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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 10/28/2002

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BB: Nothing really to report in terms of the injuries from yesterday's game, it was a hard fought game and we've got some guys that are sore, but I don't think anything at this point appears to be long term. Of course the guys that didn't play, like [Grey] Ruegamer, Dan Graham should be a little bit closer this week, but that's still something we won't know until at least mid-week when we get back out there. Just a recap on yesterday's game, I thought that, looking at the tape, that we did some things better than we've been doing, we still didn't do enough things to win obviously, which is the bottom line. We're certainly not where we need to be, or where we want to be, and we still got a significant number of things we need to improve. Third down would be at the top of that list, it wasn't a strong enough performance defensively, and it wasn't good enough offensively. That really led to the time of possession advantage, lack of opportunities to run the ball, control the offense on our side, and more opportunities for Denver to run it on their side, so that was a significant problem for us. I thought that we had some chances to make some big plays in the game that we were close on, and that we just didn't make them. So, therefore, they're just foul balls, or they're not what they could have been. There were some encouraging signs there, but in the end, not enough points on offense, too many on defense, too many third down conversions, too big of a differential in third down conversions between what they were making and what we were making. Some of the plays in the kicking game that could have had a little more impact in the game than they did weren't able to offset. I think that's kind of how I thought things went yesterday. We've got, obviously, Buffalo's a team that's on a roll right now, they're a good football team, it's a big division game for us on the road, and we're going to have to do things a little better than we did them yesterday, and some of the things that we did on a competitive basis, we're going to have to keep those there in order to have the opportunity to win. That's where our goal is this week, it's no different than any other week, all our preparations will be focused on that, winning in Buffalo, and nothing else. So, that's what our week's about.

Q: Where would you say were the areas that were improved?

BB: Well, I thought we ran the ball more consistently. We had one negative play in the running game on the sweep play to Troy [Brown], but our running game was more consistent. Defensively, the yards per carry in the running game were competitive. They had 40 carries, and of course you're going to get some yards on that, but I think we might have averaged more yards per carry than they did, but they ran the ball twice as many times as we did. We didn't give up a lot of big plays in the passing game, but we gave up a couple intermediate plays, and we gave up some plays on third down, I thought that in the kicking game we made some plays and we had an opportunity to make a couple more. We were in position to have plays that make more impact in the game than what they did. Downing the ball inside the five-yard line, the punt return, the kickoff return, maybe blocking a kick on the field goal rush. There were plays that we were close on, and we didn't make them or we didn't make, maybe as much out of them as what could have been made.

Q: Was their success on third down a result of (it being) third-and-two and third-and-one?

BB: Some of it was, they had some short yardage plays, but they hit some passes on third and … The early part of the game, I think they had a third-and-six, third-and-eight, whatever it was, and we talked about it earlier in the week how Denver is a fast starting team, how they've been outscoring their opponents in the first quarter. We got off to a slow start, we're down 14-0, and that's not the way you want to play it. Several of those conversions were short yardage, but early in the game, they hit three or four of them on the first drive, and they hit them in the first quarter, so it led to points. It wasn't all short yardage actually, we made a couple short yardage plays on them, but they made a couple too.

Q: How would you characterize the team's effort overall?

BB: Well, when you lose you don't think it's ever good enough. I think you're always looking for better, anytime you lose it's hard to walk out of there and say, 'well, we did everything we could.' There's always more that you could do, so I think that's the way we all have to approach it, starting with me and going all the way down to every coach and player on the roster. We've got to do more, we got to find a way to somehow squeeze a little bit more out of it, and play a little bit better and win.

Q: What were they doing defensively to limit your wide receivers?

BB: We threw the ball to them, the number of catches might not have been there, but there were balls to them. They played, Denver played what they usually play, which is a lot of zone coverage, they play a lot of two deep zone coverage, they mixed in some three deep zone coverage, they mixed in a little bit of blitz zone. They played a little bit of man-to-man on third down, but not a lot, but that's usually what they do. They play a lot of zone, their linebackers are very fast, it's hard to get the ball down the field and behind them. It's hard to hit those 20-yard throws, and to throw over the top of them because they do play deep in the zone, and they are very fast underneath. They really try to get you to throw check-downs, to throw underneath routes, crossing patterns, throw things like that, and then hope that they can use their team speed and rally up there, and get it. It's hard to hit those deeper throws down the field, and most of time we end up coming to the shorter outlet receivers, unless we've got plays like screens and that type of thing called, which kind of attack that type of defense anyway.

