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Bill Belichick Post-Game Press Conference

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about their win over the Panthers (38-6) to gain the AFC East Championship.To read a full transcript, click below.



BB: We thought Carolina played us tough. The runs gave us some problems there early in the game, They ran the ball well. In the end we got some real big plays out of our special teams. I thought it was a tremendous effort out of that group. The coverage on [Steve] Smith, the kicking and of course the return; those are real big plays in the game. I have to give a lot of credit to what the special teams did.

We also came up with some big plays defensively. Some of the things that we worked on during the bye week helped us today. We were able to utilize a couple of those things during the game. That was significant for us.

I don't think we have anything serious in the way of injuries. Towards the end of the game a couple guys came out, but it sounds like at this point there is nothing serious. We kind of feel like we are the leader in the clubhouse right now. I know there are some teams behind us that will impact what happens in the seeding, but we'll just have to wait and see how those play out. In the meantime we will enjoy this for w while. Then the season starts again. We obviously are going to set our sights on a very successful postseason as well as the AFC Championship.

Q: What are your feelings on what this team has been able to overcome, finishing 5-11 and in last place last season?

BB: Well, they have been doing it all year. These guys just come in every week, work hard and have a real short-term focus. That has been a big key for us. They look at the next challenge and try to get better. There were several things we addressed during the bye week to try and improve on. They worked hard to improve those, and it showed up in the game. We had some success doing some things that we spent some extra time working on. That hard work has paid off, and I am really happy for those players and assistant coaches. Those guys have put in a lot of extra time and a lot of hard work. It is gratifying to come out and win a championship.

Q: Were you concerned at all about Carolina hanging around too long when it was still 10-3 early in the third quarter?

BB: We had two touchdowns called back in the first quarter and another where we looked like we were going in until we dropped the ball. We had a chance to get a few more points than we ended up with, but in the end we didn't get them. It was a tight game until we got a couple big plays on defense and with the punt return. Then Antowain [Smith] hit the run there on third-and-nine, and that kind of gave us a little bit of a cushion.

Q: Can you talk about what Troy Brown has been able to accomplish in the offense this year?

BB: Troy has had a tremendous year. You just can't say enough about that kid. Whether it is blocking in the running game; whether it's on special teams returning kicks or fielding kicks inside the 10-yard line; whether it's making third down conversions and big plays, he is a tremendous football player. He's done a great job for us all year in every aspect of the game, both on and off the field. He's a great example, not only for the younger players, but really for all of the players. The way he goes about his job and the performance he gets out of it are tremendous.

Q: Antowain Smith went over 1,100 yards for the season today. Did you ever expect to get this much out of him?

BB: Well, Antowain has been there before. It's not really new ground for him. This is not really that far-fetched.

Q: You have momentum heading into the postseason. How important is that?

BB: I don't know about that. The next game we play is going to be 0-0 at the start of the game. Whomever we play, it'll be up to us to reestablish that level of performance in the postseason. I don't think we are going to get any extra credit for what we have done in the last few weeks heading into the postseason. That is a whole new ballgame.

Q: Did you see the Gatorade bucket coming?

BB: No I didn't. That came during a punt return, and I thought they were going to try and block it. When we saw them returning it, I was a little bit concerned about Smith getting the ball.

Q: What is your assessment of Tom Brady's performance?

BB: I thought he did some real good things out there. The two interceptions really were plays we really probably tried to force in there more than what was really there. Overall I thought he managed the team well. There is always room for improvement, but anytime you win the game 38-6 there are going to be enough good things in there.

Q: Were you surprised at the fan support you guys received today?

BB: I couldn't believe how many Patriots fan there were. It was impressive, the number of people who supported us down here. This was a game, in that aspect, that was similar to the Atlanta situation, but in that game there were a lot more Atlanta people there. Today was a pretty large and vocal [Patriots] crowd. Our fans have been great all year.

Q: You were able to pin a punt down two feet away from the goal line. How big a momentum swing was that?

BB: It was big, it really was. The punt return came right after that after [Todd] Sauerbrun hit a big punt coming out of the end zone. Kenny [Walter] has done it for us all year. We've had great punt and kickoff coverage pretty much all season. That has been a huge improvement from where we were last year. Defensively you just can't enough about what we did with the good field position.

Q: Now that you've won the AFC East, is that something you want to downplay for the time being?

BB: No, we are really happy with what we have accomplished, but there is still a long way to go. We will enjoy it here for a little while, a couple hours. Once the seedings are established, then we will set our sights on that target and try to make progress on that. There is no question this team has accomplished what a lot of people didn't think it could do. They have done it in a methodical and workman-like fashion. It is something I am proud of. All of the coaches and players who are a part of it all share in that pride.

Q: What happened on the two interceptions by Tom?

BB: Really both plays were one of those deals where it was going down the sideline and Tom felt it looked pretty good. He gave it a good look, but [Deon] Grant played them both really well. He's got very good range as a deep safety. Obviously you don't want the quarterback to throw interceptions, but we tried to force it in there and make some big plays. Grant just made good plays on them and took them away from us. They were not good throws, but like I said, the play calling and what we were directing Tom to look for on those plays just didn't end up being there.

Q: How important is Troy Brown's effort to pick up extra yardage on the short passes to him?

BB: He just does so many little things. Five-yard catches for him look like nothing, but when they are first downs that keep you on the field and keep your drive going, they are really more than 5 yards. Those are really key plays in the game.

Q: Were concerned at all that Richard Huntley was able to run for so many yards?

BB: Sure. Huntley ran well. Offensively they did a good job with their line. They had a couple plays where they sealed us off. He really ran with a lot of authority, like we've seen him do before. We missed some tackles on him and he gained some extra yards there, but he's a good, tough, hard runner. He ran with a lot of authority and got them off the goal line with a couple big runs in the second quarter. A couple of them came when we missed some tackles or he got out of the piles, but he is a good, tough back.

Q: Is there any concern the guys will sit back and feel like they have accomplished enough?

BB: I hope not. We just have to refocus now on the next target. I fully expect the players to come in like they have all year. They need to accept what the challenges are and try to meet them head on.


BB: We knew that was the way it was going to be. I think there are several possibilities some are going to be a little stronger than others. Really though, what it comes down to is if the New York Jets win, then we have a bye. If the Jets lose, than we probably play either the Jets or Seattle. We'll know [about the bye] by the end of today. If there is a situation where our game depends on the Baltimore game [Monday night] then we will work on that as we head in on Monday.

Q: How do things change now in the playoffs?

BB: I think every goal is a one-week goal. This is single-elimination now. Win and you are in, lose and you go home. We all know what is at stake now, and there are no second chances

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