Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Friday, August 20, 2010.
BB: It was a short night last night but it's good to be back home. I think when we talked as a coaching staff and even with some of the players on the way back, we all felt like we had a good week in Atlanta. They are a good football team and they do things differently than us, but that's good because we need to see those things and I think the work against them was very beneficial. We learned a lot and gained a lot of good experience both in the game and on the practice field. There are a lot of positives that came out of the game and the week. There are certainly a lot of things that we can do better. We've got a long list of things that we've got to work on and try to fine tune or straighten out because they definitely presented problems, but I think in the long run will make us better. And we're at some point here going to move along to a little bit more of a conventional week of preparation. It won't be regular season type, but it will be closer to that than what these two weeks have been certainly where we've been working against another team instead of using scout teams to prepare ourselves. We'll be heading more in that direction and making that transition somewhere here along the line with the Rams and then the final week against the Giants. We're in a little bit of a transition mode, like I said coming back here late last night, getting things unpacked and back to normal and then trying to have a good week going forward into next Thursday's game with the Rams.
Q: Your tight ends lined up in so many different places last night. It seems like all of them did. Do you ask them to know all the offensive skill positions or how do you work teaching that with them?
BB: Some we do and some we don't. Some guys are kind of responsible for everything. Other guys are more responsible for certain positions. Depending on the personnel groups. We have it broken down into different categories. Some players are responsible for all categories. Some players are responsible for both positions in some but not all categories. Some players are responsible for one position in all categories. So it's broken up into different things based on what their abilities are and also how we feel like we can use them. There's no real set formula on it and a little bit of it is kind of as you go. But usually we try to overload them with learning so that we don't have to come back at the end three weeks, four weeks, five weeks down the road and say, 'Oh well, now we need you to start leaning something else.' That puts a lot more of a strain on the person than if you can tell them upfront that you're responsible for more than one thing. And then sometimes as we go along we trim that down so that the number of assignments and all doesn't get overwhelming. We kind of do it on a case-by-case basis. We probably ask more early and then we might have a tendency to back off and go the other way around.
Q: How have Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowksi done with what's been put on their plate? Hernandez more specifically - has he done an exceptional job of processing things?
BB: I think they have both done all right. I think they still have a long way to go. It's not only formations. It's assignments. It's adjustments after the snap. It's technique. I think that both guys have made progress. They've both got a way to go, and a lot of the things that we've asked them to do are different than what they've done in the past, so blocking schemes, the routes, the adjustments are good for them.
Q: Is the offense starting to gain its identity at this point or is it too early for that? Does it matter if the offense has an identity at this point?
BB: I would imagine that during the season we will probably do what we usually do offensively, which is to game plan our opponent and try to figure out what we feel like is the best way to attack them. I don't think we have an identity right now and I don't know that we have any particular one. It would depend on who we are playing and what they do and what we feel like the best matchups are. Hopefully right now we have a basic installation of things that would give us the flexibility to attack teams as we feel like we can gain advantages on match ups. That's the idea, anyway.
Q: Were you pleased by the balance and the effectiveness of the run versus pass game last night?
BB: I thought there were some definitely good things. There were some positives. There were some other things that we need to do better. We lost yardage on seven of our running plays, so that's not very good. I think if we had seven sacks, everyone would be up in arms and it would be the big story of the day, but seven running plays that lost yardage nobody seems to care about, but what's the difference? I think we can do things better. There were certainly positives in the running game. We had our moments and then we had other plays that weren't so good. I think in probably all areas of the game, not just the running game, but all areas, we're still working on more consistency, eliminating the bad plays and having more good ones. That's offense, defense, special teams, running, passing, kicking, returning. I think you could say that for every phase of our game [including] coaching. You could put it all in there.
Q: The Falcons also had some success with their tight ends. Did you get a sense after watching the film of what made them so effective underneath?
BB: I think they do a good job with their passing game. They've got a good quarterback, they've got good tight ends. They spread the field [and] use different spacing combinations to try to create space and those guys are effective. We play a decent amount of cover two where we were rolled up on the outside receivers. [Matt] Ryan did a good job of working underneath. There were some times we felt we could have had him covered better, but they're good players and they have a good offense. So there are times they're going to challenge us and we're going to have trouble with them, and hopefully there are other times when we'll give them trouble and not make it easy. They do a good job of that. I think [Tony] Gonzalez is as good as any tight end we'll face, or have faced. They have a good group. I think they played five of them. They're all big guys who can block and catch and give you a lot of formations.
Q: How do you think Derrick Burgess and Ron Brace did in their first preseason action?
BB: I think Derrick had a good week. I think he's in pretty good shape. He's played a decent number of plays or snaps, both in practice and in the games, so I think he's doing ok. [He's] trying to catch up to everybody else in terms of recognition and installation and communication, and all of those things, but he's working hard at it and I think he's doing all right.
Q: How will things work for the players the next few days? Will they be in the facility at all or do you cut them free for the weekend?
