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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/20/2002

Belichick on Vikings: A lot of the adjustments that they have made have worked out well for them.



BB: Just a couple of roster updates, I know you got the Jimmy Hitchcock release yesterday. Hopefully we will have a player signed to that 53 man spot in the near future. We will announce that as soon as we get it. We did sign Idris Price a fullback to the practice squad to take Russ Hochstein's spot, who moved up to the 53-man roster prior to the Oakland game. That should catch us up there. Just on Minnesota, I think that if there was one word I could use to describe the Vikings it would be explosive. Really, every phase of the game, they are a very explosive team, particularly on defense. They have a very disruptive front four. A lot of depth on the front line with (Kenny) Mixon, Vermel, (Chris) Hovan, (Fred) Robbins, (Lance) Johnstone, they have a lot of depth there. They keep coming. They do a real good job of stopping the run, they're one of the top run defenses in the league. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and make it hard to get into a rhythm offensively with the kind of disruption they have on the defensive line. Of course, offensively with guys like (Randy) Moss, (Michael) Bennett, (D'Wayne) Bates, (Daunte) Culpepper, (Byron) Chamberlain, they have a lot of explosive players on the offensive side of the ball. They are really capable of scoring from pretty much any point on the field. That will be the big challenges us for this week, to control their defensive front line and be able to get into a rhythm offensively and to be able to control their big-play players on offense. Offensively, I thought the Raiders overall were probably the biggest team that we have played this year, I'd have to put Minnesota right there neck and neck with them. They've got a couple of guys on the offensive line that have got to be close to 400 pounds and the rest of them are pushing 350. It's a big group. Particularly when you add a guy like (Jim) Kleinsasser in there who is, whether you want to call him a fullback or a tight end, or whatever he his but he is pretty close to an offensive lineman in size too. So it's a big team including a big quarterback and a couple of big receivers, a big fullback, a big offensive line, that's kind of the element of the game that they bring. I think that defensively, the last thing I would say, through the course of the year, they have played 10 games, they've made a lot of personnel moves defensively and I think really for the better. They've become a much more effective and solid on defense in the last few weeks with those personnel moves, you know, moving some people around particularly in the secondary and on their sub defense. I think they have improved that dramatically in the last three or four games and of course played real well against Green Bay and that showed up. A lot of the adjustments that they have made have worked out well for them. Defensively this is a much better team than what they had earlier in the season.

Q: Obviously Randy Moss is a big, athletic receiver. Do you need extra help with a guy like him?

BB: Yeah, I think probably everybody in the league and everybody that has played him, has doubled him. It's just a question of how much. I don't think you go into the game not doubling him, it's a question of whether you double him every time or 25 percent of the time or 50 percent of the time or 100 percent of the time. It just comes into degrees. Randy is the type of guy that they give you problems with because he's not in the same place very often. They move him around a lot. It's easy to sit here and say, 'Well we'll double him,' but sometimes he's at 'x', sometimes he's at 'z', sometimes he's in the slot, sometimes he lines up in the backfield, they put him in motion and they run him from one side to another. Doubling him is a lot easier said than done. If they would just put him in one spot, you could probably double him on just about every play and then work everything else around it. They way they move him around so much, it's hard to double him without it affecting a lot of other guys. Then you get into a lot of different combinations. So that's kind of what we're dealing with. I'm sure we'll double him like everybody else in the league has doubled him. It's just a question of how much you can do it and what opportunities you will have to do it based on some of the formation-ing.

Q: How good is he?

BB: He's pretty good. He's big. He's fast. He's got great ball skills. He makes a lot of catches that a lot of receivers wouldn't be able to make. Not just because of his size, but because of his hand-eye coordination. He makes plays where he'll reach up and tip the ball away from the defensive back, tip it over to maybe away from the guy to the other side of him where he can make the play and make it look like a routine catch. He's got great skills there. I think he has got speed and quickness too, so when he gets up on the defender, he's not only got the speed to run by him, but he's got the quickness to laterally separate from him. There's not a lot of things that he can't do in terms of running routes and catching the ball and taking a short pass and turn it into a long run. They've used him on returns and he's got good run skills.

Q: Does Culpepper's running ability affect the way you cover him?

BB: Sure, it definitely affects your defensive system. You have to account for his ability to run. Last time we played them he carried 12 times. Not all those are scrambles, but not a lot of quarterbacks carry the ball 12 times a game, however they do it. Certainly it's something we're going to have to account for and be respectful of. Daunte's a guy that competes with his arm, competes with his feet, and he's obviously a big quarterback. He's not the kind of guy you can arm tackle, or push around or push out of bounds, or that kind of thing. He's strong and you've got to tackle him.

