Patriots

Matt Cassel: What self-scouting looks like for Bill Belichick’s Patriots

Matt Cassel: What self-scouting looks like for Bill Belichick’s Patriots

The New England Patriots are always self-scouting to see how they can get better. 

But during the season, you’re getting ready for the next opponent, so there’s not much time to completely dissect those different aspects.

In the bye week, you actually have time to digest those aspects and implement a plan.   And in a New England bye week, you get the diagnostics straight from the coaching staff.

It could be something like, "We’ve struggled in the red zone scoring touchdowns, and we’ve thrown the ball 70 percent of the time and ran the ball 30 percent of the time. So, maybe we want to get more reps at red zone runs."

The Patriots are very detail-oriented. Even if you're 8-1 and feeling good, Bill Belichick and his staff will go into such detail to help you understand why you've been successful, what personnel groups you've been most successful in and where there should be more points of emphasis.

It might be as simple as, “These have been our five really good base core runs this season.” And then he could tell you, "We’re going to focus on these runs more going forward." Or: "We’re going to install a few more runs we think will give us a better advantage against the defenses coming up."

During the bye week in particular, Bill hits the film hard.

I remember one bye week film session where he went around the room and called out guys like Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel, asking them about particular plays we thought we could be better at.

That’s the beauty of Bill Belichick: Everybody is held accountable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or if you’re a 15-year veteran. If there’s something that he thinks needs improvement, he’ll show you video evidence.

It's not like other organizations where the veterans get a little leeway. He is meticulous about the details that highlight where we need to get better, even if that means showing some of your lowlights.

I’ve been subject to it, as well. One year, I was about to start in our fourth preseason game, and he showed me film from two years ago of me getting hit on a corner blitz to remind me not to get hit by the corner blitz again.

Bill doesn’t forget anything. He remembers plays, he remembers personnel: anything our opponents did that could hurt our team down the road.

Obviously he'll review the last game and go through why the Baltimore Ravens beat us. But he’ll also show film and plays from throughout the year. It could be from Week 1 or Week 2. It doesn't matter.

This stretch coming up is going to be a pivotal one for the Patriots. But they'll make the corrections this week and get mentally ready to take on these next four weeks of playoff-caliber teams.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Patriots downgrade S Patrick Chung, RB Damien Harris to out for Eagles game

Patriots downgrade S Patrick Chung, RB Damien Harris to out for Eagles game

The Patriots have downgraded safety Patrick Chung and running back Damien Harris from questionable to out for the game Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Chung has had heel and chest injuries but did play in the Pats' last game before their bye week, the Nov. 3 loss to the Ravens. Harris appeared on the injury report for the first time on Friday with a hamstring issue. The rookie third-round pick from Alabama has only been active for two games this season.

The loss of Chung could impact the Patriots most in their coverage of Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Taking on tight ends is something Chung has excelled at. 

ESPN Mike Reiss reports that Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse, out with a knee injury since Oct. 10, did travel with the team to Philly so he will likely be active for the game.

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Ten years ago today, on fourth-and-2, Bill Belichick made one of his most controversial decisions

Ten years ago today, on fourth-and-2, Bill Belichick made one of his most controversial decisions

It was one of the most controversial calls in Patriots history...and it didn't come from an official.

It was Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 in the final minutes against the Indianapolis Colts. And it was 10 years ago today.

THE DECISION

It remains Belichick's most talked-about moves this side of Malcolm Butler. In a Week 10 matchup in Indianapolis, the 8-0 Colts faced the 6-2 Patriots in a high-scoring affair. Leading 34-28 but backed up at their own 28-yard-line and needing two yards for a first down, Belichick chose to go for it on fourth down and try and keep the ball out of quarterback Peyton Manning's hands.

THE PLAY

Tom Brady completed a pass to running back Kevin Faulk, who was driven backward by the Colts' Melvin Bullitt. After a measurement, Faulk was ruled short of the first down. Three Colts plays later, a Manning-to-Reggie Wayne TD pass and extra point with 13 seconds left a 35-34 victory.

THE AFTERMATH

There was plenty of second-guessing of Belichick's move. Had he outsmarted himself? Why didn't he punt and show more faith in his defense? 

“We thought we could win the game with that play,” he explained at the time. “That was a yard I was confident we could get.” Belichick had maintained it was more like fourth-and-long-1, rather than 2. Where the ball was spotted after the Faulk play is still the subject of debate.

Those Pats would go on to lose two of their next three, finish 10-6, still win the AFC East but get smoked by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in Foxboro in a wild-card playoff game. Manning's team won its first 14 games, then rested its regulars and lost twice before reaching its first Super Bowl as the Indy Colts and losing to the New Orleans Saints. 

TODAY

When Indianapolis reporter Kevin Bowen tweeted about the play's 10th anniversary on Saturday, it stirred up memories for former Colts linebacker Gary Brackens, who recalled the disrespect he felt from Belichick's decision to test the Indy defense. 

To this day, "Fourth-and-2" means only one thing to most NFL fans.

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