Bill Belichick did not sound any better Friday afternoon after dissecting film of the Patriots’ 40-9 preseason loss in Detroit the night before. True to form, Belichick included everyone in his assessment.
“It just wasn’t a very good performance on the part of our entire football team,” the coach said during a conference call. “We just have to get back to work and do better than that in every area of the game. I don’t think there’s anything different than what the picture was last night. There were a few good individual plays here and there, but overall we can’t play like that and expect to do well against a good team.”
Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty said after the game this is a time for veterans to step up and help younger players bounce back. Asked if this was a chance to gauge his team’s resiliency, Belichick spun things forward.
“We just need to go out and have a good week of practice and do things a lot better than we did them last night, that’s all,” he said. “Nobody is going to do it for us; we’re going to have to go out there. Nobody but us can make things any better than what they were last night. We have to go out there and do something about it.”
Patriots players have Saturday off, and the team is scheduled to practice Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in advance of the preseason finale Thursday night, at home against the Giants.
Zach Sudfeld, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen all fumbled against the Lions, and none of them played again in the first half after losing the ball. Sudfeld and Vereen did get touches in the fourth quarter.
Belichick did not affirm that he was sending a message by benching those players, but he made it clear that maintaining possession of the football is serious business.
“Our message has been the same here from Day 1, that ball security is of the highest priority for anybody that handles the ball. I think that message has been delivered on a daily basis since we started practicing back in May,” Belichick said. “I don’t think there are any new revelations about that message. Ball security is very important to anybody who handles the ball in any situation.
“There can be no mistake about the importance of it. There can be no mistake about that message. That message has been delivered ad nauseam.”
Praise for Vellano
Belichick had some positive words about rookie defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who started at tackle alongside Tommy Kelly.
“I think Joe has played competitively through camp,” Belichick said. “He’s a tough kid, out there every day, works hard, getting better. We’ll take it day by day and see how it goes. But he’s been improving and that’s a good thing.”
The undrafted Vellano, listed at 6 feet 2 inches, 300 pounds, was a two-time team captain at Maryland and a first-team All-ACC pick last fall.
Good, not great
Perhaps because the rookie’s level of play has raised expectations, Belichick looked past Kenbrell Thompkins’s team highs of eight catches and 116 receiving yards Thursday and saw the imperfections, including his trouble getting off the line.
“I think that’s an area that all rookie receivers need to work on and haven’t had a lot of experience with — there isn’t a whole lot of press coverage in college,” Belichick said. “There are a couple of teams that do it but there’s not a whole lot of it.
“I think that’s something that any young receiver needs a lot of work on. I would say the same thing for defensive backs. [Thompkins] would certainly go in that category; I think they all do.”
Belichick acknowledged that Thompkins made “a couple nice plays” in Detroit, but said he is far from a finished product.
“Working against different corners, different skill sets, he just has to match up individually. Whether it’s quickness or speed or size or . . . technique, there are different ways to win out there and they may not all be the same depending on the defender he’s facing or the technique that they’re playing,” Belichick said. “That’s why players have to be good at more than one thing or have more than one skill, or eventually then that one thing gets shut down by a particular technique or certain type of player and that player loses his effectiveness.
“For KT, he just needs to work on the whole process out there against different guys and different techniques and being able to deal with whatever the challenge is that he’s facing on the perimeter, be it the individual player or the technique that the guy is playing.”
The coach was at his Belichickian best when asked why Vince Wilfork didn’t play Thursday.
“We just didn’t put him in. That’s why,” Belichick said.
“Because there were other players who played.”
Wilfork went through a one-on-one warm-up and stretching session with head strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash a couple of hours before kickoff and was on the sideline in uniform but did not take the field.
He likely did not play as a precaution.