The New England Patriots improved to 9-3 with a very good performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. As is the case after every win, head coach Bill Belichick joined quarterback-turned-commentator Scott Zolak to break down some of its most pivotal wins — against the Vikings, most of them come from the defensive side of the football.
1-10-MIN 25 (9:33) (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short right to D.Cook to MIN 30 for 5 yards (M.Brown; D.McCourty).
The first play Belichick and Zolak look at is a first quarter pass to flat that the Patriots defense played very well. “One of the things in this game that was really important for us defensively was tackling and getting a lot of people to the ball,” the head coach said before pointing out how coverage safety Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Malcom Brown all played the down well from their original positions:
“You get three guys right there, that’s how you tackle backs like [Dalvin] Cook and [Latavius] Murray and keep them from getting extra yardage,” Belichick said. He especially praised the aforementioned Brown for taking an excellent angle not to get outrun by the speedy pass catcher, Dalvin Cook.
2-9-NE 22 (6:20) (Shotgun) K.Cousins sacked at NE 30 for -8 yards (A.Butler).
“This is a play [...] that is very well covered,” Belichick said about a second down sack later in the first period. “Anytime you have a good rush it always goes to the good coverage because the quarterback doesn’t have anybody to throw the ball to.” He goes on to take a look at how well New England defends a curl route by tight end Kyle Rudolph paired with a crossing route by number one wide receiver Adam Thielen.
“We do a good job of passing that off and then Kirk Cousins has to hold the ball just for one second and that gives the rush a change to get there,” Belichick continued. When speaking about the pressure itself, he pointed out how both Dont’a Hightower and Adam Butler were able to get interior pressure, with the linebacker getting off his block. Paired with Trey Flowers rushing around the edge, this forced Cousins to move up to where Butler could take him down.
3-5-MIN 30 (15:00) (Shotgun) K.Cousins sacked at MIN 20 for -10 yards (T.Flowers).
Belichick and Zolak also spoke about the Patriots’ second sack of the day. “This was a big stop for us, defensively,” Belichick said before mentioning how well the unit is disguising its front seven look. He then goes on to talk about the coverage matchup, mentioning one in particular: Stephon Gilmore against Stefon Diggs. “This is a good job here by Gilmore, being patient at the line there with Diggs, not really letting him go off the line of scrimmage,” Belichick said. This, in turn forced Kirk Cousins to hold the ball longer than anticipated and led to the takedown.
New England’s head coach also analyzes the rush, mentioning the penetration created by Adam Butler and Kyle Van Noy. “They really are digging through the line of scrimmage there and that makes it a short corner for Trey [Flowers] as he sets up [Brian] O’Neill here and wraps around,” Belichick says. “When you combine good coverage [...] with good rush, that’s good results.”
4-1-MIN 38 (9:02) L.Murray up the middle to MIN 39 for 1 yard (T.Flowers; L.Guy). NE-P.Chung was injured during the play. New England challenged the first down ruling, and the play was Upheld.
“Really, really good job by our defensive front of playing with good technique, playing strong,” Belichick said about a fourth down play midway through the fourth quarter. And even though it was ruled a first down after being upheld on a challenge by the Patriots, Belichick likes what the defense showed on the play. “You can really see some good interior line play here.”
“As the play starts, Patrick Chung kind of shoots the gap here and gets by [Laquon] Treadwell and forces Murray to cut back,” Belichick says. He then points out how both Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy are able to close the A-gap quickly by disengaging from their blockers and displaying plenty of strength to stop Murray. “Really well played in there, our defensive line gave us a lot of good plays in the game.
To watch the full clip — also including a breakdown of Tom Brady’s touchdown pass to Josh Gordon — please visit patriots.com.