Conference Call: Sept. 9, 2019

PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL

September 9, 2019

Q: What did you see from your linebackers, in particular Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, in the run game last night?

BB: Yeah, I thought overall those guys did a really good job. Really it was across the board. A couple of guys up front, Lawrence [Guy] and Danny [Shelton]. They were in on a couple of plays early, a couple of short yardage plays. The outside linebackers – John Simon – did a really nice job on a couple of those toss plays and, as you said, Hightower and Collins. [Ja'Whaun] Bentley got downhill and made some big stops too. Overall, it was a pretty solid effort in the running game so that was good for us to see.

Q: What did you see on Jamie Collins' stop of James Conner for a four-yard loss early in the game on that short-yardage play when the game was still in doubt?

BB: Again, a lot of those plays that the linebackers make are a result of the defensive line doing a good job and creating space for the linebackers to get through there and then the backers hitting them with good timing and making the tackle and finishing the play. It's really about team defense. But it's, again, good execution up front and then the linebackers being able to gradually hit the gaps that are free for them, but it needs to just be well executed as a front-seven or front-six. We had several of those plays. That was a positive thing.

Q: How important is the communication in the front seven defensively when you face a team like Pittsburgh that shows so many different looks?

BB: Yes, that's a big key for us. The Steelers do a good job. They mix in a bunch of different personnel groups and they have very good skill players and a very experienced offensive line and obviously a very experienced quarterback, so they do a lot of things well that create a lot of problems for you. As you said, they use multiple groups there. Every series was kind of a different group or a different emphasis as a group, and then when you include all of the empty plays in there it can be quite challenging. Yeah, communication certainly could be better. There are things that we missed, but overall we got a lot of things right and they're a hard team to play against. We can certainly learn from some things that happened last night but overall it was a pretty good night for communication. Especially [because] the crowd was a factor last night, and so defensively our communication's always a little bit easier on the road, but last night it was pretty loud at times. That made our communication tougher. It made their communication tougher which is a good trade-off. We have to work through that too.

Q: How important is it for Ted Karras to get the ball to Tom Brady with some velocity on the shotgun snaps, and how did you think he did in that area last night? There seemed to be some variance with the speed at which the snaps were received.

BB: Yeah, I agree with you, Mike [Reiss]. That's very observant. The timing when the quarterback is in the shotgun is different than when he's under center because he has the ball in his hands through the entire drop where it's different when he's five yards behind the center and has to catch the ball and then go through his footwork and so forth. If there's a variance in the snap, either speed or accuracy, then runs over into the footwork and timing of the play then that's just another added degree of difficulty. I'd say that's one of the many things that we can do better.

Q: How do you manage social media among all of your players to make sure it doesn't compromise what your team goals are?

BB: Yeah, well, I mean that's such an important part of my life that I really don't put a lot of time and thought into it. I don't even know what they are. But collectively, as a team, we always try to do what's best for the team and we'll continue to do that.

Q: Has Antonio Brown reported to the Patriots facility and how do you plan on incorporating him into the team this week?

BB: We have no official transaction so I wouldn't comment on any player that's not on our team.

Q: How did you think Jake Bailey performed last night, both in punt duty and with his holding on Stephen Gostkowski's field goals?

BB: Yeah, I thought our field goal operation was good. Pittsburgh's a good rush team. They challenged us with the field goal rush. To be able to hold up on that, both punt and field goal protection was a key part of the game for us. I thought Stephen hit the ball well. The kickoffs, and the field goals, and extra points, the operation – Joe [Cardona], Jake, Steve – was good. The first punt that Jake hit was a great punt, one of the very best you could hit – 50-something yards on the sideline, out of bounds, no return. It's hard to do any better than that. The other ones were good too. The balls were up in the air, we had good coverage, Matt [Slater] did a good job of covering for us and Brandon [Bolden] had a big hit on the kickoff coverage. I thought we left some yards on the field on the kickoff returns. I thought Gunner [Olszewski] did a good job getting the ball up field on punt returns. J.C. Jackson did a real nice job on the gunners and kind of helped get us started there. If we could just finish a couple more blocks there may be a couple of more yards to be had there. Some of the guys on the interior held up on the punt returns, Lawrence [Guy] and Adam Butler, [Dont'a] Hightower, Jamie [Collins]. Those guys really did a good job of getting guys held up at the line of scrimmage so that Gunner could get started. He had some positive yards, helped our offensive field position in the return game. Still plenty of room for improvement but I thought we did some positive things last night.

Transcript courtesy of the New England Patriots Media Relations Department

Full audio available at patriots.com

Laura London