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Bill Belichick breaks down the breakdowns in Miami: ‘We just have to play it a little bit better’

12.16.13 at 6:05 pm ET
Bill Belichick (left) and Tom Brady couldn't figure things out Sunday in a loss to Miami. (AP)

Bill Belichick (left) and Tom Brady couldn’t figure things out Sunday in a loss to Miami. (AP)

After watching film of Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Dolphins, Bill Belichick had a chance to more closely review what went wrong and the key areas that need improvement, namely red area execution on offense and defending third and fourth downs.

The Patriots were just 1-for-4 inside the 20 Sunday, including a pair of 15-play drives that ended in Stephen Gostkowski field goals. The final failure, of course, ended with a Michael Thomas interception of a Tom Brady pass intended for Austin Collie.

During his conference call with reporters Monday, Belichick was reminded that on the first drive in the red zone, the Patriots threw three times.

Then on the final drive in the final 30 seconds from the Miami 19 and then the Miami 14, Tom Brady threw to the end zone.

“I’d say generally speaking, you’re better off throwing closer to the goal line than farther away from it, to a point,” Belichick explained. “Once you get inside the five yard line, then I’m not sure that that’s true. But I’d rather throw from the 10 than the 15, just keep going on like that. I thought we had a mixture of plays in the red area. The first drive, we hit the quick out to Julian [Edelman] down there on their sideline and we were second-and-four, which isn’t a bad place to be and ended up not being able to finish it.

“Then I think on the other series, we ran the ball on second down – first down threw it, second down we ran it, got it to third-and-two and they pressured us and we weren’t able to get a good execution on the passing game. They were trying to disguise their coverages. They pressured us some down there, they showed some pressure and pulled out of it, which are things they’ve done in the past. It’s kind of what they do, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before but they did a good job of it. We probably need to collectively, from our plays to our execution, just obviously need to be a little bit sharper down there.

Another key moment was an incompletion on a Miami blitz when – on third-and-two – Brady had to throw it quick to Shane Vereen. Instead of punching it in for the tying touchdown, the Patriots had to settle for a field goal that cut Miami’s lead to 17-13. Should that have been a hot read and should someone have turned around or did they just call the right rush at the time?

“I wouldn’t say it was going to happen regardless but when they have everybody up there, you can’t block them all,” Belichick said. “You can only block – we’ve got one guy at quarterback – so we can only account for 10 of the 11 guys. They put them all up there a lot – that was basically their game plan in the red area, was to put everybody up pretty close to the line of scrimmage. Sometimes they came, sometimes they didn’t come; sometimes a couple guys came, so they had a couple different combinations there.

“On that particular play, we were kind of one short on the protection based on the blitz that they ran. The pressure came from the right side there and we weren’t really able to get, obviously, get into the whole pattern. That was the one where [Derrick] Shelby came free. But that’s part of the chess match down there in the red area. When they show pressure, to be able to block it but then they don’t always come so you don’t want to be keeping everybody in and have two of your three guys get doubled out there, so it’s a little bit of a back-and-forth game.”

Defensively, Belichick addressed the 4th-and-5 conversion by Miami that kept their drive alive and allowed the Dolphins to score the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“Well, it’s close. It’s close,” Belichick said. “Obviously we just have to play it a little bit better. They didn’t get the first down by much, but they got it. We just need to do a little better job on that play.

“I think it definitely could have been played better. Like I said, we were there. We had two guys there making the tackle right there at the sticks and he was able to fall forward for the yard. I mean, had we gotten there a step quicker, it was obviously a close play – that they made – but we were pretty close. We just need to play a little bit better. There were several things on the play that we could have just been a tiny bit better, might have made a difference. It just wasn’t quite enough.”

As for the play before that set up Miami’s fourth down conversion, Belichick said quarterback Ryan Tannehill simply did a good job managing third-and-16.

