Patriots coach Bill Belichick held his regular day-after-game conference call (10 a.m. ET) and two of the hot topics surrounding the team were discussed.
1. Struggles in the red zone: Belichick detailed what unfolded on the two red-zone drives that ended in field goals. On the first drive, a 6-yard connection to Julian Edelman set up a second-and-4, but the Patriots couldn't finish. Then on their fourth-quarter drive, an incomplete pass on first down was followed by an 8-yard run by LeGarrette Blount before an incomplete pass brought out the field-goal unit. Belichick said the Dolphins were showing pressure looks in the red zone.
"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," he said.
"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."
2. Revisiting third- and fourth-down plays on Dolphins' go-ahead drive: The Patriots had the Dolphins in a vulnerable spot, facing a third-and-16 on the fourth-quarter drive after New England went ahead 20-17. But receiver Brian Hartline caught an 11-yard pass over the middle from Ryan Tannehill, with cornerback Logan Ryan in coverage. That was a play where Belichick was OK with the result.
"I don’t really second-guess too much of what happened on that play," he said. "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. ... 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."
But the Patriots couldn't close the door on the fourth-down play, and tight end Charles Clay caught a screen and ran for 6 yards.
"It’s close. Obviously we just have to play it a little bit better," Belichick said. "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 ...
"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. 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."