BOSTON (CBS) — Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith caused a stir after losing to the Patriots on Sunday, suggesting the Patriots may have been “spying” on the Texans in order to gain knowledge of the defensive game plan.
The comments were made after the media had a chance to ask the Patriots for a response, but on Monday, head coach Bill Belichick was asked on a conference call if he had seen the claims.
“Yeah, I saw them,” Belichick said. “I don’t have any comment on them. I think that’s a league matter.”
The Patriots fell behind 17-7 in the first half on Sunday but rallied in the second half to win 34-31.
“Either teams are spying on us or scouting us, I don’t know what it is, man,” Smith told a group of reporters in the Texans locker room. “We had some ways that we was going to play this week that just got put in this week, and it was just miraculous that they changed up some things that they did on offense that keyed on what we put in this week to stop what they was doing. [They did things] that they never did before all year, so it just seems to be like, miraculous to me.
“And there’s no way — we had not did it ever before, and they ain’t never changed it ever before, so it was just kind of fishy how it just got changed today,” Smith added.
Belichick was asked what changed in the second half, and he noted that the Shane Vereen being completely uncovered on the running back’s receiving touchdown was just one of many plays the Patriots made.
“I think it was good plays on our part but also plays that looked like they didn’t have defended the way that they wanted to, for whatever reason,” Belichick said. “But we were able to take advantage of some opportunities and like I said, those chunk plays, those 50-yarders and a couple 20-yarders, you need those plays. The success rate when you have those plays in a drive leading to points is so much higher than having to four, five, six-yard it every play for a lot more plays.”
Belichick was also asked about the change in personnel in the second half.
“As the game went on, we were able to see how Houston was going to match up to our different personnel groups and we had several groups that we used yesterday,” Belichick said. “I think Josh [McDaniels] did a good job of mixing the groups. Let’s say defensively when you’re facing a team that uses a lot of personnel groups, it’s hard to have a lot of things ready for a lot of different groups. It’s just hard to have a game plan where you have eight or nine different calls against seven, eight groups. You just run out of time to practice it and time to work on it.
“So, I think Josh was able to get a good handle on how they were matching our different personnel groups and what they were trying to do against them. When you get it down to two or three things and Tom [Brady] can recognize by formations what the defenses are, that can get you into a good play or give you a quick indication of where to go with the ball, so we didn’t have to hold it. We could get it out there quick and find the receivers that had the best matchups. Again, kind of a combination of all those factors. The different personnel groups I think ended up being helpful for us in terms of getting good plays, or plays that we felt comfortable with, matched up against what the Texans were doing.”
Belichick also said the night-and-day contrast of the first and second halves can partially be attributed to the Patriots mixing and matching those personnel groups.
“That’s a little bit of a chess game sometimes,” Belichick said. “If a team is trying to match you, what’s triggering the match? Is it a certain guy? Is it multiple receivers? Will they match multiple tight ends if a certain tight end is the trigger guy? Is it a guy? Sometimes it’s just down and distance. Sometimes you’ll see a team that will just send their sub group on there if it’s second-and-8, it doesn’t matter who you have in the game. Sometimes figuring that out, when you use different personnel groups offensively, takes a little bit. Shane’s a guy that dependent on how a team feels about their coverage situation, he may or may not dictate a matchup. It’s something that we’re aware of, but we don’t know how everybody is going to treat us until we actually get in the game and play them.”
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