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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/25/2003

Belichick: Indianapolis, we missed them last year, but looking at them here, they are a team that we are kind of familiar with.



BB: Indianapolis, we missed them last year, but looking at them here, they are a team that we are kind of familiar with. They have a lot of guys we have seen before and as well all know, they are real explosive offensively. I think that they have gotten a much better balance out of their receiving corps in terms of overall production and of course [Marvin] Harrison is still the guy but their other receivers have performed very well and have been real productive for them too. [Reggie] Wayne and Harrison between them have about 1,500 yards. The tight end situation looks also pretty good with the rookie in there Dallas Clark and [Marcus] Pollard who I think will probably be back this week. They are a very strong team and of course [Edgerrin] James is back. This is a very explosive offense. They are very fast on defense as Tony [Dungy's] defensive units always are. They have a lot of quick guys upfront. They are a very penetrating style of defense. They run a lot of gains, run a lot of stunts, do a fair amount of blitzing and put some pressure on you in terms of their overall team speed is where they are very difficult to match up against. That carries over in the kicking game. Their specialist are outstanding, [Hunter] Smith and [Mike] Vanderjagt are two of the best in the league and now they have [Terrence] Wilkins back there returning kicks who we have seen plenty of before. Their overall specialist are good and their team speed is good in the kicking game. There is a good reason why they have had as much success as they have had. They are solid all the way through. They are well coached, they have a lot of good players, they are talented and they are playing very well. It will be a big challenge for us out there, playing Indianapolis out there, on their turf with the way they are playing right now. It will be a big test for us. I think that our team has a lot of preparation work to do this week. We will need a good effort out there Sunday if we are going to do well.

Q: Indianapolis has been doing pretty good offensively. Are they much better at deception this year?

BB: I think they have always been pretty good at it. I think they have more balance. I think they have more balance in their receiving group and at tight end too. Not that [Ken] Dilger, he was a good player but I mean Dallas Clark has stepped up in the receiving game along with Pollard and their production at receiver from [Troy] Walters and Wayne, Harrison last week. They had a couple of other kids step up in there too. It doesn't really seem to matter who is in there, they are getting good production all the way across the board.

Q: No disrespect to anyone else, was that a weakness to them, too Harrison heavy?

BB: I wouldn't say it was a weakness. I would just say that his production was a lot heavier than anybody else's on the team. He is still the guy, don't get me wrong, but I think that production has started to even off a little bit. Wayne has really had a big year, what does he have, 700 yards receiving or whatever it is. They weren't getting that kind of production consistently. They tried a number of different guys over there opposite of Harrison through the years and I would say this is probably the most productive group, the ones that I have seen since we have been playing against them.

Q: All the good quarterbacks share similar qualities. Is there anything on film that stands out on Peyton Manning and why he is so good?

BB: Well I think he does a lot of things well. First of all he is accurate. He gets rid of the ball quickly and he is smart and he reads defenses well. He knows where to throw the ball and where to stay away from. If you do those things, you have a pretty good chance at that position. If you throw the ball to the right spot and you get rid of it quickly and you can throw it accurately, you are going to hit your share.

Q: Is he still one of if not the best play action faker?

BB: Well yeah, they are very good at play action. A lot of their big plays come off of play action. He is good at it and they do a good job of it as a team. They really sell it. That displaces the defense, creates some separation in there and they are able to get the ball down the field to a number of different receivers, the tight ends and of course the wide outs. They use all the different guys to attack you defensively and the play action is one way where they hit a lot of big plays. Again, they are pretty well balanced. They have a good play action game. They have a good drop back in, and they have a good screen game. They have had a lot of big plays on screen passes this year. It is really hard to just go in there against them in the passing game and say, 'Okay, we have to stop the in-cuts this way you can go around the corners,' there is a lot more to it than that. You can say, 'Well we are going to stop the bombs.' There is a lot more to it than that. You want to stop the screens; there are a lot of things to contend with.

Q: Kevin Faulk is not the biggest guy or the fastest guy. Is it a high football I.Q.? He just seems to know where to go.

BB: Well Kevin is a very instinctive player. He is a smart guy and he is an instinctive player. He has got good run vision. As far as when to cut back when to bounce out, when to put his head down and get what is there. Sometimes there is not a lot there. He has got good balance and he can break some tackles. He is a good player. He played really well last week. No doubt about it, he had a terrific game.

