Patriots will have their hands full with Chargers receivers, says Bill Belichick
FOXBOROUGH — Philip Rivers doesn’t play favorites.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick emphasized that point a few times Monday when asked about the myriad weapons the Chargers quarterback has in his arsenal.
From running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to big receivers Keenan Allen and Michael Williams to tight end Antonio Gates, Rivers will get the ball into everyone’s hands.
Belichick said Gordon and Ekeler are exceptional safety valves for Rivers because of their solid hands and run-after-the-catch ability.
“Both guys have been very productive, and they get targeted a decent amount of times,’’ the coach said. “Rivers is very good at utilizing all of his receivers, and they usually, other than some play-action passes on early downs, they usually get everybody out. If you take away the deeper guys, then he uses his outlet receivers very well, and both Gordon and Ekeler are very good with the ball in their hands. They’ve both had several long runs where they’ve caught the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage and gone for 60, 70-yard touchdowns where they’ve run through the whole team.’’
Rivers’s receiving corps is a sizeable one — literally. Allen is 6 feet 2 inches, while Michael Williams and Tyrell Williams are both 6-4. All three are strong and provide tough matchups for smaller secondaries.
“The receivers are very good,’’ Belichick said. “They’re big, they’re fast, they’re strong after the catch, as are the backs. They get a lot of yards after the ball has been completed. They’re not only hard to get the ball away from but they’re hard to bring down. Allen, in particular, has great balance and running skills and quickness and playing strength. He’s a hard guy to tackle.’’
In addition to Gates, tight end Hunter Henry, who tore and ACL in May, has been added to the 53-man roster and could be activated for this game, giving the Chargers another dangerous weapon.
“[Hunter’s] another brick in the pile that we’ll have to deal with,’’ Belichick said.
Not with Packers
All was mostly quiet on the coaching carousel Monday for the Patriots.
The Packers, who had interviewed 10 candidates to replace Mike McCarthy, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive signal-caller Brian Flores, hired Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as their head coach.
McDaniels won’t be going to Green Bay, but if he does move on elsewhere, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said, the team could target Kliff Kingsbury as a potential replacement.
Kingsbury, whom the Patriots drafted in the sixth round in 2003, was recently named offensive coordinator at Southern Cal after a six-year run as the head coach at Texas Tech. Among Kingsbury’s star pupils in Lubbock was Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Kingsbury was also Johnny Manziel’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.
Count Tom Brady, who has a close professional and personal relationship with McDaniels, as a Kingsbury fan.
“He’s been a friend of mine for a long time,’’ Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI. “I’m not surprised a lot of teams are interested.’’
Belichick had little to say on the matter of his coaches consistently being pursued by other teams.
“Right now, I am looking at it as trying to get ready for the playoffs, trying to get ready for the Chargers,’’ he said during his weekly spot on WEEI. “That is what I focused on the last week, and that is what I am focused on now, doing the best job that I can for the team that I am coaching. I think everybody else on our staff is in the same boat. There is a process in place that handles all those things.”
Pounce on it
Cody Parkey’s double-doink blocked field goal will always be the last memory of the Bears’ loss to the Eagles Sunday, but another play was just as costly.
Anthony Miller’s catch that wasn’t a catch — ruled that way only because nobody snagged the lonely loose ball after it was ripped out of the receiver’s hands — cost Chicago a chance at a touchdown with just seconds left in the first half.
It is an obscure rule to say the least, but former safety Rodney Harrison said during the broadcast that he was always taught to pounce on loose footballs while he was a Patriot. Belichick confirmed it is an important teaching point.
“We hit on it again today,’’ the coach said. “As Rodney said, we’ve been through it a thousand times, but we went through some of those things again today just to make sure everybody understands what we want to do and how important it is to do the right thing in situations like that or other game-type situations.”
The Patriots are in line to receive four compensatory picks, including a pair of third-rounders, in April’s draft. According to overthecap.com, New England will get third-round compensation for losing free agents Nate Solder (Giants) and Malcolm Butler (Titans). The Patriots also will be awarded a fifth-round pick for Danny Amendola (Dolphins) and a seventh-round selection for Cameron Fleming (Cowboys) . . . Stephon Gilmore acknowledged that he was honored to be named an All-Pro for the first time, but that he hasn’t thought too much about it. “It’s a big accomplishment, obviously, but I am looking forward to this week playing the Chargers,” he said. “That’s what matters. I don’t like looking back. I like looking forward, so I’m looking forward to this week.’’ . . . It’ll definitely be cold Sunday, and there might even be some snow, but Matthew Slater doesn’t expect the Chargers to be any less effective because of the elements. “This time of year, with teams of this caliber, they’re going to be ready to go,’’ he said. “Whether it’s rain, sleet, snow, sunny, they’ll be ready to go.’’