Belichick: Broncos have added wrinkles

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Belichick: Broncos have added wrinkles

FOXBORO -- The word "different" has been floating around Gillette Stadium all week.

Different as in, Tim Tebow and the Broncos' style. Not only are they different compared to every other NFL team, they now have packages that are different from what the Patriots saw in their Week 15 trip to Denver.

"They've added some things to their sub-defense, like their nickel and dime package last week," said Bill Belichick on Thursday.

"You see them adding plays, adding formations. It's hard to tell how much they're checking, but clearly there's some communication going on at the line of scrimmage, relative to defensive looks. I think you see a little more of that, that Tim has with the offense, and the communication that they have at the line of scrimmage."

It's easy to see that Tebow's role as a game-manager has improved since the Pats defeated the Broncos 41-23. He looked like a more complete quarterback in his 316-yard, two-touchdown passing performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend.

His improved passing game certainly adds to the different style of offense that Denver had has shown since Tebow became a starter.

"For the safeties and the corners, it's a little different game than I think what you play most of the time in this league," said Belichick. "I think as a defensive back, you're expecting passes on every play, and then when you don't get it, you don't get it. But here, it's run-force option responsibilities, and then play-action and double moves and things like that.

"Every time you come out of the huddle, the secondary's primary responsibility is always pass. But in addition to that, they've got a lot of run-force responsibilities in this game, and option and those kind of things. So it definitely puts pressure on, from that standpoint, that there's a lot more things to think about, for a defensive back."

Tebow's ability to run the ball himself, just adds to the different type of attack Denver will once again throw the Patriots' way in their second meeting of the year.

"I think what separates them from everybody else, is the amount of option that they run," said Belichick. "Whether it's the triple-option, whether there's actually three players involved, or whether it's the quarterback handing the ball off but potentially keeping it away from the direction of the play.

"You don't see a lot of teams do that. When they just hand the ball off, then their plays are similar to every body else's. They obviously have their own unique players doing them, and that makes them unique, but the amount of the quarterback keeping the ball with the different combinations of blocking schemes that they have and the true option plays -- either speed option or triple option, or dive, quarterback pitch -- you don't see that very often in this league. We're join got see it a lot Saturday night . . . They're different. I mean, we just don't see that."

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.