Q: What did you learn about your team last week that maybe you didn't know before?

BB: Well, it was a real unusual game. I think we probably said about all that we can say about it. It was one of those games where it was just not your typical game. We had a lot more yardage than they did. They had a lot more turnovers and blocked kicks than we did. In the end, it all balanced out and came down to a few key plays at the end. Luckily we were able to make enough of them.

Q: Does that speak to the resiliency of this team? The never say die attitude?

BB: Well, we have come from behind before. It is not the first time that has happened.

Q: So nothing new? No surprises?

BB: Well, It was a tough game. It was a hard fought game. We were able to come out a couple of plays ahead of them.

Q: Also if you look at some of the Colts' games they have had a few like that as well.

BB: You bet.

Q: Is that more speaking of the experience of Manning and the other guys in the offense or is it something else?

BB: Well, I think they are just a real explosive team. Where do you start? You look at the Tampa game. They score a lot of points there at the end to come back and win. The Houston game, they were down at the half, they recover a fumble right before the half, score, get the second half kickoff, go down and hit a big play, score and all of a sudden, they are down by three, then they are up by 10. They can turn it around in a hurry. The New Orleans game, that game got out of hand early but the same thing. A couple of strip sacks, an interception, hit a couple of big plays on offense and before you know it, it is 35-7. They are very explosive and they can score on defense. They can score in the kicking game. They can score on offense. They had 31 against the Jets. They come down there on the fourth down play and it looks like they are going to kick the field goal to go up by three and they run a fake field goal and they score there. They are an explosive team. When you have that much team speed like they do on both sides of the ball, you can see where if the right guy gets the ball, he is going to run away from people and make some big plays.

Q: You guys haven't given up many big plays this season. Is that just a product of the secondary? How would you explain not giving up big plays? Is that something you coach?

BB: Well, that is the defensive objective every week, is not to give up big plays. If they don't score on big plays, then they have to drive the ball. If you have good field position then it makes it harder to drive it. If you can stop them on third down, then that is eventually going to kill the drive. Those are the kind of things that you try to do defensively. I thought that overall our secondary has been fairly disciplined on that in terms of not taking the cheese on play action passes and half back passes and flea flickers, stuff like that. Also, our corners have done a good job on the deep ball. We are going up against a team that is probably as good as any team in terms of making big plays consistently on a week-in/week-out, year-after-year basis. We will really have our work cut out for us this week. These guys are really good at it and they can all do it. Pollard has had a 70-yard play. The receivers, they are all over 50, Clark can get down the field, James we have all seen him on the catch and run plays. They are all capable of making them. It is not like you are just going after one guy.

Q: Also, the tackling in the secondary?

BB: Oh well, sure. Yes. If you don't tackle well in the secondary you are going to give up big plays. Runs or passes sooner or later, if you can't get the guy on the ground, he is going to make some big plays and you don't have that many people back there. If one guys misses in the secondary, it could be awhile before someone else gets there. Tackling, that is a big key to not giving up plays. That and judging and playing the deep ball.

Q: When you drafted Bethel Johnson, did you imagine him making any impact this season?

BB: Well, I think when you draft a guy in the second round you think he is going to be able to play. When you take a receiver in the second round, yes, you would like to think he would be productive as a receiver.

Q: On special teams, how disappointed were you in that performance? Were some of those breakdowns more scheme related that the other team picked up or performance related?

BB: On the blocked kicks, those are things that we have worked on hard believe it or not. I am sure it didn't look like it. We worked on it hard for quite a while, especially the field goal protection because that was an area where they were strong in and when we tried to address it, we obviously didn't get it done. We didn't do a good enough job of coaching it since it wasn't executed properly. I don't think we did a good enough job of blocking it either. Overall it was just two major breakdowns and you can't afford those.

Q: Houston said in watching the film on you guys, that they saw that gap on the end, the wing gap. Have you done back and looked to see that?

BB: We have seen that rush plenty of times before. We ran that rush in practice all week. I guess if they say it, then they saw it.

Q: Did you guys adjust it? Or was it a matter of them doing what they were supposed to?

