The Patriots were able to snap a three-game losing streak and defeat the Bills on Sunday to give Bill Belichick his 300th career regular season win. But as he did in his postgame soundbites, Belichick shrugged off his latest career milestone during his media availability on Monday.
“We’re focused on Miami right now, so we’ll deal with that later,” he told WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” during his weekly interview.
Asked when “later” might be, Belichick laughed but declined to offer specifics.
Turning to his team’s performance in the 29-25 home win (improving the team’s record to 2-5), the Patriots’ coach praised his offense as a group. He placed quarterback Mac Jones — who completed 25 of 30 passes and threw two touchdowns, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter — in the same category as the overall group.
“Offensively one of our better performances,” said Belichick. “Had some consistency, moved the ball, scored some points. Those are all good things, and Mac’s a big part of that.”
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots were able to limit — though not completely contain — the Bills’ offense.
A big part of defensive success was countering the threat posed by talented Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Belichick referenced the plethora of capable pieces the Bills feature on offense, but acknowledged that much of the focus fell on the 29-year-old Diggs.
“Diggs is clearly the number one problem, second most targeted player in the league,” he explained.
Belichick even offered a quick glimpse at how the Patriots designed their coverage.
“There were times where we took him away,” Belichick said of Diggs. “There were other times where we tried to make it look like we were taking him away but really weren’t, hoping that we could discourage the quarterback from throwing over there and then try to get the coverage somewhere else and tighten it up there. Mix up some man [coverage], mix up some zone [coverage], and just try to make it as difficult as possible for him to get cleanly into the release and into his route.”
Diggs finished with six catches for 58 yards and an unorthodox touchdown.
“Those guys did a good job on him, but ultimately he got a couple on us,” Belichick admitted. “He’s a great player.”
The weekend was also a time for remembering Patriots legends, with the team’s Hall of Fame recently inducting former linebacker Mike Vrabel and longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
On Vrabel — now the head coach of the Titans — Belichick said that it was always apparent how multi-talented he was, and that a coaching future seemed very possible.
“I think everybody that coached Mike or was around Mike could see [him] being a coach,” said Belichick. “He was a very smart player, not just at his position but also overall situationally. Of course he played tight end in short yardage situations. Played in the kicking game, but he always had a real, natural thirst for knowledge about situational football and schemes and things like that.
“I think you could see it with Mike and it didn’t take him long to finish playing and go to Ohio State, then Houston, and then Tennessee,” Belichick added. “So I mean I think he’s got a great advantage with the playing experience he has plus his overall football knowledge. He can put it all together and I’m sure he does a great job at Tennessee. I’m sure he’s a great coach.”
And following up on a humorous moment from Sunday’s postgame press conference — when Belichick compared a missed Bills field goal to his wayward golf game — the Patriots’ coach was asked if he’s a “hot dog at the turn kind-of-guy” while playing an 18-hole course.
“Sure, never pass up a good hot dog,” Belichick joked.
After the radio interview, Belichick sat down for a virtual press conference with reporters.
Amid the back and forth clash of division rivals, Sunday also produced a spike in penalties from both teams. Officials, led by head referee Clete Blakeman, flagged the Bills and Patriots a combined 17 times (nine on Buffalo, eight on New England).
Belichick was asked if coaches and players try to adapt in the moment to officiating is calling a game.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he responded. “I think you can get a feel for how that goes, and sometimes it goes in that direction, sometimes it goes in the other direction.”
“I think you see that in all sports,” added Belichick. “Balls and strikes, or fouls in basketball, or football, whatever it happens to be. There’s a certain way that the game is being played that particular [day], and it might be a little different from another game.”
An interesting twist on the officiating was that a number of flags were initially thrown only to be picked up.
“You’d have to ask Clete about some of those,” Belichick said of the calls that were eventually called back. “Throwing flags, picking them up, throwing them late and whatever. It was just kind of an unusual game the way some of the penalties were called all the way around.”
“The obvious question if it gets picked up is why did you throw it in the first place?” Belichick asked. “I don’t know. You’d have to ask them that.”
One of the successful developments for the Patriots on Sunday was the improved play from the offensive line.
A notable change was that Michael Onwenu, normally a right guard, shifted to right tackle.
“There were a number of things involved,” Belichick said of the decision to move Onwenu. “Had a good conversation with Mike after the Raider game and ultimately I think everyone thought that was the best thing for us to do at this time, so we went with it, had a good week and thought he did a good job for us.”
“He’s a smart kid that probably understands all the different positions on the offensive line,” Belichick added of Onwenu. “Pretty good fundamental player and obviously has good strength.”
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