New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 02,2009.
BB: We gave the players the weekend off and we're back at it now on Miami. It was an impressive win they had yesterday against the Jets. That's a sweep on them, so that's pretty good for Miami. We had a couple tough games with them last year, certainly well aware of all the skill players they have and the toughness they have in the running game on both sides of the ball and a good job that they do down there coaching. We'll try to pull things together here after the Jets game and add that to all the other information we had from earlier in the week and get to work on these guys, get back on the field tomorrow and try to get an extra day - a little extra jump on them - which I am sure we'll be able to use. [They're] a good football team - good on defense, tough, [they] run the ball well, [they make] big plays in the kicking game and seeing that we obviously didn't do very well against [them] up here last year, so hopefully we can be a little more competitive this time around.
Q: Last year, I remember you talking about the Wildcat and talking about the percentage of time they used it and making the decision of how much time you want to devote in practice. How much are they using it this year and how will that be part of your preparation this week?
BB: That's always a tough decision. This week it's the Wildcat [and] its other aspects of team offensive or defensive packages, you kind of deal with that every week and it varies from game to game. It's not always used in the same percentages. The better it's going, the more you're going to see it. For example, Indianapolis ... There are other times where they make you spend time defending it and [then they] don't use it all that much. I think the most important thing is that we're sound on it and we're prepared for it. If we get it, we at least know how to play it and the different things that come out of it, but they certainly do a lot of other offensive groups - formations and personnel grouping besides that and we have to be ready for all those. It's certainly a challenging aspect to the whole preparation process. We want to be able to defend that, but at the same time we don't want to commit so much time to it that we don't do a good job on the other things they do as well. Hopefully, we'll be able to use a little bit of the extra time this week to get those bases covered. But it's definitely a preparation problem they present.
Q: When the quarterbacks split out wide why not just hit him? Does that happen and what would the risk reward be in taking that approach?
BB: Well, it does happen at times. Sometimes they don't have a quarterback in the game, sometimes they do. There have been teams that have gone out there and tried to, on a snap of the ball, go attack the quarterback and hit him and all that. Of course the downside of it is that they put a player out there who really can't block and he's eliminated one of your players because you've chosen to take him out of the play to go hit him. You've sacrificed a player that you could actually gain into the play because that quarterback is not really a threat to do much blocking, so you've given up a player that could actually help you on the other aspects of the play. So that's probably why most teams don't do a lot of that.
Q: Yesterday it seemed like the quarterback was not on the field in those situations, is that something that you've seen more of?
BB: They do it both ways. In fact, sometimes the quarterback, whether it was [Chad] Pennington or [Chad] Henne, is in there and he's split out, other times he's not in there at all and then there are other times that they bring in Pat White and he comes into quarterback and they run some version of the Wildcat, or they could just run a regular offensive play with him in there at quarterback. As long as there's a quarterback on the field you're not sure they're going to be in the Wildcat. Once they take the quarterback off you kind of know that they're not going to be in their conventional offense, but they still use a lot of different formations because they have an extra player to formation with, so you have to defend an additional guy in the formation that you usually don't have to account for. But they do all of the above and that creates some preparation problems.
Q: Have they been roughly the same with Henne in there as opposed to Pennington and how would you compare their offense?
BB: Yeah, I would say their offense is basically the same. Dan Henning, the [offensive] coordinator, has used a couple different quarterbacks. Of course, they had a couple different quarterbacks down there last year before they got Pennington at the start of the season, so they've kind of been consistent. They have a very broad offensive system, all the different personnel groups, a lot of different formations. They change them a lot from game to game. There're a lot of the things that we'll see in the game Sunday that we can't prepare for because they haven't shown them yet, exactly the way they're going to do them. It will be something different and creative. This week, it will be different from the other games we've seen them play. They kind of keep the wheels spinning that way. I think Henne has been able to execute all the parts of the offense that Miami normally has, their play-action game, their quick passing and spread game, their maximum protection passing game, all the screens and gadget plays and things like that. I don't notice any big difference in the plays or the type of offense that they run. Of course, Pennington was a very experienced quarterback. He did a great job of pre-reading the defense and making good pre-snap and post-snap decisions. He went to the right place with the ball most of the time because of his great experience and they might have used a few more audibles, check plays at the line of scrimmage. It's hard to tell, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was the case because Chad [Pennington] was so good with those. But Henne does that, too. He's pretty effective at it. [He] certainly can throw the ball down the field. We saw that in the first Jets game on the pass to [Ted] Ginn, [Jr.] They're a very good third-down conversion team, both running and passing and they are a very good play action team, which of course comes off their strong running game where teams are really trying to defend that and they're light on the play action passes. All those elements are pretty much still in place.
