FOXBORO - It was interesting to hear Bill Belichick discuss on Tuesday the in-game alterations teams make defensively to the Patriots offense. Interesting because, in some ways, the Patriots have seemed reactionary during their early-game struggles over the course of the season. Speaking specifically about teams defending Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Belichick said, "Weve seen a lot of different (schemes designed to stop the pair), no question about that. I think that started last year. Prior to last year, we hadnt had a lot of production out of the tight-end position . . . in the passing game; some, but not to the degree that its come in the last two years. Weve seen things head in that direction moreso than in some other years, given the production at that position. But yeah, they started to see that last year and we still see it."Continuing, Belichick said, "Tom Brady's seen a lot of things. He does a good job identifying what the defense is trying to do and trying to do the best thing for us offensively as a team to attack it. They only have 11 guys, so they can push the problem, but you can strengthen one area and that leads to other weaknesses. Hopefully we can find those and attack them."There is a probing that Brady seems to do on the first few drives of a game, a feeling-out process. Could his investigative work and analyzing as opposed to simply attack be part of the reason for the team's slow starts?"I think really its we just need to do a better job of coaching, we need to do a better job of executing what we do," corrected Belichick."When we do that we have more success. If we dont block, we dont catch the ball, if we dont have plays that give our offense options so we can handle different things . . . the chance of it working is not as high."That last part about having play-calls without checkdown or alternate reads is interesting. Especially since offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has done such an outstanding job in so many areas with this offense while the early-game outputs, when the team is just getting into his offensive script, is so meager. Explaining the morphing of a game plan, Belichick said, "You go in with a game plan and you see how it unfolds against whatever your opponent is trying to do and then you modify it if you need to and if they adjust to what youre doing, then you have to readjust. Its a constant back and forth. It just doesnt go one way and then, okay, it stays that way for the rest of the game. A lot of times it changes from series to series or after a couple series after something has happened that has gone good, you might continue to see more of what theyre doing. If youre hurting them with it, then they do something to do adjust to you then you have to find something to counter that."As for O'Brien, who's drawn interest from the Jaguars and Rams so far, Belichick said, "Hes done a great job for us since hes come here. I really cant speak to him in any other position. Right now, really our focus is just on getting our team prepared for the bye week here and trying to improve the most that we can and trying to get ready for next weeks opponent, whoever that is thats our focus, not anything else."
FOXBORO -- Antonio Brown's live stream of coach Mike Tomlin's postgame speech on Sunday had a ripple effect that traveled all the way to New England: Just in case Patriots players weren't familiar with the league's social-media policy, they were reminded of it this week.
"We were reminded of that," receiver Chris Hogan said. "I’m not sure what the timing is, but obviously, I don’t think we’ll see guys doing that in the locker room."
Players are prohibited from using social media in the locker room until media outlets have been given an opportunity to talk to players following games. Brown's Facebook Live video, which garnered national attention almost as soon as it went online, was shot well before the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium opened following Pittsburgh's win over Kansas City.
"We have a team policy on that," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "Strictly enforced. We go from there."
Of course part of the reason the video became as widely disseminated as it did was because it caught Tomlin calling the Patriots "a--holes."
"I have a lot of respect for Coach Tomlin," Slater said when asked about Tomlin's speech. "I appreciate the way he prepares his team. I’ve had a good working relationship with him over the years, and it will continue to be that way."
Both Slater and Hogan insisted that their focus will be trained solely on preparing for what Tomlin and his players will do when they arrive to Gillette Stadium Sunday night -- not what they say leading up to kickoff.
"You come in here, you're automatically bought into what we preach here, what coach [Bill] Belichick preaches," Hogan said. "It's football. We're 100 percent football here. It's not about anything outside. Between the media or whatever it is outside of football, whatever we're doing. When we come here, it's 100 percent football. That's all we're focused on is the opponent we're playing that week."
FOXBORO -- Roger Goodell will reportedly be in Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game this weekend and therefore will miss the AFC title game between the Patriots and Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. His absence will mean he hasn't been to a Patriots game in more than two years, when he was present for the AFC title game in 2015 -- the birth of Deflategate.
It's news that broke on Tuesday and sent some Patriots fans into an uproar. Patriots players, though, sound like they're having a hard time caring one way or the other.
"He’s the commissioner, so obviously whatever he wants to do, he can do," Tom Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Monday. "If he wants to come, that would be -- yeah, he can come."
In the Patriots locker room on Tuesday, others struck a similar tone.
"I could not care less," said Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. "I'm focused on Pittsburgh and their defense and studying them as much as I can this week, watching them as much as I can so that I can go out there on Sunday and be prepared."
Special teams captain Matthew Slater was similarly disinterested in the discussion.
"The game's going to be played," he said. "Whoever's in attendance is in attendance. We'll just worry about trying to play well."