HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
(On how intelligent players must be to play New England's defense)
"It's definitely important. Our players have a lot of responsibilities and adjustments that they have to handle. A lot of that is communication as well as knowing what to do. It's also being able to communicate it through the entire group in the unit they're on on defense."
(on if he'd rather have a less talented player who was smarter)
"We're not doing an IQ test here, we're just trying to play football. The guys that are able to function within our system and be productive in it can help us and that's most football players."
*(on red zone offensive struggles)
"It's definitely an area that we've worked hard to improve on. It got a little better toward the end of the year, but last week against Indianapolis we missed a lot of scoring opportunities. It's an area that we can do better. I guess we've been good enough in some other areas to offset it, but it's certainly an area we want to try to improve in."
(on the difference between last year's team coming off of a Super Bowl and this year's)
"In all honesty we didn't play as well. That's the truth. We just didn't play well enough or coach well enough all the way around. We just didn't get it done. A lot of it was the same players, the same division, similar schedules but we just didn't play as well. That covers a lot of ground – offensively, defensively, special teams – we needed to do a better job playing and coaching. We tried to address some of those things in the offseason and I think some of them have improved this year."
*(on if there was a letdown to last year's team following a Super Bowl)
"No, I don't think that had anything to do with it. I thought that we worked hard, that we prepared hard. It wasn't like we were 1-15, but we just didn't play well enough and some teams played better that we did. I'm not saying that we played bad, we just didn't play good enough."
(on Joe Andruzzi coming back to New England)
"You've got to try to find talent however you can find it. You have got 32 teams in the league basically looking at the same pool of players, draft eligible players, NFL players who have experience in the league but are released. You're just trying to sort through them and find somebody. In Joe's case it's just a good fit for us. He's the type of player that we were looking for. Maybe his style and techniques weren't quite right for another team but they certainly were right for us. He's done a terrific job for us. Scott Pioli and the whole scouting department have done a great job of not just acquiring talent but building a team and that's really what the business is that we're in."
*(on who deserves credit for getting the team back to the Super Bowl)
"I think the credit goes to the team. The players are out there making the plays. They're the ones that are winning the games. They are the ones who should be recognized and hopefully they'll get it."
*(on his role leading up to this game)
"To help prepare the team for the challenges that are coming up. But in the end, they're the ones who step out there across the lines and either make the plays or don't make them. I'm not going to make any tackles this week. I haven't made any all year."
(on fourth down philosophy)
"That's a really good question. I couldn't give you a specific one, it depends on the circumstances and the situation. Playing in New England, the weather's a factor, the wind's a factor, the field goal range is a factor and sometimes you get into those positions where it's too far for a field goal and too close to punt, it's fourth and not that long so what are you going to do? Now sometimes, like last week, you have a fourth and short situation on our side of the 50. Some of that is your feel of the game; sometimes you have a good play for that situation so it could be a combination of things."
*(on the fourth down study by the University of California professor)
"The study is *(called) "Go for It." I saw that. Again, a lot of it depends not just on the situation but on how you feel your team is in that situation relative to the other team. Those stats are done with a million random teams in a million random situations, but that's just not the way football is. Football is your team against their team. If you feel you have a real solid edge on fourth and one then maybe you have more of an inclination to go for it. If you feel like this is a really good defense in this situation and no one has done very well against them and whatever the other conditions are then you don't go for it. Those are very specific situations."
(on his initial Super Bowl memories and what games stood out)
"The third Super Bowl with *(Joe) Namath and the Colts, that was a big one. Of course, I was living in Annapolis *(MD) and was a Colts fan at that point so it wasn't the best memory I had of the Super Bowls. When *(Roger) Staubach won, which ever one that was I forget now. Even the first ones, those were interesting because it was new – the AFC-NFC and Green Bay-Kansas City. I would say I've seen them all, maybe not from the first play to the last, but yeah I think I've seen them all."
(on if he wore NFL jerseys as a kid and his relationship with Roger Staubach)
"I don't think I ever had a Staubach Dallas jersey but I had plenty of Staubach Navy jerseys so I probably wore those. We always watched the Cowboys play if there was an option just because of Roger. When he was playing in the two Super Bowls I'd say those were probably a little more significant than the other ones. I've known him since I was 8-9 years old. That's what made it special. There's 100 other guys running around out there, but you kind of feel you that you have a little bit of a personal attachment to one that definitely made it different."
