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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 1/23

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, January 23, 2017


Q: How critical were the contributions of Dont'a Hightower and Vincent Valentine last night on the second quarter goal line stand where you were able to hold Pittsburgh to just a field goal?
BB: Well, again, those plays are good team defensive plays. When everybody [is] in a situation like that, especially in the running game, when everybody does their job and defeats the blocker and wins the gap that they're in, the runner has got to run somewhere and that's the guy that'll make the tackle. Or if somebody eats up a couple of blocks and somebody comes free like Vince [Valentine] did, then he is the guy to make the tackle. It's good team defense. It's everybody doing a great job and doing a great job of tackling. The guys that got the opportunity to make the play made it, but they couldn't have done it without all of the other people around them. Those two plays combined with the third-down play, which is part of the whole thing, because you can have two good plays and then one bad one and it all gets erased, so it was a big three play sequence for us.

Q: Were you aware of the moment that Bon Jovi had on the jumbotron last night where he sang his hit 'Living on a Prayer' with the Gillette stadium crowd, and if so what was your reaction?

BB: Yeah, I was definitely aware of it. Jon [Bon Jovi], I mean I've heard him play that song dozens of times, but he had the place rocking, maybe a little more than we did. Yeah, pretty impressive. He's a great friend, been a great friend for a long time all the way back into the 80's. We've shared a lot of great moments together including the 1990 Super Bowl in Tampa where he was in the locker room after the game still taking crazy pictures and stuff like that; great memories from there. It was great to have Jon here and I always appreciate his great support. Yeah, it was quite a moment, one that you usually don't see at a professional football game. Yeah, it was special.

Q: How did you and Jon Bon Jovi initially become friends and meet in the first place?

BB: Well, Jon [Bon Jovi] is a big Giants fan. He grew up in New Jersey, so when I was coaching the Giants. We had a lot in common. We both liked the Giants.

Q: Was he just a frequent visitor at practice? Would Bill Parcells be the one to invite him over?

BB: Yeah, you know, I don't think Bill [Parcells] was a big Bon Jovi fan or Bruce Springsteen fan or anything like that. It wasn't exactly his musical style at that point in time. Some of the younger coaches on the staff, one in particular connected to him. [Sean] Landeta, you know Sean was another one. Sean and Jon [Bon Jovi] and I - we've done a few things together. Yeah, back to the Jersey-Giants days.

Q: That was my hard hitting question of the day.

BB: Yeah, that X's and O's question there on Jon [Bon Jovi] and 'Living on a Prayer', Mike [Reiss], that's not like the coin toss question we had last night.

Q: I could tell you liked that one.

BB: You've got a lot of variety. That's good. It keeps me on my toes.

Q: On the play where Cobi Hamilton caught a would-be touchdown but was penalized for going out of bounds prior to the catch, how do you coach your defensive players in situations like that? Are they instructed to let a guy go free once he steps out in hopes that the penalty is called correctly?

BB: If he's out, yeah, if he's out then that could happen on a play down the sideline where the defender jams the receiver out of bounds and he definitely goes out of bounds. Now that's only, it's really not a penalty. It turns out to be an incomplete pass. But anyway, that only comes into play if it's legal contact. So you can't illegally push the guy out of bounds and take him out of the play, but if you legally jam him out within five yards, or if the quarterback is out of the pocket, or if he runs out on his own and you know he's out, then yeah, the defender doesn't have to cover him. That's right. But in the red area that's something that we work on quite a bit defensively, and also offensively because there are so many sideline and end line plays and there's such a condensed amount of space that our receivers know they can't get too close, and defensively we know that if they get too close and we get a chance to push them out then that's the best coverage you can have. You have to count on the officials there to see that and of course all of those touchdowns are reviewed anyways, so again, if the player is sure then he can make that decision.

Q: Do you have any more thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons and that matchup after briefly touching on it last night?

BB: Yeah, I mean I've just kind of cleaned up some things from last night. We're not really there yet. I mean, you know, we've only seen them a little bit this year on TV and haven't really had them in many crossover games. But obviously a very good and very talented team and a number of people down there in that organization that I know and have worked with and I have a great deal of respect for them. But we'll start digging into them before the day is over.