“Good throw,” Belichick said of the 11-yard connection with Brian Hartline. “We tackled him as soon as he caught the ball. I don’t think that’s the kind of situation where you really want to get pass interference or be too overly aggressive playing the ball and miss it and have the guy turn up and run for a first down or whatever. Fourth-and-[five], defensively that’s a situation that you don’t mind being in. I don’t really second guess too much of what happened on that play. It was a good throw and a good catch. It wasn’t like we weren’t on the receiver but he made a good throw.”

Here is the remainder of Bill Belichick conference call from Monday:

BB: Not a lot to add from yesterday. Obviously, have to give Miami a lot of credit for the way they played – Coach [Joe] Philbin, his staff, their team. They played well, played hard. I thought our guys did too, we just came up a little short. We had some plays that we’d all like to have back and one or two would have been a difference but just didn’t turn out that way. We just have to try to continue to [play] with more consistency, just improve in everything and turn the page and get ready for Baltimore. That’s pretty much where we’re at here.

Q: Is playing on the road a big deal? I ask because I remember in 2009 and into the early part of 2010, you guys struggled to win on the road and you were very open about how that had to be changed. This year, again, you’ve certainly had some success on the road but it’s harder, obviously.

BB: We’ve had close games on the road; we’ve had close games at home. Look, we have eight games on the road; we have eight games at home. That’s the way it’s going to be every year. We’ve had close ones on the road; we’ve had close ones at home.

Q: Did Nate Solder fly home with the team yesterday? What happened to him during the game that led him to leave and not return?

BB: It looked like he got either kicked or kneed or something at the end of the play down there in the fourth quarter, kind of down there on our end, maybe around the 25-yard line, something like that. We’ll take a look at everybody today, see where everybody’s at the day after the game and go from there.

Q: Did he fly home with the team?

BB: I don’t think I really want to make any comment about what anybody did or didn’t do. That gets into another area.

Q: Logan Mankins kicked out to left tackle and Josh Kline played left guard. What were your thoughts on how that group did in the emergency situation? Was that the plan going into the game or were you forced into that due to circumstances with other offensive linemen other than Nate Solder?

BB: We’d practiced some alternative combinations this week before of the availability of all three tackles – Marcus [Cannon], Will [Svitek] and Nate – during the practice week. When that happened, we felt like that was the best move for us at that point. I think we had a lot of, obviously, situations –maybe not quite as traumatic as that one, but during the course of the game where guys had to step in and fill in for somebody and things like that. I thought, as I said yesterday, I thought the team competed hard. I thought they gave a great effort right to the end. I don’t think there was any lack of effort or lack of competitiveness. We just didn’t do enough things well enough throughout the course of the game – at the beginning of the game, at the middle of the game, at the end of the game and collectively as a total team – players, coaches, offense, defense, special teams, everybody – we just all have to do a better job of it.

Q: What are the challenges moving forward?

BB: The challenge this week is Baltimore. That’s all there is is Baltimore. Certainly nothing else to talk about.

Q: Stevan Ridley’s workload has been increasing steadily over the last few weeks. Are you happy with the way he’s running with the football and giving extra effort but also protecting the ball?

BB: I think that, once again, we’re getting production out of all our backs. When backs get in the game, they get a chance. They’ve all been productive. James [Develin] has been productive for us and certainly Stevan, LeGarrette [Blount] has and Shane [Vereen] has and Brandon [Bolden] has when he’s been in there. Everybody that we put in we have confidence in. they’ve given us production in the past and we expect it in the future. I think that’s been pretty consistent for us, that all those guys have given us, I’d say, a lot of good plays: extra effort runs, catches, yards after catch, touchdowns, first downs, however you want to slice it up. There’s been good production from that group. I’m not saying it couldn’t be better and I’m not saying it’s perfect and all that, but they’ve been productive. Hopefully we can continue to build on that and whoever is in there, when they get the opportunities they’ve all been productive. Hopefully we can, like I said, continue that going forward.

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