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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/09/2002

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BB: Good morning. After watching the tape this morning, it was a little bit of an unusual game. You don't see too many like that. The flow of it and some of the circumstances that happened in the game, you see three touchdowns called back by penalties, a lot of turnovers in the game. Some of the statistics, I think when you add them all up, they add up. But when you just look at two or three of them separately, they kind of go against the grain a little bit. It a little bit of an unusual game. I think I was most pleased with was the energy that we came out with in the first half. Again, I was disappointed to have the touchdowns called back but I thought we moved the ball fairly well, got the production in the red area, played well on defense, got a big turnover there on (Richard) Seymour's interception that set up some points. I thought that we covered our kickoffs well, which is a big improvement from the last time that we played Buffalo where we ended up in some not real good field position situations on our kickoff coverage. So, that was good. In the second half, it was not a real efficient half for us offensively. We had one drive off the turnover where we ran the ball in, otherwise (we) didn't get much done and defensively (we) had some success turning the ball over. So that kind of balanced it out on the scoring end. Again, just a little bit of an unusual type of game, the way it flowed, you know, first half, second half and so forth. Injury wise, we had a couple of guys hurt yesterday, we'll just have to see how it turns out with them as we go through the week. Obviously (Deion) Branch didn't go back in and finish the game so we'll have to see how that progresses as we move along.

Q: Are you getting concerned at all about this kind of third quarter or big lead lull that seems to crop up there in games?

BB: Well, I don't know. You'd like to go out there and win 48-0 every week, that would be great. Sometimes it doesn't quite work out like that. We had a couple big scoring quarters in the third quarter, third to early fourth. But, we've had some lulls. You would certainly like to be more consistent, no question about that. It's nice to be able to be ahead in the game and still be able to control and call the game the way you would like to in the second half rather than being on the other end of the stick, we've been there before too. Buffalo came out in the third quarter, defensively, they changed up what they were doing. They threw some weak-corner, weak-safety blitzes at us. We had, obviously, a couple of negative plays there, a pass play, the tight end reverse, plays like that that they just ran right into the blitzes that they were running and those ended up being drive-stoppers. (We had) a couple of penalties there too which didn't help us any. Part of that you have to give credit to Buffalo, they hit us on a couple of things that ended up being negative plays for them and just didn't have a very good option. I thought we did a little better job adjusting to that. Then we had, right at the end there, (we) weren't as precise in the passing game as we need to be. Yeah, (we would) certainly like for it to be better, no question.

Q: Is part that circumstance? You can't score on every drive.

BB: Well, nobody is passing a rule that says you can't score. Just because you scored the time before you had it, there's no rule that says you can't go and score again. That's what we want to do. Realistically you don't win many games 60-0 in this league. So if you get off to a fast start and start making some adjustments, then they do some things differently and you get into that situation where you're saying, 'Well if we keep doing the same things that have been successful until they stop them, which sometimes run themselves to some adjustments' or 'Where do we think they are going to adjust, and now we are going to go away from what has been successful for us and maybe we out-dumb ourselves doing that one.' That's kind of the game you play, once the flow of it gets determined, (its) how quickly do you adjust, how quickly do you think they are going to adjust and then how does it match up.

Q: Just before halftime, you took a knee. Was it because you were in your own end?

BB: Well, we were a long way away. Buffalo is a good two-minute team, we certainly didn't want to give them any other opportunities, and we had a 20-point lead.

Q: Was there much discussion on that?

BB: Beyond that, the decision, there was no discussion. 'This is what we're going to do, we already have a 20-point lead.' So I don't feel bad about that. I really don't. In that situation, I think we played a pretty good half. We had control of the game at that point. I don't know if more good than bad could have happened in that situation, we still had a long way to go.

Q: Can you talk with a few specifics about what Seymour in the last month that has done to help him be a better player than he was earlier in the season?

BB: Well, I think that one thing that has improved is his leverage, his body leans. He is player lower. He is playing with his knees bent more and it's been able to create more push in the pocket. I thought he did a good job of that yesterday. I think he has been playing well, like you said, the last month. But I thought he played real well yesterday. It showed up in the running game, it showed up in the pass rush, (he had) a real good catch on the interception there, that was a tough ball and (he) made a real athletic play on. (He) was in pursuit a number of times where the ball was forced outside and he was one of the reasons why it got pushed out. A lot of it comes down to playing better technique, playing better leverage, bending his knees more, playing with his hands, keeping blockers off his body.

Q: Is part of it because he came on so strong towards the end of the season, his rookie season, and teams started paying more attention to him and maybe he didn't initially meet that challenge and by raising his own game up?

BB: I don't know about that one. I think they know who he is. I think they knew who he was. It's like when we go against guys, they may be rookies, but after four or five games into the regular season, you know who they are. I mean, we went into the Pittsburgh game, we knew about (Antwaan) Randle-El and we hadn't even played against him yet. I think you have to give other teams credit for that. Each week you see different schemes out there, Richard is just like everybody else, you have to adjust to different styles of play, you know, the Denver blocking schemes are a lot different from the Buffalo blocking schemes and they're a lot different from the Minnesota blocking schemes. That's just part of the progression of being a pro and seeing different things and gaining those experiences on the field. But just overall, I think he is playing a better pad level, better leverage and using his hands better.

Q: Being that he is so tall, is that something that he has to focus on, bending his knees?

BB: Sure. He's got more to move down than other guys. It always comes down to pad level. You always want to play with your pads below the blockers pads. Or if you are a blocker you want your pads below the defenders pads so you can use your lower body strength and use your leverage once you are above them. (If) you lose leverage, you lose the ability to use your legs and your hips which are the strongest muscles in your body. So yeah, he's got to work at it like all tall guys do, but he's not a guy who can't bend his knees, he has his natural knee bends that he has to work on a little bit.

Q: How about your offensive script? You have to be pretty pleased on that. You have scored on your opening drives the last four games.

BB: I think we've been able to move the ball. And we've gotten that way from being in the situation where we were falling behind in the first half, second quarter, that type of thing. Getting knocked out of it. Our whole production early in the game has definitely been better and that's good. You always want to come out ready to go and start to establish the game on your terms and move it from there, rather than going the other way around. So it's a credit to Charlie (Weis) and the offensive coaches and of course the players being able to go out there and execute it. We've done a better job of holding on to the ball, we haven't turned it over and put the defense into negative situations and that is important too. We have been able to capitalize on a couple of those, you know, last week against Detroit, Minnesota, yesterday. You get the ball on the plus side of the 50 or sometimes on the plus side of the 20 or run one in for a score, defensively those are great opportunities. Offensively, that's the first thing you want to prevent.

Q: I know early in the season, you had been going over those plays in practice. Have you been doing that recently?

BB: Yeah. We continue to do that towards the end of the week once everything is pretty well defined, 'This is how we want to enter into the game.' Understand that it's situationally, if a third-and-one comes up on the third play or if a third-and-one comes up on the 15th play, it's still third-and-one. (We) try to review that later in the week, letting everybody know that this is what we're going to do, here are the two or three things we think that they could be doing in this situation, whichever one it is, let's make sure we get that right. I don't think that is really an excuse for not as good a performance in the second in the half or later on in the game. Once you run through the script, we're still running plays we've been working on, we've just got to do a better job executing.

Q: Generally, how long is the script?

BB: It could be anywhere from 10 to 20 plays. But again, situationally, the situational plays come in as well. Say you had you had your first play from the plus 20 or the plus 15, you get your first play from the plus 15 to the plus 10. You get your first play from the plus 10 to the plus 5, understand the down and distance, again, second-and two is not the same as first-and-10 or second-and-12. A lot of that situational stuff takes care of itself once you get into a situation, third down, red area, short yardage and goal line, maybe a particular personnel group. The first time they come in with a certain personnel group this is what you want to try to do against that group. So there are a little addendums to that in order to you don't end up, you know, running a bad play.

Q: Can you explain or tell us what the officials said to you about the illegal shift penalty? There's still a lot of confusion as to what actually happened on that play.

BB: Well, they didn't have anything to do with it. We had a receiver in motion and Kevin (Faulk) started just before the snap. Now, any one of those by themselves, would have been fine. The receiver motion would have been fine. Kevin just being a little bit ahead of the snap because he was moving parallel to the line of scrimmage would have been fine. But you can't have two guys in motion at the same time. That's Canada. So we had two people moving at the same time, the receiver and the back and therefore that was the call and it was a good call.

Q: When you look at the play-by-play it says it's a penalty against (Tom) Brady. Is that incorrect?

BB: Yes that's definitely incorrect. The penalty was an illegal shift if I'm not mistaken. And it's two guys in motion at the same time, which we had. I can't argue with that call, it was a good call.

Q: As a coach, during your four game losing streak and then rectifying those items, has that been one of the thing that you have been proud of with your team?