Q: Did they often make Tom (Brady) think twice?

BB: Well, I think that they, well again, when you're trying to throw the ball down the field in zone coverage, what a quarterback's going to do is look down there and see if there's gaps in the zone, if not, then he's going to have to come down to the shorter outlet receivers and drop the ball off. I think that's pretty much what his progression, or what any quarterbacks progression's got to be in zone coverage. If it's there down the field, and you can stick it in there, stick it in there, if it's not, then you have to come to your shorter receivers. I thought that Denver did a good job of coming back and taking that stuff away. We didn't have a lot of good intermediate throwing opportunities down there, we had a couple of play-action passes called, they did a good job of covering those, we had a couple of deep crossing patterns and they were back on those. You don't want the quarterback to try to force the ball in there to two or three guys, so you try to come back down to the outlet receivers. At times, protection broke down, and we didn't get to those guys, and other times we dropped a couple balls and missed some plays, so the passing percentages should have been higher.

Q: What can you do scheme-wise about the pass rush?

BB: Well, that's a big part of it, and again, pass coverage has a lot to do with the pass rush and we saw it yesterday. On Denver's side, there were a couple times where, we had to hold the ball because there wasn't anybody open and a three man rush got to us. Defensively there were two or three times where we had really good pressure on [Brian] Griese, we had guys free, but we weren't on the receiver close enough and he was able to get the ball out to the receivers. The first play of the game was a good example, we had a safety blitz called there, and Lawyer [Milloy] was right on Griese, but we weren't on [Rod] Smith tight enough, and he ends up gaining 20 yards. You can't get there any quicker than Lawyer got there on that particular play, so a pass rush is a function of pass coverage, and pass coverage is a function of pass rush, and that's team defense. When they're tied together, and they're in sync, you're going to be better on both of them, when one's off, it effects the other one. So if the pass coverage isn't there, then that effects the perception that there is no pass rush, and the pass rush isn't forcing the quarterback to get the ball out on time, then guys are eventually going to get open. It's team defense, it needs to be done as a cohesive team unit, 11 players working together on that. At times there were people on the quarterback, we hit him a couple times, but there were other times when we were coming close and the coverage wasn't there. There were other times when we weren't there, and then the coverage eventually broke down, particularly on a couple of those bootlegs and roll out plays where he got outside and did have extra time to throw.

Q: This QB that you are facing next week, your first priority is probably their pass defense?

BB: Well, their passing game is very good, they have good skilled players all the way around, quarterback, receivers, fullback, running back, they use three receivers a lot, they've got three good ones, so they're good at throwing the ball, and [Travis] Henry certainly balances the attack running the ball. Offensively, this is a good group of skilled players, they move the ball a lot of different ways, they run it, they throw it, and they use all the receivers, they've got some big play receivers. They do a good job of passing it and of running it

Q: Does their line look good to you?

BB: It looks good enough, they're scoring points. They're efficient, and they're effective, they've scored against everybody.

Q: You know that there is going to be drama surrounding this game. What kind of message are you going to give your team this week?

BB: I think the biggest thing that we can do is to focus on what we need to do to improve our performance to win the game, that's really what we need to concentrate on. Anything else is, I just don't think it rates to the same level of importance, that's really where we need to focus it, I'm not denying that doesn't exist and that it won't happen, or it won't come up, but, I think we really need to set our attention on what we can do in the game to play better.

Q: When teams run the ball against you they seem to have success. Can that be schemed? Is that personnel?

