Patriots

Belichick takes reporters to school

505044.jpg

Belichick takes reporters to school

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Buried in the avalanche of words, grunts and shrugs emanating from Bill Belichickpress conferencesare gems. He's been an NFL coach since 1975. He's coached in seven Super Bowls. He knows how the 53-man sausage that is an NFL team gets made. And while Belichick readily admits his is not the only way of doing things that may work, from the outside looking in, it's apparent his way works pretty well. So it was interesting to hear him explain earlier this week how a play gets installed. It's the essence of teaching, the essence of coaching. How do you get your students to "get it.""Anytime we install a play, put in a kickoff return, running play, blitz or something, we usually show examples of that so that the new players sort of understand how that works and that they have the general concept of the play," Belichick began.
"I think the best way to learn is to understand what all 11 people are doing. If you just try to memorize your assignment on every play then ultimately - if you dont know whats going on around you - you end up making decisions that impact the players around you, and if you really had an understanding of what the whole concept was, its probably less likely that that would happen." That's why you don't see a lot of freelancing in a Bill Belichick defense or on a running play. The great idea one linebacker has when he wants to play "free and instinctive" may leave the linebacker next to him with two guys to cover in a 35-yard area. This seemed to be the problem the team had last year with Brandon Meriweather. The safety eventually got yanked from the starting lineup for a spell because, as he explained, he was doing his own thing on plays. Belichick continued, "We try to teach the concept of the play. We show the play usually in multiple examples because of different things that can happen on the play, and it refreshes the veteran players who have done the play or maybe were even in the play when it was run before.
"But it also serves as a visual illustration to new players as opposed to X's and O's in a diagram Heres actually the play against whatever its being shown against, and this is how it works or this is one of the problems well have to adjust to with it and this is how we will handle it or whatever. " This, Belichick said, is the video portion of the teaching. The videos are called training tapes. "Thats part of the teaching tools," he explained. "You show it on paper, you show examples of it on film, you go out on the field and spatially walk through the plays in the relationships and so forth. You go out there and practice it in individual drills: 1-on-1, 7-on-7,9-on-9 whatever the drills are, and then ultimately you bring it together in a team drill, and thats kind of the teaching progression."As we look at the 2011 season and the reduced amount of prep time each team has thanks to the lockout, it becomes easy to see the strain teams are under with new players. A coach in his first year with a team -- and there are eight of those -- has to go through the install process with 90 players. A team like the Patriots only has to do it with the new guys and each veteran is an extension of the coaching staff, able to explain the nuances of certain plays. Certainly, Belichick doesn't hold the one perfect approach to teaching. Other guys at other levels have great ideas too, that's why Belichick's door and ears are always open to guys in the non-NFL coaching fraternity. But his detail on how these things get taught is a glimpse at how one very successful professional coach does it.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

MORE:

After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

The Raiders gave Stephen Gostkowski plenty of time to think about the 62-yard kick he was about to line up when they called a timeout just before the end of the first half. Didn't matter. Gostkowski returned to his spot, watched a good snap turn into a good hold, which turned into a Patriots record.

It was the longest field goal in Patriots history, making it the longest in Stephen Gostkowski's career as he bested his previous record of 58 yards set earlier this season. It was also the perfect exclamation point to a perfect day for Gostkowski, who went four-for-four on field goals and three-for-three on extra points in his team's 33-8 win over the Raiders in Mexico City. 

When asked about the half-ending kick, Gostkowski credited his teammates for putting him in position to kick it. They got from their own seven-yard line with 33 seconds left to the Raiders 45-yard line with five seconds remaining. A 20-yard run by Dion Lewis and completions to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski did the trick. 

MORE:

"I think every time I kick a long kick, it's Gronk who makes the catch right beforehand," Gostkowski told reporters. "It's a nice little polish connection. It was cool. You can wait your whole career and not get a kick like that. It's a very opportunistic job. You're only as good as the opportunities you get. I got a good opportunity, and I'm glad I took advantage of it."

The longest kick Gostkowski tried in warmups was from 60 yards away but he had no concerns about trying to make something longer. Having kicked at altitude all week at the Air Force Academy, he knew his range would be better than it usually is. 

"I don't usually go past 60 in warmups," he said. "I hit one and I made it by a good bit. I knew that coming up short -- if I hit it good -- probably wasn't going to happen. Warm weather, altitude, the ball is going to fly. I just tried to concentrate on getting a good foot on it , making sure it stayed straight enough. Got the opportunity, took advantage of it. It's exciting for the whole team."

Gostkowski also used the extra oomph he had in Mexico City to boot six of his seven kickoffs for touchbacks, keeping the NFL's leading return man Cordarrelle Patterson (30.8 yards per return) from burning the Patriots in that phase.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE