Belichick: Good Game, but There’s Room for Patriots to Grow
By Ross Gienieczko
FOXBORO -- New England’s 37-20 preseason win on Thursday night against Philadelphia was an eventful game, by preseason standards.
The Patriots new-look pass rush flexed its muscles, sacking Eagles quarterbacks eight times and knocking starter Nick Foles out of the game. One of those plays, a strip-sack by free agent addition Adrian Clayborn, led to a fumble return for a touchdown by rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley.
It was the kind of impact play the Patriots struggled to produce on defense last season.
“We had our moments. We had some pressure from different players. There were some good things there,” coach Bill Belichick said.
However, Belichick was quick to note there were plenty of times when the pass rush didn’t get home, exposing New England to big passing plays down the field. Philadelphia receivers caught 27 passes for 363 yards, and nine different Eagles had a reception of at least 15 yards.
“We obviously allowed a lot of passing yardage. There were times when the rush and the coverage didn’t really marry up the way we’d like it to. Pass rush is part pass rush and part coverage,” Belichick continued. “Overall, our team defense was good at times, but we need to have more consistency. When you give up over 350 yards passing, that’s not good. Knocking the quarterback down, that’s good, but we need to marry those two together. When we didn’t have the coverage or the rush, we gave up too much yardage.”
Belichick also commented on the league’s controversial new rule penalizing defenders for lowering their helmets while tackling. There’s been little consistency from officials regarding the rule this preseason, and last night Jordan Richards was called for a personal foul for leading with his helmet after what appeared to be a textbook tackle on Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert.
“There’s those plays and there’s some other plays maybe that were similar plays that weren’t called,” Belichick said. “We’re just going to have to try to do a good job of getting a clear understanding, and these are plays that help define it, of what is and what isn’t allowed. Again, it doesn’t really matter what we think. What matters is what the officials think and what they see and what they’re going to call.”
Finally, Belichick praised a couple New England newcomers who flashed their talents last night - Bentley, a fifth-round pick out of Purdue, and wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson, acquired from Oakland in a trade involving draft picks.
Patterson, a former first round pick out of Tennessee, has never really produced at wide receiver to the level he was drafted at -- he’s averaged just three offensive touchdowns per season throughout his five-year career and has never topped 50 receptions or 500 receiving yards.
But Belichick and the Patriots think a change in scenery might unlock some of his offensive potential. His performance last night was an encouraging sign to that regard, as Patterson caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown, displaying electric playmaking ability after the catch.
“It happens all the time. It happens every year. For whatever reason, players are in different systems, and you look at it and you feel like in your system it might be a little better fit than where he was somewhere else. That’s not a criticism of anywhere else or anything else. I’m sure other teams look at some of our players the same way,” Belichick said. “I think it’s very common to see a player in another scheme or another system, you picture them in your system and you maybe see a little bit more of a productive player than you see somewhere else.”
Bentley, who had five tackles and a pass breakup to go along with his touchdown, has performed to the point where he’s in contention for one of the Patriots starting jobs at linebacker.
“He’s done a good job for us in all areas. He has good size. He plays with good power. He’s made a couple tackles in the last two weeks on the goal line or in close quarters,” Belichick said.
He went on to complement Bentley’s coverage skills, an area the Patriots have struggled with at linebacker.
“He’s a very instinctive player. He finds the ball and has good awareness of the ball, the receiver, the route the guy’s running and so forth,” Belichick said. “He learns every day, learns every week. There’s still a lot of things he needs to see and needs to work on, but he’s getting better every day.”