Following the Patriots’ 26-17 preseason win over Washington, Bill Belichick reflected on the team’s first game. He answered questions on subjects like the offensive struggles in the first half, the running game, and Tom Brady’s backup.
Here’s what Belichick had to say:
Bill Belichick: I thought we gave a good, competitive effort in the second half. I thought there were a lot of guys that tried to play hard. Certainly there were a lot of mistakes in the game, a lot of things we need to work on. It’s good to see us make some plays there in the second half. We played a lot of people. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll evaluate how things went tonight and just move on to next week. It’s always good to get started. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve taken a couple of steps but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll just keep grinding it out through camp like we’ve been doing.
Were you pleased with the improved tempo in the second half? Is that something you wanted to see?
Belichick: Yeah, we’ll go back and take a look at it. I’m sure there were some good things and some not-so-good things throughout the game. The results were better. I’m not sure if that’s reflective of everything. We’ll take a look at it, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. I think there are some things to build on.
You tried challenging a fumble at one point in the game. What was communicated from referee Brad Allen to you?
Belichick: Forward progress.
Was that sort of like the play with Joe Flacco a couple of years ago?
Belichick: Yeah. I really couldn’t challenge it because they ruled forward progress.
Even without a whistle blown you aren’t allowed to challenge it?
Belichick: Well, once it’s forward progress the runner is down and so it doesn’t matter what happens after that. I don’t think the runner was down, but if they ruled forward progress then it’s not challengeable.
How impressed were you with the running game tonight in the second half? How important was that for you to be able to chew up some clock there in the third quarter?
Belichick: Yeah, we were just trying to move the ball and get some first downs and get some production offensively. We didn’t really have any in the first half. We were able to do that and that settled the game down a little bit for us.
How much development have you seen from Devin Lucien from when he first came in two years ago to now in this preseason?
Belichick: Yeah, Devin works hard, like he did for us – last year he got injured at the end of preseason, so we weren’t able to keep him on the practice squad because of the injury settlement and so forth. We were able to get him back this year and he’s come in and worked hard, given us some good plays in practice, gave us some good plays tonight. We’ll just keep going. He gained some experience in some other organizations. In the end, he’s pretty familiar with what we do but I’m sure that being at those other places were good learning experiences for him.
What went into the decision to start Brian Hoyer tonight and not give Tom Brady any reps?
Belichick: Some players played, some players didn’t. We tried to play people we wanted to take a look at and give some reps to.
Was it a good opportunity for Hoyer to get an extended look at quarterback and working with this offense?
Belichick: I mean, all of the guys that had an opportunity to play – they’re all good opportunities.
What did you like about how Brian Hoyer ran the offense tonight?
Belichick: Yeah, he did some good things. We didn’t have a lot of success offensively in the first half. We didn’t have any success on third down. It was a good possession before the half. He showed good poise and played some situational football there. Had more success in the second half. Again, there’s still a lot of things for us to work on, but there’s a few things to build on too. That’s about the way it usually is.
Ja’Whaun Bentley got some reps as the defensive play caller tonight. What kind of progress have you seen from him in the mental aspect of his position?
Belichick: Yeah, Ja’Whaun’s a smart kid, so the mental has never been an issue with him. We used multiple signal callers tonight, as we have in practice, but doing it in the game is a little bit different. The experience is different, so we had three, maybe even four, guys doing it over the course of the game. Again, obviously, we’ve had a lot of guys that have done it – [Dont’a] Hightower, [Kyle] Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, but we had some other guys get the chance to do it tonight too – Christian [Sam], Bentley. It’s a good experience for them.
When you brought Jeremy Hill in this offseason, was this the type of runner you hoped you’d be getting?
Belichick: Yeah, I think we have good depth and competition at running back. All of those guys have performed well in the spring, in training camp, and the ones that played tonight had an opportunity. Mike [Gillislee] and Jeremy both got a number of carries. Ralph [Webb] got carries too. I don’t know if we had 30 carries, but we must’ve had close to that, so it was a good opportunity for all of those guys to carry the ball a little bit, to have some contact, read blocks. Certainly our offensive line had a chance to come off on the ball and do some run blocking. That will help us in the evaluation of those players and also give us something to build on schematically from some corrections that we need to make or some things that we did well.
How did you feel about the production of Ryan Allen and the kicking game tonight?
Belichick: Yeah, again, like everything, we did some decent things. There’s some things, obviously, we need to do better. That includes everybody – the kickers, the coverage people, blocking in the return game, the overall coordination of the return game. There were some good things but, again, we have a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do but we’re under way. Like I said, we’ll build off the things we did well and try to correct the things that we need to improve on.
How valuable is it for the coaching staff to reinforce in a game like this that it’s just going to take one play at a time to string things together and get back into the game?
Belichick: Yeah, well, obviously we didn’t do a very good job of that in the first half. The coaching staff, starting with me, we didn’t do as well as they did in the first half. It was good to see the players respond. It was good to see them play with, I’d say, more urgency, better execution, just an overall higher effort and performance level in the second half. That was good, but we’ve got to get it going a lot sooner than that. We can’t be down 17-0. We’re not going to win many games doing it that way. We have to coach better, we have to play better, we have to have more production earlier in the game than we had tonight. But it was good to see us respond to a negative situation there, score at the end of the half, a score to start the third quarter, get a stop on defense, score again, two-point conversion, field goal at the end of the half. We had a couple of good situational series. We can teach off of that.
Do you tend to get more out of evaluations during the games or from the practices? Are the games kind of a test after the preparation during the week?
Belichick: Yeah, everything. We evaluate everything, so it all counts.
What have you seen from Ralph Webb in practice and what did you see from his performance tonight?
Belichick: I think that’s pretty much what we’ve seen from Ralph all the way through. That’s what he was like at Vanderbilt. He ran hard. He was tough. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got good strength for his size and he runs hard. He got hit a lot down there. He showed us that in the spring and in training camp. He’s a tough kid that runs with good pad level, he’s got good speed, he catches the ball well. He made a nice catch on the two-point play. It was not an easy – I wouldn’t say it was – it was a low ball. He made a good adjustment on the catch and got it in. He’s been kind of like that his whole – going all the way back to his freshman year and his career at Vanderbilt. He had a lot of production down there, ran hard, took a lot of hits, like all of the backs do in that conference. He’s given us that same type of effort. It was good to see him in game action be able to break some tackles, get downhill, get some tough yards. He’s done that plenty before.