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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/11/2002

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BB: Okay, I think everybody has the injury report. Matt Chatham had broken hand and had surgery on that yesterday so he's been placed on injury reserve. We signed (Mauguala) Tuitele to replace him at that spot on the 53-man roster. We also released Idris Price from the practice squad. You've got the other injuries there. I think that all those guys are doing better. (Tedy) Bruschi, (Joe) Andruzzi, Deion (Branch), Rick (Lyle), but obviously there's some concern that's why we've got them listed on the report at this point. That's where we're at with that. On Tennessee, obviously these guys are probably as hot as any team in the league, they've won seven of the last eight. I think the credit should probably should start right at the top with Floyd Reece. As usual, he's put together a good team. I think that they've done a real good in free agency. They had a good draft. Some of the free agents that they signed after the draft, not only this year but in previous years, are contributing well for them. So I think that they've done a real nice job there. Jeff Fischer is, no question, one of the top coaches in this league. He and Floyd have both come up through the ranks as players and have earned their stripes doing different things along the way and they know the league and they know what they are doing. I think they are very well coached in all phases of the game, but particularly on defense. Jim Schwartz the defensive coordinator is a guy that I worked with in Cleveland and (I) have a tremendous amount of respect for Schwartz. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met. I think defensively they have a real good scheme. They make it tough on you every play. I think that Jeff is, like I said, one of the top coaches in the league. This is a team that is smart and they are tough and they play hard all the time. You just have to be ready every time the ball is snapped because they keep you off balance and they play a real physical football game. This is a good football team. They do a lot of things well and that's why they have won seven of the last eight games. This is a big test for us this week.

Q: How tough is its as a coaching staff and for the players even preparing for a team that you haven't played in four years?

BB: It's tough. It is tough, especially a team like Tennessee. It's tough as it is, you know, you've got to go back three or four games and you feel like well you kind of got a little bit of a feel for them there, but then as you go back a little bit further, the water gets a little more muddy and you realize that this is a team that is going to do some different things based on how they really feel about you. You're not going to just get the same stuff week after week, after week. They're really going to be specific for you. You need to get to know the personnel. They've got some guys in and out of there and it looks like most of them are coming back now, but that a little bit of a factor too. Obviously there's a (Jevon) Kearse factor. (Greg) Comella is back now, (Frank) Wychek is back, (Steve) McNair is obviously looks pretty healthy to me. Those guys are all, (Eddie) George, I mean they are coming back, not only back into the lineup, but back at a high level. It is. It's tough to get a real good feel for this team. I think, fortunately, I feel like we have a pretty experienced coaching staff. Even going back to when I was in Cleveland, defensively there were a lot similarities in what they are doing. But we haven't played them in a long time and getting to know them, especially at this time of year when they've got 13 games where there is stuff out there that you have to prepare for. It's a pretty big challenge. And these guys do a real good job of coaching. They don't make it easy for you in any phase of the game, offense, defense or special teams; they're pushing you all the way, every game, every snap.

Q: Are they using Eddie George any different?

BB: No. Eddie is one of the most powerful runners in the league. He's got great speed and he's got a lot of power. What they want to do is to try to get Eddie George moving as fast as possible into the line of scrimmage and that's bad news because he will run through them and he will run over them. That's the kind of runner he is. You better buckle your chin strap and be ready for some contact when he's got the ball because he is going to bring it. He's also caught a bunch of passes, he's probably got about 30-something catches. They don't always hand it to him, they give it to him on flair patterns, check down screens, and that kind of thing. He's a load. He can take it the house too. This guy has got legit speed.

Q: How has Jevon Kearse changed their defense? How far back do you have to go to get a fair look at him?

BB: Well, you've got to go back to the opener because that is the only game that he played in. There's last year's tape obviously, you can go back there. He gives them the speed rusher off the edge, he's as good a speed rusher as there is in the league. (Carlos) Hall has come in and done a good job for him. That's another good move by Floyd, you know, getting a young player like that in. He's an athletic pass rusher and he has been productive for them. Kearse, that's a horse of a different color. He's a big time threat. Wherever he lines up on the field, you better know where he is and (you) better have at least one guy blocking him.

Q: You said before that you prepare for a someone's best. Even though he is coming off of injuries, do prepare for Jevon Kearse?

