like they’d be trying a field goal, Belichick called a timeout before the end of the quarter, essentially to ensure that Stephen Gostkwoski would be kicking a relatively long field goal into the south end zone uprights and not the open end of the stadium, where the wind was trickier.
“We were at that point where we were in field goal range but it was a long field goal, and we felt like if we changed ends of the field then that field goal range might not be there, as evidenced by when we went for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter, going into the wind in a similar field-position situation,” Belichick explained. “When the clock was running, we wanted to try to give ourselves a chance – and of course close game like that, the game was tied at the time, you hate to waste timeouts, they can be valuable at the end as we’ve seen many times this year – but a we felt like it was worth it to be able to have a better opportunity on the kick. Not saying that Steve wouldn’t have made it going the other way, I just think it would have been harder kick based on [the conditions].”
Belichick also talked a little strategy, saying the Patriots did blitz more against Miami on Sunday than they had in their previous games this season, doing so to try to take away the middle of the field for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“I think it worked out that way yesterday,” he said. “Part of it was I think the conditions played a little bit of a part in that but also the game plan, it looked like Miami was having more success throwing the ball on the inside part of the field and on shorter throws, and what we were able to do was pressure with a middle-of-the-field safety, then more of those throws went to the perimeter, which were harder.
“Alfonzo (Dennard) and Logan (Ryan) and Devin (McCourty) and Kyle (Arrington) all made really good plays, were all right there on the coverage, on the sideline, and it just seemed more evident as the game went on that when we pressured and gave that look that Tannehill was going to try to get the ball there as opposed to the inside part of the field, and it was just tougher to throw and our guys did a good job.”
But one thing Belichick wasn’t talking about was the ongoing investigation surrounding former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez. On Sunday night, Massachusetts State Police served Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, a former college teammate and roommate of Hernandez’s while at Florida, with a subpoena as he was headed for the team bus.
Asked if he, any members of his coaching staff or players have been subpoenaed, Belichick declined to comment.
“I talked about that at the beginning of the season,” he said. “It’s an ongoing legal situation and I don’t have any comment on it. I can’t make any.”