New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 29, 2009.
BB:We're plugging away here on Houston. They do a very good job throwing the ball. They have a very good passing attack. They use all the receivers, tight ends and backs. They've lost a couple productive players in the passing game - the running backs, the tight end - but they've still got a lot of production out of everybody. Defensively, it's a real athletic group. Up front, guys are big, fast, can rush the passer, play the run, [and are] good in pursuit. [The] linebackers are active. The safeties are good. Of course, [Dunta] Robinson is an outstanding player. [They are] good in the return game with [Jacoby] Jones. They have solid specialists, solid in the kicking game and they have a good kicker, good punter, good returner. They're a real solid football team. They've played well recently - very good against a couple quality teams, too, like Indianapolis. I know they lost those games, but they played really competitively in both of those games. It's a good football team with a good mix of young players and veterans in there. They've got some young guys who are playing and contributing, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. [Connor] Barwin, [Brian] Cushing, [Brice] McCain, all those guys have played regularly for them on defense and contribute. They've added some good young players on that side of the ball.
Q: What kind of challenge will it be for your secondary this week?
BB: It will be a big challenge, as I said. They spread the ball around quite a bit, but certainly Andre Johnson gets his share and he's pretty good at everything. He's good on the deep balls. He's a big target, tough after the catch. He's - again - like Terrell Owens, where he catches short balls and breaks tackles and runs a long way. People get up there and try to play him tighter and he runs passed them. He's good on intermediate routes. He's good on deep routes, and he's good on short routes, and running with the ball after the catch. And he's a good blocker. He certainly attracts a lot of attention, as he should.
Q: When you are trying to stop big receivers, what works against big marquee receivers?
BB: The best thing is to try to keep the quarterback from getting the ball off. But along with the pass rush you've just got to decide - the more guys you rush, the fewer guys you've got to cover. The more guys you cover then, generally speaking, the more time the quarterback has to throw the ball. You have to kind of balance that off. Like I said, you watch the Seattle game and that's about as impressive as it gets, in the first half. He's good at everything. And whoever's got him and whatever help we have with him, they're just going to have to hold up on that play because you can't as much as you want to get on him. There're a lot of other weapons and a lot of other guys that [Matt] Schaub throws the ball to, so you've got to defend all of them. But he's definitely a problem.
Q: When you saw Matt Schaub come in for Michael Vick a few years ago against the Falcons, he had a big day against you. How different is his game now? How much has he matured and improved?
BB: Well, we prepared for him [but] we just hadn't seen a lot of film on him. But what we had seen was pretty good and of course he played very well against us. He's more experienced than he was then, of course. He can move around. He's got some athleticism, but he's primarily a pocket guy - they don't run him out of there a lot. He's got a good touch. He can make all the throws, a nice arm. [He] reads coverages well. That's why he spreads the ball around to a lot of different receivers. And he's accurate.
Q: Is it tough to decide between playing veteran cornerbacks or rookie cornerbacks?
BB: Well, it's something we deal with every week. We have the players that we have available against the team we're playing; and the people we have to play against; and how to best match those up individually from a player standpoint, but also from a scheme standpoint; what we're going to ask our players to do, balance and all that together. That's how we end up deciding on whatever we decide to do. It will be the same this week.
Q: How much does this look like the Denver offense with Mike Shanahan that you've seen so many times?
BB: It's got a lot of similarities, certainly the running game, the passing game. I'd say that's the basis of it. I think they've expanded the passing game from what it was in Denver, where Schaub is more of a drop-back passer. They still run a lot of play-action. But as they get to their multiple-receiver personnel and still some of their two tight end and one-back personnel - which is kind of like a multiple receiver grouping for them - the passing game is a little less play-action and a little more drop back. But it definitely has a lot of elements of the Denver offense.
Q: Steve Slaton hasn't had quite the year that he did last year, but does he look like one of those Denver running backs?
BB: He's on injured reserve. They've lost a couple key players there - of course, Owen Daniels and Slaton [and Chester] Pitts, the offensive lineman. They've lost three or four of their key players on offense, but that really hasn't stopped them from putting up a lot of big numbers. And the other tight ends, the other backs have really stepped in there and done a good job - [Joel] Dreessen, the rookie [James] Casey, [Chris] Brown, [Ryan] Moats, [Arian] Foster. They worked all those backs in there and they've all been productive. They've certainly lost some good football players from where they were at the beginning of the year when we saw them against the Jets on opening day, [when we were] getting ready for New York the second week. But the guys that have stepped in have done a good job. They've been real productive. We'll give you a pass on that Slaton question. You just give me a pass on one here that I screw up.
