Here were some of the notable themes from today’s conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels:
1. Coaching mindset on Ridley’s fumbling: McDaniels was asked if we’ve reached a point where the coaching staff’s comfort level in putting running back Stevan Ridley into games is jeopardized because of his recent streak of fumbles (3 in 3 games), and he addressed it head on.
“When things happen like this, in back-to-back games – or in this case a few games in a row – I think you certainly have to address what you can address in terms of trying to fix the problem. I have great confidence in Stevan as a runner. He’s been very productive in our offense. He’s done a lot of things. At the same time, obviously, ball security is the most important factor for our offense and for our team when we have the ball. We have to be part of the solution. We have to work with him,” McDaniels said.
“He certainly wasn’t the only one that put the ball [on the ground] or got the ball knocked off of him the other night. We had way too many balls out, or balls on the ground, and turned the ball over a significant number of times. We were fortunate to overcome that, which is very rare. I think our entire offense, we need to do a better job of taking care of the football, protecting when we have it, and making smart decisions and not giving the defense the opportunity to either strip it off of us, knock it off of us, whatever it may be. That’s a team thing. Our confidence, as an offense, you want to be able to protect the football no matter who you give it to. That’s our goal and that’s our focus, and we’ll work with everybody to try to fix the issues that certainly came up the other night.”
2. Texans, at 2-9, a competitive team: Belichick opened the call by saying that the Texans’ record doesn’t reflect how competitive they have been in recent weeks. He cited an overtime loss to Seattle, a one-point loss to the Chiefs and also playing the Colts tough, among other things. Belichick later said that he views this year’s Texans as similar to the 2012 Texans team that came to town for the AFC divisional playoff game.
3. Athletic quarterback creates challenge: In preparing to face Texans quarterback Case Keenum, Patricia said one of the things that stands out is mobility. “He’s a guy that can extend plays past the normal design and scheme that obviously is a challenge for us,” Patricia said, perhaps thinking about some of the struggles the Patriots had with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton along those lines (we’re not comparing Keenum and Newton, just pointing out a general similarity in terms of scrambling and turning a broken play into a positive one).
4. Highlighting Thompkins' contributions and riding the hot hand: Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was a healthy scratch Nov. 3 against the Steelers, but has come up with some big catches in the past two games. On Sunday night against the Broncos, Thompkins played 41 of his 44 snaps in the second half and helped spark the offense (playing over Aaron Dobson). McDaniels was asked if that was a game-plan adjustment.
“Not really,” he answered. “We knew we were going to play multiple guys at that position and sometimes, we’ve done this throughout the year too, where if a guy goes in and kind of gets going you certainly don’t want to try to pull him out. I think that’s kind of a feel thing. If a guy goes in there and is making plays for you, and generating positive things for your offense, you want to keep him going. Our guys are very unselfish. They understand that and all accept their roles.”