Patriots

Belichick appreciates fourth-quarter 'situational football' from Patriots in win

Belichick appreciates fourth-quarter 'situational football' from Patriots in win

FOXBORO -- There's very little that Bill Belichick appreciates more than late-game execution. "Situational football," as he calls it, is something that the Patriots practice on a regular basis because it's often the difference between winning and losing. 

That work during practices -- in training camp Belichick often calls out downs, distances and time on the clock as he watches his players react -- paid dividends on Sunday. 

"Obviously," he said, "a lot of situational football at the end that was critical to the outcome of the game for us . . . The whole game really came down to the last -- call it three, three-and-a-half minutes. Fortunately, we were able to make the plays we needed to make to win."

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Let's start there, then. 

With 3:23 remaining and the Texans ahead, 30-28, Texans running back Lamar Miller ran for seven yards, giving Houston a second-and-manageable. But, realizing that the Texans would want to keep the ball on the ground to drain the clock, the Patriots were ready for the run and stopped Miller for a gain of two.

That brought up a third-and-one situation on the Patriots 18-yard line. Belichick called timeout. Big-time "situational football" play was coming and he knew it. 

The Patriots brought their goal-line defense onto the field and smothered Miller for no gain. Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy -- who played 46 and 52 snaps in the unseasonably warm weather, respectively -- were in on the stop. That forced a field goal and put the Texans up, 33-28. It also kept the Patriots a Tom Brady-led two-minute drive away from the win. 

Belichick brought up the play twice during his post-game press conference unprompted. 

"In the end it came down to a handful of plays and situational football at the end of the game," he said. "The third-down stop was our goal line defense against their three receiver set. We made the play there and then, again, we were able to overcome a couple of long-yardage situations on the last drive."

A couple of those long-yardage situations were of their own doing.

David Andrews was called for a hold with 2:20 remaining that gave the Patriots a second-and-20 at the Patriots 15-yard line. Brady picked up eight with a throw to Rob Gronkowski, and then came out of the two-minute warning to hit Gronkowski again for 15 and a first down. 

After Brandin Cooks hauled in an 18-yard toss, Brady was strip-sacked and Andrews recovered at the Patriots 48-yard line. An incomplete pass to Cooks, brought up a third-and-18. Not many plays in the playbook for that situation. 

Yet Amendola's leaping catch for 27 yards, against Houston's zone-turned-man defense, gave the Patriots their most crucial third-down conversion. That play was followed immediately by Cooks' game-winner. 

Situational football at its finest. 

"We were in a lot of situational football in that game on offense, defense and special teams," Belichick said. "Yeah, of course you’d like to play better so it doesn’t come down to the final play, but look, this is the National Football League and the Texans are an outstanding team and that’s what it’s going to take to beat them is to play 60 minutes and be able to make the plays that you’ve got to make at the end to win, whether you’re on offense, or defense, or the kicking game or whatever it is. That’s no surprise."

Maybe the way the Patriots finished the game shouldn't be surprising, either. Dramatic? Sure. But their quarterback's penchant for fourth-quarter execution is well-established, as is the coach's devotion to working on those situations in practice.

It's no wonder Belichick was as pleased as he was with the way things played out.

"The players went the whole 60 minutes, played hard, competed well and made enough plays at the end," he said. "Just barely, but made enough plays at the end to win. It was good. It was good."

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Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

In an interview with The Big Lead, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke on the drama surrounding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

It's safe to say he doesn't put much stock into it

I just think any NFL team, any NFL locker room under a lot of stress over a year period, there are going to be storylines people can choose to kind of blow out of proportion or not pay attention to. I think everyone’s going to pay attention to sometimes really small issues. Whatever people are alluding to going on up there hasn’t affected their play, it hasn’t affected their bottom line. It hasn’t affected how they executed on Sundays. 

Long played with the Patriots during the 2016 season and won Super Bowl 51 with them before signing a two-year contract with the Eagles. The Eagles then went on to beat New England in Super Bowl 52. If anyone outside of the Patriots' locker room has an idea of the culture inside the past two years, Long has to be one of them. 

It took everything for us to beat them. It took a heroic performance by Nick Foles and we had to play our best game. So while everybody likes to always point to the Patriots as being under duress or there’s some drama in the locker room, there’s drama in every locker room that you could blow out of proportion. They’re just on top and those stories sell because they’ve been so great.

ESPN's Seth Wickersham released a story detailing some of the issues that arose in New England over the past few years in January, and with Brady missing almost all of the Patriots' voluntary workouts last month, some have started to wonder whether this is the end for one of both of Brady-Belichick. 

While their hasn't been much public acknowledgement from either side about the drama, but Long certainly doesn't see much substance to the noise. 

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Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction of the Jacksonville Jaguars taking over the AFC title from the Patriots and facing the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta in SB53 drew a response from Tom Brady on Instagram.

The NFL's official Instagram account posted a photo of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the prediction of Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys QB now the analyst on CBS' No. 1 NFL broadcast team. Here's a screenshot, complete with Brady's comment:

Appearing on the NFL Network earlier this week, Romo said rumors of a rift between Brady and coach Bill Belichick are overblown. “I think they probably squabble just like any married couple for 20 years, and then they also love each other.

“I just think when you work together for 15 to 20 years, whatever it is, I think that whenever you have the success that they have, people have to come up with stuff,” Romo said. “I also think that I’ve been upset with my coaches before, and then you come back and you’re fine. And then you get upset with them, and you come back and you’re fine. It’s a part of sports.”

Brady and the Patriots report to camp on July 26.

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