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Bill Belichick on his game plan: ‘You never leave fish to find fish’

10.28.13 at 12:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Things were hardly going swimmingly Sunday in the first half for Bill Belichick and his offense. Tom Brady didn’t look sharp. The running game was not effective. And the Dolphins managed a 17-3 halftime lead.

But Belichick, who has been on the open seas more than a few times in his life with his boat “Five Rings”, brought up a fishing analogy Monday in his conference call in describing what it’s like to stick with a game plan when the fish aren’t being caught on the hook.

“That’€™s part of the play calling and decision making in the game. If you have something that’€™s working, do you keep doing that knowing that eventually a good team on the other side of the field and good players are going to recognize it and put a stop to it? Or do you try to move away from it and anticipate that they’€™re going to adjust what you’€™re hurting them with? Then you move onto something else and you second guess yourself, ‘€˜Am I moving away from success too quickly?’€™ As any good fisherman knows, you never leave fish to find fish. But at some point in the football game against, like I said, good teams, good players, good coaches, they’€™re just not going to let you keep doing the same thing forever. They’€™re going to have an answer to it. When do you think they’€™re going to have that answer and when do you move to something else? When do you stay with what’€™s successful?

“Occasionally, you get a few situations where it’€™s easy and you can make that decision right away. You know you either need move on or maybe they just can’€™t match up every once in awhile you get into one of those situations but for the most part, it’€™s a little bit of a chess game. The shifting of matchups and shifting the strengths and weaknesses throughout the course of the game, you see it every week and I don’€™t want to say every game, but most games you see it. There’€™s an ebb and flow and that’€™s part of it. Part of it is execution and motivation and just flat out playing. Sometimes though it’€™s the matchups of plays and players that shift during the game and that affects it too. I don’€™t know if that answers your question but that’€™s always the dilemma is when do you move on from something that’€™s going fairly well before you get it shut down?”

What did Belichick do? Down 14, he decided to stick with the run game until Stevan Ridley broke one for 23 yards up the middle. That singular play seemed to jiggle the fishing rod just the right way and the Dolphins were on the hook. The Patriots scored 24 unanswered points after that run and they won, 27-17.

“I think that’€™s the National Football League,” Belichick said. “That’€™s the way it is in most every week in every game. Look, the Dolphins have a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches. They’€™re very good at what they do, too. They have tough guys to match up on and it’€™s very competitive, very challenge every single week, no matter who you play. Those guys are working just as hard as we are, have just as much talent, have the same opportunity and they do things that cause us problems, just like we’€™ve tried to do things that cause other people problems. There’€™s certainly a punching, counter-punching type of thing.”

The same could be said of the defensive scheme, which included a few more blitzes than normal from a Belichick team. Again, jiggling the fishing rod at just the right time at just the right angle produced results, like when Logan Ryan strip-sacked Ryan Tannehill, allowing Rob Ninkovich to recover and setting up the game-tying touchdown from Brandon Bolden.

“I think it kind of worked out that way yesterday,” Belichick said of the blitzing. “Part of it was, I think the conditions played a little bit of a part in that but also the game plan. It looked like Miami was having more success throwing the ball in the inside part of the field on shorter throws. When we were able to pressure with a middle of the field safety then more of those throws went to the perimeter, which were harder. Alfonzo [Dennard] and Logan [Ryan] and Devin [McCourty] and Kyle [Arrington] all made real good plays or were right there on the coverage on the sideline.

“It just seemed more evident as the game went on that when we pressured and gave that look that [Ryan] Tannehill was going to try to get the ball there as opposed to on the inside part of the field and it was just tougher to throw and our guys were doing a good job defending it. Logan broke up the route to [Charles] Clay there before the half going down the sideline and Kyle had one right in front of our bench and Logan had one to [Mike] Wallace there right in front of their bench and Alfonzo was right there on a couple back-shoulder throws. I think as we had some success with it and it became apparent kind of what they were going to do with it or it looked like what their plan on it was, we felt like that was a good option for us. A couple times we got pressure and he had to hold the ball for a second and we were able to hit him so that helped it out too.”

