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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Apr 18 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 23 - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conf Transcript - 10/27

Belichick: If they’re not on the injury report then those are coaching decisions. It’s not like I’m keeping anybody off an injury report.



            **BB:**  The NFL has been playing football now for 84 years and I thought yesterday was kind of a throw back game.  There have been a couple of decades worth of football like that in the NFL minus the replay challenges of course.  No touchdowns, a lot of field position, not too many turnovers, just a real field position game and it came down to some kicks and a couple of key plays but this was really kind of a throw back game.  Defensively, I thought that our guys did a real good job. Anytime you hold a team to three points especially an explosive team like Cleveland, you have to feel good about that.  Offensively, that we had a lot to do with that because we did move the ball.  Our kicking game was pretty solid.  We had a number of punts where we pinned them back inside the 20 and put Cleveland on a long field and that certainly helped us defensively.  Offensively, even though we moved the ball and had pretty good success on first down we weren't able to finish the drives on third down and in the red area of course, so the combination of the two.  That was a little bit disappointing.  Our execution wasn't what it needs to be down there.  In the end, the ability to move the ball offensively and to get some field position and keep Cleveland on a long field was beneficial for us on the other side of the ball. It was a good win against a good football team.  But we understand that there are still a lot of things that we need to do better in order to win this week in Denver which we all know what kind of challenge that is playing on Monday night in Denver.  That is about as tough as it gets out there.  So we are looking ahead to that one and not too much back on the win on Cleveland.  It was good to come out of there on top, kind of old fashioned football game.  

**Q: You can go to a high school or a college game and you can see how field position really does manipulate the game. In the pro's it doesn't really make that much difference that often. Obviously, it did in this game but is it just because the athlete's are that much better that they can overcome field position disadvantage and get out of a hole that much easier than at the lower levels?

BB:** I think that in some of the high school and college games, one kid breaks a 50-yard run, one fast kid that can break it that can change it in a hurry too. When you have good defensive teams that aren't giving up a lot of big plays, it is hard to change field position unless you either have the big play or you have 10 or 12 of them where you can move the ball 40 or 50 yards and go from being backed up to the plus side of the 50. It is one or the other. If teams are having trouble with the consecutive play type of things then it is going to take the big plays. Fortunately, we had a few big plays and we were able to change field position. Again, our problem was really more of not being able to finish those drives once we had good field position, again, as a result of third down execution or red area.

**Q: keeping in mind that there are some things that you would obviously like for your team to be doing better on defense. Statistically leaps and bounds better than last year, did you expect this big of a difference going from where you were last year?

BB:** Well the expectation was to improve the defense. We have our weekly goals and I think at the end of the year we will look back and see how we did on a 16-game basis on that. I thought we would make improvement on that. Again, yesterday I thought we, even though the rushing yardage wasn't that significant, the yards per carry was. We certainly like to keep that down under four and half yards per carry, that is more than we would like to be giving up. On balance, it was a pretty solid effort defensively particularly on third down. Really if you can play well on third down in this league and not give up big plays, it is hard for them to score unless you turn the ball over a lot. I think if you can maintain that formula as a team and do the big things, we had fewer penalties yesterday, didn't turn the ball over offensively, played pretty well on third down and didn't give up a lot big plays, I think their longest play was under 20 yards, that is a good formula right there if you can do it on a team basis.

**Q: Not to bring up an old conversation but in the offseason you talked a lot about primarily into the 3-4 defense and really teaching out that formation. Because of injuries obviously you have had to play more 4-3 than you might have planned to going into the season yet you have been able to defend the run and play the type of defense that you want to play. What are you doing better in the 4-3 this year that maybe you weren't doing last year?

BB:** Well I think it just start fundamentally. Fundamentally we are playing better football, using our hands better playing better leverage on the blockers, setting a better force outside so that we are not giving up the easy bounce-out uncontested yardage runs. I just think we are playing better fundamentally as a team. There are some different players in there so I think you have to give credit to the guys who are here playing better and the new guys coming in and doing a good job too.

**Q: Generally when a team has a lot of rookies on their roster, they are in the rebuilding stages. In your experience have you been part of a defense that has been this successful with this many young players on it?

BB:** I think we have had an unusual number of players to this point halfway through the season, the first half of the season. I think that is a little bit unusual. There is nothing in the rulebook that says rookie can't play well. Lawrence Taylor was defensive player of the year early in his career; I think I was his rookie year as a matter of fact. Not that we have Lawrence Taylor here but young guys come in, if they are good football players, if they can adapt to your system and pick up the techniques and be able to translate that into game conditions and play well on Sunday's, not just take the meeting time and the practice time and plays, but go ahead and convert that into instinctive game plays on Sunday, they can be productive too.

