Patriots

Belichick likes how Patriots worked through communication issues

Belichick likes how Patriots worked through communication issues

The Patriots had some trouble communication-wise against the Chiefs in Week 1. Despite some technical difficulties in Week 2, Bill Belichick highlighted his team's ability to communicate as one of its strong suits.

"Situational things came up, we handled those pretty well," Belichick said after beating the Saints, 36-20. "I thought Matt [Patricia] and Josh [McDaniels] did a real good job on the sideline with the communication issues we had to work through during the game. And that was challenging, but they handled that very well. We didn’t really have, all things considered, too many problems."

PATRIOTS 36, SAINTS 20

Belichick was spotted working with the communication equipment before the game, which actually delayed the kickoff briefly. He acknowledged afterwards that it was an issue throughout the afternoon.

"Communication," Belichick said, "was difficult . . . before the game and all game."

Asked to expand on the readiness required to thrive despite difficulty relaying signals offensively and defensively, Belichick stopped the conversation.

"I’m done talking about it," he said. "I said what I had to say."

The communication problems that players (specifically defensive players) highlighted last week were more specific to what would happen after a play was called in from the sidelines. But the fact that the Patriots were able to succeed, that the communication was still relatively fluid, in New Orleans despite the technological glitches was a sign that everyone was on the same page this week. 

Here are a few more quotes of note from Belichick's postgame press conference following his team's win over the Saints . . . 

On getting third-down stops against the Saints (No. 1 in third-down conversions in 2016): "It was huge. Third and fourth down (we were) both able to get off the field defensively. That was the good part, but we gave up some plays which wasn't so good. We were able to convert on third down. That was key for us. That's a tough offense to stop. They have a lot of good players that are very well-coached and a great quarterback. Anytime you can get them off the field or even let them get down into the red area and hold them to a field goal, it is a good job by the defense."

On his team's fast start (20-3 lead after the first quarter): "We were able to do that, so it was a good night. We always try to do that. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. We were able to do that today. They turned the ball over, offensively, which is a good thing. We were able to make fourth down stops on defense. Those were key for us. Those aren't turnovers, but they are turnovers."

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Bill Belichick refuses to make a big deal out of new kickoff rules

Bill Belichick refuses to make a big deal out of new kickoff rules

 

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick is known as a defensive genius, but in many ways he's a special teams coach at heart. 

That's how he made his living as an assistant for the Lions in 1976. It's where he focused many of his efforts in Denver and New York before becoming Giants defensive coordinator in 1985. And to this day, he commits a significant number of hours and roster spots to the kicking game.

That's what made his answer to a question on the new kickoff rules Monday a bit surprising. He doesn't see them as much of a change at all, apparently. 

"The new rules aren’t really new rules," he said. "They’ve taken out a couple things. They haven’t really changed anything."

    Despite his special teams captain Matthew Slater calling the rules "a huge adjustment," and despite the Patriots committing a load of coaching manpower to the execution of the play during kicking-game periods this spring and summer, Belichick essentially shrugged his shoulders at the suggestion that the new rules will drastically change how the play looks in 2018. 

    "I mean, you still can block who you can block," he said. "They took out the wedge and they changed a couple of alignments, but that’s not really – I mean, there’s a lot of teams that lined up five by five to kick the ball off. I mean, in the history of football, there’s like probably at least a billion examples of that."

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    But there are other changes coming, not just an order from the league for kicking teams to align five-by-five on either side of the kicker. 

    Among them? Kick coverage units will no longer be able to get running starts before the ball is kicked. Return units, meanwhile, must have at least eight players in a 15-yard set-up zone closer to midfield prior to the kickoff -- meaning only three players will be eligible to align deep. 

    The idea behind the changes was to have more players traveling down the field together at the same time, potentially reducing the number of high-impact collisions and injuries associated with the play. Whether those numbers will shrink or not remains to be seen, but it seems likely. 

    It also seems likely that teams will try to take advantage of the new rules to exploit the amount of space beyond the set-up zone, kicking to open areas to make returners travel a long way to field the football. In some cases, dropping kicks into that space may mean a player unaccustomed to handling the ball may be forced to.

    Still, Belichick doesn't see big-time scheme changes coming. 

    "I would say for a lot of teams, the alignments on the kickoff return, really teams had those alignments anyway," he said. "I’m not saying it’s the same, but there are a lot of teams that did align like that. There are plenty of examples they showed in the coaching tapes when they talked about this rule where they showed teams lined up last year the way they lined up and [say], ‘This will be a legal alignment this year. This would be an illegal alignment.’ . . . But they were just showing examples of, you know, a guy lined differently by a yard or two made it legal or illegal. But, again, you’re talking about a pretty minimal adjustment in terms of alignment."

    The removal of the wedge block is another change. Only players who line up in the set-up zone can combine for double-team blocks. Belichick conceded that would be a change, but those types of blocks were rare enough, he said, that the play won't be totally altered. 

    "Unless every return is a wedge, then you can run the returns that you were running or maybe modify them a little bit," Belichick explained. "But it’s taking out something, not putting it in. And, honestly, there weren’t that many wedge returns in the last three, four years anyway. I mean, there were a couple teams that run them, but it wasn’t like you saw it every return every week like it was in the 70s or there where everything was either a three- or four-man wedge. I mean, that was the return. That’s just not like that anymore."

    Teams may be reluctant to put on tape during the preseason all they have planned for kicks and kick returns under the new rules so we'll see what teams truly have up their sleeves come September. 

    But judging by Belichick's comments Monday, he's not expecting to see anything drastically different than what we're used to. 

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