Q: Was Darius Butler a healthy scratch in the game on Sunday?
BB: It wasn't injury related. He wasn't on the injury report.
Q: How do you go about trying to scout would be opponents in the playoffs because there are some many teams in contention?
BB: Of all the possibilities, we've played all the teams, including Houston now. We've basically played all the teams that we have some chance of playing next week other than the Steelers. So everybody else we have some familiarity with and we'll have to just use our personnel department to scout those games like we usually do and we'll wait to see what happens on Sunday. Right now, we're focused on the Houston game and we've done work on all those teams. We have to update some things and then we'll wait and see what happens.
Q: Will you send a scout to each one of those different games to get live eyes on those teams or will you do it a different way?
BB: Again, you know all the teams as well as I do, which ones are in there. We just played Jacksonville on Sunday, so I don't know if we need to go to the Jacksonville game. There're some teams that we played ... We're playing Houston this week and that's one of the other teams. So there're teams in there that we've dealt with pretty recently and then there're other teams that are possibilities that we played much earlier in the year. And then, like I said, there is one team that's a possibility that we haven't played at all and that's Pittsburgh. We'll use our resources the best we can and - like I said - try to do a little bit of preparation work at the end of the week as we normally do for the following week, not with our whole staff but with the people that are responsible for getting that information in order so that we can look at it once this game passes and we move onto the next game. We'll see how things unfold and whatever team we need to do - whoever we play - more work on them then we'll break down some films, do some work and move it along.
Q: Have you had any time to think about what you are going to do on Sunday against Houston? Whether you are going to play or rest your starters?
BB: No, that's not really something that we've done and in all honesty I wouldn't even anticipate doing it. Having that discussion right now, what's going to happen now is we're going to go through the game plan, players are going to come in tomorrow and everybody's going to get ready to play. And that's how we're going to approach it. Whoever plays, plays. Whoever doesn't play, doesn't play. But it's like that every week. We could go out there and on the first play of the game something could happen and somebody else could be in there. Everybody needs to be ready to go all the time.
Q: What makes Mario Williams unique and what makes him difficult to deal with from a protection standpoint?
BB: He's a real good athlete. He's one of those guys - like Julius Peppers - that's big, fast, and when I say big - whatever he is, 290, 295, like Peppers - this guy's no 260 guy. He's big. He's fast. He's powerful. They use him in coverage quite a bit, kind of like Carolina did in their blitz zone packages. It's kind of unique because they're defensive ends, but when they go to blitz zones and things like that they really play more like an outside linebacker, but they're big outside linebackers. They are not the 250, 260 type of guy. They are tall. They are long. So they give the defense an element of a defensive lineman that can be a linebacker. And you've got to treat them as a lineman, but in doing that, then when they bring the linebackers instead of him, then you end up losing a blocker on him and he drops into coverage and all that. But when he does rush, he's got good speed. He can work the edge. He's got good power. He's got quickness and can counter move. He's got real long arms [and] long legs. He's a long guy that makes it hard for the offensive linemen to get their hands on him because he can hold them off and [he makes it] tough for the quarterback [to] throw around. He bats balls down because of his length, athleticism, timing and his ability to get in the throwing lane. [He's] very good in pursuit. He runs guys down from the backside and can play at the point of attack with his strength and his power. He's a very unique player in that sense. I think the thing that makes him - like I said with Peppers - out of the traditional mold is the size. We see defensive ends - the John Abrahams and guys like that - play defensive end and drop into coverage that are 255, 260, 265. These guys are legitimate defensive linemen that are athletic like linebackers and that's pretty unique.
Q: His sack number is down this year. Is that a product of the way teams are covering him or is that because he is dropping into coverage more?
BB: We haven't played him in a couple years, so I don't know how much. That was in a different system there. I don't know how much he's doing this year is that different from last year and the year before scheme-wise, but he certainly gets a lot of chances to rush and he causes some problems. I think overall their front is active with [Antonio] Smith, [Shaun] Cody, [Amobi] Okoye. Connor Barwin's done a good job for them. They're all pretty active and they bring their linebackers, too. Cushing's had a good year and [DeMeco] Ryans. They mix it up. You can't always count on the same guys or the same group of guys. But [Williams] moves around. He plays on the strong side. He plays on the weak side. He's a guy you have to be aware of and he certainly makes his share of plays like any defensive lineman. None of them make every play, but he makes his share and you certainly have to account for him.