Bill Belichick didn’t sound quite as dreadful during a Friday afternoon conference call when talking about the Patriots’ loss as he had on Thursday night in Washington, but he still saw numerous areas for improvement.
“I think there were plenty of times when we did things right and we had decent results, we just didn’t do it often enough,” Belichick said of the Patriots’ 23-6 loss in their exhibition opener. “Sometimes we did it on certain portions of the play but not on other portions, which may or may not have produced a good result.
“But I would say on some of the plays where the results weren’t what we wanted them to be, there were other aspects of the play that might have had positive things with them, so there was definitely some of that. I thought the team competed until the end. We had a fourth-down stop and then scored in the two-minute drive.
“I think we played competitively, but we just didn’t overall play very well or play with the kind of awareness and concentration and execution that we need to. That’s all of us. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching, we’ve got to do a better job of playing, we’ve got to do a better job of just getting things right out on the football field and taking some of the drill work and applying it in real game conditions and situations. We didn’t always transfer that.”
New England and Washington held three days of joint practices leading up to the exhibition, with the teams in full pads on Monday and Tuesday. In those sessions, the Patriots shined, but that was with Tom Brady and the top offensive and defensive players getting the bulk of 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 snaps.
On Thursday night, Ryan Mallett started at quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo was under center for the second half, and many of the team’s potential starters had the night off.
The difference in personnel played a role in the result Thursday night vs. the results on the practice field, and Belichick spoke of the two as almost entirely separate events, instead of the game being a continuation of the practices.
“We saw many of the players who didn’t play, or didn’t play much [Thursday] night, take a very high percentage of the plays in practice relative to the reps and the number of plays that other guys got in the game,” Belichick explained. “And we also were able to create a lot of situations for those guys, the guys that didn’t play. They had a lot of snaps at different situations in practice: third-down, red-area, two-minute, blitzes, so on and so forth.
“So that gave those guys an opportunity to work on those situations and those things, which they obviously didn’t get [Thursday] night. So I think the combination of the whole body of work for the week was valuable and productive for our team, not just the game.
“And I certainly wouldn’t say that the practices led up to the game; they really didn’t. In total, they might have partially led up to it, but the total value of the week was being able to see three days’ worth of different competitions and different situations which matched with different schemes, as opposed to just one day in the game which we didn’t have any control over, so whatever came up, came up.
“If it was third and 1, it was third and 1. If it was third and 10, it was third and 10. We have no control over what those situations were.
“But we were able to simulate and control those situations in practice, which was a great learning experience for all of us as a team, but also individually for certain guys that hadn’t had positions in those situations. I think it’s the total thing of the practice and then, obviously, the evaluation is a little bit of all of it.”
Belichick and the coaching staff reviewed the game film Friday, and then went over the corrections with players; players have their mandatory day off on Saturday, and then the Patriots will be back on the field Sunday and Monday before joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles Tuesday and Wednesday.
Practice on Sunday will be closed to the public because of a concert being held at Gillette Stadium; the Monday-Wednesday practices will be open.
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Garoppolo has had some struggles in training camp, and while his performance Thursday night wasn’t flawless, he seemed to rise to the occasion for his first NFL exhibition game.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spent several minutes in the postgame locker room talking with Garoppolo, the Patriots’ second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois and possible heir apparent to Brady.
“He’s done a lot of good things and he’s done some things that need to be corrected and done some things that I’m sure he’d like to have back and be able to do them again,” Belichick said of Garoppolo. “Part of practice, as we all know, is learning and improving and doing it better the next time. Particularly with young players, just because they make a mistake, doesn’t necessarily mean that those mistakes will continue and are always going to be there.
“You’d like to think that some of them will be corrected and the second or next or future times those situations occur, the reactions or execution will be better.
“I think we’ve seen that with pretty much every young player, including him. I think there were some things he did well [Thursday] night. I think there were some other things that he learned from. There were some situations that were similar to ones he has had previously that he did well and maybe learned from mistakes and earlier plays that weren’t as good. There were other things that came up that he made some of the same mistakes on that he’s made in the past and that still need to be corrected. They’re still on that list of things that when the next time they happen, hopefully they’ll be better.
“But I don’t think that’s unusual. I think that’s pretty typical for most young players or most anybody who’s starting to do something either different or at a higher level for the first time. That’s where he is. Some positives, certainly a lot of things to correct, some improvement, and certainly some other things that need to be improved. That’s the way I saw it.”
Garoppolo was 9-for-13 passing for 157 yards and a touchdown.