**Q: Did you envision the contribution that this draft class has had?

BB:** Probably not. But that is not really the way that we look at. You draft them and you bring them in here and the first thing you do is start teaching them your system and try to get them to learn on a broad base what all of the things are. Then as you formulate your team and as they gain experience and as you see how the players perform doing different skills, then at some point you start to incorporate them in your team. 'Well I think this guy can help us on the punt team. I think this guy can help us on third down. I think this guy will be a good first and second down player. I think this guy could be a factor in these type of plays or in this type of situation.' Then as they grow and develop as players then maybe it expands from that. The first thing every player has to do is establish a role for himself. For a rookie to do that, a lot of times, the easiest place to do that is on special teams. But whatever role they can establish for themselves, if they can do that, then there is a chance that will give them more playing time, more opportunity, keep them active and then that role can expand. The problem for a lot of rookie players is that they can't establish a role. They could be pretty good at a few things but never really good enough to get on the field or to get an active roster spot. They can never get to the plate to bat.

**Q: How much difference has the level depth made on defense? Do you have a lot more depth than you did last year and does that make a difference defensively?

BB:** Well, as I have said before, we have confidence in all of our players. They have all shown that they can go out there and perform well and we can win with them. We have had a lot of different combinations. I think that Romeo has done a good job of putting the players in different positions and different personnel packages and playing them differently in situations so that everybody is involved. Some guys know they are coming in to do these certain jobs and these are the plays that they have to be ready for because situationally this is what our opponents do at that time and they are on them. Whereas a guy who has got to get ready for everything can't maybe concentrate quite as much on that particular situation. It's a little bit of a combination of both. But I think that having the depth and being able to use people situationally in different areas, sometimes allows them to perform better in those areas because they know that is their main focus.

**Q: Does having a solid fourth corner or a third safety or a third down defensive lineman, does that make a difference from where you are defensively one year?

BB:** Sure. Sure, because once your opponents see where your weakness is, then they will try to expose that and they will try to force those match-ups on a repetitive basis week after week. If you show that you can't play well against two tight ends or three wide receivers or four receivers or two backs or whatever it happens to be, then eventually you are going to get more of that and they are going to force you into those match-ups more than maybe what you want to be in. The match-up that you are the strongest in, then you usually end up seeing the least amount of. That is just good game planning by the other team. Being able to have enough depth and be able to handle all of the different formations defensively that you are going to see in a game or through the course of a series of games, it is very helpful.

**Q: You spent a lot of time yesterday in nickel. As far as the defense goes, it was seamless. Their receivers were pretty deep but obviously you had no trouble containing them in that package.

BB:** Our coverage ability and our depth at corner has really been a strong point for us this year. To be able to stay in our regular defense and play Eugene and to be able to match him up on some third receivers so we end up really not having to go to a fifth defensive back but we already have a third corner in the game as a safety, it is another luxury. That gives you a huge amount of flexibility that I haven't since I was at the Giants with Everson Walls and he was our free safety. It is a real luxury to be able to not have to substitute. If they put in a third receiver, just put your safety on him and do what you want to do. That keeps it a lot simpler for everybody else too. Then the other 10 guys don't have to worry about it. It is not a whole of different adjustments.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about the job that Ken Walter was able to do yesterday?

BB:** He had them down there; really I thought the punting was outstanding. The coverage actually could have been better. We downed them but if we had done even a better job, we could have had them in worse field position than they were had we gotten on those balls a little bit better. He did a great job. He put a lot of hang time on the ball. He kept it on the field of play and gave us a chance to handle it. It was wet. It was windy. The conditions were far from perfect and he handled them very well. So that was really a good job.

**Q: On Romeo Crennel, on the weeks leading up to games, Monday and Tuesday, does he do the game plan? Is it all him with your input?

BB:** Sure. What do you think he is doing playing golf? Yes, absolutely.

**Q: During the games, he is making all of the calls? During the game you are just sort of overseeing him? The reason I ask is because the Browns players they kept mentioning your name and saying it was 'great defense' and it seemed like maybe didn't realize that Romeo was the one making the calls.

