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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 10/19

[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="371736"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Q: After reviewing the film, what did you see on that fake punt play?

BB: Well, I think the play was a version of the swinging gate play. I don't know exactly how it was supposed to work. That's something you'd have to ask them about. They brought the gunner in to snap the ball so he would've been an eligible receiver, so we had to cover him. I think basically you want to try to, on punt formations you like that, it's just a numbers game. You want to have enough guys to match to the smaller numbers, and as many guys as you can to match to the larger number where they were over-shifted. We certainly knew that the punter could throw. He's done that before. He's thrown passes to uncovered guys on punt formations, and we saw him run against Tennessee, so we were aware of those things. So it's just kind of everybody making sure that they take care of their responsibility on the shift and make sure that we can defend the formation and know who is eligible. I think it's something that every special teams coach goes over. The same thing could happen on field goals with the swinging gate. You see teams line up for an extra point with everybody over on the hash mark and if you don't have it covered they flip it out to him and if you do then they come back in and kick the extra point. It's that type of a play. 

Q: How impactful of a play was that for your team?

BB: Well, it was a good alert play by our punt return unit and Coach [Joe] Judge and Coach [Ray] Ventrone for having those guys well prepared. It gave us good field position, and then we were able to capitalize on the field position and turn that into seven points. Any time you get that kind of field position, whether it be on a turnover or in this case on downs, whatever it is, you want to be able to take advantage of it. That was the most important thing and we did that, so that was the best thing about it. 

Q: Did Jamie Collins make the decision to jump the line on his own to block the extra point, or was that something that was called in from the sideline? How impactful of a play was that for your team?

BB: It was an interesting situation. When we scored the touchdown after the fake punt, there was strong consideration given to going for two there, and as it turned out that would have been the right thing to do to go for two. Now there was quite a bit of a time left to go in the game and that one point swing the way it turned out, it would have been better to go for two the way the game turned out, but had there been other scores, like what happened in the Cleveland-Denver game yesterday, with time left that can change the equation a little bit so we elected to kick it and make it a 13-point lead given the amount of time that was left in the game. So, the blocked extra point led to it being a touchdown game instead of a six-point game which as it turned out didn't make any difference, but had they recovered the onside kick then it would have made a world of difference. I think any time you run a play like that you need some kind of coordination. I don't think you want a player to do that on his own because you could have one of your interior lineman making the move into a gap where he is trying to get through and then you run into each other and that kind of thing. So, I don't really think that's what you're looking for. If you want to try to run that type of a block, I think you need it coordinated. Otherwise, you're probably asking for something to go wrong and then you have a good play and you screw it up because it's just not orchestrated. We definitely didn't want anybody running where he was going to go. 

Q: What goes into the decision to go for two in a moment like that when there are so many things to consider?

BB: The less time there is to go in the game, the fewer possessions there are, then the more I think you want to just stick to the chart. That gives you the best mathematical probability of doing the right thing. The problem is that if there is enough time to go in the game, those numbers can change. Of course if you make it, it's always the right decision. If you don't make it, like again what happened in the Denver-Cleveland game, had Cleveland kicked the extra point and not gone for two going back to whatever the score was there, then they could have potentially been kicking a game-winning instead of a game-tying field goal at the end. If you just want to go purely by the chart, you can do that. Again, sometimes that can get you into trouble if there is enough time for there to be multiple scores and then the numbers change. Again, if you feel very confident in your two-point play for whatever reason, if you like the matchup or the look you're going to get or whatever it is and you make it, then that's always the best decision. But percentage-wise, it's a lot higher probability that you will kick the extra point than you will convert the two-point conversion if it's just strictly a statistical comparison. 

Q: What did you think of Rob Gronkowski's play last night, especially his run blocking in the first half? Also, what did you see on his onside kick recovery at the end?