BB: Yeah. It sounds like he could have played last week or the week before. He was close to being ready and it was a game time decision and they held him back. Then he practiced another week and they held him back (again.) I'm sure that when Jeff thinks he's ready he will put him out there. He's not going to put him out there if he is 50 percent. When he hits the field, I think that he is going to hit it running.

Q: Systematically, does it give you any jumps on having just played Buffalo?

BB: We talked about that a little bit. I think some of the X's and O's are the same, but the way they play is a lot different. It really is. This is a team that has been playing this defensive system for over ten years, back to when Buddy (Ryan) was there in '92 or '93 whenever it was he got there. It's the continuation of that system and they build on it. Jeff and Schwartz had taken what was there and have continued to build it and modify it and adapt it to the personnel and to the specific things and the strengths and weaknesses that they see both on their team and around the league. 10 years in one system, they're pretty far along in this system and they definitely know what they are doing. So, yeah, some of the X's and O's are the same but they are very sophisticated and they do a real good job in every area. They are physical, their schemes are good, they disguise them well, they make one thing look like … you know, you put the play on the tape and you say, 'Okay, it looks like we could do this.' Then you put the next play on and say, 'Well, I'm glad we didn't have that called here, because that doesn't look good.' Then you put the next play on, you see three or four plays in a row and pretty soon nothing looks good. And that's kind of the way that they do it. They keep it moving. You're really lucky if you happen to hit the right thing at the right time against them because you're just playing at 25 percent odds, that it's going to come up the way you want it to the other three-quarters of the time. You get some garbage that just doesn't look good.

Q: Can you just talk about your situation at middle linebacker a little bit?

BB: Well, I think that is part of the reason why we signed Mauguala and of course Larry (Izzo) filled in there when Tedy got hurt in the Detroit game. (He) did a good job. You know, we have three guys there that could play, I mean we could move somebody else in there, but those three all have experience in it.

Q: You are one of the teams that has emerged from a period in the season where you had a losing streak. Tennessee is, Pittsburgh is, Oakland the same thing. All these teams are now stronger teams. Is there anything that is comparable to one or the other? Is there any common denominator?

BB: Well, I don't know. You look at a team like Oakland. They are pretty good. They lost a couple of games, what two of them in overtime? They are one play away or two plays away from being 11-2 or whatever it is. Tennessee lost a couple of tough games there. They lost to Baltimore by one point or they would be eight in a row. Tennessee is playing really well too. I honestly haven't spent a lot of time going back and obviously they had some trouble earlier in the year, they gave up some returns for touchdowns. A couple of plays like that can skew a game. I've seen in the last two months, Tennessee looks pretty good. We've seen Oakland and they look pretty good too. The way it is now in this league, you're one week away from disaster. That's where we are. We are one week away, just like Indianapolis last week. They were on top of the AFC and now they're looking uphill. It can all change in one week. I think that is the way we've got to approach it. We need our best this week.

Q: What specifically do you see in Tennessee from the time where they lost the four in a row to where they have won seven out of their last eight? What are they doing different?

BB: I just would focus on their last eight that they've won. Right now they are doing everything pretty well. I mean they've got Pittsburgh, I know it was 31-7 or something like that in the third quarter. I mean they were just running out the clock. They are tough on offense because they keep the ball there. They lead the league in time of possession. They are very high on their third down conversions. They've got, obviously, a good running game; the quarterback is hot. The quarterback has shown that he can bring them back. He's brought them back from behind a couple of times to win games. You know he can beat you with his feet, he can beat you with him arm. They've got a powerful running game, a lot of guys who can catch the ball; you know, whether it's Wycheck, Comella, (John) Simon, all those guys, (Shad) Meier, (Erron) Kinney, they're an athletic group. George has got 30 catches. So you know they do a good job of keeping the ball, maintaining possession. Their field possession is very good. They lead the league in kickoff coverage. Offensively, for the most part, they put you on a long field, so you are trying to go 80 yards for a touchdown. Defensively, they are just a good defensive football team. Period. It starts with the coaching and the scheme. They've got a lot of good players too; they're disruptive. There are not a lot of holes in that team. They're strong from top to bottom. They make you earn it. They make you go the whole length of the field. They make you do it against a good defense and then they are a problem to get off the field when they got the ball. They hang on to it. Even if they don't score, they hang on to it. They drive it down there and put you in the hole and there you are looking at the endzone 80, 90 yards away on the other end.