BB:** Romeo handles the meetings, handles the game calls, and handles the preparation, the game planning and all of that. I meet with the coordinators, Brad [Seely] on special teams and we talk about the things that we want to do in the game and that how we formulate the game plan. We do it collectively but he is in charge of that just like Charlie [Weis] is in charge of the offense and just like Brad is in charge of special teams. But I think that it is important that the whole plan fit together that we are doing what we need to defensively to complement what we are doing offensively to fit in there with the kicking game. Certain personnel that are involved in two of those phases, how we utilize those people and so forth so that we can get done whatever we think is the best thing to do for that particular game. Sure, Romeo does all of that and does a great job of it.

**Q: How impress have you been the last three games in terms of the personnel challenges that you had losing some guys, with the job he has been able to do like you said, putting players in position at the right time?

BB:** Romeo does an outstanding job all the way across the board, utilizing players, making adjustments, dealing with adverse conditions whatever they happen to be, bad field position or sometimes you are forced to change personnel and those kind of things. As a defensive coach, there are some things that you just can't control. In other words, when they get the ball, your job is to go out there and stop them. If they get on your one-yard line, their one-yard line, wherever, you can't control any of that. You just have to go out there and play and sometimes it is like that on personnel too. Here are the guys you have to play, you have to put in the ones that you think can do the best job and go with it. That is where the challenges are really the toughest for a defensive coach. Those things that are beyond your control that are adverse conditions. You just have to deal with them. He is very steady. He is solid. He is not an up and down emotional roller coaster kind of guy he is just steady and consistent. I don't think the pressure of the situation phases him. He just goes out there and does a good job.

**Q: There used to be an unwritten rule that starters didn't lose their jobs because of injuries. As time has gone on in the league I think we have seen that has not really been the case. You had to deal with that a couple of years ago with the quarterbacks. How do players look at that now? You have some guys who are coming back who are starters and you also have players who are playing well. I am sure you have to take it on a case-by-case situation. How do the players look at that?

BB:** I guess the way I would put it is, when I talk to the team at the beginning of the year we talk about playing time, we talk about being active for games, we talk about all of those things as it relates to the team and as it relates to each player individually. The bottom line is, we are going to make the decisions that are best for the team. You as a player can't control what a coaching decision is. Your job is to be ready to go when you are called on and go out there and do the best you can. Let us worry about who plays when, where and how much. That is what the coaches do. Players play, coaches coach, officials officiate. There is a division of labor there. I just think that is the most efficient way to do it. If a player gets caught up into how much he should be playing or what position he should be playing or how many plays he should be playing or all of that kind of thing, then that just takes away his focus on what his job is when he is asked to go in there and play, [the player should] try not worry about that stuff. Just go in there and do it the way you are asked to do when you are asked to do it and let the coaches make those decisions. That is what our job is and that is what all of our time is spent on. That is the way that we ask them to approach it. I am not saying that everybody sees it clearly because everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to contribute. Everybody wants to be productive and that is natural. That is the way that every player should feel. But there are some things that players can't control and coaching decisions are basically one of them.

**Q: Can you talk about the run blocking on the team so far this year heading into the colder months?

BB:** The run blocking this year has been better than it has been. I don't think it's perfect by any stretch, I don't think it has great, but it is better than it has been. We're doing a better job on our combination blocking, we're having more consistency in the running game overall and that's helping us move the ball better, particularly out on the field of play. It has helped us create some third and shorter situations and try to stay out of third and long. Those guys have done a good job. I thought that we've started to develop some consistency now on the offensive line where we've had several games where the same guys have played together. That helps. Getting Fred [Baxter] back in there, and our tight end situation, not that they're linemen but they're all part of that run blocking. We've had a little more consistency there too, and that's helped.

**Q: Kevin [Faulk] was commenting that the wide receivers were blocking good for him.

BB:** Again, anytime you have good runs you need blocking from the secondary. We've talked defensively in reverse that any time there are long runs those are breakdowns in the secondary. Nose guards don't give up 80-yard runs. They've got to get through somebody else. In order to have double-digit runs and to get through the line of scrimmage, the receivers have to do a good job of blocking or the backs just have to make everybody miss. Eventually it helps to have good blocking down field. The receivers hustled down field yesterday and got some blocks.

**Q: How about the pass protection too? It seems like [Tom] Brady hasn't been sacked a lot, or even hurried that much.

BB:** I think that it has been okay. You are right. The sack numbers are down. We had some pressure yesterday. I think Tom has done a good job of throwing the ball away at times when there has been pressure. I think the limited sack statistic is in part due to better protection and in part due to the quarterback getting rid of the ball before he has to take a loss, and that is both of their jobs.