BB: I would just respectfully disagree. In some games it's been more of a problem than others, but again, you hand off the ball 40 times, they're going to gain some yards, you're not going to hold them to 40 yards rushing on 40 attempts, it's not going to happen. Why did they have all the attempts? Because they can convert third downs and they're back on the field again, handing it off again, they're not punting, we don't have the ball, that takes away a lot of snaps, that's a lot of time of possession. They're 62% on third down, whatever it is, that's a lot more plays than we're running, we were 25% on third down. That's a big differential in plays. We ran the ball better than they did in yards per carry. It just depends on how you want to look at it, if it's number of rushes, then yeah that's a problem, but what really leads to the number of rushes, being down 14-0, not getting off the field on third down. You're going to run the ball more on those situations, you could look at any game from any team in the league, that's the way it'll be every week.

Q: Defensively, was it (the problems) a carbon copy of the Miami game?

BB: I think there are some similarities, the Miami game was more of a third down red area problem. Not that there weren't other problems, that ended up leading to a lot of points. Yesterday the third downs came more on the field, but the lack of the ability to get off the field on third down defensively led to more opportunities for the Broncos, and more snaps and better field position, and less opportunities for us.

Q: One of the things you emphasized last week was that you thought the team had to win more one-on-one battles. A lot of things go into pass coverage, aren't often one-on-one, and we're seeing more and more wide receivers running away from Otis Smith and making significant gains. Is Otis [Smith] not winning his battles? Has he lost a step and are there other ways to help him out?

BB: Well yeah there's ways to help anybody out in pass coverage, but again, you can only help out so many guys, you can't double everybody. I think yesterday there were a couple of passes caught on Otis, there were passes caught on virtually all the defensive backs. We gave up plays in the passing game at one point or another, so I think it was not just isolated to him or any one player, but it was a combination of, in man-to-man coverage, it was a combination of multiple breakdowns, not just one. But collectively, all the way around, if we're playing man-to-man coverage then we're going to have to play it tighter and better and particularly in those third down situations. If we're playing zone coverage then that's going to have to be well coordinated on a team basis as well.

Q: Why didn't Donald Hayes fit into the game plan at all?

BB: We activated (David) Givens mainly because he was involved in all of the plays in the kicking game. Kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, he played all those plays on special teams.

Q: Do think it's more X's and O's and scheming, maybe it's competence, you seem to think the effort is there, do you think it's more of a of a mental thing with your football team?

BB: I think that in terms of the confidence, anytime you lose three or four times in a row that's not really good for anybody's confidence. I wouldn't say that there's a lack of confidence. I think there's a frustration level, and I would say really then it is a combination of a little bit of everything. We can do a better job with the X's and O's; we need to do a better job from that standpoint. But we need to do a better job of executing it from a player standpoint, and we need to obviously start games better than the way we started them the last three weeks. We've put ourselves in a disadvantageous position for the better part of the game for three weeks in a row, and it's not a good thing to do. It's not a good thing to do against a team like Denver, it's not a good thing to do any week. Even though the Green Bay game really didn't get that way until the almost the half, in the end, we never really had much control in that game, and by the third quarter it was slow. I think all those things are factors. I guess if I knew it was one thing, and we could just push the button on one thing and straighten it out, then we probably wouldn't be here talking about it. I think it's really a combination of several of those factors. Confidence may be one, execution is another, maybe strategy's another one, you could probably throw a couple more in there if you really wanted to.

Q: Is it a possibility that your team may be over-thinking?

BB: No, I think that's something you think about as a coach, and it's a fine line between thinking too much and being aggressive. Whenever I've heard that, and I've coached a lot of teams and a lot of different players, my feeling on that though is it's usually not thinking too much, it's thinking not enough. Anytime you have mental errors and mental mistakes in the game which lead to negative plays – be the turnovers, be the penalties, being slightly out of position defensively, whatever it is, then to me that's not quite thinking enough. It's either concentration, or a little bit of anticipation, a lack of anticipation based on what you know the situation is, or what you see in the formation, or what film studying tendencies have told you that you should be most prepared for. So, I have always encouraged the players to think more than to think less. In the long run you get into more trouble on the field when you don't think than when you do. But I understand what you're saying, you don't want to get to a tentative point where all you're doing is thinking about, 'watch this, watch that, do this, do that.' It's still a physical game and an emotional game. There's certainly a line there, I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I think from my standpoint what I try to do is encourage the players to think more, to be more aware, to anticipate what's going to happen. On successful teams that I've been with, I think when players do that, they usually do pretty well.

