FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Bill Belichick gathered New England Patriots players for one of their first meetings of the week Wednesday, one of the plays he showed them was from Super Bowl LI. It made sense considering the Patriots are hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET).
The play -- running back LeGarrette Blount's lost fumble early in the second quarter -- highlighted a point Belichick wanted to stress to players: The Falcons can be a ferocious ball-stripping team.
Patriots running back Mike Gillislee, in particular, took the words to heart.
“That’s one of the plays we watched,” Gillislee said Wednesday, a few days after he lost a fumble in a win over the New York Jets. “Coach Bill, that’s something he preached to us in the meeting room: ball security.”
Gillislee said that is an area he has taken great pride in over his career, which is why he was so frustrated with himself this past Sunday.
“I think I do a pretty good job at ball security, but I have to give it to the defense,” he said of the play in which Jets linebacker Darron Lee dislodged the ball from his grasp. “He just came back as I was trying to get through traffic and knocked it out at the perfect time. It was a good play by him.
“Usually when I’m in a lot of traffic like that, I usually try to put two hands on the ball. He got me right when I was about to do it.”
As he has in the past with other running backs, Belichick gave Gillislee an extended break to think about the miscue. Gillislee remained on the sideline for 34 straight snaps before making his return.
“It was frustrating a little bit because I know I’m better than that, but lesson learned. I didn’t get angry at the coaches. Nobody. Not even myself,” Gillislee said. “That is just something I took to the field and classroom and try to get better at this week -- ball security.
“Usually when you put the ball on the ground, you want to get a chance to redeem yourself and try to show the coaches that you’re able to protect the ball. Once I got in again, that was on my mind, so I kind of ran mad. I protected the ball, and that’s something I plan on doing.”
Gillislee had runs of 2, 7, 5 and 0 yards upon his return, as Dion Lewis had taken over as the top rushing option during his extended break.
Gillislee isn’t letting the fumble get him down.
“Being a running back, that’s something you don’t want to do. I put it down one time and I don’t plan on doing it anymore,” he said. “It slowed me down a lot, [but] I have another opportunity this week, I’m healthy, so get to play the game I love. Whatever it brings to me this week, just do it.”