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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 10/31/2002

Belichick: I’ve got to do what I feel’s best for our football team, that’s where all the decisions are made.



            **BB:** Okay, well, the weather is cooperating with our preparation, so we're rolling. Fire away!  

Q: How tired are you of getting all these [Drew] Bledsoe questions?

BB: Honestly, I don't think it's been too bad, it's a natural story, and it's the first time we've played Buffalo since . . . played against them, lets put it that way. Is that the last one?

Q: Forgetting who the quarterback is, is this what's most fun for you, preparing for a high powered offense?

BB: No, this isn't fun, it's not fun. Well, I'm trying to make light of the question. It's as good an offense as there is in the league right now. They're doing everything well, and it's a lot harder because there isn't just one thing you can stop. You talk about the passing game, the passing game is good and it's efficient, and Drew's using all his receivers, his tight ends, his backs, the wide outs, and he's making plays scrambling, stepping up in the pocket, hitting big plays down the field. That's only part of the problem, their running game is significant, they're putting a lot of points on the board, they're playing good defense, so everything's a problem. Offensively, you can't just play the pass, [Travis] Henry's, this guy really is a good back. Probably a little underrated, but I think he's improved significantly from last year and breaks a lot of tackles, gets a lot of yardage on his own. If you just watch him run, watch him run on tape, he's getting a significant amount of his yardage after the first contact's made. That's really when you start noticing how good a back is, when they're getting yards on their own, and he's doing a nice job of it

Q: How about their defense, for some reason they really matched up well against you in the past.

BB: I think the last three weeks, defensively, they've really started to come on. People haven't been able score against them. Of course, they did a really good job against us last year, we had trouble in both games, we couldn't score a touchdown in the second game. So they did a good job, they play the run well, their corners covered well, they had a couple turnovers, so they did a good job against us. I think they were a young defense last year, and this year they've got a little bit more experience, they've made a couple personnel changes, but overall, it's the second year of a scheme, and a second year of a scheme with young players, and they're obviously executing it better. I think this is a team that's gotten stronger on the defensive side of the ball in the last month

Q: What did they do against you last year that other teams weren't able to do?

BB: Well, Buffalo's defensive scheme is a little bit of a unique scheme. It's obviously what Tennessee did when Gregg [Williams] was there and ran it, it's really Buddy Ryan's 46 defense. There's a lot of notoriety about the 46, which is covering the center and the guards, and putting a linebacker over on the tight end side, and dropping a safety down into the box, and that's half of the defense. The other half of the defense, is what we call an over-defense, and so it's an over with all three defensive lineman slid to the tight end side of the center, and then on top of that you have a linebacker who stands outside of the tight end on the line of scrimmage. That's really the main front, and from that front, they go to the 46 defense, and those are really the two components of it. It's a little bit of a different defense, there are not a lot of teams that run it, and the two systems compliment each other well, from when Buddy put it in in Chicago, ran it in Philadelphia, and Houston, and Arizona and so forth. The components of the defense compliment each other so well, that offensively, what's good against one, doesn't look that good against the other, and vice a versa. You have to be aware of not only their basic stuff, but they have a number of things they do within the over-front, they have a number of things they do within the 46 package, and the way they all tie together, it's a good defensive scheme. Offensively, you've got three downs, you get a bad play on one down, and sometimes it's hard to make up for it on the other two unless that good play happens to be on third down. So, you now, first and ten, second and 12, now you're struggling, or first and 10, second and six, second and eight, third and six, now you've got to hit that third down. Right now, Buffalo's the best team in the league on third and three to six defense, they're like twenty something percent. They've done a good job in that area, and they also do a good job in their defensive package, and again, it's a little bit different than what you normally see, the more traditional over and under that most teams in the league are playing, and it changes your blocking rules, it changes your pick-ups, and they execute it well too. I'm not saying it's just the scheme, they do a good job with it, their corners are good.

Q: Having seen that twice last year, did that make it easier for your guys, they'll know what to do?

BB: Well, and not do in some cases too. We definitely did better against it in the second game than in the first game from a yardage standpoint, not in terms of touchdowns, but we moved the ball better, we had more positive plays. But we still struggled with it, no question about it, hopefully we have a little bit better understanding of it this year, although I think they've improved it too. So we'll have to see how that match-up occurs, but as you play against it, more like any other defense, as you play against it more, you understand it better, but on the flip side, they understand how to defend you better too, so those are the division games. You get that chess match every week.

Q: David Patten and Deion Branch did not catch a ball last week, what do you attribute that to?

BB: Dropped balls.

Q: How important is it to get those guys started early this week?

BB: Well, I think it's important to whoever has the opportunity to be productive early, to be productive early. I don't think you can go into the game and say, 'okay, we're going to throw the ball to this player,' and he's covered, and just for the sake of getting it to that player, unless you call a screen or something like that. Otherwise, you want to throw the ball where they don't have the receivers double covered, and where you have more spots to get it in. Whoever gets to make that play needs to make it, whether it's a receiver, a tight end, a running back, or whoever it is. That'll be important to whoever gets those opportunities in the passing game, that we take advantage of them earlier, middle and late.

Q: Why have your defenses been so successful against Drew over the years?

BB: I don't know, I think that's a little bit of a misnomer. I think our records are close to even, I don't know exactly what it is, but he's certainly made plenty of good plays against teams that I've coached, and he's won some and we've won some. He's a good player, he's going to make plays against everybody, and hopefully we can make a few too.

Q: Are you surprised about the success he's had at Buffalo?

BB: No, I think that, again, I said last Spring, and I'll say it again, I'm not looking forward to playing Drew Bledsoe. Drew's a significant player, a significant price was paid for him, and that's why that deal took place. I have a lot of respect for Drew, I think he's a good football player, I think that Buffalo, even though their record wasn't that good last year, they were an improving team, they were a young team, again, we had as much trouble playing them as we did anybody on our schedule at any point in time. They're a young team that's getting better, I think Gregg's [Williams] done a really good job with that team, I thought he did a good job last year, they won a couple of big games even at the end of last year, and played well, and played hard. That's obviously carried over into this season and it doesn't really surprise me that they're playing well because I thought they played well last year. They came out on the short end of the score a couple times, but it wasn't that they weren't playing well or weren't competitive, one play here or there, and it's a different story. They've been in a similar situation this year, they've been in a lot of close games, some overtime games, this year, those one or two plays they've made instead of going the other way, and their record reflects that.

Q: Knowing how good they were, why did you consider giving them the quarterback that could be the catalyst for that team?

BB: The decision is what to do for your football team. I can't run the other 31 teams in the league, I can't run them and don't want to run them. I've got to do what I feel's best for our football team, that's where all the decisions are made.

Q: Why was that better for your football team, how was that helping you?

BB: I think we all, without rewriting the chapters on this, we've been through it a hundred times, what the situation was last spring, everyone is well aware of the situation last spring, all the dynamics of it. At some point there had to be some type of resolution, at some point or another. When there was an opportunity to do that, then we made the decision that was best for the football team and did it.

Q: How important is it for you to remain consistent when your players are struggling?

BB: I think it's important, I think the team always looks to its leaders and its coaches, and certainly a coach has to be a leader on the team to provide some type of direction. What I feel right now is that I need to find a way to help our team. Find a way to help our team play better. We need to play better than we're playing, and I've got to do my part to try to find some way to help the team improve. And that's really what I've tried to, not so much say, but do, to try to show them that. From a consistency standpoint, that's really what you try to do every week, whether you win or lose last week, you're still trying to find a way to help your team improve, and help show them a better way, how things can go better from their standpoint. I Guess the consistency is that you're doing it every week, and when things aren't going well, I think it's important to be able to put something positive and constructive out there, everybody wants to do better, and it's easy to sit there and say, 'yeah, we need to be better, we need to be better,' but how? That's where you've got to provide some direction.

Q: Is it important to remain in the character that they know you as?

