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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript

Posted Nov 25, 2013

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 25, 2013.

BB: Well, it was a short night but definitely a good one. I think going through the game film, it’s just more and more evident how tough and resilient our players were last night and how they just competed down after down for almost five full quarters against a really good football team. There were many guys that made plays that made a difference. It was really a team effort. We got contributions in all three areas: offense, defense, special teams and our linemen, our skill players, our semi-skilled guys, the specialists. It was just a real good job by everybody of hanging in there and competing and fighting every down. Denver is a good football team so they certainly made their share of plays. They did plenty of things that gave us problems but we hung in there and battled with them all the way. I’m really proud of that and our coaching staff for the job the assistants did in the preparation this week and also making adjustments during the game and working through some situations that came up. We just had a lot of contributions from a lot of people. It couldn’t be more of a team win. Another, not quite as quick a turnaround as last week, but a quick turnaround with the holiday here in the middle of the week. We have a big challenge to get things going and get on track for the Texans and get this game behind us and getting our preparations going there for them. That’s where we’re at today.

Q: You mentioned the adjustments made by the coaches. Was one of the adjustments including Dane Fletcher more into the defensive game plan?

BB: Well, yeah, it was an adjustment that we needed to make. He was well prepared and stepped in there and did a good job. I thought that, and again, it certainly wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but our front four, our front seven – our front six really, most of the game we were in nickel – those guys competed hard. We were obviously spread out a little bit in the passing game. We didn’t play the run as well as we need to – that goes without saying. But we still made a few plays and hung in there and battled with them. I thought the linebackers did a good job on some of those crossing patterns, a lot of the underneath patterns. Dane is always a guy that works hard, is well prepared and has come up big for us in a lot of different roles. He stepped in last night and did a good job.

Q: Along the same lines with Jamie Collins, it seemed like we’d seen mostly Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes but it seemed like we saw more of Dane Fletcher and Jamie Collins last night. What did you think he brought last night?

BB: I thought he was active. He was in on a number of plays. He had a couple, it looked like the last third-down play, he was in on breaking up passes, jamming receivers, had a couple big tackles for us there. Even on that first play when [Knowshon] Moreno broke through the line, it was an 11-yard gain, but if he hadn’t made the tackle, it might have been a lot more. I think everybody had their moments and had some production but at the same time, there’s a lot of things that we have to do better. We can’t give up 280 yards rushing in any situation, in any circumstances, especially when there weren’t any big plays. It wasn’t like there were a couple 90-yard runs in there or something. It was just a lot of positive plays by Denver in the running game. So we have to do a better job than that. As you know, some of the games this year have situationally kind of gone the way they did. Last night’s game was almost exclusively a nickel game. The Pittsburgh game, the last three quarters was almost all multiple receivers for Pittsburgh and passing on almost every down. We’ve had some games that have, for just the way they went, have gone a certain way, not necessarily a conventional way or maybe the way we had game planned going in but that’s the way it unfolded. Some of those linebacker rotations or playing time situations are sometimes a function of the individual game. As I said, in this game, we never really had more than two linebackers on the field so it wasn’t as you said, the Mayo-Spikes-Hightower group that we started with. I think that personnel grouping wouldn’t have been much of a factor last night, as it wasn’t last year when we played Denver. It’s a nickel game.

Q: Going back to the second timeout Denver took in overtime. After Tom Brady centered the ball, it looked like Steve Gostkowski was ready to kick but after the timeout you sent the offense back out for one more snap. What was the thought process in that situation? Why did you pull the field goal unit back?

BB: Well, really at that point, we felt like the best thing to do was protect the situation as much as possible. Look, you like to make those kicks and the ball was in the middle and all that. But anything can happen in football, especially with the conditions being what they were, we definitely wanted to kick on third down. When we sent the field goal team in to kick on second down and they used their last timeout, it kind of gave me a little more time to look at the situation and I probably should have made that decision in the first place. Had the kick not been good, then there’s no reason to give any more time on the clock in overtime than was necessary. By kneeling on the ball and taking it to the two-minute warning, it wiped out what would have been a little bit of extra time that had they gotten the ball back, it would have just given them less time to operate in, without any timeouts. We were trying to protect the situation as much as we could. I really should have done that and not sent the field goal team out there on second down. I really should have done that in the first place, but I just didn’t think of it quickly enough.