**Q: Do you have something at the top of the list that you'd like to see your defense do better?

BB:** I think when you look at the film and you look at certain plays you'll see plays that we could've played better. I'm sure when Denver looks at them, and when our future opponents look at them, they'll say 'Well gee if they had thrown the ball to this guy instead of that guy or done this instead of that' that we looked vulnerable in those areas on certain plays.

**Q: Does something jump out from yesterday's game?

BB:** Well I'd say there's a number of plays that anybody could look at Cleveland could look at them or again our future opponents could look at them and say 'Well gee instead of doing this if they had just done that, there's an opening there.' So there are some things we've got to tighten up a little bit. It's like that in every game. It wasn't perfect. We gave up three points and we are happy about that, but we'll still look at a number of plays from yesterday's game and show the players where they could have played them better or where defensively we could have maybe made a call or an adjustment that would have put us in a little better position to defend what we were defending in that particular situation.

**Q: Matt Chatham played well while [Mike] Vrabel was out, but now that Vrabel's back how much better does that make you just to have one of them starting and the other as a back-up?

BB:** Well Mike did a good job. He rushed well yesterday and again I think that helps break up the duties a little bit because Matt is very productive for us in the kicking game. Mike has been able to give us some production in pass rush. Then Matt has been able to concentrate a little bit more on early downs. We got a little look from Willie [McGinest] yesterday playing in both those situations, so it was good. Mike had some pressure on third down. Even though our third down numbers have been good, we haven't had a lot of pressure on the quarterback on third down not as much as we would like to have, and we did a better of that yesterday, which Mike informed me after the game. It was good. He did a good job. I thought we had a couple of blitzes there Romeo hit a couple of blitzes on them where the protection was not able to pick it up and we got some pressure there too. It was an overall good collective third down effort for the most part.

**Q: Was that lack of pressure a problem, like in the Tennessee game where they are able to score thirty points?

BB:** Really third down wasn't the biggest problem in that game, but I'll just say overall it is a combination of things. At times it is not enough pass-rush, at times it is not good enough coverage to force the quarterback to hang on to the ball just a little bit longer until they get there. Sometimes it is the nature of the defense that we have more guys in coverage and less pressure on the quarterback. Again, collectively, even though our third downs statistical numbers have been pretty good, we haven't had a lot of third down sacks and haven't knocked the quarterback down on third down quite as much as you would like to in that situation where, for the most part, you know they are going to throw.

**Q: To what do you attribute this team's ability in the last few years to win almost every close game?

BB:** I think in the end it comes down to execution under pressure. Going out there on Wednesdays or pre-game warm-ups, that is one thing. It is another thing when two or three or four plays decide the game, whether it is making a kick, catching a pass, making a stop, executing a play to make the key play on offense, defense or special teams. Think back to the Miami game last year, on the kick-off and on the on-side kick look and kick it deep and it ends up on the 5-yard line. Some of it is situational football, and in the end it just comes down to good execution by the players. They are the ones that have to go out there and make those plays. It comes down to a three, four, five-play game at some point. It is whoever wins those few plays, that is who is going to win the game. I think our team has confidence, which is good, and they don't back down from the challenge of the situation. It really comes down to good execution.

**Q: Obviously you know what you are getting in those pressure situations with guys who have been here for a while. Are you pleasantly surprised that some of the newcomers haven't you know

BB:** Blown the game?

**Q: Yeah.

BB:** Right. Yeah. I think our experienced players do a good job. We try I know that Charlie and Romeo and Brad spend a lot of time during the week talking about 'This plays going to come up once in a season', or 'This play's going to come up once in this month'. 'It is a one-time play, but here's the way we're going to do it when it comes up.' So those things, they are covered, they are practiced. You show them on film and try to correct them and try to make them right, and then when they come up in the game you hope you can execute them. The guys have gotten some reps on it in practice, but the veteran players also do a good job of helping those guys along, saying 'Okay, here is the situation, here is what we've been working on, this is it.' So there is no doubt. Tom in the huddle, and Tedy [Bruschi] and Richard [Seymour] and those guys on the defensive side of the ball as well.

**Q: How often have you had a season where, when the number one guy goes down, the person behind him on the depth chart comes in and plays as well at that position? For example, when Christian Fauria goes out, and then [Daniel] Graham comes in and has an outstanding day.

BB:** I think you probably see that every year, somewhere along the line.