BB: I don't know. I think every person has some kind of breadth to their emotions, and I think there's a point where we all can be a little more or less emotional than whatever the norm is for each of our personalities. There's some variation there, and flexibility I think that the players have seen that one way or the other through these three years at some point. You probably should stay within that, whatever the normal range is. Now if it's beyond it, one way or the other, then I think you're really sending a message whether it's consciously or subconsciously, and then sometimes those messages can be good, and sometimes they can't. But, as long as you're within that range, then I think they can understand that. Once you go beyond it, then you're really saying something else.

Q: But does that take on a bigger emphasis when the team is on a losing streak?

BB: Right. Again, I think when you do something extreme it can work in both directions, sometimes it can work negatively, sometimes it can work positively, and if it's somewhere there in the moderation, then I think that stays within what's been laid out as the normal course of business, and you approach it that way. If you deviate beyond that, it could go one of two ways.

Q: Is Otis Smith's injury a sort that would impede him in coverage, and if so, what are your options?

BB: If the game was today, it probably would, whether that's the case or not on Sunday, we'll just have to wait and see. It's important for any player to use his arms to tackle, and hit receivers, and catch the ball, and fight them off, and all those kinds of things. So, we'll just have to wait and see a little bit closer to game time how that's working out. If Otis weren't able to play, then the other corners would. Terrell [Buckely], Ben [Kelly] , and Jimmy [Hitchcock], Antwoine [Womack], Leonard Myers is practicing, that could be another option, we would have to activate him and so forth, but it's a possibility.

Q: Statistically, Drew is on a record setting pace, he's never approached those numbers in his career, what do you attribute that to?

BB: Probably a combination of things, it looks like Drew's playing well, he's on top of his game, he's playing in an offense that emphasizes a lot of things that would statistically be reflected in those numbers. Going along with those, that are very positive numbers, are also a high number of sacks, so increased yardage, increased deeper throws, higher production, usually results in some negative plays as well to come out of that. I'm just saying there are a lot of things that come together when you do that, that's part of the offense, that's the system, they play receivers that can get down the field, guys that can take the ball away from defenders. They have an excellent receiving group of skilled players, [Jay] Riemersma is a good tight end, but he's probably a little more of a receiver than he is a tight end, not that the doesn't block, but he's a very good receiver. Larry Centers is probably as good a receiving back as has played the game in a long time, more than just a Sam Gash type of fullback. With that compliment of players, it would make sense to utilize them in that fashion, to throw to the receivers, to throw to the fullback, to throw to the tight end, because those guys are all productive players in the offense, probably a little more productive in the passing game than the running game, and I'm not saying that they're not productive in the running game.

Q: What do you see about Bledsoe that's different or more polished than last year?

BB: Well, you know he didn't play last year. So, I think last year, it would really be hard to make a comparison to last year and this year, just based on the way the two years have gone. But I think when you look at Drew as a quarterback, you can see some of the plays that he's making now, I think you can see those plays at a different point in his career as well. So, I don't know how many of them you can see from last year, but, once you go back beyond that, you'll see some of the same types of plays. You're not going to see him scrambling and running for 80 yards, but you're going to see him throw the ball down the sidelines to a receiver who's covered by a defensive back pretty closely, and it drops in there for a big completion. So, you're going to see those kind of plays, we've seen them before, I'm sure we'll see them again. Some of the things he doesn't do, he probably still isn't going to do, the things that he does do, he'll do them.

Q: What's the difference between him running the offense, and someone like Rob Johnson?

BB: Well, it's a different offense, they changed offenses, this is [Kevin] Gilbride's first year there. He's brought in a whole new system which is what Kevin has done pretty much everywhere he has been. Whether it's Houston, Jacksonville, San Diego, Pittsburgh, it was more adapted to the Pittsburgh style, but he's a spread offensive type coordinator, the receivers split wide, the field is wide, they use a lot of open formations. It's a vertical passing game, they run the ball down, throw the ball down the field a lot, say compared to a team like Oakland that would run primarily crossing patterns, the west coast offense, which was mainly what was run up in Buffalo last year. It just was a totally different style of offense, so they're really isn't a whole lot of carry over in the passing game anyway, but in the running game too, that's different as well, so it's a whole different, what Rob Johnson's running and what Drew's running are two different packages.

