A day after almost pulling off one of the most dramatic comebacks in NFL history, Patriots coach Bill Belichick  talked about his team’s near miss Sunday night against the Niners.
“I thought they fought hard, absolutely. Yeah, I thought they fought hard and competed well, it just wasn’t good enough,” Belichick said of his team, which wiped out a 28-point second-half deficit before falling to San Francisco, 41-34. “It was just too many bad plays, too many mistakes; it just wasn’t good enough. But yeah, I thought we competed, we fought, we hung in there until the end. But we just didn’t perform well enough in any area.”
As for where the Patriots go from here, it’ll be business as usual as they start preparing to meet the Jaguars Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville.
“I’d say we’ll pretty much do the same thing we always do — we’ll look and talk about the game,” he said. “We’ll talk about the things that we did right and reinforce those. We’ll talk about the things we did wrong and correct those. Once that’s over with, we’ll put this game to rest and move on to Jacksonville.”
Here are a few more highlights from Belichick’s Monday afternoon conference call:
For the most part you have played with the lead this year. Is that resiliency something you were already aware of or something you learned last night?
“I don’t think that’s been a problem this year. It’s more about the level of it, not, ‘Are we competitive?’ It’s just how well or not well we do the things that we’re trying to do.”
What did Mike Rivera give you on the opening drive instead of Brandon Spikes ?
“Brandon was a little limited in practice this week so we wanted to see how it went with him before we made the determination as to how much we would put [Brandon] in there.”
What did you see from Dont’a Hightower in this game, as he seemed to play quite a bit?
“I think you can pretty much say the same thing about everybody in this game. There were times where we did things at a good level, a good competitive level and then there were other times when didn’t. I think that’s true for every coach, every player that participated in the game. There were things that we just did poorly and there were other things that were competitive. I think that’s pretty much the story of the game. I think that’s every player. I don’t think there was any one player that was at the top or the bottom ‘ we all contributed.”
How do you view Stevan Ridley’s fumble? Is that something that could have been avoided or do you just credit the defense?
“I think there are going to be plays in the game that are’¦ sometimes things happen in football and that’s part of football, whatever they are and the way the ball bounces and so forth and so on. Everything we do, we try to do and coach with the best possible technique, whether it be carrying the ball or any of the other things we do. We try to do everything in the best way, [with] the best technique that we can. Whatever the results of the play are, it still is coached and taught to do it properly, whether that’s blocking technique or tackling technique or coverage technique or throwing technique or anything. If it’s done incorrectly, then we want to try to do it correctly. If it’s done correctly, then it’s reinforced because it’s done correctly and that’s the way we want to do it. That’s how we coach them, on all fundamentals. They’re all important and they all lead to either good things or not so good things. I pretty much put them all in the same category and we try to handle them all the same way ‘ to teach them and coach them the best that we can to get it executed correctly with a high level of consistency.”
Considering how well your special teams has played this season, was it surprising to see some of the mistakes or does that fall under the umbrella of what you have already discussed?
“The whole game was like that: 2-for-15 on third down, bad plays on defense, bad plays on offense, bad plays on special teams. Again, we all contributed to it. It wasn’t very good, it wasn’t very consistent. It was in every phase of the game. We all work hard, we all want to do our best, we all want to do and need to do better than that. That’s the only way to put it.”
“No, I wouldn’t say it was performance based. Patrick has come back, I think he’s a good player for us. Steve’s done a great job. Steve has really been solid and played well for us; so has Devin [McCourty ]. I know they’re all disappointed in some plays from yesterday, like we all are, but I think those guys are all good players and we give them an opportunity to play.”
I am still a little confused myself as to how the call on the punt unfolded. The penalty was for illegal touching?
“No, there’s no penalty for illegal touching. The penalty was for holding on the return by San Francisco. There’s no illegal touching penalty. Once we touched the ball, that’s the worst field position that they could be in on that play, assuming that it didn’t touch the returner. Even though it bounced back farther than that when we finally recovered it, assuming that it didn’t touch the returner, then the ball was spotted where we initially touched it. It’s not illegal touching ‘ it wasn’t like we ran out of bounds and were the first one to touch the ball. That would have been an illegal touching ‘ that didn’t happen. We touched the ball and once we touched it, [if] it hadn’t been touched by the return team, then that’s the worst field position San Francisco could have gotten the ball in until you mark off the penalty. Once you add the penalty in, it would go from that spot.”
It seemed like your run defense showed a dramatic improvement in the second half. Can you touch on that?
“Again, I think there were times when we played competitively in the game. We did enough things to make it a competitive game in the end but we had too many things that weren’t good enough. There were things that were done well and there were things that weren’t done well. I don’t know which play or plays or series or block of time you want to slice out of there, you can find whatever you want because it was I’d say a decent amount of both but more not good than good. You could find points in the game, things we did in any area of the game that were competitive. Then you could find things that were filled with too many mistakes.”