Q: So really they had to burn two timeouts to get the stoppage at the two-minute warning and they also called their final timeout as well.

BB: Right, and as it turned out, it gave us just another chance to just talk about a couple things with the field goal team, because they did, as you saw there on the last field goal, they did kind of go with kind of a different rush. Once we saw them send their field goal group out there and we saw [Brock] Osweiler go on the field, which that was obviously unusual, that we saw him out there, we knew they weren’t going to put him on the line and rush him, so we anticipated him as a jumper, as a guy sometimes that would try to shoot the gap and shoot one of the center-guard gaps in a must-block field goal situation and use his height and length there. It gave us a chance to talk about that and of course on the final quick, that’s what they did. They put [Wesley] Woodyard and Osweiler behind the line and jumped them to go for a desperation type of block and our guys just had a little bit more time to talk about that. I thought we protected that part of it pretty well. We actually were in good position to handle them – Logan [Mankins] and [Dan] Connolly both were able to get out on Woodyard and Osweiler and make sure that we had them protected and actually got a piece of them on the play.

Q: Was there a temptation to do something more against the run? A thought of putting an extra man in the box and if you choose to do that, how do you weigh that against taking another man out of pass coverage? Was that kind of part of the strategy you have to determine how you’re going to play this game?

BB: I think when you’re up against Peyton [Manning] you have to be really careful about telling him what you do. We tried to have a good disguise package. I mean, not that you’re going to fool him, he can definitely figure it out. But we tried to disguise what we were doing. I thought progressively as the game went along, that we were more competitive defensively. Obviously a big part of the score in the first half was the poor field position that we had, combined with not great defense either. We were able to hold them to one field goal there, but then on their third touchdown drive, they took it, I want to say like 80 yards down the field, whatever it was, it was a long, solid drive. The first drive was 10 yards, the second drive we hold them to a field goal and then their drive right there at the end of the second quarter that went the whole length of the field, that was kind of the one that really, I think, hurt us the most. We tried to at halftime just talk about how we could play things better rather than just scrap everything that we were doing and try to go to a different look and all that. Because one thing with Peyton is when you go to a look to take one thing away, you just push the problem somewhere else. You don’t eliminate things, you just push it to another part. They came out, they took the wind in the third quarter and we were obviously still concerned about the passing game and so we didn’t want to pack everybody in and just invite them into throwing the ball because they did have the wind at that point. We kind of stuck with our game plan, fortunately we made a few plays. We turned the ball over, we were able to stop them and get the ball back. Our offense converted those opportunities and then the fourth quarter, we finally got to the point where we made it a one-score game and then we kind of felt like we were back on even turf. We had the wind advantage and we were able to come back and sort of have a fair fight there.

Q: Did you wrestle with the decision in overtime to defer with the kickoff and take the wind?

BB: Well, you never want to give Peyton Manning and that offense, you never want to just hand them the ball but I just felt in that particular situation with the wind being as significant as it was, that we just had to stop them from getting into the end zone. If we could do that, then we would have a significant advantage in the overtime period. We just had to make one stop and keep them out of the end zone. Even if they drove down and kicked a field goal, I felt like in that game, the field goal to kick going into the lighthouse, you’d have to get the ball to the 25 to be confident in making it. Depending on how the wind was gusting, you might even have to get it to the 20. Whereas going the other way, I think you could definitely get the ball to the uprights from probably anywhere inside the 45-yard line. Now, getting it in-between them was more of a challenge because of the crosswind and everything else. But at least to have a shot to make it, I felt like there was about a 20-yard difference in field position to just attempt a field goal, let’s put it that way. I’m saying getting to the 25 on one end, to the 45 on the other. You could fudge a yard or two there, but basically that’s what it looked like to me at that time. I felt like that was a big enough advantage to try to keep the wind. As it turned out, the punting game also was a factor in that too. Had we had the ball and not been able to score and be punting into the wind and all that, like I said, with their kicker and his distance, it wouldn’t have taken much for them to be in field goal range. I felt like, ‘Well, if that’s the way we feel about it, we might as well put them in that situation.’ That’s kind of the thought process there. To tell you the truth, the whole situation was a little bit confusing because when I told the captains that, there was a little bit of a question of, are you talking about deferring. I was like, ‘No, we’re not deferring, we’re taking the wind period.’ ‘Well, is that if they take the ball?’ ‘No, it’s not if they take the ball.’ We actually, with the captains, had a little bit of a conversation that they had right what I wanted to do, because it was a little bit of an, obviously, unusual type of situation. They were doing a good job. They just wanted to make sure that they had the decision that we felt was best and we got it. It was not one of the normal ones.