Q: What was your reaction to Josh McDaniels stating that he was taking his name out of the running for a head coaching position, and what are your thoughts on what you saw out of him last night from a game plan standpoint?

BB: Well, I think Josh [McDaniels] did a great job last night, as he's done all year, as he's done for a long time during the time that he's been here. He's a tremendous coach. I thought really all three coordinators - Matt [Patricia], Josh and Joe [Judge] - did a great job last week of preparing the players with a good game plan and good preparation for the game. It felt like we were on top of the things that we need to be on top of. So yeah, it's great. We have a good staff and it's great to have those guys on it. It's great to have Josh on it. But I thought our coaching staff did a real good job this week. They deserve a lot of credit for the preparation, and play-calling, and game plans and so forth that they were responsible for. That was outstanding.

Q: You had some misdirection plays like the flea-flicker last night. You must work on those things throughout the course of the whole season but how do you know when it is the right time to use something like that? Is there a specific answer to when to determine using something like that?

BB: No, not really. I mean the time is whenever you think that time is, and that can change from obviously week to week, or by your personnel depending on what the play is and so forth. I mean look, it's not the kind of play you can run three or four times a game, so you know, you pick your spots on it. Part of those plays are the timing of when they're called. Any play can be a bad play if it's called at the wrong time, and a lot of plays can be good plays if they're called at the right time, so some of it is timing. Obviously a lot of it is execution, which had some difficult ball handling there and timing and getting a certain sell to the defense, and then being able to take advantage of that and so forth. It's not an easy play to execute but it was very well done. That's an important key to it. Again, drawing a play up on paper is one thing. Being able to go out and execute it at a high level against a good defense is a whole other story, too. Give the players credit for their execution and it was a great play call by Josh [McDaniels].

Q: What did you think of LeGarrette Blount's 18-yard run where he appeared to be stopped and then kept pushing to gain some extra yardage? Does that toughness kind of pump up the sideline or give the team a little bit of an extra jolt?

BB: Yeah, I mean the whole stadium, too. Yeah, I mean that was a great play. It was different but kind of reminiscent of the [Mark] Bavaro play in San Francisco, speaking of old Giants. But yeah, you know, you don't see that very often, but it's a great look at determination and toughness and just running strong with a purpose. Look, we've seen Pittsburgh do that, too. [Le'Veon] Bell had one of those plays last week, or a couple of weeks ago, whatever it was. We know LeGarrette [Blount] is that kind of back. He's a big back. He's a horse. He can carry some guys with him and make tough yards, but that was kind of a tone-tempo setting play that was, again, different but kind of similar to the play he had versus Miami where he hurdled [Reshad] Jones on the sideline. He's got some very aggressive running plays that are kind of characteristic of him and when you see one like that it's certainly, yeah, it puts a lot of energy in the team, the sideline, and like I said, really the entire stadium.

Q: What has been the biggest factor in the improvement the defense has shown throughout the course of the year?

BB: Preparation, practice, execution. There's no magic wand. You've just got to go out there and, look, there are five eligible receivers. Usually we get at least four of them out. In man-to-man coverage you've got to cover them. We've got to rush the passer, contain the quarterback, stop the run. Zone coverage; it's a short throw. You've got to be on the receivers tight or a good quarterback can get the ball into those windows. Again, good execution of zone coverage, getting to the receivers, filling up those spaces so it's hard to throw the ball in there. It really just comes down to playing good team defense in both the running game and the passing game and on the goal line, which gets into a whole new set of defensive calls and techniques. We've had a couple of big stops down there, too, over the course of the year.

Q: How important was the communication between Eric Rowe and Logan Ryan on that third-down stop your defense had down on the goal line, and more specifically how important is it for that communication to be subtle so the offense doesn't see what adjustment they are trying to make?