BB: We'll be back Sunday for probably a lighter day and the rest of the week, to be honest with you, I'm not sure exactly how we're going to work things this week. That's one of the things that we need to talk about as a staff over the next couple days. We'll be in Sunday. What exactly we're going to do, I don't know that yet.
Q: I'm curious from your coaching career where you picked up the idea of simulating a regular season week during preseason to get players prepared for the regular season. Did you pick that up form anyone in particular or is that common practice in the league?
BB: I would say, from what I understand, a lot of teams do that. Where it was most [present] for me was my first year with the Colts. We had six preseason games and I'd say after the first preseason game, once we had a preseason game from our opponent - our next opponent, the second team - then those were all kind of like regular weeks. So it was five weeks of regular season preparation in the preseason. That was with [Ted] Marchibroda and he of course brought that from George Allen. That's kind of the way, from what I understand, that George Allen did it. His preseason games were like regular season games, so that's the way that we did it at Baltimore. So by the time we got to the regular season, as a young coach, I certainly knew what the regular season routine was going to be as far as breaking down film, doing preparation work, and practice and those kind of things. That's pretty much how we did it. I'm not saying everybody did it that way, but that's the way it was that year. We got a lot of regular season work in preseason.
Q: Can you talk about what you saw form Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris last night?
BB: I thought Fred and Sammy ran hard. They broke some tackles and showed good vision. Some of the reads could have maybe been a little better along with some of the blocking. As I said, we had some negative plays in the running game, which we want to eliminate. That's a combination of the backs, the tight ends, the offensive line and also the quarterback. Some of the places we had were check running plays that could have been called a little differently than they ended up being called on the line of scrimmage. So I think all of us - coaches and all the players and the receivers and their part in the blocking at times, it could all be better. But I thought for the most part those backs, including Benny [Green-Ellis], ran hard and made some yards after contact. We need to continue to work on our run reads and coordination with the offensive linemen. The back has a lot to do with helping out the offensive linemen [with] blocks and setting them up and helping the offensive lineman block the defender by his angle and his entry into the line scrimmage and those type of things. I think our backs can do a better job of that. I'm not saying it was terrible, but if they can improve on it that would help the line block better and help the running game.
Q: You mentioned the negative running plays. You had two 20-plus yard running plays and the team only had five last year. Do you put any stock in that at all?
BB: Well, sure. It's always good to see them. Nobody loves seeing long runs more than I do. Trust me, I'm thrilled when we have long runs - long runs, long passes, turnovers on defense, long returns. I love seeing those. I'd say just, as I said at the beginning, on balance there were a lot of good things. There were some other things that weren't so good that we need to improve on, we need to correct and just need to do a better job and that goes for all of us, starting me and the coaching staff and the players. There are things that we all need to work on. It was far from perfect, but there was evidence of some of the work that we have done that showed up in the game and it was productive. That was good, too.
Q: How vital is it for these backs to get reps in preseason behind the line as they start to build towards the regular season in game situations?
BB: I don't know, you teach everybody to do the same thing. You don't teach one person to block this way and another guy to block that way. Whatever position they play, you teach them the same. We're like every team; we have a lot of competition on the field, guys competing for positions. Not everybody is out there every day for one reason or another, so other people take reps at it. That's how you build your depth at running back and every other position. I think the main thing is for each player to prepare to get himself ready to play physically and mentally, assignment-wise, recognition, reaction and those kinds of things, and then to incorporate that in with his teammates and have a productive unit that works as one. That happens more during the regular season than it does in preseason. I think you have to be careful how much you do of that in preseason, because it limits your opportunity to build the depth and give quality reps to more than one person. I think inevitably you're going to need more than one guy, so that's kind of the trade off. You want to do some of that, but I don't think that's more important than everybody preparing and being ready to go and do their job and evaluate your team, making sure that you get the best and the right players for your squad, rather than trying to say, "Well [in] the first week of training camp, we know who it's going to be and we'll eliminate everybody else and just work those guys together.' I don't know if that's really the right way to go, but we don't do it that way.
Q: So don't read too much into who hasn't been used much in the preseason? I'm thinking specifically Laurence Maroney who didn't get any carries in the last game and was limited a little in the first game.
BB: Well, no, I think he got plenty of opportunities in the first game. His role in this game against Atlanta was similar to Fred [Taylor's] role last week against New Orleans. We try to give each back enough carries so that he can get into a little bit of a rhythm and also so that we can evaluate his conditioning and his stamina and his running on a continuous basis, rather than letting everybody carry three plays a game or four plays a game and coming out of it with 20 or 20-some rushes and everybody gets to touch the ball three or four times. We try to give it to a few guys and let then take it and change the rotation and do it a little bit differently in another game. But again, those guys got a lot of carries in practice, too. Practicing against Atlanta, Laurence got a lot of carries down there and Fred got a lot of carries in practice against New Orleans, so it wasn't like they didn't get the teaching on how to run and read certain plays. They didn't have all the contact and the tackling part of it, but as far as the recognition and timing and running and all of that, they did that.