BB: Yeah, right, no doubt about it. There's always problems and if you can get them corrected … but what you try to tell your team is, 'if we can get these things fixed and continue to do the things that we're doing well, well. Then there's a chance for us to improve.' So improving the weak points by themselves, if they're offset by negatives on the things that you're doing well, then that balances out. But if you can keep doing the things you're doing fairly well and improve on your weak points, then you have a chance to improve. From a coaching standpoint you just have to allocate how much time you want to … we could allocate every snap in practice to third down, and we could probably improve third down. I don't know that that would do to everything else, so you just have to pick the balance out of there. There's no question I feel better about the fact that we're doing some things in the game better than we were doing them earlier in the year. Obviously there's still a lot of things we've got to work on, but it's good to see some progress in those areas.

Q: With the defense, has there been many scheme changes or is it better execution?

BB: I think a combination of execution and we've changed a couple scheme things. Again, when you make out a defensive game plan there's two things you've got to look at, one, is what do they like to do. So you look at the plays they run, you look at their tendencies and all that, but the flip side of that is what are you doing. It's easy for your opponent to sit over there and say, 'well these have been our main plays in the last three, four, five games, but look at what the Patriots are doing, we'll do something a little different down there because of what they're doing.' That's what you run into, how much do you scheme for them, and how much do you feel like, 'well here's the way we're going to get attacked because of the way we play, not the way our previous opponents played.' I think we've tried to anticipate a little bit of, to say from a coaching standpoint, we've tried to anticipate a little bit, 'okay what are they going to do against us. What looks the best against what we're doing?' Of course everything looks so good it's hard to pick out one thing. We've tried to address some of the areas that we feel we've been hurt with, and how can we shore those up, and I think that's helped us. But we had better execution, and really the one touchdown we gave up yesterday, it was a third and ten, or whatever, and we just didn't do a good job on that play, that really shouldn't have been a problem, but it was. Overall, our red area defense, that probably has helped us more than anything else in the last month.

Q: You had three touchdowns called back on penalties yesterday. How concerned are you with the repetition of penalties?

BB: You want to limit your penalties, and we know that if you get enough penalties you're going to lose yardage and those plays are going to hurt you. It's certainly not anything that we approve of, try to cut too close. We've just got to try to do a better job of playing within the rules. I don' t know what else to say about it, I don't think that a lot of the things that were called were flagrant, but they're out of bounds and that's the way they were called so we're going to have to pull them in there a little bit tighter. Unfortunately it hasn't been any one consistent problem all the way through. A couple weeks ago against Minnesota, we had three defensive offside penalties or four defensive offside penalties, that's subsided a little bit. It's definitely a concern, and we're trying to work on it across the board, and just like yesterday, we got three touchdowns called back. If that keeps happening, eventually it'll cost us.

Q: With those three problems, getting in the red zone, penalties and turnovers during the four-game stretch, does the coaching staff have to take on a different teaching method with each one? It seems as if it calls upon three different types of teaching. How is your staff at teaching the right approach?

BB: I think you just have to look at the problem and try to a) analyze the problem, and b) take a look at what your options are and how to solve it. Sometimes it's personnel changes, sometimes it scheme, sometimes it's … it could be a number of different things you want to do. So whatever your solutions are that you come up with as a staff, then you decide what's the most efficient way to implement them. So I think every problem has the same potential solutions, you just have to decide what would be the most efficient way of addressing that problem.

Q: Which problems are the most daunting to fix? The inexplicable ones?

BB: I think when you have penalties and turnovers you just got to go back and look at what happened. What were the turnovers caused by? Were they interceptions? Were they fumbles? What types of interceptions were they? What types of fumbles were they? Where do the problems come from? Same way with the penalties, where do the penalties come from? Which guys have the most penalties? Which are the most frequent penalties? And then sometimes you alter your scheme a little bit so that, 'okay we've had three or four penalties in this area, alright we're going to teach a little bit different technique, or we're going to do it a little bit more differently so that we try to stay out of that.' Out of being into that close situation that maybe it's okay once out of 10 times, but the one or two time that it gets called, it gets to the point where you can't afford it. Sometimes that's an option for us, better judgment, by the players, is always a solution to some of the penalties. There are some that are just going to happen because of being aggressive and getting caught a little bit out of position and things like that. But there are other ones that I think, through judgment, you can definitely help yourself on. So that's a combination.

Q: From 3-4, are you now at a point where you thought, and I hate to use the word happy…

BB: You're really firing right in there huh? Empty the machine gun, don't leave any bullets in there.