Q: Was there something one common thread they had a problem with in those four losses?

BB: That was so long ago and the way they've played the last two months, I would think that they are just playing real solid football. Whatever issues they had earlier, it looks like they've got all of it straightened out and they are doing pretty much everything well.

Q: The Jets are one of those teams along with Pittsburgh, and Tennessee overcoming a losing streak. Can a team come away from that, once they get out of it obviously, a stronger team? Does it temper them?

BB: I think it could. When you're down at the bottom, sometimes that can be a good lesson for you to learn; how not to do it. There's a certain level of performance that won't get it done and if we can't perform better than that, we know what that is going to look like. So, yeah, there's something to be gained from that.

Q: Can you talk about Steve McNair? Despite the foot and rib injuries and hasn't practiced in the last two weeks, he's played exceptional. Is he one of those guys that you have to worry about with his feet (and scrambling)?

BB: Oh absolutely. Whether he practices or not, I don't know about that, maybe we can send him some flowers down there if he's that beat up. But the way he's playing, he looks like he's practiced everyday. He's running well, he's throwing the ball very accurately, the Giant game, 20 mile per hour winds, takes the team up and down the field in the fourth quarter and in overtime at will. I think Steve's playing well, and he's definitely a problem, with his mobility, not only to run, but to buy more time to throw and then kill you with the passing game, and then again, he's got so many guys to throw to. They're really smart players, the guys like Wycheck, that do a good job of uncovering, getting open, they get an extra half second in the routes because he's scrambling around a little bit, they're there, and he hits them. He's a big time threat, when he's got the ball there's a lot of things that he can do with it, and defensively they're pretty much all bad. He's accurate short, he can throw the ball long, he can run around and buy more time to throw, or he can run and pick up 15 to 20 yards just like we saw [Daunte] Culpepper do a couple weeks ago, and kill you that way. When he's got the ball they're all problems.

Q: Is Bruschi one of those guys that would "spy" McNair with him being out. Who would that fall upon with him being out?

BB: Yeah, well, I don't know. Right now, Tedy's a situation where, if we have him, great, we'll plug him in there. I don't think, at this point, we can count on him and game plan with him in there, so I think that's the way we'll have to handle him. Everybody else, if he's not able to play, everybody else is going to have to pick up the slack a little bit, and that's not only the guy that plays his position, but all the other guys that are in there as well. We did that last week, we did that in the Detroit game, I think that's the NFL these days, it's hard to get the same 11 guys out there every single Sunday, 16 weeks in a row. Somebody's going to have to step in and you want your performance to be just as good as, no mater who's in there, that's our challenge.

Q: Is McNair a guy that plays a style that you might need to 'spy' him?

BB: If it's there, he'll run. He's not going to run and gain a yard and let three guys sandwich him in different pieces, but if you open up, and he sees a hole, he'll take off and kill you, no doubt about it. He has 60-something carries this year, so he's not afraid to pull it down and run, but if it's not there he'll buy more time and throw it. He's a smart quarterback.

Q: Have you seen their offense become more versatile during this winning streak they are on?

BB: I would say that they've had the ability to do it, and certainly in the games in the last month, Pittsburgh for one, Jets for another one, they probably ran 25, 30 plays in empty backfield, and both those games they spread the formation out, put McNair in the shotgun, let him go to work. And he had big games in both those games, it was a classic example of how to carve up a defense, and he did it very well in both games. I think that's the things they've done in the past, but they hit those at the right time and executed them very well, and those are big factors in the game. Flipping to the other side, not to get off subject, but this is also two games they've won with goal-line stands. They beat Indianapolis with a goal-line stand in the first game, and they beat the Giants with a couple goal-line stands here a couple weeks ago. It's kind of that same thing, to me it's typical of the Tennessee Titans. You go down there on the one-yard line and you're still not in. A couple teams had a chance to beat them, couldn't score form the one, and they end up winning those games. There's just no gimme puts, even the two-footers have a little break to it, they make you work for everything, whether it's on offense, whether it's on defense, whether it's on special teams, they make you work for every yard and every play, and if you don't do it right, they'll nail you.

