Bill Belichick details nuances within Patriots' victory over Cowboys

The Patriots played a lot of three-linebacker sets featuring the likes of Jamie Collins against the Cowboys on Sunday. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One thing that stood out in Bill Belichick's standard day-after-game conference call, and then his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, was his openness in discussing some of the Xs and Os nuances of the New England Patriots' 30-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He seemed to appreciate the adjustments and tactical aspect of the game.

Before closing the book on Patriots-Cowboys, here are a few of the notable things that Belichick said:

Cowboys' defensive plan: Belichick elaborated on his post-game remarks about Dallas showing a different defensive look, which gave the Patriots some early struggles in pass protection, referring to it on WEEI as a "3-2 odd." That was different from the usual four-man line that the Cowboys play, although what didn't change was that the Cowboys played a lot of man coverage. On WEEI, Belichick said, "It seemed like they wanted to have a front that was pretty balanced and they could just line up and play and not have to wonder about overs and unders -- is it here, is it there? They were balanced and then each guy had a man, so wherever our guys were, that's where their guys were. So they never really got overloaded or out-leveraged because they just matched us one for one. They mixed a little zone in there, but not much. It was mostly man."

Cowboys matchup preferences. On WEEI, Belichick said, "It was clear that they wanted to have [Byron] Jones on [Rob] Gronkowski and it was clear they wanted to have [Morris] Claiborne on [Julian] Edelman. How they matched up the rest of it depended on who else we had in the game. Those were the matchups."

Another unique part of the Cowboys' plan. Also on WEEI, Belichick said, "What was interesting at the start of the game was that even though we were in two-receiver sets, so [tight ends] Gronkowski and Mike Williams were on the field, they still [played] with six defensive backs out there [when it would normally be five or four]. That probably is an indication that they didn't want to deal with the fast tempo and have to go in and out. They just wanted to play one group against everything so they didn't have to worry about getting guys on and off the field."

McCourty's work on Witten stands out: Belichick said safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung "had a lot of coverage responsibilities" on tight end Jason Witten and credited them for doing a good job. "McCourty was on him in a lot of those third-down and a couple red-area situations where they try to double move or go to him on third down, and those are some critical plays," he said, adding that there was some help in the form of defensive ends jamming Witten at times.

Matching defensive personnel: Belichick explained how the Patriots were in bigger personnel groupings on defense compared to the first three games of the season, which meant there were more times when three linebackers were on the field (Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo and Jonathan Freeny was the trio after Dont'a Hightower left with an injured rib). That was a result of the Cowboys running more two-receiver sets, and sometimes one-receiver sets with three tight ends. When the Cowboys put three receivers on the field, the Patriots usually countered with five defensive backs. One wild card was tight end Gavin Escobar, who was sometimes viewed more as a receiver by the Patriots (matching in sub) and other times as more of a tight end (matching in 4-3 base). So this was a big matchup game.

Run support from safeties helped the cause: Belichick was pleased with the play of safeties against the run. He called Chung one of the team's best tacklers, and sees some of the same traits in rookie Jordan Richards. Overall, Belichick felt progress was made with the run defense.