BB: The onside kick, Rob made a good play on that. The guys in front of him made a real good play. They knocked off the blockers and Jonathan Freeny actually had a block where he kind of pushed his guy into [Donte] Moncrief and kind of got a two-on-one and that made it clean for Rob to handle the ball. The ball was spiked high. It was a good kick. I'm not sure if he hadn't of handled it, like if there had been somebody in his way where he couldn't have fielded the ball, it looked short of 10 yards. I think it would have eventually gone 10 but I don't know if it would've gone 10 when it hit the ground. But I thought he made a good play. We tell him, if you can handle the ball cleanly to get it and he did. So, it was a good play by him, but it was well executed by the entire hands team. I thought Rob did a solid job for us last night both in the running game and in the passing game. We had some good run blocking. We ran the ball productively at times. We didn't have any negative plays. Some plays didn't gain a lot of yardage, but we didn't have plays that went backwards where we lost yardage and ended up in longer yardage situations on second and third down, so that was good. I thought he gave us a solid effort all the way through.

Q: Do you coach players to score if they have a chance on an onside kick? It looked like Rob Gronkowski wanted to do that.

BB: Well again, it depends on the situation in the game. In that particular situation with the Colts out of timeouts and the amount of time that was left in the game, all we had to do was kneel on the ball, so you don't want to take any needless opportunities or chances in trying to advance the ball. Ball possession really wins the game in that situation. But again I think that play was a little bit unusual because Rob was moving forward. He kind of made the play on the run so it might have been a little more awkward for him to go down than to just catch it and keep moving forward. The most important thing in that play is obviously just ball security, is securing possession of that ball. A lot of times it's going to the ground and securing it, but on that particular one it was probably actually easier for him to do it the way he did, and he handled it very cleanly. Those are the plays we talk about a lot. They don't come up all that frequently for any individual team. Maybe if you watched all the games over the weekend, you'd probably see a couple of them every weekend, but for your individual team, when that play comes up, it's kind of a game-winning play. It's kind of like the Hail Mary pass that goes into the end zone – if you defend it you win and if you don't you lose. The onside kick is maybe not quite that dramatic, but it's pretty close so if you can make that play then you can run out the clock and end the game and if you can't make it they have that chance to score and you've got to stop them on defense. The execution of that play is critical when it comes up. It just doesn't happen all that often. But when it does, everything you've done in the previous 59 minutes all hinges on the execution of that one play.

Q: In retrospect, would you have gone for two in the same situation?

BB: Look, at that point, if you had told me that those were going to be the final points scored in the game until a minute to go in the game, it just didn't look like that's the way the game was going at that point. But as it turned out, whether you're up by 12 or you're up by 13 with less than two minutes to go in the game, it doesn't really make any difference. You'd be better off to be up by 14 than up by 13 or 12 for that matter. If you know there's not going to be any more scores, that's why I'm saying the closer you get to the end of the game, the more you can rely on the chart, the more time there is remaining and the more opportunities there are for scores if you don't make that two point conversion. Again, going back to the Denver-Cleveland game from yesterday, it was a good example of when Cleveland went for two to make it 22-16 and they got stopped, so now it was 20-16, and then Denver scored and now it's 23-20 instead of 23-21, and now you've got the field goal to tie instead of the field goal to win. But without that touchdown, a six-point lead and a four-point lead is the same thing. But then as soon as Denver hit that long pass, now the whole chart changes again and you're on the wrong side of it. Like I said, the less time there is, I think the more you go with the chart. If you have that same score differential in the first quarter, a lot of times you just take the higher probability of an extra point and play the game out. If that is going to be the last score until the final minute of the game, then you're better off following the chart. But again, if you have a play you really like and you feel confident about the play, there is really no reason not to run that play. If you feel 95 percent about that play, then you could run that any time because it's always good to get two points. 

Q: It seems like you're relying more on Malcolm Butler defensively as compared to last season. Has he grown into that role?

BB: His role is that he's out on the field for almost every defensive play, so that's a big change from where it was last year. Malcolm is a good football player and he's played very well for us both last year and this year, but just given where we are in the secondary and the level of improvement, I think no matter who we had on our team that he would be playing a lot of football for us. So that's really a credit to him and how much he's improved from last year to this year. He's a good football player. He's playing well. He does a lot of good things for us, and there is still a lot of room for him to improve. I don't think he's hit the peak, but he's getting better and I thought he played well last night. 

Q: Is that PAT block something you've had in the playbook for a while, or is it something you put in strictly with Jamie Collins' athleticism in mind?

