Notes From Foxboro: Bill Belichick gets 300th win with ball security and discipline
By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Despite the talent on display with the Browns, much of Sunday’s game came down to the massive crater between the two head coaches.
Freddie Kitchens can call some good plays, but he failed to properly prepare his players to protect the football in the pouring rain. They also couldn’t avoid sloppy miscues or limit the penalty flags. Bill Belichick and the Patriots, predictably, excelled in all of those areas.
Ball security is always important for Belichick, but he wisely made it a point of emphasis this week in anticipation of the rain against the Browns. He had the Pats practicing with wet footballs during the week so they could get a feel for it on Sunday. Kitchens lacks that level of attention to detail.
“Certainly ball-handling was an issue and it was tough,” said Belichick when asked about the rain. “It was tough in pregame warm-ups. There were a lot of, I’d say, mishandled balls. I noticed some by them, definitely by us.”
When it counted, the ball-handling mistakes were entirely on the Browns’ side. The Patriots’ emphasis on ball security paid off as they ran the ball 27 times without fumbling, while Chubb fumbled on his first two carries. Receivers also made sure to keep the ball secure after the catch to avoid plays like Jonathan Jones’ knockout punch.
“[Ball security] was a high priority, especially against their defense,” said Julian Edelman. “They’re a ball-hawking defense, a strip, chase, punch team. And that’s that was one of our goals going into this. You know you’ve got to have good ball security.”
Belichick also outclassed Kitchens in the discipline department. The Patriots committed just four penalties for 32 yards, compared to 13 for 85 yards against Cleveland. On a sloppy day like Sunday, those finer details become even more important. Belichick just showed Kitchens why.
More Notes From Foxboro for Tuesday, Oct. 29…
Trade deadline looms Tuesday afternoon
Teams across the NFL will have until 4 p.m. to make trades. The Patriots have already made a move in acquiring receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons, but have also been rumored to be looking at help on the offensive line and at tight end.
They’ll also need to make corresponding moves on their roster to make room for any potential trade acquisition. They created an open spot by trading Michael Bennett to the Cowboys, but they used that on returning quarterback Cody Kessler. However, if the Patriots do trade for OL or TE help, Belichick should have a relatively easy decision as far as a player to release from the current depth charts.
Hoodie has extremely high praise for Jonathan Jones
During the week, Belichick was asked if Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel could be the most talented special teams tandem he’s ever seen. His response, in part? “I’d say Jon Jones is pretty good too.”
Jones doesn’t play as much special teams as he did over his first three seasons, mainly because he’s become an excellent slot cornerback on defense. In Belichick’s mind, he’s become a rare talent, which he put on display when he chased down Chubb for the forced fumble.
“There’s not a lot of players that probably could even make that play,” said Belichick during his Monday conference call. “Just the amount of ground that he closed but then his awareness and timing and being able to put pressure on the ball and get it out.”
Few players in the league could do what Jones did? There’s no doubt that it was a memorable play, potentially iconic.
Meyers, Sanu get Brady’s trust on third and fourth down
Brady went just 5-for-13 passing on third down, and the Patriots converted just five of their 16 opportunities. But one of Brady’s completions went to Meyers for five yards on third-and-3, a sign that the pair are continuing to build trust.
Despite that play, Meyers played just 27 snaps and saw two targets as Mohamed Sanu immediately supplanted him in the pecking order. Sanu played caught two of five targets for 23 yards, which isn’t impressive in the box score. But his first catch of the game came on fourth-and-4 and gave the Patriots just enough for a first down.
Neither Sanu nor Meyers are even close to the rapport that Brady continually shows with Edelman, but they both looked like they’re already building some trust with No. 12.
“You could just see, I was like ‘Man, I can’t wait to be on that page,'” Sanu said after the game. “Because that was that was a sight to see, when you’re on [the Patriots’] side, and you see ’em like ‘Alright, cool’. But it’s gonna be like that soon.”
Harry eligible for activation, Wynn eligible to practice
The Patriots’ re-signing of Cody Kessler muddied the situation at the end of the Patriots’ roster. With the fourth-year quarterback taking up the only open spot, Belichick will have to trade or release someone to make room for rookie WR N’Keal Harry.
New England can play Harry for the first time of the season on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens, but they still need to activate him. Since Harry returned to practice on Tuesday, Oct. 15, the Patriots will have until Tuesday, Nov. 5 to avoid keeping him on injured reserve.
If the Patriots decide to activate Harry and move a player at another position off the roster, it would give the Pats six WRs including punt returner Gunner Olszewski. They also currently have four tight ends on the roster. So we’ll see if Eric Tomlinson can stick around as part of the fullback rotation the Patriots have employed in recent weeks, and whether Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse can avoid IR.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.