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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered and Patriots Playbook Fri Dec 03 - 10:00 PM | Mon Dec 06 - 05:55 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/04/2002

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BB: I think everybody has got the injury report. It's fortunately a little bit shorter than usual. We've got a couple days to get through some stuff here. We'll just have to take Tedy (Bruschi's) situation as it comes, it's obviously doubtful this week. So if that is the case, then we'll take him week to week. Tebucky (Jones) is day-to-day. Hopefully he will continue to progress as he has. He has certainly been working hard at it and getting a lot of treatment. Everybody else should be ready to go. That's where we are. We've had a productive couple of days in terms of getting a little bit of a jump on Buffalo playing the early game last week. Obviously Buffalo had an outstanding performance against Miami Sunday. I saw that game and saw them do a lot of things well on both sides of the ball. They got a lot of turnovers, hit some big plays, ran the ball well. (They) just played a real solid game against a team that is leading the division. We're expecting another tough battle like it usually is in this division. We could get similar conditions to what Buffalo got on Sunday. But we've got to be ready for anything there. We just know we're going to get a tough football game. They always play hard and they have a lot of big play potential obviously a lot of outstanding players on offense. Defensively they really rise to the occasion last week against Miami. That's where we're at today.

Q: Is it different in December in keeping focus or realizing that you are getting close to the end? What is it like coaching a team in December?

BB: Well, each game you win, the next one becomes a little bit more important and right now we're not thinking about as much on December as just we are Buffalo. That's really the focus for right now. I would say there is a lot at stake for this game, there always is with division games. The further you go into the season, I think, the more you rely on your veteran experience, your guys that have been through the wars, the guys that have been through longer seasons and bigger games and you rely a little bit more on them. In the end, everybody has got to step up and hopefully we're in position to do that.

Q: Are there any special issues or concerns when you are preparing for a rematch with a team you beat pretty handily the first time around?

BB: Well, as we've talked about many times before, it's like the double headers in baseball. You play one game it's 11-10 and the next game it's 2-1. We don't have any expectations about how the game is going to go other than we expect Buffalo to do what they do, which is run the ball, make big plays in the passing game. Defensively, play a lot of eight man front and get their safeties up close to the line of scrimmage to pressure the quarterback and pressure the running game and rely on their good coverage corners. That's what we have to get ready for. We're not really too concerned about how the last one came out. We're more concerned about preparing for this one and looking at the things that Buffalo has changed or done different since we played them one month ago. I think we saw a lot of those things come forward in the Miami game on Sunday where they probably played as well as they have all year.

Q: What specifically did they do differently in that game than when you played them?

BB: Well, they caused a lot of turnovers in that game. They had a couple of blitzes. They had (Antoine) Winfield back, so that gives them some different coverage packages that are available to them that they really didn't use in our last game. They moved (Jason) Bostic inside, put Winfield outside with (Nate) Clements, which is something that they hadn't done in the last… I hadn't seen them do that in quite a while as a matter of fact, some wrinkles like that. They got a little rotation going on the defensive line. They got some plays out of those guys. They change up their scheme a little bit. They added a couple of wrinkles here and there like you would expect any team to do as they move on into the season. So those are the kinds we have to look for.

Q: Tom (Brady) had a couple of tough games versus Buffalo last year. What was the difference in his performance against them in the game this year and then the two last year?

BB: I couldn't put my finger on any one specific thing. Maybe he could identify it better for. It was a lot of the same type of plays, same type of defenses, they went a little bit better this time. I don't think they were maybe as good as it looked this time or as bad as it looked last year, because there is good and bad in every game and it was in that one too. Obviously he played a real solid game. He was efficient with the ball, we didn't turn it over and we were able to finish some drives and get them in the endzone. Two or three plays at the right time make everything look a lot better than they do if those plays go the other way.

Q: The second time around, especially a division opponent, does it come down to just game play and execution or is it game planning?

BB: Well, I think there is a lot of game planning involved because both teams know each other very well. You know all the strengths and all the things they've been through the course of the year, we've got 12 games on them. It's not like we haven't seen everything they're going to do and they've seen everything we're going to do. You have to just try to pick out the things that you think are most important, the things that are most likely to hit against you as opposed to what they used against Miami, Detroit or Oakland or somebody else on their schedule. There is a little bit of a guessing game there, but in the end, both teams know each other pretty well, the personnel, pretty well, know the strengths and weakness of the opposing teams and you try to create matchups that are favorable and try to stay away from the one that you think maybe you have a little bit of a disadvantage on.