BB: Well again if you're going to try to do something like that, if the field goal team stands up and plays kind of high or in kind of an erect posture in their protection then it's, A, hard to jump over them and, B, you're probably going to get called for a foul because you're going to come down on one of your guys or one of their guys and you're going to have to use one of their players to get the height and leverage that you need, and all those things are illegal. So, you can't really jump unless you don't land on anybody, like so if you jump a couple yards behind the defensive side of the line so you don't come down on top of any of our players or their players, that would be legal, or if you're able to clear the line cleanly like Jamie did, then that's legal, too. What you can't do is use one of their bodies to launch yourself higher or jump up and come down on either them or us. It has to be kind of the right technique and the right situation and the right situation and opportunity to do that. You just can't do that against anybody. A, it would be a foul and, B, the guy would probably get broken in half. 

Q: What did you see from both teams' running game in the third quarter?

BB: I thought that overall we defended the running game, the traditional running game, fairly well. We got hit on a couple big plays, one in particular where they kind of trapped us in the middle and we missed a tackle. We just didn't play that very well. And then a lot of the other yardage came on quarterback scrambles. So we definitely didn't play those as well as we'd like to. But the overall running game, if you take out [Frank] Gore's long run, which you can't do because that's part of the running game, I understand that, but it wasn't like every time they were handing the ball off it was seven or eight yards, if you take his long run out of there then you're probably under four yards a carry, three-and-a-half, whatever it was, and that's pretty competitive. But we gave up at least 20 yards and then [Andrew] Luck had whatever he had – 35 yards or whatever it was – so he was at like eight or nine yards a carry, but he had a long run, too, that 25-yard scramble. Probably over half of their rushing yardage came on two plays. Now those two plays count, I'm not saying that, but when those plays happen you fix those hopefully, you try to fix those, and then you look at the rest of it and it's not that bad. But when you put those two big, chunk plays in there, then that piles up the yardage. It's kind of the same thing on our end of it with LeGarrette [Blount]. His night doesn't look the same without the 35-yard touchdown run. When you put that in there, and again that counts, I'm not saying that, but I'm just saying from an adjustment standpoint or defensive standpoint, it's a lot easier to fix one thing if it's a one-time thing than it is every time they hand off the ball they're gaining six, seven yards. Then that makes it a much bigger problem. I thought we were competitive in the running game, but obviously the big run, that hurt us. That was part of that long drive and that wasn't good. We got that fixed and that didn't continue to be a problem fortunately. 

Q: Did you get the feeling that they were getting more confident?

BB: Yeah, no question that their running game is more productive this year than what it's been. Gore is a big part of it, but like I said during the week, when they got their offensive line settled down a little bit here and they moved [Jack] Mewhort back in at guard, left guard, and [Hugh] Thornton came back at right guard, and they put [Joe] Reitz at tackle instead of having to play Mewhort out there and put him back at guard, the last three, four games when they've had that combination, they were a lot more productive running the ball. I'd say the overall execution of it was something that we had a lot of respect for going into the game and still do. They have a good back and a good line, and they do a good job, which they did last night, with their schemes. They had a couple of plays that they checked in the running game when they saw a look, and then there were a couple plays that they checked out of when it looked like we probably would have been in a decent run defensive look and Luck checked to the passing game. And then there were a couple times where he might have gone from one run to another or a pass to a run, I'm not sure, but where they got a good run against a good look, a good defensive look. Their ability to game plan those runs, get into good plays to attack defensive weaknesses, that's part of the whole thing, too. The combination of that, the running back, the offensive line – that was all part of it. Then as the game went on, we saw a lot less of [Jack] Doyle, number 84, and a lot more of [Coby] Fleener and [Dwayne] Allen playing tight end, whereas when Doyle was in there with Allen, that gave them two bigger blockers. But the score by the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, I think the score kind of … Well, they didn't use that formation as much, which is understandable, and they were in more either 11 personnel sets with Allen or Allen and Fleener in the game at the same time or 11 personnel sets with Fleener. Fleener is a good player, but he's not really their point of attack blocker on a lot of their running plays. It's usually one of the other two guys.

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