Patriots

Bill Belichick defended Patriots’ talent level on offense, admitted team will ‘talk about’ more practice reps for Bailey Zappe

Belichick was asked point-blank why Patriots fans should be optimistic about the team's future.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick answering questions following the Patriots' loss to the Cowboys. AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

A day after sustaining the worst loss of his head coaching career, Bill Belichick had a simple message during his weekly Monday morning interview with WEEI’sThe Greg Hill Show.”

“We’re still fighting,” he said of the 1-3 Patriots. New England’s 38-3 defeat against the Cowboys on Sunday resulted in not only the third quarter benching of quarterback Mac Jones, but also injuries to multiple starting defenders.

“We just weren’t able to play well enough,” Belichick said, acknowledging the obvious. Looking back on the first four games of the 2023 season, he picked out a major issue.

“We’ve played four games, three [of those] games we turned the ball over and lost, one game we didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t get sacked and won, so I think we know what the formula is,” he explained. “We’ve just got to do a better job with it, and defensively and the kicking game, there are things we need to improve on there too that we didn’t.”

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New England is now off to a 1-3 start for the third consecutive season.

Belichick was asked point-blank why Patriots fans should feel optimistic about the future of the team.

“Look I’m just really concerned about doing the best job I can for our team, and I’ll do that every week,” he said in response. “That’s what I can control. That’s what I can do, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Does he think the Patriots are close to solving the team’s issues?

“I think that’s what we’re going to try to do every week,” Belichick replied. “I don’t know. We’ll see on Sunday.”

One of the main problems the Patriots have dealt with is a lack of difference-makers on offense. Aside from issue with Jones and the offensive line, New England also appears to have a deficit of wide receivers who can get consistent separation from opposing defenders.

Belichick stood by the team’s current roster.

“Yeah I think we have pretty good talent on offense,” he countered. “We just haven’t been able to find a good, consistent groove with it.”

“It’s more a consistency thing,” Belichick added. “One or two breakdowns on each play with some other good things being done, but ultimately that one breakdown causes the play to not be successful. Once we get [going] on a more consistent basis and can eliminate that one problem, or one [bad] technique, or one fundamental thing that comes up on individual plays, the results will be a lot better. But we haven’t done a good enough job on that. Until we get there, it’s still obviously a problem.”

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Jones, 25, is now in his third season with the Patriots. Sunday’s defeat was the latest low point in his NFL career as he was benched with several minutes remaining in the third quarter for backup Bailey Zappe. Jones’s final stat line told the story: 12-of-21 for 150 yards passing, along with three turnovers.

“Sometimes you’re just trying to make a play and then regret it afterwards,” Belichick said of Jones’s decision-making. “Every quarterback’s thrown interceptions, every quarterback’s made bad decisions, so has every coach and every player that’s ever played, so we just have to make more good [decisions] and find more consistency in our execution, especially offensively.”

Though he appeared to indicate that Jones would remain the starter during his initial postgame comments on Sunday, Belichick didn’t rule out Zappe getting more looks with the first team, at least in practice.

“I doubt if anything would change significantly, but we’ll talk about that,” he told reporters of Zappe in a Monday press conference following his WEEI interview. “I don’t know. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

New England lost important defensive players Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez during the game, both of whom exited and did not return after sustaining injuries.

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Belichick noted that the team is still looking for more concrete updates from the medical staff.

“We’ll wait until we get more information and go from there.”

And with the Patriots now heading into Week 5, it means that some players who were placed on Injured Reserve or were given the “Physically unable to perform” (PUP) designation prior to the start of the season are eligible to return.

Will any of the eligible players — a list that includes includes Cody Davis, Trey Flowers, Jack Jones, Riley Reiff, and Tyquan Thornton — possibly return this week?

“That’s a possibility,” he said in the press conference. “As players come into that range of being eligible, then we ramp up the activity that they do to see how close they are and how well prepared they are. So, some of that will depend on how things went over the weekend and how things go Monday and Tuesday here before Wednesday’s practice for players like that. So, we’ll see how that goes. Maybe.”

One of the few bright spots on the Patriots’ offense has been the flashes of potential shown by rookie wide receiver Demario “Pop” Douglas. Belichick noted that the 2023 sixth-round pick will begin returning punts (a job he started during Sunday’s game).

As for the team’s future — the Patriots face the 2-2 Saints at Gillette Stadium on Sunday — Belichick was asked if Sunday was merely a one-off debacle or an accurate assessment of the team’s 2023 outlook.

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“We’ll find out going forward,” he said. “That’s really what will determine it. Not anything that gets said or doesn’t get said. Our performance will be what we are.”

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