The Houston Texans earned a return trip to Foxboro following their win over Cincinnati Saturday night. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had his conference call today, and he surprisingly was forthcoming with information. That's not to say The Hoodie explained the game plan in detail, but he did give a little more than expected for a Sunday before the Divisional Round.
When asked if the staff was able to put in some time for Houston last week, Belichick didn't give the usual we study all possible opponents type of answer. Instead, he said "I don’t know what the exact timeline would be but I’d we’re definitely ahead. We spent a significant amount of time on them last week. It was the first game, we would know by Saturday night whether they were the next opponent or not, we wouldn’t need to look past that if they won."
Sounds to FVP that he was expecting the Texans to win.
Asked if he saw anything different Saturday night, The Hooded One did not hide behind a generic answer. "I think they had a couple pieces that were specific for Cincinnati, not revolutionary but they geared more to their coverage of [A.J.] Green and things like that, formation, Cincinnati stuff. We have to be ready for all the things that they do. The percentages, what they’ll try to feature against us. We just need a week of preparation and take from the Cincinnati game what we can. There are some good examples of things we can learn that game but ultimately our game, our matchups are different that theirs and will be different from the first game. Certainly a good game to watch is the most recent one. As we pointed out before with some of the players like [Brooks] Reed and [Alan] Ball, guys like that, [Derek] Newton, there are guys that we didn’t face last time."
Belichick also spoke about specific players. He was asked about Texans CB Jonathan Joseph. "He’s a good player and we’ve seen that all year. They usually match him on the other team’s best receiver so we always see him matched up against good players. He does a good job for them and[Kareem] Jackson has too. [Brandon] Harris, [Alan] Ball they’ve played very well against Cincinnati, held them to whatever it was, 50 yards in the first half, 200 yards total or something like that. He’s good but they have a lot of good players on defense; well coached." Belichick said.
Hoodie also was asked about players that didn't play vs. New England earlier in the season, specifically Garrett Graham, Brooks Reed, and Derek Newton at right tackle. "And [Alan] Ball in the kicking game." Belichick said. "We worked on all those guys other than Reed, we were pretty sure that Reed wasn’t going to get in the game but all the rest of them we prepared for. The ones that were able to play played and the others didn’t. It’s kind of the same thing this time. They have a couple guys that are out, but they added a couple new players as well so we have to be ready for all of them."
He actually volunteered a name that the media didn't ask about. Must have been a good week of prep.
Did he see anything different on how Houston used JJ Watt? "No, I don’t think so, no. Depending on what front they’re in they use certain line rules, they look pretty consistent. They run games so where he lines up isn’t necessarily where he’s going to end up after the ball is snapped which is also pretty consistent with what they’ve done all year. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong. He’s made more big plays than probably anybody defensively this year in the league. But [Antonio] Smith, [Brooks] Reed, [Connor] Barwin, [Whitney] Mercilus, they have a lot of other good players too. Watt is a focal point on that defense no question, but you can’t ignore the other guys either, they’re all part of the problem."
And Arian Foster? "I think that’s, again a big focal point in terms of their offense. Not only the yards that he gains but how the running game controls the game for them, how it sets up their play-action passes, how it puts them in third-and-short situations. There’s no question that he’s the key guy for Houston and their offense but his production also complements the other players as well and the other parts of the game. We’re definitely going to have to do a good job on him. Again, yesterday I thought he made a decent amount of yardage breaking tackles and making the defender miss a tackle in the hole or that kind of thing. He’s playing behind three Pro Bowl guys on the offensive line with [Chris] Myers, [Wade] Smith and [Duane] Brown. I think he also does a good job of making yards on his own and he’s got good blockers in front of him. There are a number of problems they present offensively: the quarterback, the tight ends, big receivers, a great receiver in [Andre] Johnson, strong running game, good offensive line, they’re well coached – they’re very good in all those areas." Belichick said.
The one player Belichick didn't discuss: Matt Shaub. hmmmm. Perhaps that's really where he plans on applying pressure? Make Shaub beat them? We'll find out next weekend.