Q: What did you see from Ted Johnson the last game, it seems like he got more snaps?

BB: He did, I think Ted's been playing well. I think Ted's been doing, the last three weeks, has gotten progressively more playing time, has been involved in more plays, has been active, he's done a good job, he's also helped us out on a couple of the special teams. A couple of the guys that were banged up, he stepped in there and helped us out, did a nice job on the punt return last week. He's really, I think in the last three weeks or so, his production has been higher.

Q: It seems like it takes him 2, 3, 4 games to get it cranking up, do you see that?

BB: Well, this year it was construed a little bit differently earlier in the year, but I think as he's playing more, probably like a lot of players, as he's playing more, and his production increases, then he gets more playing time, then it seems like his production has continued to improve. Those are the kind of guys you want too keep playing, you want to give more time to, and he certainly is earning that, and we recognize his production and want to keep getting it from him.

Q: A couple of writers have used the word "genius" to describe you in a snide way, what do you have to say to that?

BB: I haven't really followed that. As I said at the beginning of the year, genius one day moron the next, they both will be part of one side or the other of the name, so I understand that.

Q: In Buffalo, they think you are a genius because of Super Bowl XXV, is there any similarities there?

BB: Yeah, there are. Of course, that offense featured the no-huddle, and it was more of an up-tempo offense in terms of the timing and running plays and that kind of thing. The elements of it being spread out, and trying to spread the defense out and trying to have the defense declare what they're going to do and then attack it, as opposed to using a lot of different plays or formations to attack it, it's more of that kind of philosophy. That offense was run in a very basic manner, in terms of the number of plays that they ran, and the number of formations, and there were almost no personnel substitutions because they always kept the same group on the field and went at a fast pace. Buffalo does a little more substituting and formationing and changing plays and that type of thing than, say the '90, the no-huddle offense of '91, '92 and that era. A little bit of the same philosophy in terms of spreading you out, forcing the defense to defend the whole field, to deploy wherever they're going to deploy, and it's too far to really do a good job of disguising because the next guy is so far away that you either got to get on him, or not get on him. It's hard to be, you know, you don't want to get caught in no mans land so you have to declare more what you want to do. The quarterback then reads it, and either audibles or leaves the play on that he's got called and knows where he's going to go with the ball. That's similar to what [Jim] Kelly did in that no-huddle offense, they do the same thing, they race to the line, they line up there, you line up with them, then once he sees where you're at, then he either would leave it on what he had called and attack the defense. Or if he didn't like what he had called based on the way you were sitting, then he'd change it to something else, and there was still plenty of time for him to do that. I think there are still some parallels in that type of coaching philosophy.

Q: Can you take that a step further, with [Andre] Reed, [Don] Beebe, [James] Lofton, sometimes [Travis] Henry looks like [Thurman] Thomas?

BB: Right. With Riemersma and, what's the tall guys name, [Pete] Metzelaars. Yeah, I think that's fair. Moulds is probably Reed, although Reed was more of a slot receiver like the current [Josh] Reed is. Peerless Price is like Lofton, and then you got another guy there, so this is really a better receiving group than that one was I would say overall. The way it currently sits, these three receivers are really good, I know Reed's a rookie, but he knows how to play in the slot, he was a really good slot receiver at LSU, and highly productive in there, similar to what Andre was, although Andre was a more polished receiver at that point in his career. But this kid probably is going to be pretty good too.

Q: David Patten said that you were very consistent with them through out the losing streak, have you always been like that?

