New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, December 15, 2008.
BB: We are getting through the trip back here, getting readjusted and settled back in. We had a chance to look at the film early this afternoon and one of the most impressive things in the game was the way we started it. We talked about that all week – being ready to go, getting off to a good start and taking advantage of our opportunities. We had some early that we were able to capitalize on in all three phases of the game. We set up our offense in good field position and they came through with three touchdowns. It was a great way to start the game and be at 21-0 in the first quarter. All things considered, with the weather and the rain, I thought our ball handling was pretty good on offense. We were in the shotgun for the majority of the game. We had a few bad plays throughout the course of the game that we gave them with a dropped pass for an interception, a couple of long touchdown plays – one on defense and one on special teams. You are always looking to eliminate those. So we have to work harder on that. But, it's good to be back. We are already getting rolling here on Arizona. They look, as we all know, very high scoring, quick strike offensive football team with a lot of speed on defense and in the kicking game some pretty dynamic receivers. We have a lot of work to do there. We are down to a two game season and we have to keep working to play our best football here going forward in the last two weeks. That's where we are at for today.
Q: Can we start with what happened at the end of the second quarter with the 10 second run off on the illegal shift? What was the operation there and where was the break down?
BB: There was a combination of things. I think there's a whole series of events there that we can learn from. But with the clock running in that situation we had to use the timeout because we got a bad look on what we saw from Oakland's defense. So that was part of the problem there. We didn't have a timeout saved for the field goal like we usually do or try to. We didn't get lined up properly. We were hustling back to the line and in order to have a legal formation we weren't quite set in time. So they correctly penalized us for an illegal shift. Then, with the 10-second run off down to one second, the clock would start on the ready to for play signal and we didn't get it communicated and snapped when the umpire marked the ball ready for play so time ran out. It was a poorly executed situation after we had done so well to move the ball all the way down the field into scoring position. I just have to do a better job of having our team execute plays like that in those kinds of situations. We should have come out of there with a field goal attempt at the worst and we didn't. I would say the majority of that is my responsibility to have the team in better position to do that so I have to do a better job there.
Q: A very rare occurrence yesterday, the back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns – it looked like on Ellis Hobbs' return the execution from your return team was nearly perfect…
BB: I think that is about as clean as you could block it. It was a big hole there straight to the kicker. Ellis made a good move on [Sebastian] Janikowski. He pushed him but not far enough to get out of bounds. The blocking was outstanding across the board. [Gary] Guyton and Heath Evans both had real good blocks. Sammy [Morris], Sam Aiken, guys that had to get two people or bump one to get to another. It was all done almost the way we would draw it up. The wedge picked up their three guys. They had perfect leverage on them. It was a good looking play, which was very timely as Oakland had just scored on their kickoff return and you feel a swing of momentum or energy to their side. That was a great answer to that by our kickoff return team.
Q: On the two challenges, obviously you are not going to challenge if you don't think you have good information, so knowing that can you shed some insight into what you were thinking at the time?
BB: On the first one, I blew it on that one. What I saw was two players coming onto the field and only one going off for Oakland. I knew what I saw and I knew I was right on that and only one player came off the field. My mistake was I didn't realize that they only had 10 players on the field the play before. When we ran that play, I didn't catch that they only had 10 players out there. I thought that they had 11. I was looking at the front and it was a running play. So, when they sent two players on, they were trying to get the right people on the field. I mistakenly thought they were trying to substitute players to get the proper matchup and they were actually getting their 10th and 11th players on the field. They took one off to give them nine but then added two. I saw the two for one and thought it was 12 to 11 and it was actually 10 to 11. The other one, we were trying to stop them. It was a close play and they made the first down by a couple of inches. We didn't really need the timeouts at that point in the game.
Q: I think some people would say the game wasn't in doubt so why challenge when it could create an injury situation?
BB: We are trying to stop them and get the ball back. If we had gotten the ball back we would have run out the clock. It was a close play on the sideline. He got pushed out of bounds and reached the ball out. It is tough to tell exactly where it went out. It was a close play. They ruled it was a first down and we were trying to stop them. After they spotted it, it turned out he made the first down by a couple of inches. We were just trying to stop them in that situation, that's all and timeouts really weren't a factor.
Q: When you look at your rushing attack this year you guys have had a lot of success with a lot of different backs, it really doesn't seem to matter who the back is. To what do you attribute that?
