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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 9/12

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Q: We saw Jimmy Garoppolo move well in the pocket on some plays like the third-down completion late in the game to Danny Amendola. What was your sense of his pocket presence throughout the game?

BB: I think Jimmy does a good job in the pocket. He has got good vision. He saw a couple of opportunities to run and then he saw a couple of other opportunities to slide in the pocket, extend the play. The play you're talking about to [Danny] Amendola - that was one. He had another one to Julian [Edelman] that got called back but I thought it was another kind of equally good play where he slid up in the pocket, didn't cross the line of scrimmage and hit Julian for the first down, but the play was called back because of a penalty. But I thought he did a good job of that. He doesn't hang on to the ball. He gets it out of there on time but if things are covered then he has made good decisions in and out of the pocket on those extended plays.

Q: How is he different from Tom Brady in that way?

BB: I think all of the good quarterbacks are good at that. They know when they're under pressure. They just have that sense. They know when they're hurried, they're under pressure and they have to get rid of it. They know then there's a little bit of extra time to hold the ball in the pocket. They know when they have to get out of the pocket, and then they have to make a decision as to whether to run or extend the play and throw it before the rush kind of reconvenes around them. I mean that's something that all quarterbacks do and it's just the sense that you learn from playing that position. Your eyes are downfield but you feel the rush.

Q: What was Malcolm Mitchell able to show you over the summer that allowed him to earn your trust in a big game last night?

BB: Well, Malcolm really did a lot for us up until the New Orleans game when he was injured in that preseason game and then I thought he came back as quick as he could. He worked very hard to get back on the field and had a good week of practice for us last week before the Arizona game. Other than those couple of weeks that he missed he has been out there a lot and he has done a good job for us. Obviously, that's why we kept him on the team but he did a good job in the spring and he has done a good job for us in training camp so he has been a pretty standard performer, like I said, other than those couple of weeks that he missed after the New Orleans game.

Q: What were your thoughts on the performance of the offensive line last night and do you think having Coach Dante Scarnecchia back made a difference?

BB: Well, I mean of course I think the world of Dante. I think he is as fine of a coach as anybody that I've coached with and I've had the opportunity to coach with a lot of them, certainly. Him and Coach [Nick] Saban are up there pretty high along with a lot of other great coaches, and Scott O'Brien in the kicking game. But yeah, it's great to have him back and he does a tremendous job with the individual techniques of the players and also in terms of making them aware of their assignments and adjustments and scheme things that come up, too. Those two components are just huge for the offensive line, not only individually but so that all five guys understand the same thing at the same time because that's really what makes an offensive line a good line, is that they can all work together and do it cohesively. He does a great job of all of those things. But, you know, we really played three guards last night. Joe [Thuney] on the left side and then Shaq [Mason] and Ted [Karras] on the right side. They [Arizona] have a good defensive line. They gave us some problems. We blocked them a lot but not always. They were able to have a couple of disruptive plays in there and they're a very talented group so, you know, we hung in there, we competed with them and we had some good ones and some not so good ones, but we hung in there and kept slugging it out.

Q: What went into the success that your offense had on third-down and do you think that helped negate the fact that you lost the turnover battle?

BB: Sure, yeah, well I'd say unfortunately the turnovers really weren't offset. We didn't get them and then the ones that they got, they scored touchdowns on, so we didn't really have the offset to that. I'd say on the penalties, the third-down conversions helped on some of those where we put ourselves in long-yardage situations with penalty infractions and then were able in a couple of cases to convert on third-down and overcome that, or on one case I think we overcame a sack that got us into a long-yardage situation and then converted on third-down. So, those third-downs got us out of a couple of negative plays that we had on earlier downs which we've got to do a better job of avoiding. The turnovers, we've got to cut those down period. That's just the bottom line. We can't turn the ball over as much as we have the last two weeks and expect to win consistently, but fortunately we were able to score enough points or hold them to - other than those two turnovers - really not very many points in order to win, but that's going to be hard to do every week. We probably aren't going to be able to count on that. We're going to have to do a better job of taking care of the ball.

Q: Seeing as he played mostly right tackle in college, what went into the decision to put Cameron Fleming at the left tackle position last night?

BB: Well, as you know Phil [Perry], we play our offensive linemen at a lot of different positons, so I'd say really all of our tackles have played both sides and we just felt like that was the right thing to do. We weren't sure of Nate [Solder]'s situation going into the game. As you know, he practiced last week and so rather than switching everybody around, moving Marcus [Cannon] over to the left and making two moves instead of one, we weren't even sure who would have to make the one [move] depending on if Nate would've been able to turn the corner then that wouldn't have even necessitated that. We would've just had a third swing tackle. All of those things kind of played a part of it but in the end we did what we felt like was best for the game. I thought Cam did a credible job over there, again, blocking a couple of good pass rushers but he hung in there and gave us some plays in the running game and hung in there on pass protection, so I thought he did a pretty solid job.

Q: Could you expand on the work of your special teams unit last night and whether or not they answered the challenge?