Q: In the Wildcat, there is often talk about this problem of an extra gap that you have on a normal running play, can you elaborate on that?
BB: When the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back, then that player is basically eliminated from the running game. When you directly snap it to the running back, then instead of having a quarterback handing it off you have another blocker, another receiver that somebody has to go out and cover, however you want to formation it, so it creates another spot that somebody has to defend, whether it's a lineman or a pass-coverage player. Offensively, you gain a guy in this offense by not having somebody turn around and hand the ball off.
Q: Obviously, Ted Ginn, Jr. is getting a lot of attention for what he did in special teams yesterday, do you feel like you need to add any emphasis on that area of the game because of that?
BB: We definitely have a lot of emphasis on it, but we've kind of had that all through the year. We've seen just about every week one good kickoff return unit and returner after another, starting with [Leodis] McKelvin, Leon Washington and getting ready last week for [Clifton] Smith and [Sammie] Stroughter in Tampa. We've seen top returners every week and this is another one. Ginn is very fast. He has the ability to take the ball any place on the field - start on one side [and] go to the other, start up the middle [and] bounce it out, start outside [and] cut it back and just outrun just about everybody we have on our kickoff team. I don't know that we or any team in the league has more than one or two, if that, people that could run with Ted Ginn. Leverage, tackling and discipline in our lanes and recognizing blocking schemes and doing a good job of tackling - all that is going to be crucial against Miami this week, but again we've seen a lot of that all year - good return teams, good returners - and this is another in that list of challenges for us.
Q: Do you recall the first time you saw a Wildcat offense and what was your reaction to it?
BB: In the NFL, when Pittsburgh ran it with Kordell Stewart in the early '90s - '93, '94, '95, whenever he came into the league - somewhere in there.
Q: Did you think it would be successful?
BB: Again, like everything else, it mostly has to do with the players and anytime you have a skill player with the ball that's hard to defend. We've seen those types of things in scrambling and running quarterbacks before that - the Fran Tarkenton's and so forth, guys that ran around and made a lot of yards running the ball and not just passing it. But then when you look at a player like Kordell Stewart and the many that came after him and are in the league now - quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers - that can play those positions that can run the ball, take the snap from center and all that. Yeah, they add a little bit of a different dimension, until it looked like the same plays and you have to be aware of what those guys can do, whether it's halfback passes or shotgun type plays, where the quarterback now is a running back. As we talked about earlier, you have an extra guy you have to defend defensively.
Q: There was a lot of chatter back and forth between the Jets and the Dolphins yesterday, how do you address that type of thing with your team and is that something that's taken care of at the beginning of the season or is that week to week?
BB: I think from the start of the spring practices and the offseason program, mini camps and training camp and all that, you guys bring up that kind of stuff a lot, so I think it's always there. Things we have to deal with - our team deals with - every team deals with. So I think it pretty much goes on all year round, some aspect that somebody did something or somebody did something. So however you want to phrase the question and each week there are different challenges. Our team's trying to prepare to win a big division game against Miami and their team is trying to prepare to go on the road and win a big division game against us. That's a good competitive spirit. In the end, the talking gets done on the field during the three hours the game's being played. That's when the most important time to make your statement is and that's what we'll try to do. That's when it counts.
Q: Have you ever seen how that kind of thing can have an effect on a team or individual players?
BB: Sure. I think there are some times where it can have an effect or cause a little bit of reaction, but again there is some element of that every week, in every game however it's created or however it develops, whatever the story line is or the way the game actually unfolds, what happens in the game, plays happen, guys get pushed or they get hit, fouls get called, or whatever it is. That's part of the emotional ebb and flow of any game whether it's the beginning, or during the game, or at the end or whenever it is. I think that's something that a good team and a good football player, they don't overreact to that. I'm not saying there's not emotion in the game because there definitely is, but you take that, you separate it, you do your job and you have your celebration at the end of the game if things go well. That's really what it's all about - minimizing those other distractions, or things that are going on before, during, or at different point in the game and focus on your job and try to do it well. That's what we'll try to do this week starting with today, tomorrow and all week through practice and during the game. I'm sure there will be some plays during the game that will have some element of emotion to them, but ultimately we'll have to put those behind us, move onto the next play and try to go out there and play well for 60 minutes because we know that's what it will take.