Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call, on Tuesday, December 21, 2010.
BB: We're going full speed ahead here on Buffalo. It's been quite a while since we played them. There're a few new faces, but the big thing is, just looking at it over the last couple of months, they're really probably playing about as well as any team in the league. [It's] just good, solid football - good on offense, good on defense, good on special teams. They've got a lot of good skill players. I know they've lost a couple, but still with [Fred] Jackson and [C.J.] Spiller. They've had a couple of guys step up like [David] Nelson and they've had some big plays from their skill guys - [Steve] Johnson. Defensively, changing from the three-four to the four-three, [they're] playing real aggressively there. [They're] a pretty good coverage team and a team that has good quickness up front, good team speed. [They're] always strong in their return game. Spiller is obviously a threat any time he touches the ball. [They have] excellent specialists and good kickers. They're doing a good job. We'll have to really put our foot on the gas here the next couple of days and catch up to them. Like I said, even though we've played them before, it's a different looking team than we played in September.
Q: How much more comfortable does Ryan Fitzpatrick look compared to when you saw him in Week 3?
BB: Well, I thought he looked pretty good in that game, but certainly with the extra playing time that he's had throughout the season, he looks pretty solid back there - very comfortable changing plays at the line of scrimmage and moving guys around when he needs to. [He] doesn't take very many sacks, gets rid of the ball quickly, makes good decisions [and] uses all of his skill players. I think he's been very efficient back there. Some of the games, like the Cleveland game as an example - even the Miami game this weekend - they get ahead, and he does a good job of managing the game and doing what he needs to do in the fourth quarter, not trying to score 60 points, [but] just trying to win the game. [He does a good job of] controlling the ball and picking up first downs, chewing up the clock, things like that. They do a good job of that and I think there are some good examples of his excellent decision making over the last few weeks.
Q: Is Steve Johnson one of the new faces? I'm almost positive he played against you the first time, but he seems to have exploded since then.
BB: Yeah, we've seen him, but he's almost got 1,000 yards receiving. That was a terrific catch he made for the touchdown last week against Miami. I think he's got like 10 touchdowns this year. He's good with the ball in his hands. He can run after the catch [and] take a short gain and turn it into a long one. He's quick, fast, aggressive, goes up for the ball. I think he's definitely a go-to guy for them. He's produced a lot of big plays and it looks like they have a lot of confidence in him. They try to get him the ball on tear screens, catch-and-run plays, underneath routes, things like that, as well as throwing it down field. He's definitely emerged as a big weapon in their offense.
Q: What do you see from Fred Jackson?
BB: [He's] one of the best backs in the league. I'd say he's outstanding. [He's] good at everything: good on blitz pickup, a good outside runner [and a] good inside runner. They use him in the passing game as a receiver, split-out and empty and those kinds of things. He's a very good screen back. The play he made against Pittsburgh really highlighted his skills: great balance, run-after-catch and then he outran everybody. He's got big-time speed as well as power, but he's very tough in the tackle-to-tackle area. It seems like he can always find some space and get a few yards and squeeze through there or power through there. I think the Cleveland game is a good example. I think they ran about the last six or seven minutes off the clock and he did an excellent job of just really running out the clock. They just gave him the ball and he gained three, four, five yards a clip and ate it up. So, he's outstanding. I have as much respect for him as really anybody we've played. He's a complete guy. [He] does it all and shows really good toughness and can get the tough yards.
Q: With a young team, how important is it to maintain focus at the end of the season and with the holidays going on?
BB: Well, absolutely, I think it's important for every person, every member of the organization - not just a young player, but all of us - to maintain our focus, keep our eye on the target, not worry about anything but Buffalo. That's really all there is right now, and just take everything else and push it to the side a little bit and try to make sure that we did a good job on our preparations and make sure that we don't take anything for granted, do all the little things that we need to do and put all our energy and emphasis in that. It's not just about the players. We all could potentially be distracted and everyone's job is important. So, I think that's the message for everybody this week.
Q: Is there anything you've learned from the past that helps with that process?
