- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are a few highlights from today's conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:
* Belichick summing up win over Texans and looking ahead: "Of course we’re excited to be heading into the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens. It’s a great honor, really, to participate in the game; to be playing for the right to represent the AFC the following week. It’s a big challenge for us. The Ravens came back and won in our first matchup against them. We’ve had a lot of great games against them through the years. We know they’re a tough, formidable opponent wherever we play them. We know we’ll have our work cut out for us this week. We’ll have to play our best game. I think that’s the way it should be at this time of year. It’s disappointing to not have Rob (Gronkowski) available, but I thought that Shane (Vereen) and Hooman (Michael Hoomanawanui) both did a great job of stepping into the game yesterday and playing a significant role in terms of number of plays and their production, maybe more than was anticipated. I think that was a good example of our mental toughness and our ability to make adjustments and adapt to the situation at hand. I thought that was a positive in the game."
* Belichick on kickoff coverage struggles: "Overall our kickoff coverage this year has been one of the best things we’ve done all year. We’re right at the top of the league in kickoff coverage. We didn’t have a good play in the San Francisco game and then we had three bad plays yesterday, but overall that’s been probably as consistent as anything we’ve done as a football team for the entire season. Of course it’s disappointing. Those are plays that you don’t want to happen; certainly not three of them in one game. That’s not what we want. That’s not good enough. It has to be better."
* McDaniels on Hoomanawanui, who played 50 of 59 snaps after Gronkowski was lost to injury: "Mike certainly has some experience with our terminology from the time I spent with him in St. Louis. He's a hard worker and a guy who can learn multiple roles and his versatility is certainly valuable at the tight end position. He can play in some things, I think, in the kicking game, that helps us too. He's the kind of person that -- you certainly like to have guys on your team that can do different things and are unselfish and have some different skills that allow them to fill in and play backup roles in multiple different situations. And he's a young guy, too, that hopefully has a lot of future in front of him. Whatever players that come up in conversation, the only thing you can do is give an honest evaluation of what your experience was with the player, and then certainly Bill [Belichick] will make the decisions on those things."
* McDaniels on adjusting after losing Gronkowski and Woodhead: "Any time you have a situation come up like that in the game, you have people behind them that have certainly prepared hard and studied their game plan and been a part of our preparation that you need to go in there and step in and play well. I think credit goes to Mike (Hoomanawanui) and Shane (Vereen) for being able to go in there and fill in more than admirably in those situations. I think injuries are a part of our game. [It’s] certainly not an uncommon thing to go through over the course of a season where you have to make multiples changes over the course of a game or you have to go stretches and weeks without certainly people. Yesterday you take inventory of what has happened and what parts of the game plan may need to change. Certainly Rob is a unique player and he has some skills that allow you to do special things with him. I don’t think it’s really fair to say you just plug somebody in and off you go, but I though Michael did a great job with the things we asked him to do yesterday. He certainly did a good job in protection and in the running game and really played a valuable role for us there. Shane stepped right into the role that -- Danny would have handled some of these things and Shane was designed to handle some of them anyway. I think really the next man up stepped up for us yesterday and did a good job and again, they deserve the credit for that."
* Patricia on cornerback Aqib Talib: "Obviously it’s great to get another veteran player on the back end, someone that has some excellent experience in the NFL and can really fit in the younger group and kind of really just blend into the guys that we have and fit the pieces. He’s done a real good job, really coming in and adapting to our system, learning the defense as we run it and the different coverages that we play and overall just been an excellent teammate really, kind of a guy that the other guys fit in with and get along with and obviously then compete and play hard with. I think it’s just been a real addition for us from a teammate standpoint. Obviously as a player, he’s got a real good skill set for the position outside. He’s got some speed ability. He’s long. He can be physical and tackle and do some of the things that we’re asking him to do so it’s been a real good experience for us."
* Patricia on the Sept. 23 meeting between the Patriots and Ravens -- a 31-30 Ravens win: "It was a while ago but I think obviously you really have to analyze that game and take a good look at it to see where their team has evolved to from that point. What are some of the things that caused you some issues in the first game, some of those concepts that can repeat in the next game. You need to be alert and aware for, to make sure you have those handled. Some of the different things that you might see in the game that were some of their strong points, or obviously some weak points that game plan-wise you thought were good or bad that you might want to carry over or not carry over. I think along with this year’s [game], obviously take a look at some of the previous games they’ve played against these guys. There’s a good history of the two teams playing against each other, real competitive game. I think you’re going to try to analyze all that and take a look at it and see what you can come up with that will hopefully help put you in a successful situation for the weekend."