BB: Well, you know, I think we have a lot of leadership on our special teams group. Stephen Gostkowski gives us great leadership of the specialists and through his long tenure here and high level of perfomance - he's a very steadying influence on the group. Of course, Matthew Slater, our special teams' captain but other players like Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden, Jonathan Freeny, guys like that, that also are really our core players and then we have some younger players in the group, but they all take a lot of pride in their roles, in their jobs. And even when we've had some of the starters out there like Patrick Chung; had a big tackle there on that last kickoff. [Devin] McCourty had a big tackle on the kickoff they tried to bounce all the way across the field, you know, plays like that. So, no matter who's out there those guys take a lot of pride in that. They know how important field position is and believe me, if you're a defensive player you want that field position for your defense and if you're an offensive player then you want that field position for your offense. So, those guys really support each other, they work well together as a unit. Coach [Joe] Judge and Coach [Ray] Ventrone have done a great job of - I was just talking about the offensive line; how well they have to work together - I would say it's even more true but harder in the kicking game because it's not always the same people working together and you're dealing in a lot more space; on the front line of the kickoff return handling twists and different movements that those guys have or on the punt team protecting against rush looks, again, with different guys beside you. Maybe not different guys, but you're only doing it for a few plays in practice whereas an offensive line - they're going to run many more plays than that together so just more time with each other. But Joe and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] have done a good job with that and those guys have really worked hard to have that kind of trust and belief in each other, in their assignments, so we can play aggressively and it really helped us last night. Our field goal execution, our field goal team, and the overall execution of the specialists there to have those field goals was part of the difference in the game. Our kickoff coverage, punt coverage, even though we didn't have a lot to show for the returns, we gained a few extra yards here and there on the punt and kickoff returns that in the end they all count, so we're fighting for every yard and those guys did a good job of that, so I thought that group really helped us last night in all the phases. I mean we were close on that last field goal, too. I'm not sure if it had been kicked down the middle if Chung wouldn't have had it because it seemed like the ball missed him just a little bit to the side but that was kind of where the ball was being kicked. Had it gone straight Chung might've had it. In any case, I think our effort and our overall play in all the units last night was a big contributor to our success.

Q: How much of a factor is conditioning in the opening regular season game due to the fact that a lot of players may not play a whole game during the preseason?

BB: Yeah, I think Bob [Socci] it's a really good point. It's something that we've been talking to our players about for several weeks now and just being exactly how you described it. Look, you're not going to play every play of a preseason game but in September you might be playing every play of the regular season game, so here are your preseason plays in preseason but we've got to work your condition level to a much higher point than that because the commands are going to be higher, and I'd say they're even going to be higher this week when we go to a 1:00 p.m. game on Sunday. Last night's game was indoors, and I mean if we had played that game outside yesterday that would've been even more challenging. I don't know what we're going to get here this weekend but I'm saying potentially a warmer day at 1:00 p.m. tests your conditioning a lot more than a cooler evening does in preseason. All of those things are part of the buildup and we can't get them in preseason but we have to get them in our training camp and the practices to try to prepare for that. I thought that our levels were pretty good there and we executed some plays well at the end of the game that we really needed. I'd say one of the plays that kind of stood out to me was the screen pass on that last drive where you can see our defensive line and linebackers running to the ball with a lot of effort to close that space down very quickly. I think we tackled them for a loss on that but the energy and the speed that the players were moving with at that point of the game I thought was pretty good, so that's the type of conditioning we feel like we're going to need to win a 60 minute game. It certainly was a 60 minute game last night.

Q: Has it now become a part of situational football to decide whether or not to kick the ball off for a touchback or try one of those pop-up kickoffs to the goal line? Would your decision on the final kickoff to pop it up have been different if the touchback brought it out to the 20-yard line like in years past?

BB: Yeah, it might be. I don't know, I don't really think of it in those terms but I understand your question Mike [Reiss]. I can't sit here and say "Well what would we have done last night if the touchback was at the 20, at the 22, at the 18, at the 17," you know? There's some breaking point in there, wherever that is, but I think what ended up happening on that play [is] we kicked off and [Patrick] Chung and [Nate] Ebner made the tackle I think around the 16-yard line, but then with the penalty [against] Jonathan Jones it put the ball around the eight. And so the difference between the ball being on the eight and the 25 on that last field would've been pretty significant. I think at that point last night we kind of had the mentality of "Our kickoff team - it's their job to do go down there and get them." We're going to make them earn however many yards they get. We're going to make them earn them. We're not going to give them a quarter or 25 percent of the field. We're going to make them earn every yard that they get the ball out to. They're going to have to block, and run, and break a tackle, or whatever, to gain those yards, and the players - they made great plays. [Matthew] Slater made a great play that helped free up Ebner, Ebner made a great play coming off of the block, Chung sliced in there and made the tackle and Jonathan Jones was the first man down. They had to hold him to block him so that he didn't get him sooner. All of those guys were a part of it but would it have been different if the rule had been different? I mean at some point it probably would've been. I can't tell you exactly where that is.

Q: We saw Justin Coleman with a few big pass breakups, one at the end of the first half and one near the end of the game. What did you think of the play of Justin Coleman and Jonathan Freeny last night?

BB: Yeah, I thought that Coleman gave us some real quality plays and that one at the end of the half that you mentioned was good. The one at the end of the game where they were, it looked like, trying to run the ball to get it into field goal position to get the ball a little bit closer and we had our safeties down to defend the run, and so [Carson] Palmer threw the fade up outside and Coleman made the play on that, which was another big play because it stopped the clock which kind of worked in our favor a little bit in that particular point in time and also no yards gained. It's a big breakup and I think it really probably discouraged Palmer from thinking about doing that again, so that was a key play for us as well as the one you said at the end of the half where we undercut [Jaron] Brown and was able to get his hands right up in the pocket of the catch and break it up. That was big. And the same thing for Jonathan - we only really played three linebackers last night - Jonathan, Jamie [Collins] and High [Dont'a Hightower], and so Jonathan's snaps along with High and Jamie to be able to help distribute that a little bit, that was an important part of the overall composition of the game as well, too. All of those guys and on the defensive line we rotated really all eight players on the defensive line, defensive end and defensive tackle. I think our ability to kind of stay fresh and have some stamina there at the end of the game when we needed to be able to rush the passer; that ended up being beneficial.

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