BB: Well, I think that's a regular part of our weekly preparation. I mean, last week's no different than this week. This week's no different than last week or next week. We still need to put everything we have into each game and take advantage of our opportunities, whether it's film studies, meetings, walkthroughs, practice, any individual time we have the players and so forth and just maximize that. I don't think there's anything that we would do this week that we shouldn't have done last week. You know what I mean? We are facing the same situation, so we try to make the most out of everything, but emphasizing its importance and just being able to schedule the things that we do and, again, our meetings and breakdowns and walkthroughs and so forth. You only have so much time and you have to, as a coaching staff, make sure that you utilize that time and get the absolute most that you can out of it. You can't cover everything, but you've got cover the things that you think are most important and most likely to occur and same thing when you write up your practice scripts and the plays that you work on to try and get the things that are going to be the most important and get those done right and then take that emphasis and transfer it over to the players and make sure that their eyes are on the same target as what the staff's is and hope that you picked out the right things.
Q: From your perspective, is it a little helpful that the Bills have won a couple of games now? Is it easier to make sure that your players realize that Buffalo can move the ball and hang with teams?
BB: Well, I don't think that's really an issue with us. We've played them once this year and we saw plenty of that. We saw them move the ball. We saw them give us problems on defense. [They] returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. So, we've already seen all those things and we saw them last year, for that matter, and there's really nothing new there. Buffalo's a good football team. They've got good athletes, good players on their team. They're tough. They play hard. They're playing at home. The elements will always be an issue playing there at this time of year. You never know what you're going to get so you have to prepare for different things, but ultimately, it comes down to performing against Buffalo and their football team. We have our hands full it seems like every time we play them. It's always a very competitive game and it definitely was in our first meeting [this season].
Q: With the Bills going into more of a four-three, has that change helped any of their players perform better? Does anyone stand out to you?
BB: Well, I think they're pretty strong, really, in every area. They do a good job up front. Kyle Williams is probably one of the most underrated players in the league. Every time we play against him, every time I see him play, he's strong, he's quick [and] he's making plays in the backfield. [Marcus] Stroud is a load; he's a really hard guy to block. They've got good pressure off the edge. [Paul] Posluszny in on a lot of plays, [Donte] Whitner. [Jairus] Byrd [had] 10 interceptions last year and he's a good range player, free safety. They've got good corners, good depth at corner, even with [Terrence] McGee out, [Leodis] McKelvin stepped in there and has done a solid job for them. So, I think they're strong in all three areas: at the front, at linebacker and at the secondary. They do a good job across the board on defense.
Q: When you went down to Florida, did you have a chance to meet with David Nelson and what were your thoughts on him?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. I spent a lot of time with David down there and the other receiver, [Riley] Cooper - I think he went to Philadelphia. So, yeah, those guys, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Tim] Tebow, I spent a lot of time with those offensive players - [Maurkice] Pouncey - and I think what we saw in the workout down there and the time I spent with him, what he did with Florida is pretty much what he's doing with Buffalo in this league. He's a big target. He's got great range. He can get to a lot of balls, [has] excellent hands. He's not the fastest receiver, but he's deceptive and he's got a good burst and good quickness. They run him on a lot of double moves, stop-and-go routes, things like that. And he's a good target down the field because of his length and his ability to adjust to the ball and catch it. If the quarterback puts the ball away from the defender, he can adjust and make the play, that kind of thing. He's a very crafty guy and he's a smart football player. He knows coverages. He knows how to get open and it's obvious that Fitzpatrick has a lot of confidence in him. The play that he made for the touchdown there against Miami last week, third-and-19 - whatever it was - Fitzpatrick pretty much fired it into triple or quadruple coverage - I don't know, there were a lot of guys there - and Nelson comes up with it for a touchdown. So that play kind of shows the confidence that the quarterback has in his receiver and the ability of the receiver to go in and make a play in tough coverage and score with it. I'll tell you what, there're a lot of good football players on the team down there [in Florida]. You can see why they won a couple of national championships. They had them on both sides of the ball and, honestly, it seems like we run into one every week.