New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 17, 2008.
BB: We are back at it here today. [We] did a little bit on Miami over the weekend; of course they are very impressive in everything that they have done. [Miami had] another impressive win yesterday. They have done a great job in everything. They have done a great job of coaching, [they] move the ball, [they] run it, score a lot of points, play good defense [and] make good plays. They have shown a lot of consistency. They played a great game against us. They are a great football team right now. We are going to have a lot of work to do, have our hands full getting ready for them. It will be a big challenge to go down there this week [to] Miami and play a team that is as hot as they are right now. So, they are doing a great job. They have a great team.
Q: What wrinkles has Miami added to their Wildcat Packages since you saw it in September?
BB: They have pretty much changed something every week. They do something different off of it each week. [They] either change the formation [or] add a play or two. They run it out of different personnel groups so they have done a great job of changing it up, making it hard to defend, getting the ball to players who can make plays: [Patrick] Cobbs, [Ricky] Williams, [Ronnie] Brown, [and have] thrown a few passes off it. They have done a great job.
Q: When you prepare for it do you focus on what you have seen them do or do you try to anticipate what new wrinkle they will throw at you this week?
BB: Well, you have to defend what they have done. You might take into account something you think they'll do if you have some evidence of it but I don't think you want to just be throwing up plays [and] taking a stab in the dark about what they could be dreaming up. I don't think that is really a good utilization of time. But, you have to stop what they have done and there is plenty of that.
Q: On that package, how physical have you seen cornerbacks get with the quarterback when the quarterbacks split out wide?
BB: You are just playing with one less guy if you do that. You really can get the player who is in that vicinity, you could really get him involved in the play and play 11 against 10. If you want to take that player out of there and go hit [Chad] Pennington you could do that, but I think most teams have tried to play with that extra player rather than give one up. Letting him block the guy, you are just giving up one for one on that. You could do it and a couple of teams have gone up and pushed him around a little bit but like I said, you are just giving up one for one on a guy that probably can't make a block out there. But, if you don't take yourself out of the play then essentially that is what your trade off has been. So, there has been a lot of it.
Q: We have seen teams throw to Joe Flacco, have the Dolphins looked for Chad Pennington at all?
BB: Well, they gave him the ball on a flea flicker and hit [Patrick] Cobbs for a touchdown against Houston.
Q: I meant more as a receiver?
BB: Yeah, I don't think the idea is to get him the ball too many times as a receiver. I would say out of all the things that you have to defend that would be at the bottom of the list.
Q: From a fundamental standpoint how do you coach the defense against that package? Is there one coaching point that stands above the rest whether it be patience or discipline?
BB: Well I would say it starts, like everything else in the running game with the Dolphins, with tackeling. There are a lot of times when teams are in position to hold the play to a certain number of yards and it ends up going for more than that or sometimes a lot more than that because of the skill of the runners. So, without doing a breakdown on it I would venture to say that probably half of their yardage in that formation, and in maybe all of their running formations, probably comes after somebody has had the chance to tackle the runner. So, that would be number one. They give you some different looks and anytime you involve the quarterback in the running game whether it is an option game, or this type of offense. We see it in college all of the time with different styles in the running game, it creates another gap and defensively you run out of people. If you are playing the same number as they have, you are playing ten on ten, nine on nine, or eight on eight - then there is always a dead gap in there somewhere. If they can create a blocking scheme to exploit it or if the runner can find it then it is harder to defend, whereas if the quarterback hands the ball off you eliminate the guy with the ball and however many blockers they have. If it is nine or if it is less than that, then you can always get one more than they have and at least outnumber them. They can always try to run away from that extra guy somehow but from a numbers standpoint you can match up with them. Whereas in these kind of offenses where everyone is a potential ball carrier you have to find a way to compensate for being short a guy on defense.
Q: Along those lines what is the difficulty of facing those unbalanced lines and is that something that you have seen a lot out of them since they have played you?
