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Despite fact Patriots can wrap up division Sunday, Bill Belichick says focus right now is Browns

12.03.13 at 4:01 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

The Patriots have a chance to clinch or tie for a share of the division title on Sunday if they beat the Browns and the Dolphins lose at the Steelers, an eminently reasonable scenario given the way the season has played out to this point.

However, Bill Belichick said that’s not the focus heading into the game at home against Cleveland.

“Really, we’re not talking too much about that,” Belichick said of his team, which could capture the AFC East for the 11th time in the last 13 years. “The only thing we can really control is how we play against Cleveland. That’s really what we need to focus on. Whatever else does or doesn’t happen in the league is definitely totally outside of our control.

“Hopefully we can go out there and improve and play better and win,” he added, “and whatever else happens or doesn’t happen, we can’t worry about that.”

Here are some other highlights of the Q&A with the media from the Tuesday afternoon conference call:

Can you expound on Josh Gordon? 498 yards the last two weeks is pretty phenomenal. What have you seen from him the last two games and in general throughout the season?

“I’d say it’s pretty much been throughout the season. Of course, he’s had a lot of production the last couple weeks but I don’t think you’ve seen anything in those games that you haven’t seen previously in the year. He’s a very explosive player. He can get behind the defense. He has good speed down the field. He does a good job on underneath routes, inside routes, crossing patterns, curls, in-cuts, things like that of not only going in and catching them in traffic but he’s a strong guy, breaks a lot of tackles, bounces off guys. They have trouble getting him on the ground. They also throw him some quick passes out in the flat, like quick three-step drop plays or look type passes that complement the running game if the defense is all packed in there trying to stop the run and that kind of thing. He’s a hard guy to handle one-on-one out there in terms of tackling and just getting him on the ground. I think he has over 500 yards run-after-catch or something like that. He makes a significant amount of yardage after he’s got the ball in his hands but he also makes a lot of yardage down the field too. He’s a really hard guy to defend because they do so many things with him and you have to defend him at all three levels of the defense. Depending on what coverage or what type of coverage you’re in, that can stress everybody, it’s not just really one guy.”

When you have a question on a call, like what appeared to be fair-catch interference on Julian Edelman, do you send that into the league for explanation. If you do, when do you do that and if you’re already done that, did you receive any explanation back? That could have been a real game-changing play for an uncalled penalty there.

“Certainly, we can call the league office, the officiating department, Dean Blandino, and ask him about any play. He comes back with how he viewed the play, what the officials call, maybe why they called it. Sometimes it’s a, ‘Yes, it was the right call.’ Sometimes it’s a, ‘No, it was the wrong call.’ Sometimes it’s a, ‘Well it could have gone either way, it’s a judgment call. This is what the official saw, this is why he called it and so forth and so on.’ We get an explanation of that or if we have a rules question, we talk to him about that and he clarifies it. I think that the dialogue from Dean has been very good from the preseason when he initially comes in and they talk about the rules changes and go through things with the staff, which they do with every team in the league. He does a very good job of explaining things and we ask questions and so forth and then as things come up during the year, we can talk to him about them and he can answer the questions. I’d say the specific questions and the specific answers.”

Anything about that specific play I was referencing?

“I really can’t comment on that, get into specific questions and specific answers. That’s something that you’d want to follow up with them on, you can do that. I’d think really plays like that just beg the whole question of what’s reviewable and what isn’t reviewable. We only have two challenges and you get potentially a play like that that could be a significant play. Now, had they called they called a touch and then a recovery, then it would have been reviewed and the review would have been part of the touching, not part of the interference. There’s a lot of gray area there. There’s some sticky things as to what’s day. But it certainly brings up a lot of other questions. Not only whether it was or wasn’t, but then how to handle it.”

Whether it be Dallas with Michael Irvin or San Diego with Vincent Jackson, Norv Turner has really had that explosive threat that really fit some of the styles of his offense. Would Josh Gordon be a continuation of that?

“Absolutely and a big part of that is obviously protection. They have a solid offensive line that can give those guys time to run those 20, 22-yard in-cuts and plays like that down the field. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense if you play zone coverage, you have to drop way back there to cover those deep routes. Then that opens up the check-downs and crossing routes underneath. If you’re in man-coverage, you have to cover those guys for a long time. They’re pushing you deep, and you think they’re going deep and all the sudden they break it off at 18, 20, 22 yards, those type of routes that are deeper than normal and that’s hard for defensive backs to match those routes when they’re that extended. You’re right. They love those big receivers. Norv loves those big receivers and he loves to bring them inside. They’re big targets and they go up and get the ball. They’re tough to stop.”

Just building off the fair catch question, did I hear it right a couple weeks ago that you would be in favor of being able to review stuff like that? Did you say that on the radio or did I dream that?

“No, I don’t think it’s a dream. I think when you have two challenges, not that I’ve challenged anything this year, but when you have two challenges, I don’t see anything wrong with the concept of, ‘You can challenge any two plays you want.’ I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls. But to say that an important play can’t be reviewed, I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of, ‘Let’s try to get everything right and make sure that the most important plays are officiated properly.’ If you get a situation where they call a guy for being offside and you don’t think he was offside and you’re willing to use one of your challenges on that to let them go back and take a look at it. I understand if the evidence isn’t conclusive that the call stands and if it is, they’d overturn. Or if it’s offensive holding, you think one of the offensive linemen tackles your guy, he’s rushing the quarterback and the ball hasn’t been thrown and they go back and look at it, and if it was that egregious of a violation, that they would make the call. If it wasn’t, then they wouldn’t. We have to live with that anyway. But now it’s only on certain plays and certain situations. It’s kind of confusing for me as to which plays are and which plays aren’t challengeable. I’m sure it’s confusing for the fans, to know what all they are. There are multiple pages explaining what you can and can’t challenge. Then you have the officials come over to you, oftentimes during a controversial type of play and will say, ‘Well, you can challenge this. Or, ‘You can’t challenge this.’ Just to remind you, which is helpful, but I’m just saying in the whole idea of simplifying the game and trying to get the important plays right, I wouldn’t have any problem if any play was open to a challenge, understanding if it’s not conclusive, then it’s not conclusive and the ruling on the field would stand. But that’s the way it is anyway. I think it would make it a lot simpler in my mind.”

Obviously he’s not going to be a factor in this game, but did you see what Brian Hoyer was able to do this year and his emergence and unfortunately being sidelined?

“We obviously wish him the best. I expressed my personal feelings to him and his family. He got an opportunity and he went in there and made the most of it then unfortunately suffered an injury there. Whether it’s Matt [Cassel] or Brian or those guys, as long as it doesn’t hurt us, I’m always rooting for them, and many of our other players around the league that have done well that were good Patriot players during their time here. We understand that’s part of the business. You develop personal relationships with them. As long as it doesn’t hurt you, I hope they do well. In Brian’s case, certainly, I know his recovery is coming along well and hopefully it will continue that way and he’ll have another opportunity. He’s a great kid, he works hard. He’s certainly paid his dues along the way.”

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