Q: Are you reasonably …

BB: Yeah, when you're 3-4, you just hope that you could be 4-4, you're not thinking about 6-5, 8-5, or anything else, when you're 3-4 the only thing that I'm thinking about is 4-4. I think that's the only way you can ever get to 8-5, or 6-5 whatever it is. Once you're 3-4 and you start thinking about 10-6, you're probably going to be 3-5, you've got to take a short-term approach and you can only play one game at a time. You better put all you've got into that one game, or you'll be mourning that loss and trying to talk about being 4-4 instead of 3-5, later on in the season when you look back on that game, I just don't think you can look at it that way. So right now, whether we're 8-5, or if we were 5-8, I think it's the same approach, we've got Tennessee this week, put everything we've got into the Tennessee game, it's a big game, it's an important game, it's a tough game, Monday night on the road. It'll take our best effort, and I think that's the way we've got to approach it, not try to look too far down the road, or too far back in the rear view mirror, just take care of all of our business this week, I mean I understand the mistakes we made in this game, and what trends are with us because we carry those with us, everybody's got tapes of our games, but try to do as much as we can in terms of improving and correcting the weaknesses and problems that we've had, but really looking forward to this weeks challenge against Tennessee. This is one of the best football teams in the league.

Q: Last year is last year, and I don't even want to mention it …

BB: All right, so let's skip it.

Q: Are you sensing that resolve, that focus from your team?

BB: You know, as I said last week, I think veteran leadership at this time of year is important, it's important to every team. No matter what your record is, who you're playing, or anything else, I think it's important to any team. We have, I think, a lot of good veteran leadership on this team, so that's good. In terms of the carry over from last year, I don't know about any of that. I think if we go out and lose the last three games you're going to sit there and say there isn't too much carry over. I think that'll all be reflected upon when it's over, rather than where we are now, I think right now, whatever leadership, whatever character, whatever toughness, whatever commitment, whatever it is we have, we better put all of it into the Tennessee game.

Q: Offensive schemes, do they change with the weather?

BB: I think you've got to be cognizant of it, no question, you have to be aware of it. I don't think you can go into a game in the Northeast at this time of year, whether it's Buffalo, New York, Boston, wherever it happens to be, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, any of those type areas, I just don't think you can go into the game and not be aware of the fact that the wind and weather conditions could have an impact on the game. I think you've got to be careful about putting all your eggs in one basket, and saying, 'okay we're going to be anticipating a 25 mile an hour wind, and here's what we can do, here's what we can't,' or you can end up with a day like yesterday, which wasn't that bad, and you could run the game pretty much the way you want to run it. But, there's going to be other days where … the Miami/Buffalo game from the week before for example. The elements had a significant impact on the game, and again, it always starts in the kicking game, that's where the elements will effect you first, then it'll run down to the offensive and defensive situations. I think you have to prepare for that as it gets later in the week, or sometimes even as late as the day of the game, then sometimes you can start, when you're sure what the weather is, then you can start to make some other adjustments in your plan. Maybe in the walk-through, something that the team's familiar with, that you hadn't repped in practice because you didn't see the urgency at that point but you see it now. But I've made the mistake in the past of saying on Wednesday, 'well it looks like we're going to get a blizzard,' and it's 60 degrees and sunny and you look like a moron trying to forecast the weather four days ahead of time at this time of year. I don't think that's the way to go but you definitely have to be aware of it. Before the game I talk to the kickers, the quarterbacks, and all the guys … you know, the receivers, judging the ball. I talk to them about what the conditions are, if there's anything they really feel is going to be a problem, and sometimes you can take a play or two out of that, including, as silly as it sounds, if it's something like the sun. As low as the sun is at this time of year, it can be a lot more of a factor than earlier in the season when it's one o'clock, and the sun's up at the top at mid-day. Now it's … it can definitely be a factor. All those kinds of conditions, we talk about them going into the game, and then more specifically either the day before, or the day of the game

Q: Does the running game become more important as the wind picks up?

BB: It could, if the conditions are bad and it's hard to throw, then certainly the running game becomes more important, no question. We went out there and we practiced last Tuesday, I don't know it was probably 25 mile an hour winds, I mean we could be throwing passes against the air with no defense out there and it'd be hard to complete a lot of throws and catches. The elements were tough, so I'm not saying you can't do it, but it was a lot tougher than some other days. When that's the case then the running game definitely becomes more predictable, you have more predictability on what's going to happen then trying to throw a 15-yard pass down field.

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