Q: Does that fact that Antowain Smith needs 150 yards to have his second 1,000 yard season for the first time in his career, is that saying that he's been right on target? Has his level of performance been what you have expected it to be?

BB: Yeah, I think Antowain's played well in the last, five, six, seven weeks. I thought he played well against Buffalo last week, he ran hard, gave us a lot of positive plays, and got it in on the goal-line as he's been doing. I think he's played very solidly for us, we should get everybody playing like that. I'm not so much worried about the yardage and stats and all that, but when he can run the ball consistently, and our line's blocking consistently, and we can get into second and six's, and second and five's, and stay out of second and 11's, and that kind of crap like we had down in Miami, then everything's going to go a lot better. Then people are blitzing us, he'll step in there and pick them up and give us a chance like we did the other day to hit [Christian] Fauria. Those are all key plays, I think he's playing as solidly as anybody right now

Q: When you look back at him, do you wish you would have given him the ball more on Sunday?

BB: Well, a couple of plays we gave it to him on … I think in the second half Sunday if there was something we could do over again it would be to say, 'okay they're going to come more with the weak side blitzes,' and run the ball more to the strong side, but we'd been pretty successful running to the weak side, they adjusted, you know, Gregg [Williams] made a good adjustment there to start hitting us on the weak side, we had a couple plays called over there and they had a couple more guys than we could block. I don't think it would have made any difference if Jim Brown, or anybody else was carrying the ball, you got two guys standing there in the backfield, when the guy gets the handoff, I think that was more of the problem. They made good adjustments on us, we need to get the ball with a little less company.

Q: Statistically, they match up almost identical to you. Are they at all stylistically similar to your team?

BB: I think you can make some similarities there, if want to look at it that way. They're a multiple offense, they give you a lot of different looks, and in the end, you better be able to stop the quarterback, you better be able to stop the running back, but that's not to take anything away from the rest of those guys because he'll get the ball to Wycheck, he'll get the ball to Simon, he'll get the ball to [Derrick] Mason, he'll get the ball to George on check-downs, he'll get the ball to Comella. Those guys, they'll make plays, so it starts with the quarterback, but the bal'ls going to end up in somebody's hands, and you better have them covered too. I think they do a good job of that, so if that's a compliment to us then I'll take it.

Q: Can there be any advantage to that, coaching wise, with them looking identical to you?

BB: Yeah, that's a good question and it's an interesting point. But the thing about it is defensively, at this point, we haven't worked against our offense since training camp. We worked against Minnesota, we worked against Chicago, we worked against Detroit, we worked against Buffalo. We're out there trying to stop Buffalo's vertical passing game, and [Drew] Bledsoe and Larry Centers, and Travis Henry and all that, we're not thinking about our offense. So now you make the transition this week to a team that uses multiple tight ends, multiple formations, and the quarterback is just as effective as a guy like Bledsoe, but has a totally different style, and so you're changing a lot of your elements to adjust to what type of player he is. You look at a guy like Eddie George, who can be as equally effective a runner as Charlie Garner, but has a totally different style. Defensively you're always … I think when you set up a game plan and you're getting your team ready to play, you have to really be cognizant of the players you're playing against and what they do because if you let them do what they do, guys in this league, they'll kill you.

Q: Do you think McNair's numbers have prevented him from perhaps getting some of the due he deserves?

BB: He went to the Pro Bowl two years ago didn't he?

Q: Right and he also took them to the Super Bowl. Outside of the NFL circumstances…

BB: I think he's good, I think he's playing real well right now. His completion percentage is high, he's got the rushing yardage, and I'm not saying the yardage itself, but I'm saying when he runs, and … It's just like he did in the Giant game, he runs a quarterback draw, audibles to the quarterback draw for a two-point play to send the game into overtime. He doesn't make that play, they lose, so those are the plays that quarterbacks have to make if your team's going to win. He's got to make the right plays at the right time, and he's got the ball in his hands, whatever it is, 40 times a game, he's going to have that many chances to make it, and he's been making it. Believe me, they're not going to win seven of their last eight without him playing well, there's no way it's going to happen. I mean he deserves as much credit, not that their defense and everybody else isn't playing well, but he deserves a lot of credit too. I think he's playing really well.

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