New England Patriots head coach addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, October 7, 2008.
BB: We are getting ready for San Diego here, it almost seems like this is a division game. We've played them so many times it is to the point now that we have so many games on them just against us, that's enough to really do a scouting report and a game plan, even [without] getting into all of their other games. Of course we have seen them. This is a very explosive team that average 30 points a game. They have lost a couple of close games, three by ten points. They've been able to do a good job of getting the ball down the field, leading the league in yards per catch. We know they are very good on third down. We know they are a very physical defense, very good on special teams both coverage and their return game is extremely dangerous. They are a big play passing team with a lot of good receivers. Vincent Jackson is becoming a go to guy for them and of course Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles - all his kickoff returns, he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. We have to do a good job offensively of taking care of the ball. They are a good pass rush team and good turnover team in the secondary. Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer [are] two of the most physical corners that we will play against. Clinton Hart is one of the most physical safeties in the league too. They do a lot of things well. They have a lot of talent and I am sure we will be running into a hornet's nest in terms of energy and excitement down there Sunday night. We will have to be ready to match that too. That's where we are at today.
Q: Thinking about the running game, what were your thoughts on your short yardage running game? I have heard people say that a good running game gets yards when you really need them - that's a good way to measure a running game. Could you assess your teams running game in that regard?
BB: I thought it was better against San Francisco for the most part. We converted some short yardage situations but we got stopped on the goal line and also at the end of the game on a four-minute offense [when it was] was third and one - we weren't able to convert that at the end of the game. We had some good ones and had some nice holes in there. I thought Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan ran hard but at the same time we missed a couple. We still have work to do in that situation but it was good to run the ball on the road, knock out a few of those short yardages and convert on third down. Anytime you are offensively driving the ball, those are keys for you.
Q: How do you feel the tight ends did in regard to blocking in the running game?
BB: It's good to have them out there. We have gone through different stages where both David Thomas and Benjamin Watson haven't been available together. It's good to have them out there and start getting consistency with them. So getting Benjamin back helps. I thought there were several times they were together and had some kind of combination block where it was those two blocking a linebacker and a safety or a linebacker and a defensive lineman - same thing in pass protection. I thought they worked together well for the most part. Again, there's always room for improvement. It's good to have them out there. It gives our offense flexibility - one tight end could do one thing while the other can do something else. You can flip those jobs whether it is pass protection, receiver or vice versa. It's good. It gives us more balance out there and a little more flexibility in what we want to do.
Q: I was curious about the challenge play in the game. Did Kevin Faulk run over to you and tell you he really thought he made it or did it come from above?
BB: No, I didn't talk to Kevin about it. When I saw the play, I was standing close, maybe a couple yards behind where that yard line was. It looked to me like Kevin got a little further than what they spotted him. Initially when he went down, I thought we definitely had the first down. Then when they spotted the ball it was real close. We saw them go in, measure it and it came up just a little bit short. There was a replay on it upstairs and the coach's thought that he was a little further than that. We had two timeouts and I think there was about 6 minutes to go in the game. It didn't really seem like the timeouts would be that important even if we lost the challenge - it didn't seem that crucial, you never know but it seemed like we could afford it. We had quite a bit of time to think about it because of the chains going across the field so that's why we ended up using the challenge there. That's how it happened.
Q: In retrospect, thinking it over would you do that again given that it was short yardage, you would have been looking at third and inches and you might have been in two down territory anyway. Do you have any second thoughts when you were going over the game again?
BB: Yes, thinking about it that could have gone either way. Sunday night [I thought] maybe we would've been better off with third and inches than a first down there - be able to hit another run in there and take another 30 seconds off the clock, assuming that we picked it up. You never know though. You always think you can get a couple inches in those situations and you should be able to but we have all seen enough games where something happens - the quarterback slips, there's a missed exchange, the back slips, something happens and what looks like third and inches then shows up as fourth and two. You don't want to think that way, like we are going to lose two yards here on third and inches, I am not saying that but different things happen - you get a false start penalty…There are different things, there's that ten percent chance that something will go wrong even though it shouldn't and what looks like a sure thing ends up being something different. I think in that situation probably being a little more conservative and making sure we got the first down and getting a new set of downs, that was more of a priority than trying to be too cute and knock another 30 seconds off the clock by picking it up on the next down. But I definitely thought about it, yes.
Q: In watching film of the Chargers defense, did you notice much in the way of impact in the loss of Shawne Merriman?
BB: He's a terrific player but I think they have gotten good production out of both kids that have played over there the last couple of weeks. They still have a very good pass rush all the way across the board. They like to bring those outside linebackers a lot and I would say if anything they have been bringing them just as much if not more than when he was in there. They are a pretty good pass rushing team no matter who…I am not saying he's not a loss, but they still get pretty good production out of those outside linebackers and overall pass rush.
Q: You mentioned how much you have played San Diego over the years. How much have you seen Philip Rivers mature and develop as a quarterback over that time and what challenges does he present this week?
BB: I think Rivers has really grown as a quarterback. I thought especially last year in the playoff game, playing with the injury, I thought he showed a lot of toughness and grit - that wasn't the greatest day to pass the ball, there in January. I thought that he made some excellent throws and played with a lot of toughness and courage in that game. He made some tough throws under pressure, not only the pressure of the game being the AFC Championship but under some pass rush pressure, getting up after some hits and just hanging in there. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he has taken his game up another notch this year. They are averaging 30 points a game, they have had a lot of production. He is getting the ball down the field. They lead the league in yards per catch. His accuracy, his decision-making and overall production has continued to improve. He's tough. With their running game and the skill players they have, they are a hard team to defend and that's why they are scoring so much.
Q: How much has Terrance Wheatley worked in the slot and is that at all a factor as to why Jonathan Wilhite was the option in the sub package?
BB: Yes. Jonathan has been working more in the inside position although as we go through training camp, preseason games and into the regular season, as you know, we try to train everyone a little bit everywhere. Jonathan has been working a little more inside and [Terrance] Wheatley has been working a little more outside. They are playing both spots, do both and will continue to do that. Terrance and Jonathan both gave us some good quality snaps on Sunday against San Francisco. Hopefully, they can build on that and keep improving. If they do that then maybe they can find more of a role defensively for us.
Q: Do you allow yourself at all to take a step back and assess the AFC picture or are you just tunnel visioned toward the Chargers?
BB: I am pretty tunnel visioned toward the Chargers. I'm not going to say that I am not aware of what the records are in our division and the other teams in the AFC but right now it's a one game season for us. We have a few days here to put everything together for San Diego. We know how talented of a football team and how explosive they are. We are just going to put everything we got into this one and worry about next week, next week. Whatever else happens in the league happens and there is nothing we can do about that. I am not saying we aren't interested in it because it does affect us. But I don't think we can be too concerned about it because there is nothing we can do. [We can] try to take care of our job - 99.9 percent of it [our focus] is on San Diego - that's all that we can do anything about.