As soon as it was clear the Houston Texans would be headed back to Foxborough after their win Saturday over Cincinnati, Bill Belichick and his coaching staff got to work in earnest on preparations for the rematch.
Those will continue this week, of course, with the Patriots hosting Houston in an AFC divisional-round playoff game Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
But for all of the advance work New England will put in, once the game kicks off some of that work could go right out the window.
And that’s when in-game adjustments become critical.
Adjustments start after “the first drive, as soon as we come off and we have a lot more information than we had going into the game, even if some of it is just a confirmation of their personnel, their groupings, their matchups,” Belichick said on a conference call Monday. “We try to take a look at what they’re trying to do, why they selected the type of plays that they’ve selected in the first series and what does it look like they’re trying to attack or how they’re trying to play us.”
Belichick added that the Texans’ offense has some elements of the West Coast offense, and teams that use the West Coast usually script out their early plays.
“[When] there is a script portion or potential in the game, that’s another thing you have to factor in. Teams that are script-type teams, how you want to treat that script isn’t always necessarily the way the whole game goes,” Belichick said. “Sometimes a script is just a script. But definitely it [in-game adjustments] starts as soon as the game starts.”
He went on to say that often the game plan covers the first two quarters, the first three at most, and then after that the game situations dictate how the team plays.
Sunday is the 13th home playoff game for the Patriots since Belichick became head coach.
Last year was the first time in Texans history that they qualified for the postseason, and Houston lost to Baltimore on the road in the divisional round. The Patriots went to the Super Bowl, and even with a young team, nearly every player on the roster has played in the postseason.
Belichick was asked if playoff experience matters.
“I think it has some [impact] but I don’t think it is overriding by any means,” he said. “You can find plenty of examples of teams and players with limited experience that have done well and plenty of those same examples of where it hasn’t gone so well.
“But I think like anything else, if you’ve been through it once you have a little more knowledge and a little more confidence and understanding of what’s going to happen than if you’ve never been through it before. I think there is some advantage to it but I think the advantage goes to the team that plays well, that executes well, makes good decisions.”
A Brady fan
Texans coach Gary Kubiak was the longtime offensive coordinator for the Broncos and coached John Elway, so he certainly is familiar with excellent quarterback play.
On Monday, Kubiak was asked for his assessment of Tom Brady and he said Brady remains at the top of his game.
“He’s a tremendous player, Hall of Fame football player,” he said. “He’s got his group in the right play, you know what I mean? He gets rid of the ball extremely quick, which can frustrate a defense from that standpoint. They’ll just sit there and nitpick you and make you pay for every little mistake that you make.
“He’s exceptional. They’re going to make plays. We know that. But we’re going to have to step up and make some big ones ourselves.”
Kubiak apparently had a recent change of heart in at least one area: asked during his Monday news conference about the health of tight end Garrett Graham, Kubiak said he wouldn’t talk about injuries until Wednesday.
“I’ve got a new philosophy, that’s what I was told,” Kubiak said. “We’ll talk about it on Wednesday.”
Graham did not play against the Patriots last month because of a concussion, and took another shot to the head Saturday against the Bengals.
Solder, Wilfork cited
Patriots left tackle Nate Solder and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were among 26 players named to the 2012 USA Football All-Fundamentals team. The squad honors NFL players “who exhibit exemplary football techniques for youth players to emulate,” according to a release from USA Football, the sport’s national governing body. Each player chosen will receive a $1,500 equipment grant from the organization to donate to the youth or high school football program of his choosing.