BB: They run it every game. They do it. Sometimes they unbalance, sometimes they don't. It is just another way of changing things up, running the same plays but making you defend them differently. Whether you want to make an adjustment in your front or make an adjustment in your coverage. I think it is like anything else that by itself it isn't that devastating. When it is combined with everything else it is another log on the fire and it is one more thing that you have to work on, make adjustments to [and] deal with along with a lot of other things. Sometimes it runs together or your execution just isn't as good because you aren't able to allocate the amount of time to it that they have over the course of the season and they execute it better than you do.
Q: When the Dolphins unveiled it against you there was some element of surprise, has that quickly gone away because they now run it so often?
BB: Well, it is definitely part of their offense; they run it every week. It is still hard to stop. You can look at any good offensive team in this league or any league and they will run the same plays every week [and] that doesn't mean they get stopped. They continue to work because they have great players, great execution and that is true at Miami. Not every play is an 80-yard touchdown but they consistently get production out of just about everything they are doing with that package being part of it and they change it up from week to week. I don't think it's going to be any surprise when Ronnie Brown lines up behind the center and takes the snap but what the rest of the formation will be, what the blocking scheme will be, what they do out of it – that is not always the same every week. I mean, far from it.
Q: As a student of NFL history are you interested in a team that brings up an old non-traditional formation like this and makes it work week after week?
BB: Well, it is something that we have seen all the way back to Kordell Stewart days. We have seen running quarterbacks or backs that can run the ball and take snaps back there. Every offense presents a lot of challenges and certainly the Miami one does because of the great players that they have and the execution and the play calling, the way Dan [Henning] sets it up and so forth. It is all very challenging and they have done a good job with it. I don't think the plays by themselves are necessarily the answer to revolutionizing the game but I think the execution and integration of certain plays in with other things offensively that they do makes them a hard team to defend and it's all part of it. It's well coached and it's good players doing it.
Q: How unique is the idea that it is two running backs?
BB: It is two of their best players. The Arkansas' two best players are [Darren] McFadden and Felix Jones. David Lee had a lot of experience with it down there and it is a good way when you have two backs to get them both on the field, both be productive and have the defense have to defend both of them and they have certainly done a good job of that.
Q: How important will it be in practice this week getting some of your guys on the scout team to replicate what the Dolphins are doing to get your defense a lot of good looks in practice?
BB: It is always important. That is always important and certainly it will be important this week. But whatever plays the other team is running, whether it be runs, passes, blitzes, stunts, whatever zone coverages or man coverages - the better look you get at it in practice and be able to see the plays run, correct them, have the players really understand how it is going to be on Sunday and what they need to do to attack it, defeat it or defend it - then the better prepared they will be on Sunday to do that. That is always important.
Q: How do you feel you have defended those styles of play since you faced Miami?
BB: Well, anything we have done on defense there is always room for improvement. Even on good plays and bad plays there are always other elements of the play that could be better or maybe breakdowns that they didn't exploit. So, you are always working to improve it and the thing about Miami is that the players they do it with are different than the players that anybody else does it with. So, defending Miami is different than defending San Francisco, St. Louis and other teams that have done it.
Q: It sounded like you had a lot of respect for what Randy Moss produced in the last game and I was curious why that was the case?
BB: I had a lot of respect for the way he played the game. When he had opportunities and certain things he had to do on certain coverages, he got himself open and there were other times when he really worked hard to get open against double coverage or coverage that was tilted his way and I think that opened some things up for other people and it probably continued to cause the defense to pay a lot of attention to him. And when they lightened up on him he put himself in position to make big plays. I really respect the way he played the game.
Q: How impressed have you been with Miami's ability to pull these games out late?
BB: They have done a great job. They are playing good defense, rushing the passer and not giving up big plays. [They are] playing real good offense, running the ball, controlling the clock, scoring in the red area, scoring around the goal line, not giving the ball up. I think they got the fewest turnovers in the league or giveaways in the league. They are doing a great job.