Q: Each year, you talk about how each team is different. When you think about all the adversity that this team has been through, especially on the field, what’s the identity that you’re seeing forged here that’s different about this team versus other units you’ve had?

BB: Well, I think, to tell you the truth, that’s really still to be determined. But I think one thing that we’ve shown is that mentally we have some toughness. We’ve been in some bad situations. We were down by [14] points to Miami, down to these guys, behind at the end of the game against New Orleans, behind at the end of the game against Cincinnati, got the ball back and had a chance, behind at the end of the game against Carolina. We’ve been able to hang in there, even when it hasn’t always looked great. But really I would say that the season for us is kind of starting now. There are a lot of teams that were in good position that wherever you are – 7-3, 6-4, 5-5 – there are a lot of teams that are fighting it out. What happens this year will be determined by what happens in the next five weeks. This is where this team and every other team will define itself. We’ve seen plenty of teams in the past have great regular season records and not end up in the winner’s circle. We’ve seen other teams be 9-7, 10-6, whatever it is and end up at the right place at the end of the year. In this league, you can’t take yourself out of the race by having such a poor start that you just have too much ground to make up but it’s really the teams that play well in November, December and January and those are the teams that are standing in the end. That’s what we’re going to try to do.

Q: Mental toughness is a good thing to have if you’re going to have a quality to hang your hat on, right?

BB: Yeah, absolutely: mental and physical toughness. As you know, this is a game of attrition. It’s a game of just staying power. There’s great competition every week. You’ve seen all the players throughout the league that have gone down, that aren’t playing, that are on Injured Reserve and so forth. Every team is dealing with it. You have to have depth, you have to have guys to step up and replace guys. You have to have your key players out there play well at critical times in the game and obviously in critical games and at critical points in the season. It’s a combination of all those things.

Q: If we were in the old overtime rules, is taking the wind even a consideration? Would you have made the same decision?

BB: I don’t know. I’d have to think about that one. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I go back to the 1986 NFC Championship Game, where Coach [Bill] Parcells against the Redskins took the wind to start the game and we went ahead 17-0 and that was the final score of the game. I really think that that decision was a big decision in that game and a big decision ultimately in that team’s championship. I learned a lot from that. I’m not saying that that’s always the right decision. Clearly each situation is different but there’s a place for it. I think there’s a time when it’s right. I just thought that last night was the right time for us. But that decision by Bill in that game, it just was a good lesson for me that it’s such a huge factor in the game, if the conditions are what they are. It can be such a big factor in the game that it’s worth making that decision if you feel it’s that significant. He did it in – there are not many games bigger than an NFC Championship game – he did it in that game and I think that was probably the difference in the game.

Q: Are we reaching a breaking point with Stevan Ridley with the concern having the team’s fate in his hands is trumped by the inability to hang onto the ball?

BB: Ball security is the paramount issue for your football team every week, our football team every week. We fumbled the ball, whatever it was, six times last night. We can’t go on like that. We just can’t. There were multiple situations and multiple things involved and it hurt us the week before in Carolina. We’re just not going to be able to overcome turning the ball over, however you turn it over. Whether it’s fumbles or interceptions or muffed punts or tipped interceptions, whatever it is, fumbled snaps – we just can’t overcome those, not for very long. You might get it for awhile but in the end, it’s just too big an advantage go give to the other team. We have to take better care of the ball. Obviously they had a hard time taking care of it last night too. There were multiple turnovers throughout the game. Certainly the conditions were part of it but in general we have to do a better job of coaching and playing and securing the ball. That includes everybody, everybody who touches it. It’s not limited to one guy, it’s anybody who touches the ball. That’s the center, the quarterback, the running backs, the receivers, the returners, the holders, the kickers, the snappers – everybody. Everybody that touches the ball, we have to take better care of it.