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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 1/3

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Q: The number of sacks Tom Brady has taken has dropped this year. Is that more a result of his quick release or is it just overall improvement in the play of the offensive line?

BB: Well, I think there are a lot of factors that go into it. I think those are two things of many. Certainly playing from ahead is helpful. Receivers, backs, tight ends, whatever it happens to be, are open that have space and give the quarterback somebody to throw to so we can release the ball quickly is a part of it. First and second-down, as it relates to third-down, which is where usually the majority of sacks occur - not certainly all - but somewhere in the 50-percent range generally are on third-down. So staying out of the longer yardage situations minimizes that. Those third-down sacks where you have to hold the ball, and maybe a little more willing to hold the ball on third-down because if you don't get it you're going to punt it anyway. I'd say all of those things are a part of it. They all contribute somewhat to it. I don't know what the exact percentage of it would be. I wouldn't put any of them necessarily above the other ones. They're all a part of it.

Q: How much have Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung's consistency playing back there together in the secondary been a stabilizing force for this defense?

BB: It's a big help. Again, it's hard to put a price tag on that but certainly there is one. That's where the communication is most critical, is that safety positon on the back end of the defense. It's critical for the middle linebacker in the front seven, but the safety position in the secondary is your last line of defense, so when it's a mistake there it results in usually more damage. But they're both not only smart, dependable players but good tacklers, probably two of the better tacklers in the league at their position. Again, the ability to keep a short play from becoming a long play and give the defense a chance to line up on another down and continue to compete on the drive - that's critical. Those guys, they're very good at that. And Duron [Harmon], who's playing time is below theirs but is still significant for a third safety adds to that so we get all three of them on the field at the same time, it just makes us a strong team down the middle.

Q: How do the skills of both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung complement each other?

BB: Yeah, I think they do a very good job of that. They work together well. They study and communicate off the field well on how to, as you said, play off each other or work in combination or work on disguises and things like that. They're really pretty interchangeable, and yeah, they do a very good job of not only talking on the field. I mean that's somewhat of a given, but they do a great job off the field in the classroom, in the walkthroughs, just in general of having an idea of 'Hey, on this play I'll do this. On that play I can do that. How about you do this?' And again, Duron [Harmon] is a big part of that, too. So all of those guys really have a very good - you know when Duron is in there he's usually in the safety position with Devin [McCourty] and [Patrick] Chung's in some other position for the most part. There's a lot of that same conversation and communication working with each other; all three of those guys. Again, I don't want to - Patrick and Devin do a great job, I'm not taking anything away from them - but Duron, he's a big part of that, too.

Q: What is it about the mindset of Dion Lewis that allows him to be an effective pass protector despite being an undersized running back?

BB: Right. Well, it's definitely been a catch up area for him but he's worked hard to do that and I think a lot of pass protection - I mean those backs are almost always giving up some size unless it's a secondary blitzer. They're usually giving up some size to the linebackers and occasionally when they have to block a defensive end or a defensive tackle if it's a particular blitz scheme. The fact that they do that, that's obviously not the way we would do it or want to do it, but sometimes with a certain look in order to stop the penetration in the inside gaps you have to make an adjustment in the protection. Obviously, Dion [Lewis] has good leverage. He has good playing strength. For the backs, especially in those inside gaps, it's making sure that you step up, you get to them kind of before they can get a running start on you and you hold the line of scrimmage so you don't get powered back into the quarterback. When they protect on the edge then it's more of staying inside-out and moving up to create enough space but not up enough like you'd quite have to do into those center-guard gaps in the line of scrimmage. Dion is a tough kid. He's certainly willing to step up in there and take them. The size, it is what it is. Again, that's the way it is with most backs but it's really about leverage and pad-level and just being in front of him long enough so we can get rid of the ball. It's not like a running play where an offensive lineman has to get movement and create space for the runner to get through. It's just a question of staying in front of the guy so the quarterback can get the ball off.

Q: Do you take any pride in the fact that you've made some trades and acquisitions here during the season that seem to be working out pretty well?

