- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia held their weekly conference calls with reporters Tuesday afternoon, and here were some of the things we learned:
Belichick targets third-down defense. In revisiting parts of Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Jets, Belichick shared this viewpoint on the team's pass defense: "I think overall we didn’t give up a lot of yardage in the passing game. Most of what we did give up was on third down so it’s kind of a double problem there but giving up the yardage on third down led to the conversions which then led to  runs. We just collectively, as a defense, if we could just improve our third-down play from what it was last week, that would have made things look a lot better in that game."
McDaniels targets third-quarter struggles. The Patriots were leading 21-10 at halftime Sunday before the Jets took control in the third quarter. Overall this season, opponents are outscoring the Patriots 44-9 in the third quarter. "The third quarter has been an area that we haven’t done very well in, and we’re going to need to certainly focus a lot of our attention on that, and come out and have a good idea of what we want to do and execute our offense the same way in the third quarter that we try to do in every other quarter," McDaniels said, later adding there is no common thread to the struggles. "I’ve got to do a better job of trying to put us in positions to make some plays coming out of halftime." McDaniels said in addition to the third quarter, better play on third down is another top priority.
Too many close games. Of the Patriots' first seven games, six have been decided by seven points or fewer. Belichick said the Patriots always prepare for that, and will continue to do so, but he wouldn't mind if that trend shifts in the coming weeks. "It would be a lot easier on some of our hearts and blood pressure if we could play more consistently over the course of 60 minutes," he said. "Some of those close games could have definitely been better handled. Certainly the Atlanta game comes to mind, where if we had done some things better that it wouldn’t have come down to that, no question about it."
Dolphins' defense has similarities to Bengals. With former Bengals assistant Kevin Coyle in his second season as Miami's defensive coordinator, it makes sense that the Dolphins' defense has some similarities to what the Patriots saw in their 13-6 loss to the Bengals on Oct. 6. McDaniels made the point that the Dolphins can create pressure with the standard four rushers. That was certainly the case with the Bengals. Furthermore, McDaniels said: "There are definitely some challenges with some of their blitz packages -- they bring their secondary players maybe more than some of the teams that we’ve faced this season, so we’re going to have to do a good job of being ready to handle that."
Tannehill's athletic ability draws notice. Belichick described Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill as "very athletic" and added that "he can certainly make plays with his feet." Rush-lane integrity, an area where the Patriots had some notable breakdowns on Sunday against the Jets (e.g. Michael Buchanan and Rob Ninkovich in the third quarter), figures to be stressed. Furthermore, specific to the Dolphins' running game, they have "a lot of outside runs, perimeter-type plays or plays that start at the perimeter and then can cut back."
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