BB: Right. Well, that's a challenging situation for the defense because of number one - the skill level of the players that are involved. The offense has patterns to beat whichever way you want to play it. So if you lock it, then they want to pick you. If you combo it and play some type of inside-out coverage, then if both guys go the same way, double inside or double outside, then the player that's waiting for the other part of the release gets out-leveraged and they have you there. So there's some different combinations that you can do defensively, and offensively there are several combinations that you can run that beat the combination that the defense is using, or give you the best leverage chance of beating it. So that's really what that is. I'd say for the most part whatever pattern is called is probably going to get run by the offense. I don't think they would necessarily change the pattern based on what they think the call might be, but they could I guess if they knew for sure what it was. It's really defensively trying to get the right leverage on what you think the pattern is going to be. If you just play it the way you feel most confident in playing it or depending on which receiver is where and so forth, what the overall formation or look is. Maybe you prefer one over another based on a certain tendency. But that's the game; it's a game within a game there matching three-on-three, three-on four, two-on-three, two-on-two, those combinations. Pittsburgh does that a lot. They're very good at it. They have a lot of tight formation looks and they motion into them at times as well. Also they add another level - they didn't on that play - but that adds another level of communication and coordination with those players when those formations get built with motion as opposed to aligned. But again, one of the advantages of aligning in them is to read the defense and kind of see how they're going to play them so it gives the quarterback a cleaner look. That's a little bit of a cat and mouse game there.

Q: Can you elaborate a little more about this defense, and maybe at what point did you look at this defense and think you had a pretty solid group where you may have looked at it as a potential championship defense?

BB: Well, as the season goes on and you get into games like we've had the last few weeks, Miami was a playoff team; that was kind of like a playoff game. Baltimore, Denver were those big kind of games at the end of the season. Then the last two we've had - I think that's where teams, players, units, I mean that's where those levels really get identified because you're playing against the very best teams, the very highest level of competition. Some of that really remains to be determined in this year. We made some changes during the year. We always make changes. It's a process you go through. You put players in certain situations and certain groupings together and some work better than others, or maybe you see more potential in a certain player or group of players or combination of players than others, and you decide to move forward more with that or maybe you do it less because you don't feel as good about it or players develop or improve or whatever it is and it's just an ongoing process. It doesn't happen overnight. There's no switch that you can flip. It comes through a lot of hard work, a lot of meetings, a lot of communication on how we're going to do things and then a lot of on the field execution at actually doing them at a good competitive level so that we can gain confidence in each other as a unit as to how that's going to happen in a live game situation. Working hard, continuing to improve and guys taking whatever opportunities they get and either moving forward with it or possibly somebody else getting an opportunity and moving ahead of a player at a point in the season. That's just a competitive situation. We're going to play the best players and basically everybody will get a chance to do it somewhere along the line, and the players that play the best will play more and the players that don't do it as well need to improve and need to change their playing time status or they'll continue to not get the playing time behind somebody else who is performing better.

Q: Did you get a chance to see Martellus Bennett's celebration with the cheerleaders post game and what has his personality meant to the locker room this season?

BB: Yeah, I missed all of the dancing with the cheerleaders; sorry. We'll have to get a replay on that. But you know, I'd say just in general it's great to, obviously it was a great win for our team and our organization last night, but it's great to see the players who have worked so hard take so much satisfaction in their relationship with their teammates and the goal that they accomplished last night. Another step in a season where the team has already won 16 games but it was another significant step. When you see them reacting and congratulating each other and celebrating like that, you know you have a closeness on the team that is special. I mentioned that last night and it's true. These guys, they work hard. They put up with a lot from me and they put up with a lot of significant demands and requirements here, but it's done with the intent to try and produce a good product and a good team. They buy into it. They perform well in critical situations like last night. I take a lot of satisfaction in seeing them achieve that because they've worked so hard for it and I think they deserve it, but you've got to go out and prove it. Again, going back to Jerry Izenberg - 'No Medals for Trying.' This time of year everybody tries hard. Everybody has a good team that is still playing. You're only rewarded for achievement. Last night we were fortunate enough to earn that. It's a great feeling to see everybody have that kind of interaction with each other and feel so good about their teammates and the guys they've worked so hard with.

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