BB: Well, we always have the mindset here to try and improve our team however we can. That goes from the last day of the 2015 season to the last day of the - or the first day of the 2015 season, the day that ended - until the last day of the 2016 season. So whatever we can do to improve our team, we'll look at it. We've done that, whether that's signing a player as a free agent, trade for a player, pick up a player off of waivers. There are a number of different ways to add players to your roster; bring them up off your practice squad. There are a number of ways to add players to your roster and if we feel that there's a need because of an injury or an opportunity because of the player that we're adding, if it looks like he can bring something to our team then we'll do that. We've always done that. Some have worked out, not all of them do. Not all of the players we currently have on our roster at the end of training camp work out either, so it's just trying to do what's best for the team.

Q: Do you think Nick Caserio's familiarity with your system and structure here has helped when bringing in players through trades or free agency?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean Nick [Caserio] does a tremendous job. He and his staff do a tremendous job of, first of all, seeing hundreds and hundreds of players from the draft choices on a perspective draft class to all of the players in the league on all of the teams. Training camp we start looking at the players that we think might be available, might not make the roster, and then as we go through training camp players that maybe a team would consider trading or moving off of their roster but aren't released players. And then all of the practice squad transactions so we're definitely a team that has some roster movement throughout the course of the year and Nick does a great job. I don't think anybody, I can't imagine any personnel person in the league that sees more players than he does both in the spring scouting process part of it for the draft and then just watching tape on players throughout the course of the year. He does a great job of that, bringing players to the table, to the conversation, guys that would help our team or guys that might be available that we could trade for. That's happened a few times this year, or be released and so forth. Nick has a good staff. A lot of those guys have been here for a number of years. We have a lot of experience on both our pro and college staff. Dave Ziegler and Monti Ossenfort - those guys do a great job as well and the people that work with them. Yeah, there's some good familiarity all the way around. We've dealt with a lot of players. A lot of times when we bring a guy in we can say 'This player is sort of similar to somebody else we had. This would be his role or this would be how he would be beneficial for us in a situation similar to somebody else we've had,' so that's part of the experience. It's definitely valuable and the fact that we've been together and we've all gone through a lot of players together, both guys that have worked out and guys that haven't, certainly helps the overall efficiency and the smoothness of the operation. But yeah, those guys do a great job. It's a huge volume of number of players that they have to dig through, but they do it tirelessly. I think Nick and his staff have done a great job on that.

Q: What did you see on the touchdown play to Kenny Stills in Miami last Sunday and was there a breakdown in the secondary or something else that was supposed to happen that led to him being that open?

BB: Yeah, what was supposed to happen was we were supposed to have the pattern covered but we didn't. Yeah, I mean I think really that play is probably more my fault than anybody else's. There were certainly things that could've been better on it, but in the end we have some flexibility in our coverages and we make adjustments in coverages from time to time based on a formation or based on the type of pattern that another team is running. I think this was just one of those where really the players, they were trying to do the right thing. We were trying to get to something that would've helped us but it just kind of didn't work out and that's, again, really probably more my fault because we just didn't have it clean enough. It just wasn't presented well enough, not that they didn't understand it, and it just obviously didn't play out the way we want it to. The players are trying to do the right thing. They had the right idea. We were trying to apply something and we just didn't quite have it right, and that really goes back to me more than anybody else, so I'll take that one.

Q: On Saturday as you were preparing to travel to Miami and the team flight was delayed for several hours, were you able to accomplish anything during that time from a game plan standpoint or was it just a waste of time?

BB: Well, I mean whether you - I mean look that wasn't the way we planned it but you either - I mean first of all, I'd say everybody was pretty comfortable. That was fortunate. We had a big plane. The players rested and a lot of the coaches were working on the things that we needed for the night meeting and so forth, like we'd normally do. There's quite a bit of work that goes on on the plane between the coaches and other people. There are non-players that are working on the trip so we don't really take a lot of people from the football area that don't have a specific role for the game. I think the players; they got their rest on the plane. Otherwise they would've been sitting in their hotel room doing it. We didn't have the walkthrough Saturday night that we normally would have. We did that Sunday morning. Had we been delayed a little bit longer I think we would've probably gotten off the plane and maybe done a walkthrough in one of the hanger areas. But as we were getting ready to do that things cleared up and we were able to get moving and get underway so it didn't really come to that. Honestly, I think it's not the way we planned it, but the players have handled those types of things well all year. Sometimes things come up. You have to adjust to them. You don't let them bother you. You control what you can control and that's what they did. Honestly, I didn't even hear anybody talking about it. It was something we just dealt with and moved on.

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