Q: With the way the game went last time, is there anything that you maybe had planned to use but you didn't have to?

BB: I think that is true in any game. You always come out of a game and there are just some things that for some reason or other don't come up in a game, it could be a situational play, it could be the team might have been playing a little bit more of one coverage, whether that was their intent or whether that was just the way the game unfolded situationally, but you get things that just didn't come up as frequently as you thought they might. Or maybe they didn't come up at all. The decision that you make this time around is whether you want to incorporate those things and continue to include them in the game plan or maybe you've see some new evidence or gotten a better look at what they are doing and decide to make an alteration on it. That absolutely happens every game. You have a couple of blitzes that you either didn't run, or you ran them and you didn't quite get the look you were looking for so maybe they haven't really seen what you intended to with it. Same thing with a play, you might have gotten a different defense so that the play the way you really designed it to go, didn't quite hit against the look you were looking for. Absolutely that happens in every game.

Q: Having been through a stretch drive last season with veteran players in which you were successful, is that an advantage coming down to the final four (games)?

BB: I don't think it's an advantage or a disadvantage. Every team has those players on it. I think every team in the league relies on guys that have been in December games before. We're no exception. I don't it's anything unique though. Buffalo has got plenty of guys that are in that same situation. They've got veteran players, guys like Larry Centers, nobody has been in more December games than he has. They are a veteran team, guys that have been through it, guys that have played against us in that situation last year. I just think that every team relies on those guys a little bit more at this time of year. We do, but I think that everybody else does as well.

Q: Speaking of Larry Centers, how do they try to get him featured on linebackers?

BB: Well, you are worried so much about their receivers when they bring (Josh) Reed, (Eric) Moulds and (Peerless) Price into the game on the three receivers set, especially on third down, its tough to double everybody. Sometimes they use four receivers as well, so you've got four receivers and Centers in there, if you have the traditional seven guys in coverage in rush four which is the normal numbers, you've got seven to cover five, it's just hard to get them all doubled. They pretty much get him isolated all the time pretty much wherever they want to be honest with you because you are always worried about Moulds, Price and Reed.

Q: You talked about matchups. Obviously with Tedy Bruschi being listed as doubtful, Ted Johnson seemed like he had a decent game in coverage against Detroit. Is he capable?

BB: Well, I think that Ted has been playing well for the last six weeks or so. I think he had just solid games. He's been good in the running game, been good in the passing game, he's made some great plays blitzing as well. Ted is just playing good football all the way around. We'll be counting on him again this week.

Q: More than usually maybe?

BB: Well, he's been playing quite a bit. He's been involved in a number of different defensive packages. I think we will continue to use him. Sure it might be a little bit more. Somebody is going to have to play the plays that Bruschi plays if he doesn't play them. I think he might play half a dozen or so against Detroit or whatever it was. So that obviously transitioned a little bit last week. But moving forward it will be the same thing, either an extra linebacker or another defensive lineman, probably less 3-4 defense, you know, in sub situations it could be defensive back. But somewhere along the line we're going to have to pick up the slack depending on how the packages unfold.

Q: Is there any truth to the theory that sometimes rookies can hit the wall at this point in the season? I bring up Deion Branch, his production over the last four or five weeks is not what it was earlier in the season. Are there other factors involved such as he had more of a featured role when Troy Brown was injured?

BB: I don't think there is any doubt about it. I think they all hit it to one degree or another. I don't think there is any doubt about it. You are referring to Deion's receiving production?

Q: Right.

BB: Because his production in the kicking game on kickoff returns is actually getting better a little bit each week and I think that is continuing to improve. There's no question he had some opportunities when Troy was out particularly the San Diego game where he just had a lot more opportunities. But again at this point in time, it's not about trying to feature any player. It's not about trying to get somebody so many catches or so many yards or anything. It's about just trying to win. Whatever role players that have to step into it at this point in time, it's a critical role and we need him to perform that. Whether that is catching one ball, whether it is catching two, whether it is returning kickoffs, whether it's catching 10. Somebody needs to step up now when their number is called. And that could be anyone who is one the field. That's really the way I think each player needs to look at it when you are out there, it's you and 10 other guys and everybody has got to step up and if their number is called and they get an opportunity to make a play, we need them to make it. It's that time of year. It's December.