BB: We know how we wanted to block it. Sometimes we blocked it that way and it wasn't a problem. One time we didn't and it was a problem, which isn't unexpected. When they overload a certain spot and you don't do it correctly, then they have an extra guy over there that can come clean and that is what happened. I hope we can do a better job of that. It wasn't anything that we hadn't worked on or talked about. We just didn't get it done.

Q: When you are blocking and protecting a field goal, is it more like run blocking or more like pass blocking?

BB: Well field goal protection, you can't fire out. There is no way because there is no cadence. So when the ball is snapped, actually the defensive players usually, they will probably move a split second before the offensive players would since everybody is watching the ball. So soon as the ball moves, the defensive players move. Really it would be impractical or impossible for the offensive people to be moving forward faster than the defensive people are moving forward. So basically you try to secure the inside gap and meet force with force without being over aggressive and lunging and missing and giving up a seam there. It is really about staying low, playing with strength and playing with leverage and keeping your shoulders square and blocking an area.

Q: Right now in the area the fans are excited because you have a 9-2 record, which of course does not mean anything going into Indianapolis. But what criteria do you use that would allow you to say 'we have a pretty good group here'?

BB: We really do not look at it that way. We are just trying to beat Indianapolis. That is all. What difference does the rest of it make? Until we get to them it really does not make any difference. We are just trying to beat Indianapolis. That is it. That is all we talk about—what do we have to do this week, what do we have to stop, what are our opportunities, how do we deal with the problems we have to deal with, how are we going to deal with Indianapolis. It does not even matter who we play next. It is really irrelevant.

Q: But in your own mind, can you say 'we have a pretty good group here', where we can do some different things, or do the same things every week, and you know you can do it at a consistent level?

BB: Well yeah, that is about our team executing what our players and what our system will allow us to do. It is not really about who the next four games are against or are not against.

Q: But judging your team.

BB: Yeah I think you do that on a weekly basis. Sometimes you start to pick up a trend, 'hey we are pretty good at this', or 'we are getting better at this. Let's try to do it a little bit more,' or maybe 'we are getting worse at it and we either need to improve it or get rid of it.' Sometimes you have aberrations because of a particular game. Something was very good or very bad in one particular game because of the way it matched up or maybe we did not do a good job of executing it against on a particular look or you got a couple of bad plays against a certain defense that normally you would be okay on, but they happened to hit you on the right spot. You do not want to let that distort your overall evaluation of the play. You take that into consideration, but sure, if you see a trend that is going strong you have to look at it and analyze it and say, 'yeah, that is a real strength of our team. We need to do a little more of that.' Then sure, we will try to incorporate that into the future weeks.

Q: Either you are showing extraordinary patience with your punter, or there is nothing better out there. Which is it? Do you feel that Ken Walter still has things to offer the team?

BB: Yeah, I do not see what you are seeing. I mean, he punted the ball three times. Two of them were about as good as you can get, with no return. And the third one was no return, but we would have liked for it to be longer.

Q: But when it comes to plays that can affect the outcome of the game, he put the other team in position to potentially win the game.

BB: Right. Well I think you have to go to your players and you have to have confidence in them. They have plays that you expect them to make and it is their job to go out there and make them. [Tom] Brady fumbled the ball. We could have benched him in the middle of the fourth quarter too. Somebody else dropped a pass. We could have taken him out. Somebody else missed a tackle. We could have taken him out. I think when you evaluate one play—I just do not think that is the way to go. I think you have to look at a little longer than that. A game like last week's, I think you can go right down the line and find some good plays from everybody. We could have taken [Daniel] Graham out too after he dropped a pass. We could have benched him. I do not know who we are playing with at the end of the game. We could get rid of me after challenging that fumble too—get another coach in there calling them. Really, we all have bad plays.

Q: You have had people in for tryouts this week and you obviously have not made a move.

BB: We have people in for tryouts every week. That does not mean anything other than we are keeping up to date on what players who are not with teams are available, what their status is, their injury situation, what kind of condition they are in, who is available and so forth. We do that. That is what we do. We do it in the offseason. We do it in season. We are always doing that.

Q: We have talked a lot about the Indianapolis offense. Tony Dungy has had two years with that defense and has made some moves. How do you see their defense?