BB: Good blocking and good running. The backs have done a good job. They've all done a good job. We've had a lot of good blocking by the offensive line, some good play calling and some adjustments at the line of scrimmage. At times Matt has changed the play to get us into a good play or, sometimes more importantly, to get us out of a bad play where the deck is stacked against us. I think Josh [McDaniels], Dante [Scarnecchia], Pete [Mangurian], Ivan [Fears] and the offensive coaches have done great job game planning. And we've done a good job of blocking, the backs have done a good job running and Matt's helped us out at times. I think one of the real underrated aspects of the running game has been the blocking of our receivers and I think yesterday — Randy [Moss] and Wes [Welker] in particular — once again those guys did a great job of downfield blocking and sprung our backs for some opportunities for bigger plays down the field. Rather than six-, or seven-yard runs they ended up being in the 20's or 30's. So those receivers have done a good job, too.
Q: You can end up being 11-5 and there are a couple of teams at 8-8 like Denver and Arizona who could end up making the playoffs where as you might not at 11-5. Is that a frustrating situation or do you just accept that as the way the league structures the playoff system?
BB: Right now, really, I'm not even thinking about it. I'm not sure exactly what all scenarios are. It doesn't really make any difference. The only thing we can do is go out there and try to beat Arizona. That's what we're going to try to do this week. I know that we're in it and how everything all plays out, who beats who and all the different scenarios and all that. There are a million things that can happen. But the only thing we can control is how we prepare and how we play against Arizona. That's really what we're looking at and the rest of it we'll just take it as it comes.
Q: Realizing that the focus is always on the next game, would you mind commenting on the personal significance of the last two games for you: Seattle having been your 150th win as a coach and Oakland your 100th as Patriots coach?
BB: It's nice to have those wins. When I started coaching or even became a head coach I never really pictured myself as winning that many games or being in the company that some of those wins put me in. I've been very fortunate to have coached a lot of great players and have a lot of great assistants on my staff for those wins. I just did my small part as all of them did theirs and, collectively, those wins really belong to the teams that got them. As I said, I'm fortunate to be a part of those and I certainly appreciate all the success that's come. There have been so many people that contributed to all of those that it's not really an individual thing, but it would be nice to add one more on Sunday.
Q: What do you remember about your first Patriots win, the game against Denver?
BB: We were a big underdogs, got off to a good start early and hung on.
Q: Did you ever think that there would be 99 more after starting that season 0-3 or 0-4?
BB: No, at that time, I was probably hoping to get two wins. When you lose a couple games you really wonder if you're ever going to win another one. The only way to get over the hump is to go out there and get one. But when the losses start to pile up, you get two, three, four in a row, you're not thinking about winning a bunch in a row you're thinking about just trying to win one. And you wonder if that's ever going to happen again. I've always tried to approach it week to week and that's whether it was one or 100. The ones before and the ones after aren't really too strong in my mind, it's just that one that we're up against that particular week. Right now, it's just Arizona and we'll reflect back on some other ones some other time.
Q: Another week, another game in which a couple players couldn't finish it out because due to health problems. Any feel for if Matt Light's injury is a serious, season ending type or is there still more time needed there?
BB: As you know, we got back real late last night and the players are coming in today and doctors and trainers are looking at them. It's still pretty early here in the week. We'll see how it goes, but I'm sure at this time of year everybody is less than 100 percent. We've got a lot of guys with bumps and bruises and are sore and all that. It was a long flight back but it's a two-game season and I felt like our players showed a lot of toughness and resiliency this week after the Seattle game. Then, coming back, guys that after the Seattle game didn't look like they'd be able to play against Oakland played and played well. So we'll just take it day to day here and see where we are Wednesday when we go to practice. Then, we'll see how things go as we come into the end of the week. But no there's nothing that I would say from the end of the game yesterday till today that I know is going to be of the major season ending nature. That could all change too but right now we're just revaluating.
Q: When Matt Light went out, you had options. You could have put [Nick] Kaczur on the left side and put [Mark] LeVoir on the right side, but LeVoir came in and played the left side. Was that sort of the thinking you've talked about in the past where it's better to plug one hole than shift two in the middle of the game?
BB: I think that those are both options. When you only carry seven linemen into the game, then you've got two backups for five spots and that's really what you're looking at. Either one guy goes into the spot that's vacated, or one of those two backup players goes into the spot that he best fits. Then, you bump another player over into the spot that was vacated. I think you can go either way on that. In the end, you try to decide what combination you feel will make you the most effective. It might be that game, or it might be that way for the whole season. That's the way we went yesterday. I wouldn't say that's necessarily the way that it would always be, but in the end you do what you think is best for your team and what your best combination of people is depending on what position you lose during the game. I think you can do it either way. I think there is a place to do it both ways. It's just a question of your personnel and, sometimes, how you're playing that particular game. That might be a factor in it, too.