(on spending the offseason trying to improve run defense and now facing a team that led NFC in rushing attempts)
"It's a little bit of a twist. That was high on our priority list, to get our run defense up to a more competitive level. Carolina runs the ball, they do a great job. Dan Henning gives you a lot of different problems defensively in trying to defend what his attack is. They've got two good runners. They have guys like *(Muhsin) Muhammad who's an excellent crack blocker outside as a receiver, which gives them a presence on some of the outside running plays. We will be very much challenged this week with their running game and the coaching and scheme that Dan brings with them."
*(on if he expects anything special in facing Scott O'Brien)
"Scott does an awesome job. He's a great special teams coach. They're strong in every area. I think since Carolina has come into the league they have returned more kicks for touchdowns than any other team in football and that's not surprising to me. A, they've got good players and B, they've got a good scheme. They've blocked kicks this year. They won the Tampa game with their blocked field goals and extra points. They block them, the return them, they cover them well. They've got two really good specialists with kickers in terms of *(John) Kasay and *(Todd) Sauerbrun, who's a three year Pro Bowler. I thought his career improved and accelerated since he went to Carolina relative to Chicago. I know the kicking conditions are different, but he's had a great career down there in Carolina. I think Scott just does an outstanding job."
*(on why Tom Brady fits so well in their system)
"Number one, Tom's smart. He really understands not only what we're doing offensively, but what the other teams defensively are doing. He can put them together. He does a very good job of managing the game in terms of making game decisions, clock management, audibles. I think it starts with Tom's intelligence, his preparation. He's got good throwing mechanics, he's accurate with the ball and makes good decisions under pressure. All of those are qualities you'd like to have in your quarterback and he's got them."
*(on if this team used the same blueprint to reach the Super as the Patriots from two years ago)
"I think there are a lot of similarities, but every team is different and every year is different and the challenges you meet along the way are different so you have to be somewhat adaptable. But basically, I think we're at least playing in the same fairway."
*(on whether Scott O'Brien is quirky)
"He's just good. He's into it. He loves football. He loves special teams. That's what he wants to do and he just does an awesome job. He really does. He works well with young players, takes advantage of his experienced veteran players, has good schemes. He does a great job of execution. Those are all what I call organized chaos plays – once the ball is kicked every play is different. Scott organizes it and coaches it effectively."
*(on similarities between Brad Seely and Scott O'Brien)
"I think Brad does a tremendous job. Brad is like Scott. He's very thorough. He's well prepared, covers every situation, works with every guy – the third guy on the punt return team, he's on him just like he's on Adam *(Vinateri). Everything is about preparation and being prepared for different situations and different opportunities and then when they come there's really an accountability that they need to have."
*(on whether he drew on similarities of 2001 slow start and this year's)
"You can make that comparison, but we never look at it that way. We just look at week two and how we can get better in week three and week three how can we get better in week four. We never thought about 'Well this is the way it was before, let's try to make it that way again.' This team is different from that team. We need to draw on our strengths and weaknesses this year and that's what we tried to do. We had other strengths in '01, different strengths, different weaknesses, different style of play."
(on how he met Charles Barkley and their relationship)
"I got to know him through Mike Fratello. When Mike was at the *(Cleveland) Cavaliers and I was at the Browns, Charles and Mike had a relationship. I have always admired Barkley. I think he's a guy that's tremendously competitive, a really good team player and a really smart player. I know he's got a ton of talent, but I think he really understands the game and knows how to win. That really impressed me and in talking with him I feel even more strongly about that. He'd be a great tight end because he's tough, he's got awesome hands and he knows how to play the game. And in talking to him he comes right at you with football, 'What about this coach and what about that and I don't really understand that move,' he makes a good point on some of that stuff."
(on versatility and development of Mike Vrabel)
"It wasn't necessarily anything that was totally preplanned, 'Well you know we've got Mike Vrabel and he's eight things we're going to do with him.' He's a very smart and versatile player. Mike's one of those guys when you give him something to do it's like he's been doing it for awhile. He's got a very quick learning curve and is very adaptable. Even when he runs the scout teams, like he does the scout punt team against our punt return he's very creative and he's on top of things. You can tell he's comfortable doing a lot of different things and he enjoys it. He can play offense, he can play defense, he can play special teams and he can play a number of different roles on defense because of his physical makeup and his mental versatility."