BB: I think they have turned over quite a few players on defense since we played them two years ago. I would say, just off the top of my head, I would say over half the defense has been turned over. They are probably a little faster at linebacker, definitely faster in the front. They are playing a lot of young kids, guys they have drafted in the last year or two. The emphasis is speed. They do not have the biggest players in the league, but they have some of the fastest and quickest. That is, whether it be defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers, they have a lot of team speed and that is what they rely on—their quickness, their vertical penetration, their stunting, and their pursuit to the ball.

Q: Can you build a team for turf these days? It seems that if you want to build team speed you do it on Astroturf. Can that hurt them?

BB: I do not know, but I think if you have a home field advantage and you want to try to build your team to that home field advantage, then what you are saying is, 'we are going to do well at home, we will do well enough on the road, and then if we can play at home at the end of the year, then that gets us back to our home field advantage.' If you cannot make all that go, then you are not quite where you want to be. There is certainly something to be said for that, and I think the Colts are good at home, which is where we will be playing them. They are good on the road too, but they are good at home. They are fast, they are quick, they get crowd noise, they are able to take advantage of the guys laying off the snap count and that type of thing. Offensively they have a bunch of big play receivers. They get the ball to them, and they are able to make big plays. I can see what they are trying to do. I think they are doing a pretty good job of it.

Q: How difficult is it going from artificial turf to grass?

BB: I just think that, let me put it this way, in terms of timing players going into the draft and that type of thing, when you time players and try to get a standard surface, we adjust the surfaces. I am not talking about track surfaces now. If a guy runs on a running track, that is different. In terms of the turf surfaces and the Indy turf and grass, that is the fastest surface and that is reflected in the times. You watch the same guy run on three or four different surfaces, and those are the way the times are, then it is maybe a couple hundredths of a second, but in terms of speed on a surface, I would say—I am not talking about track surfaces—that is probably as fast as you are going to see. We see those guys work out there every year, so that is a real standard you can measure by.

Q: You look like you have a lot more speed, especially in the secondary, this year.

BB: Oh there is no question about it. We had to be one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of secondary last year.

Q: So do you think this match up is going to be less of a problem than last year?

BB: No, I think it is going to be a problem. I think we are faster than we were last year, but that would not take much.

Q: When you sit down for turkey Thursday and you look back on the first eleven games, is there something you would be thankful for?

BB: I would probably give thanks to—same as the last four years—Mr. [Robert] Kraft for giving me the opportunity to be here and to coach this team and for the assistant coaches and the players who have worked hard within the system, unselfishly, to try to make this team and this program as good as they can. Those are the people who have helped me the most. It starts at the top, but the people that are working alongside me have done more for me than I have for them. They have worked hard and accomplished a lot. Without them, I would not be standing here. That also goes for some of the previous players and coaches I have been with before who have helped me through my career. The Carl Banks' of the world and the Pepper Johnson's of the world and guys like that.

Q: After seeing film on Tyrone Poole's career, are you getting even more than you expected? It seems like he is having a real solid season.

BB: Oh he is. I do not think there is any question about it. Tyrone did not play two years ago, and last year he played primarily in the slot at Denver. Then at the end of the year, in the last game or last two or three games, then he started playing more outside as a regular corner. But up until that point, he was primarily playing on the sub defense and playing inside in the slot. Based on the last couple years, he really had not gotten the opportunity, I would say, for one reason or another, to play the way he is playing or where he is playing now. When we signed him we thought that he would be competitive at that spot based on what we had seen, but again, you are taking a guy that was not in our system and putting him into it, you don't know exactly how that is going to turn out. But it turned out well. He has played well and you are right, he has been tested every week, like every corner is. He has played solidly both in the running game and in the passing game, and Brad [Seely] had him in Carolina and we knew he could return punts. Given our situation there, he is now a factor in that too.

Q: In terms of players returning, are you expecting—

BB: We will get out the injury report tomorrow.

Q: Patrick Pass—is he the type of player where the more opportunities he gets, the more he can do, or is he just solid and consistent?

BB: I think Patrick is the type of player that we have all seen make really good plays, and plays that you probably remember him making, like Dallas last week out in the flat making a big tackle, making a big play and having a nice run last week. Some plays are better than others. There are some good plays and there are some that could be a little better than that, and that is the main thing that he has to work on.