Q: Does (Drew) Bledsoe coming back here for the first time and the importance of this game with the current standings lessen the circus atmosphere?

BB: Well, I don't know, it's up to you guys. It's Buffalo against New England for us. It's two teams that are playing. This isn't a one-man singles tennis match. It's team football, and it's the Bills against the Patriots. Whoever they put out there, we've got to try to beat them, who ever we put out there, I'm sure they'll try to beat us. It doesn't make a different who it is.

Q: In regards to yards after the catch, does that generally come down to tackling for the other team, or your team if you give any up?

BB: I think it depends on what side of the fence you're on there. When you're running its good running, and when you're tackling it's bad tackling. We've talked about tackling a lot this year. I think its always going to be pretty much the same story. The more space that the runner has to work in, the fewer defenders there are around, the more missed tackles you're going to have. I don't care who's doing the tackling. Some guys are better than others, there's no doubt about that, but the more space the runner has to work in, in this league sooner or later they're going to break them. That's what they get paid for, that's why they are skilled players in the NFL. The key to making yards is running well and getting people isolated in space. Defensively fundamental tackling is absolutely critical, but the more people you get around the ball, the less visible those missed tackles become.

Q: In your opinion should this thing be put to rest after this game?

BB: So what are you telling me, when we play them again next year nobody's going to mention it. I don't know, I just answer the questions, I don't ask them. I'm not really concerned about that. I'm really just concerned about how our team plays against Buffalo, that's it. We're just trying to win the game. Certainly each of the players are key players, and we have to defend against their strengths and weaknesses, but Drew's a competitor at quarterback just like the guys we've seen the last 12 weeks. We try to well against all of them, and we'll try to do well against him on Sunday. I'm sure he'll try to do well against us. That's the game.

Q: Did Miami play different than some of the other teams have against Buffalo?

BB: I think Miami plays the way Miami always plays. They have their core coverages, and we've talked about Miami defensively. They do what they do and you can pretty much put on any tape and you're going to see real consistency in what they do. There were a couple of plays there, there was a big catch and run play to Peerless Price. Drew hit Price before the half on a real good throw in the corner of the end zone. Then there was the long one that Moulds caught for a touchdown, 70-something yards or whatever it was. Those are three plays that I'm sure that Miami thinks they should have had defended, and those are three plays that I'm sure Buffalo is proud that they hit. There is not much of a difference in this league between 80-yard touchdowns and incomplete passes. There's good execution or just a lack of being able to finish a play defensively. That's the difference.

Q: Is Miami's game planning different in terms of what they do?

BB: They're different than Kansas City. Kansas City's a big blitz zone team. The Jets are more of a zone team. Miami's a man team.

Q: What kind of runner is Travis Henry? How would you characterize him?

BB: I think Travis Henry has a lot of strengths as a runner. He's got real good balance, he's got good power, and he's got good speed. He likes to bounce the ball out and cut it back a lot. He doesn't always hit into the hole, not that he won't hit into the hole because he does, but he's also a threat to take the ball outside and send it back to the weak side of the formation, or the weak side of the way the play is designed to go. He's a guy that can really hit you on all fronts. He's been nothing but impressive. I talked about him before the first game about how impressed I was with his running skills, his ability to break tackles, make yards after the first hit, and outrun people as well as be strong and run over them. I think he's got a real good set of skills there to run the ball, and he's also catching the ball coming out of the back field, and of course turning into a good runner in those spots too. He makes some big plays for them consistently. He's had a real productive year.

Q: Three Foxboro games left. Do you pull back on the game planning a little bit with the weather being a factor? Do you just work on the things you do well?

BB: I think you certainly have to take the weather into consideration. You have got to be cognizant of the fact that you could get anything at this time of year in December. You could get wind, you could get some type of precipitation, you could get cold weather, or you could get a good day too. So I don't think you want to put all your eggs in one basket and say we're going to try to spread the field and throw the ball 50 times a game, and end up with 40-mile an hour winds, -10 wind-chill and all that, and find out that throwing is going to be tough that day. Anything you do, you have to take that into consideration. As I've said before, I think that the weather effects the kicking game first, and the passing game second. So any weather conditions that are present are going to effect the kicking game, and you better be ready to handle those. What type of returns you have called, whether it's direction, whether middle returns or whatever they are, you have to take into consideration where the ball is going to go, and how deep it's going to go, and really how the timing of those is going to be effected by the weather conditions, particularly the wind. There's no question you have to take that into consideration.

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