Q: Do you have to worry about finger pointing right now?

BB: I don't think right now it's an issue, but it could become one, I don't know. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, or maybe it has happened and I'm not aware of it, I can't speak decisively on every single player in the locker room. But I don't really think that's our biggest problem, I think its more frustration, and I think everybody feels a little bit of that frustration with themselves, including me. That we all want to and need to look at ourselves and try to find some way to do things a little bit better than the way I've been doing them, or collectively the way we've been doing them. That's really the attitude that a true competitor and a true champion has is to try to find some way, something that you can do better that will help make a difference for your team. And I think we have a lot of guys that are doing that right now, and we've got to find a way to do that and come out on top.

Q: Can a defense grow old overnight?

BB: No, not overnight, only coaches can grow old overnight. No, I think there's a chronological process but there's no question that age creeps up on all of us. Football players' careers have a relatively short life span, so getting old doesn't happen over night, but it does happen to all of us, it happens to all athletes, and certainly does happen to all football players. I think it's hard to say what exactly that rate is. I've seen some players, literally, it seems like they could play forever. Then there's other players that gradually grow old, and then there are some players that it happens quicker. I don't know if there's any set formula, or any set time frame where you can say well this is how it's going to go. Some players get to a certain point in their career where they drop and then bounce back. So it doesn't always start to decline and continue to decline, sometimes it heads in the other direction. But I think that in each case you have to evaluate each athlete independently and also beware of what if any skills have changed. Sometimes one skill has changed and another one may not, so it depends on what the emphasis is with the player.

Q: If you have a car and a few parts suddenly don't run well, the car sort of shuts down … you obviously have age at some positions on defense?

BB: If you look at every team in the league you're going to see players with age on every team, we have them, and so does everybody else. We play against them every week. There's an advantage to those years in terms of experience and maybe know-how, and being able to deal with certain things because they've come up before. And then at some point there's an offset there, in terms of wear and tear as you've referred to it on the car. So, how that's managed, when does the scale tip, when doesn't it, again, some people, and I'm not just talking about football players, but some athletes, no matter how long they get can still do some things really well, and can still be productive and still help their team. We saw a kicker last year in the NFL, how old was Gary Anderson, 80, and still kicking well. So I don't think you can sit there and say this is the way it's going to be for everybody, because it's just not that way. You can also find other examples of other players, and they're all not the same?

Q: What aspect of the streak has puzzled you the most?

BB: I don't know if puzzled is the right word. I think maybe the best I can say is that there's a level of frustration in the outcome of the games. I think we're capable of playing better than we're playing, and collectively we're working hard to play better than we played and to improve our performance. But until you win, nobody is satisfied with that performance, nobody. I think that's the only way to do it. To work hard, to try to improve what you're doing, and that's what we're going to continue to do. When another team plays better than you do, it's not really a great mystery. We can all look at it and see generally where a lot of the problems are. A lot of them centered around third down for one. It's doing something about it and its correcting, and it's doing it against a different opponent the following week.

Q: Did you learn more about Drew Bledsoe when you were working with him or against him?

BB: I think you know more about any player when you work with them, when you work side-by-side, day-after-day, through a lot of games, a lot of situations, and a lot of practices. It doesn't matter what player it is, you learn a lot more about player when you can be with him on a day-to-day basis and you see a lot of things that any athlete would have to go through.

Q: Could you talk about Tebucky Jones and his development?

BB: I think Tebucky has done nothing but get better in the last three years that I've been here. He's one of our hardest working players, works very hard in the offseason, practices hard, prepares well for the games, plays in a lot of different situations. Of course he's in all of the defensive situations at one point or another, and he's in a lot of special teams situations as well. He's got a broad role for us, works very hard at it and is a skilled athlete. He's big, he's fast, he's tough, and he's a hard hitter. He loves the game and has an attitude for the game because of the way he approaches it on and off the field, both in season and out of season. It's really been impressive the way he's done that the last three years and I think he's made steady improvement both offensively and defensively in the last three years. One of our strongest players, and one of our fastest players, and also a guy that probably has as many different assignments and responsibilities, because of his versatility, as any player we have. He has to do a lot of things.

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