Q: Is he a fullback now?

BB: No, I think his versatility is one of his biggest strengths. He can play tailback, he can play fullback, he plays in the kicking game, he is a pass-catcher, and he can also run the ball. He has some versatility. He is not your standard bulldozing, blocking fullback. He is not an every-down tailback, although maybe he could be. He has not had that opportunity yet. When we first drafted him and brought him here we used him as a receiver through mini-camp and a little bit of training camp, so he has good catching skills, good hands, and has some versatility and has played for us in the kicking game for four years. He has done those things to different degrees at different points in his career, and that versatility is a big plus for us. It is hard to find backs like that.

Q: Was he a tough decision at the end of training camp?

BB: Sure.

Q: You guys obviously feel like he fits into your game plan.

BB: As I said before, when you come to the end of training camp I know we have to cut to 53, but I would say the number is more like 60. When you get to those last 60 players, some of them are going to go on your practice squad and inevitably you are going to need a couple guys—sometimes more than a couple—once you get into the regular season. Those 53, every team in the league has some fluctuation on that group due to injuries and so forth. Once you get down to the final 60, and he was certainly in that group, as was [Dedric] Ward and guys like that, if they are available, then it is probably just a matter of time before they are back on your roster. That is how close they came to making it in the first place.

Q: Will we be seeing more of J.J. Stokes and Dedric Ward?

BB: I thought that they both did a good job of getting ready this week and made some contributions to the game. I think we have some other receivers who have also been good contributors for us and we will see what their status is in terms of their availability this week. Based on that we will make our decisions. I think whoever is on the field we have confidence in them. We feel like they will be able to be productive for us whoever those guys are. That is the good thing.

Q: Does Kevin Faulk have a little bit of Troy Brown in him?

BB: A little bit of playmaking ability? I think that is a good comparison. A lot of times when Kevin gets the ball it does not look like much is going to happen. He squeezes a little bit more out of there than what you think is there. Whereas sometimes other guys get the ball and you think they are going to get more, and then when the play is over it really is not that much. I think Kevin has a good ability to squeeze everything out of a play. They are not all 80-yard touchdowns, but sometimes it looks like there are only two [yards] there and he finds four. I think that one thing that Kevin has worked on and what we have talked to him about since I have been here through the years is that every play is not an 80-yard touchdown. Sometimes you just have to take what is there. Do not lose yardage and do not try to turn nothing into something, losing more yardage. Cut your losses, do what you can, and tee it up and go to the next hole.

Q: What about protection? How big is his improvement?

BB: Significant. He has improved significantly.

Q: There was a time when J.R. Redmond was used on third down presumably for protection.

BB: J.R. was a good protector.

Q: And Kevin?

BB: He has been solid in that. He really has been solid. He was tested a couple of weeks ago against Dallas and—who did we play before that—Denver. He has been tested the last couple of weeks and he has really done a good job of it. He has worked hard and he does a solid job there. Of course he is getting good coaching.

Q: He seems to be at a crossroads when you first got here. What pushed him over that hump since then?

BB: I think Kevin's success is attributed to Kevin more than anything else. The first year I got here Kevin came off the ankle that he hurt his rookie year, so his whole offseason was pretty much in rehab on that ankle. He really did not get a full season of training like a healthy guy would in the offseason. Going into that first year, he probably was not physically at the level that he has been in succeeding years—because of the rehab, not that he was not working hard. I am not saying that because Kevin is a very hard worker. He is very diligent, very conscientious. After that first year we talked to him about working on certain areas of his game, things he can improve in. But Kevin works hard. He is one of our hardest workers, one of our obviously most productive players. I think that is really attributed to him. Football is important to him. It means a lot to him. He knows what to do. He studies the game hard. He knows when he does not do something well, what he did wrong and what he needs to work on to improve it. And then he addresses it. Some guys sweep it under the rug, 'I will get it next time', but Kevin is very proactive and diligent about doing that. He will stay after practice and work on the things he needs to work on to improve as a player. I have tremendous respect for him for doing that. He has a great attitude and a great work ethic and a great team attitude in doing it, too. It is not always about him scoring a touchdown or making a big play. It is about him doing something that will help somebody else make a play. He works on those things just as much as he does on plays where he is getting the ball

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