**Q: I guess I mean the consistency of it, where it's happened so often this year.

BB:** We've had contributions from virtually every player that is on the roster. They have stepped in and done a good job. I'll go back to the '90 Super Bowl year [with the New York Giants]. We're 10-0, [Phil] Simms gets hurt, [Jeff] Hostetler comes in and we won the Super Bowl that year with Jeff. A lot of players work hard, they train all offseason, they go through training camp, they go through all those practices and meetings and everything else and the guy ahead of them is pretty good. Sometimes they get the opportunity to jump in there and play and it is not that they're not good players, it is just that they haven't had the opportunity. But they are chomping at the bit and they are hungry for that chance, and if they are ready to go and they are well prepared for it then they can take advantage of it. We have had a number of guys fall into that category but I think you'll see that with every team somewhere along the line. That doesn't happen to everybody but I think you'll probably see it with just about every team, somewhere.

**Q: Will you continue to rotate the tailbacks, or will you kind of let Kevin Faulk take over?

BB:** No. Again, all three backs have been productive for us this year and I think that they'll continue to be. How they are used from game to game or situationally could vary and I'm sure it will. I think that all three of them will continue to be productive for us.

**Q: Is that the idea, to keep them fresh?

BB:** Again, it changes from game to game. Sometimes we have players go in at certain down and distances. Sometimes it is with certain personnel groups, multiple wide receivers or multiple tight ends. Sometimes it is more by series or just to be in the flow of the game. It is not necessarily a set formula. It is based on what we think our best combinations are for that particular week. In a couple of cases we've had injuries that have dictated otherwise as well. That is another factor.

**Q: The last couple of years you've had a safety rotation, more of a rotation I guess with Matt [Stevens] and Victor [Green]. How has Chris [Akins'] production been?

BB:** Chris has been more of a situational player. When they come in with more tight ends or in some nickel situations, then if Eugene [Wilson] moves down, then he comes in. It has been more situational, whereas with Victor and Matt, that playing time was pretty evenly split up regardless of what the situation was. Whoever was in there just played.

**Q: Did situation kind of dictate that Asante [Samuel] wasn't out there in the regular defense as much yesterday? Am I mistaken on that?

BB:** Yeah, Ty [Law] and Tyrone [Poole] played on most of their two-receiver sets. They were in there on most of those plays.

**Q: Was that just personnel on their side?

BB:** Well when they had three receivers in the game, if we had four defensive backs, then the four stayed. Wilson, Harrison, and the two corners were there. If we brought in a fifth defensive back then Asante came in and played the fifth defensive back. I think there might have been a play or two when Ty Law was out on that, then that would've been Chris with Eugene [Wilson] being the nickel back so to speak.

**Q: In an emergency situation, who would be your fourth offensive tackle right now? Do you have plans this week to build your depth and bring someone into that position?

BB:** Who our fourth offensive tackle would be? Within a game? Well we would have to move one of the interior people out.

**Q: Do you have plans this week to bring someone in, put him on the roster?

BB:** No, we have guys on the practice squad. We have offensive linemen on the practice squad, so we do have people in our system. They are not active. We could obviously have to sign them to bring them up, like Shawn Mayer, that type of situation. So our depth is really from within there even though they're not on the active roster. We couldn't do that during a game, we would have to just shuffle the deck and move them around.

**Q: Talking about late game performance, are there traits that a player need to have to be able to perform late in the game? How high is preparation on that list?

BB:** I think it starts with physical conditioning. I think it is hard to perform well at the end of the game when you are tired. Not that you can't suck it up and get that reserve energy, but the mental concentration and taking the preparation that, when you sit in the meetings and watch those situations come up, say 'Okay, well this is what they do in those situations.' But now it is the end of the game and you're tired and you can't remember that. So I think physical conditioning is important, but certainly preparation and just understanding the situation. It is easy to sometimes sit back and say 'Okay, well here's what the situation is. Here's what they're going to do,' but as it is going pretty quick and the down and distance changes and the field position changes and the personnel changes, maybe what the tendency is on third and three with one group of players in the game isn't the same as when they bring in a different group. So when you start adding all those multiples and combinations, it can pick up and that is where a really instinctive and smart football player who is in good condition, who has got some experience, can anticipate some things on the field and be productive in those situations.

**Q: You're 6-0 in your last six overtime games. I don't imagine you feel that is a coincidence?

BB:** Some of those games could've gone differently. It helps to have a good field goal kicker. A lot of those games are decided by field goals. Defensively you've got to be able to get the ball back if you don't get it to begin with. And you've got to be able to get in scori

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