Here is the rest of Belichick’s conference call from Monday:

BB: As we talked about yesterday, it was certainly a lot better half for us, the second half than the first. I don’€™t know if we can really pinpoint anything in particular, just the overall execution level, we were able to make a few more plays. I wouldn’€™t say that it was a big, dramatic shift in what we were doing but the results are certainly a lot better. We got contributions from all three phases of the game so that’€™s a good team-wide effort. I thought that the Dolphins obviously came in and did a good job early on us. We didn’€™t have much yardage and we couldn’€™t move the ball very well and they moved it very well and converted third downs and got the ball in the end zone a couple times and all that. Fortunately we were able to swing that pattern. Players did a good job of showing mental toughness and just hanging in there, fighting through all the situations, the score. I think the wind was definitely a factor in the game, particularly in the kicking game, but I think it showed up in the passing game a little bit as well. They did a good job with all those things and there’€™s plenty of room for improvement and we just have to keep working. But we did enough things to win so that was obviously the biggest positive in the game.

Q: Mike Pouncey was subpoenaed yesterday at the stadium. Have you or any of your players been subpoenaed in relation to that case?

BB: I talked about that at the beginning of the season. It’€™s an ongoing legal situation and I don’€™t have any comment at all on it and can’€™t make any.

Q: You can’€™t say whether you or any of the players have been subpoenaed then?

BB: I just answered the question the best I can.

Q: How did you determine at halftime to stay the course and have faith in the plan you developed with things haven’€™t gone well in the first 30 minutes?

BB: Well, because we just didn’€™t really feel like there was a big need to. We didn’€™t feel like what we were doing was, we weren’€™t in a competitive situation or we didn’€™t have a fair fight so to speak, we just felt like we needed to do it better. Sometimes you have a plan, you go in with a game plan and you see the matchups or you see their game plan and you recognize that this really isn’€™t the best thing that we can be doing here so then you modify or change what you’€™re doing to try to get your team a better opportunity to be productive and make plays. Then there are other times when you go in with a plan and you see what they’€™re doing and you look at it and say, ‘€˜Well, what can we do differently here?’€™ And you kind of come back to saying, ‘€˜Well, really what we’€™re doing is probably the best thing we can do against this, we just have to do it better and we have to correct some of the things that we didn’€™t do well and execute them better but we still have good running plays, we have good matchups in the passing game, we feel like we have the defenses that can handle what they’€™re doing, we just have to play them better, just have to do them better. We’€™ve seen how they’€™re attacking us.’€™ Then our players had a chance to recognize that, I don’€™t want to say adjust to it, but just execute it better when those situations came back up later in the game which they eventually did. I think that’€™s a credit to the players that we didn’€™t really make a lot of new defenses and new plays and new runs and all that. We just did the ones that we did a little bit better and that’€™s, again, a credit to the players to make those on the field, in-game type adjustments and corrections.

Q: Do you look back and think you could have used Stevan Ridley more? Or do you look at it from an overall perspective and the overall running game which seemed fairly effective as well?

BB: I thought Stevan ran well. I thought all three of our backs were productive. I think when you look at the individual plays ‘€“ I think they all did a good job ‘€“ some of the plays that weren’€™t good, I don’€™t think it would have mattered who the back was. There wasn’€™t really too much to be had on those plays. I think if you look at some of the better plays, probably no matter who was carrying the ball on those plays, they would have gained plenty of yards. I’€™m not saying it doesn’€™t matter who the back is because they all broke tackles, they all had some good vision runs, had some good cuts and that kind of thing. Then there were a couple times when I don’€™t know who could have made yards on some of those plays. We just didn’€™t a couple times we had a bad play on, a couple times they did something or one of their players was either unblocked or we weren’€™t able to really get them out of where we needed to get them out of and there was just nowhere to go. I think all three guys did a real solid job for us. They complemented each other and we have good depth at that position. It would be hard for me to really say one guy ‘€“ when they had opportunities they did well with them. When they didn’€™t, we tried not to go backwards and get what we could get and stay out of long-yardage situations, take care of the ball and live to play another down. I thought they all did a pretty good job of that.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl
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