BB: I don't know how even-keeled it's been. I guess the best way I can answer that question is just, I think what I try to do is just take a look at whatever situation it is that we're in, take a look at it each week, or each day, or each game, however you want to call it, and then try to do what I feel like is best for the football team, or what the football team needs at that point. I've been on different teams and different situations and I don't think they always call for the same type of thing, there's circumstances, there's personalities, there's the way you're playing, the way things are going, and not all of it's positive and not all of it's negative. Even when you win, not everything is positive, and when you lose not everything is negative, there's a balance in there, sometimes you have to try to find it, sometimes it doesn't appear that there is, but I think it's good for the players to understand always what the positives are and what the negatives are because you want to try to reinforce the positives and try to upgrade the negatives. That's true after almost every game that you ever play. Trying to find that balance, trying to do the right thing. Trying to help your team play better, that's what a coaches job is, that's what I feel like my job is, and however, or whatever shape or fashion that comes in, that's what I'll try to do. Whether it's talk to an individual, whether it's to try to suggest something to a group or a play, or whether it's to talk to the team and try to get them in a certain frame of mind, but whatever I think I can do to help the team, that's really what I want to do, that's what I need to do.

Q: Is that the toughest task for you, to try to maintain that balance?

BB: Well, I think on a week to week basis through the course of the season, absolutely. It goes the other way too, we've been in situations before where things were going well, and everybody thinks they're great, and we just roll out the ball, that's the way it'll be next week, and that's not true either. There's sometimes balance in bringing it down, and sometimes there's balance in pushing it up, and sometimes there's just the balance of being right there in the middle, there can be constructive criticism, and there can be sincere praise, and there can also be, sometimes destructive criticism if you're trying to bring a team down a little bit, which, sometimes that's what it needs, or sometimes that's what a particular player needs to recognize that, for whatever reason, he just . . .it's going okay, it's just not going to last, lets just put it that way, unless it changes. Those are the type of things that I think about, on a daily, and weekly, and game by game basis to try to put the team to where you think gives them the best chance, in there right frame of mind, and also to play the game in the mentality that you want it played, I don't think you can play every game exactly the same way, there are different approaches for different style of play that our opponents bring, I think it's important for our players to understand what's the best approach against a particular opponent. This week will be a lot different from last week, and last week was different from the week before, and I'm sure that'll be different from next week.

Q: You compare the Bills defense to Buddy Ryan . . .

BB: I'm comparing it in terms of what they do, in terms of their scheme because it's very similar there, yes.

Q: With that type of scheme, what's the best way to approach it?

BB: Well, without getting technical, I think you have to break it down. There are certain thing that those defenses, and again as I was saying earlier, the defenses compliment each other, so what one defense takes away, and maybe is a little light on, the other defense strengthens that area and is maybe a little lighter somewhere else. So they can do that based on how they feel like they match up against a particular team. They want to match their strength against your strength, or maybe they want to match their strength to what they perceive as your weakness, and hope that the weakness can hold up on the other side of the pay or the formation, or whatever it is. Within that, they do a good job of executing it, they're well schooled, they don't make many mistakes, so when you look to run certain plays and you say, 'okay they've got this covered, so they must not be able to . . . they're covering this outside route, so they must not be able to cover this inside route.' Then you see somebody run that inside route, and they're on that too, then that's when you know you're looking at a defense that's pretty well schooled and in tune of what they're doing, how they can handle a multitude of plays or the way they're being attacked and adjust to all of them, and that's the mark of a good defensive team. What's the best way to attack it, well, it depends on what they're in, and it depends on what your strengths are relative to what you think their weaknesses are, but, like any other defense, the more aggressive they are, then the more you want to make big plays against them, and the more conservative they are, or the more that they defend the deep part of the field, then really the more you want to throw the ball in front of them, and have more of ball control offense if that's what they're going to do. Buffalo's not the type of team that's going to let you do that very long, they're going to go up there and force the issue, and they're not going to give you a lot of easy throws or easy plays, they're going to force you to throw the ball or work the ball down the field, and you can either come up with nothing, or you can come up with the bigger play if you're able to execute it. They'll mix them in there, it's not like you're going to get just one or the other.

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