Q: Does that affect the way you cover Moss at times?

BB: Yeah, it's just another part of the problem that you have to deal with. Sure, it's just another rock on the pile. The more guys you take to control Culpepper, the less guys you have in coverage. There's no doubt about that.

Q: Michael Bennett is another that you have to account for…

BB: Bennett is a big play back. (He is) probably as big a play back as we've seen all year including (LaDainian) Tomlinson. Priest Holmes and this guy, a 90-yard touchdown for him is like a 10-yard run once he is in the secondary, he's hard to catch. This guy can really run. He's had a lot of long plays. They weren't the 'Red Sea' kind of plays where it would just open up and he would just run 80 yards. He goes down and makes a move on a linebacker, makes a move on a safety, outruns a corner and goes 80 yards. Any time he gets the ball, he's a threat to go the distance. That's the tough thing defensively. They could be on their 20, they could be on your 20, he's just as much of a threat to score in either situation.

Q: Is this team (Patriots) capable of generating the same kind of yardage as last year with Antowain Smith this year?

BB: Well, I think that Antowain has shown that he can be effective running the ball. I think we've shown that and he's shown it. Whether that is what is going to happen next week or the week after that, I don't know. But I think that he is certainly capable of it. The more that we can do it, the easier it is to throw the ball, the easier it is to control the line of scrimmage.

Q: Do you want to add more to it (the running game) at this juncture?

BB: Sure. We want to be productive in the running game. Absolutely. We definitely want to be productive in the running game. But if you are not productive in the running game then you just don't want to hand it off 40 times for 80 yards. That's a problem, too. If we can get the production there, then that's a great compliment to everything else. But, I think offensively if you are going to score any points, you are going to have to find something that you are productive in.

Q: Often times when you are playing from behind, then you don't have much of a choice but to kind of put the running game on the back burner. Does that have a lot to do with maybe last year with Antowain…

BB: There's no question that the number of carries is functional to the score. Now, when you start getting into yards per carry, that is sometimes a little different matter. It's a little bit like the game last weekend. He had 12 carries in the first half, not too many after that. If you control the game, in the running game, that makes it a lot easier to keep running it. When you don't have control of the score, then it definitely affects your play calling.

Q: Normally in this league, you say run the ball, stop the run, that's a pretty good combination and can lead you to good things. This Vikings team, stats wise, they have done a good job stopping the run. Why hasn't it transpired?

BB: Well I think more important than running the ball and stopping the run is scoring points and not giving up as many, that's why we keep score. If you are scoring points then you are doing whatever you want to do, run, throw. You are playing it the way you want to play it. If you are not scoring points and you are behind, then it usually leads to more passing, more turnovers, more sacks, more negative plays. I'm not saying you can't come from behind because we see that every week too. But I mean statistically, when you are playing from behind and you are playing in long yardage situations, third-and-10, third-and-15, that kind of thing, that's where you are going to see a lot of turnovers, a lot of sacks, a lot of negative plays. You might gain some yardage, but there are usually negative plays that go along with all that sooner or later.

Q: They lead the league in turnovers. Has that been a situation where they were playing from behind?

BB: At times, yes, at times they've been bit by some turnovers and some penalties. Again, I've seen just about all their games, or at least parts of all of their games, and it's just one side of the ball. The thing I would say is that they're better. Some of the things that happened earlier in the year, they've improved, they've corrected, they've made personnel adjustments, or they're just not making those kinds of mistakes like earlier in the year, and they're playing much better now than they played at different points in the season. Particularly defensively. I think that last week with (Corey) Chavous in at strong safety, along with (Ronnie) Bradford gets them a good experienced safety combination--Two guys that are both former corners that can run, that are good coverage players. They're disruptive in the pass rush with their defensive line, and their disruptive in the running game with that group as well. So I think that has really solidified their secondary down the middle with (Greg) Biekert and the two experienced safeties. They're playing with younger guys on the corner, but there certainly aren't as many holes as maybe there were earlier when it seemed like they were giving up a lot of big plays in the secondary and a lot of those were going inside.

Q: Have you made a decision on Antwoine Womack?

BB: No, Antwoine … don't have to make that (decision) until tomorrow.

Q: Have you considered bringing someone in for kickoffs, or are roster spots too valuable to use them for that? Maybe someone like Brad Daluiso?

BB: I don't know if he's the guy. But I think that when you're in our situation, and this is the way most teams in the league are, when you have a snapper, a punter, and a kicker, you commit three roster spots to the kicking game. It gets into numbers how many more can you commit. Now if you're a team that only commits two lets say, say you have a kicker and a punter, and your tight end's your long snapper, then in a way you have that extra roster spot, extra in terms of relative to what everybody else has.

Q: So that's why you've never considered bringing someone in?

BB: No, I would consider anything. I think that if you bring that guy in, first of all he has to be good enough to warrant the position, and second of all, given your team's particular roster situation, that may or may not be more favorable to you. Again, the more guys you commit to the kicking game, the harder it is to keep adding on to that group. The fewer guys committed to it, the more latitude you have to get another one. But you know, the way it is right now there are not a lot of kickers that are consistently kicking the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. There are just not a lot of them, and some of the ones that have the big legs, that do kick in there, that you know can kick it that far, are inconsistent in the kickoffs, and the ball's just as likely to go to the 20 as it is to the goal line. The way its moved back, that's a hard thing to find. It's not. 'Say, lets get a guy who can kick it into the end zone,' but there's not a lot of them out there.

Q: When you face a team that has trouble on the road, do you make an effort to make a big play to get points on the board early?

BB: We always try to score, maybe it doesn't look that way out there, but honestly we go into every game thinking, 'Okay, how can we score? What's our best shot? How can we get ahead in the game?' There's no game that we would not do that in, whether the team was from Minnesota, California, Texas. It doesn't make any difference where they're from, what their record is, whether they run a wing 't', the single wing, or the short punt. However we can get ahead early in the game, we're always going to try to do that. There's no game where we go in and say, 'Let's bat it around out there for a quarter and a half and see how it's going.' Honestly, we go into every game saying, 'Okay, how do we get off to a good start, what's our best way to attack this team, how can we get up on them early, how can we get the edge.' That's the way it is every week, we've never thought any differently than that. I know it may not look that way to you, but that's what we're trying to do.

Q: They haven't won a game on the road since Thanksgiving of last year. Is there any noticeable difference in what they do at home than what they do on the road?

BB: Nothing that I can really put my finger on. Like anything else, there are certain advantages to playing at home, particularly defensively when you have the crowd noise and being able to get off the ball to pass rush and offensively it being tougher to hear the cadence and so forth. But nothing that I could specifically put my finger on. They've got plenty of good plays and plenty of big plays against the Jets, against Tampa, against Chicago. It isn't like there aren't good plays that you can find there. The score of the game in the end wasn't favorable, but they're making plenty of good plays along the way. So I really couldn't put my finger on one specific thing.

Q: How did Leonard Myers look this Sunday considering he missed a lot of time?

BB: You know Leonard played on special teams, played on the coverage teams, punt and kickoff teams, and made a nice play on the one kickoff, was in on two tackles, so that a movement in a positive direction for him.

Q: So maybe he can increase his role the next few weeks?

BB: Yes, if he continues to be productive, I'm sure he'll get more opportunities. You bet.

Q: With the short week next week, how important does that make Sunday's game?

BB: No, I don't think it really changes anything for this Sunday, other than the accelerated pace we'll be on next week when we start to work on the Thursday game. But as far as the preparations for this game go, I think it wouldn't matter if we were playing next Thursday or next Monday, we would do what we are doing this week in terms of preparations.

Q: How is Donald Hayes been coming along in practice?

BB: Good. I think that Donald has had a couple of real good weeks of practice, and I wish that we could have gotten him to do more snaps in last week's game, or even the week before. I think that's moving in a positive direction even though there isn't anything on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night right now to point to in the last couple of weeks, I really think he's moving in a positive direction. I think that he's done a good job, and I think before it's over we're going to hear from him.

Q: You said earlier he was feeling very determined and industrious. Is it difficult to kind of monitor his mood?

BB: No, not at all. Donald works hard, and he's a player that we all, I mean collectively as a staff and the players in the organization, we just have a lot of respect for him. He works hard, he wants to get better, football is important to him. He goes out there every day and tries to find a way to make himself a better football player, and you can't ask any more than that of a guy, you really can't. We've all got our weaknesses, we've all got our shortcomings. You try to work hard to improve them, and they're going to improve and they have improved, and what more can you ask of a player. And Donald's done that. He hasn't moped around, obviously he's disappointed in the situation, I don't think that's any secret, but he hasn't let that affect the way he's prepared with work, or practice, or trying to get better. And we've all seen that on the field

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