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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/18/2002

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BB: The injury report is a little bit longer than it's been in the last few weeks. We got a few guys banged up in the game and of course some injuries are from previous games. We'll just have to wait and see how those guys do out on the practice field. That's a day-to-day situation with all of them. On the Tennessee game, obviously, at this point and game, we certainly didn't play well or the way we need to play in that situation and the score and a number of the statistics reflected it. I don't know if it's really too much more I can add to that. In terms of the Jets, this is a team that looks a lot different than it looked second week of the season. (They have) a new quarterback, a healthy running back, big play returners, defense is obviously playing much better. I think that Herm (Edwards) and the coaching staff at the Jets have done an outstanding job of, you know, coming back from a slow start and having the team playing really well, probably as well as just about any team in the league. They said they had a disappointing weekend last weekend, which we can certainly relate to. There's a lot on the line Sunday night in this game for both teams in terms of playoff implications and that's no secret. We all understand the importance of the game and what's at stake. I think we will need our best effort to win Sunday night. That's what we're going to try to point toward this week. It's all we're focused on. It's all we can do anything about and that's where all of our attention will be directed.

Q: I know there is a lot more to it than just a quarterback change. What are some of the things that you see different about this team besides (Chad) Pennington's insertion into the lineup?

BB: Besides Pennington?

Q: Yeah.

BB: Well I think number one, they probably have the most explosive return game in the league. We saw that earlier in the year in the opener against Buffalo with (Santana) Moss and (Chad) Morton. Every time those guys touch the ball, they're a threat to take it all the way, especially on kickoffs. They take it back to mid-field a whole lot of times. That's a real weapon for them. Defensively they are playing much better against the run. I think that their tackling is good, they are certainly not giving up anywhere near the big plays they did earlier in the year. They are creating some turnovers and offensively, they are controlling the ball. Pennington is hitting a high percentage number of passes. But the running game is solid. Curtis (Martin) is running well and the offensive line looks like they are meshing well. Laveranues (Coles) is having an outstanding year. He is one of the top producers on third down, top producers of big plays in the passing game amongst all receivers in the league and there are a lot of productive ones this year. It's not a one-man show by any means. And certainly Chad has played well for them. I think collectively this football team is doing a lot of things well and that's why they have been winning.

Q: How is Pennington different from Vinny (Testaverde)?

BB: Well, one guys is starting his career, and the other guy has played a long time from an experience standpoint. Pennington is a very accurate and efficient player and I'm not taking anything away from Vinny because Vinny has been a good quarterback in this league for a long time. I just think that Chad's strengths are his accuracy, (and) his decision-making. He doesn't have a lot of turnovers, doesn't have a lot of bad plays. (He) puts the ball on the money, runs the offense efficiently, makes good decisions. Again, as a result that's enabled them to come out with more points in a lot of games and win. That's really what it's about. It's about the quarterback doing what he needs to do for the team to win. In most of the games, that's what Pennington has done.

Q: You want to see improvement in your team in every part of the year, but especially this part of the year gearing for the playoffs. Are there concerns on your part on what you saw Monday about your team not going in that direction in terms of improving?

BB: Well, sure. We played poorly Monday night. There's no question about that. Tennessee played well and we didn't. If that continues, if we play that way this week, we'll probably get the same result. I don't know whether that's a trend or not, I hope it isn't. We'll find out Sunday night. We would like to have played a lot better than we played against Tennessee. There's no doubt about that. And we played better at other times, but that is what it is and we're going to have to move forward on it. We'll pick up the pieces and go back to work and certainly work hard to have a better performance this Sunday night. That's obvious that we have to do that and that's what we'll try to do.

Q: Is stopping the run priority number one?

BB: Well, it's always a high priority. You can't win when they run the ball and control the clock and keep the third down conversions short and all that. It's hard to win.

Q: Adam (Vinatieri) was just here a minute ago. Is there a tendency to take a kicker of that magnitude for granted?

BB: Well, I think that the more consistent a player is, the more you accept that consistency and recognize it as the benchmark for that player's performance. I would have to agree with you. I think Adam has been as consistent as probably not only player we have but maybe any player in the league.

Q: Obviously what he did at the end of last year was historical. Is that something that you expect from him?

BB: In Adam's case, if we have the field position and we need to kick a field goal, I think that we're all confident, starting with me but I think I speak for a lot of people too. We're all confident that he's the guy you want kicking it. Understanding that no kicker is going to go through a career and never miss a kick, although that is everyone's goal, no question about that. But I think when you say, 'Okay, who do you want to make this kick, who do you want to have kicking it?' Adam is the guy you want kicking it. I don't know how you give any player any higher compliment than that. Is it taken for granted? Is it a given? Is it automatic? Well, no, of course not. There's still a lot of execution that is involved both on his part and the with the other ten players that are out there. But at the same time, that's the guy you want doing it for you. He's certainly done an outstanding job.

Q: Does that come into play this time of year, in terms of your game plan?

BB: Again, he's the guy you want kicking it. So if we get into that situation, there wouldn't be any hesitation to have him attempt to kick.

Q: Does he affect your decision-making when you get to a certain point on the field?

BB: Let me say this, I think if your kicker … I think if you are trying to coach a game with a kicker and your attitude is, I can't kick them, you've got to get a new kicker. I don't think you can coach a game and say 'Well, I'm going to put this guy in to kick, I don't think he's going to make it, therefore I am not going to put him in to kick, therefore we're going to change our strategy.' You've got to get a new kicker. That's his job and if his job is to go out there and kick it through, and you put him in there, you've got to feel like he's going to make it otherwise you better go get somebody else. It just won't work. I understand that nobody is going to make every kick, some kickers are better than others, but you're not talking about 30/70. There's no kicker in the league that can keep his job making 30 percent of his field goals. It's over 50/50. It's 70 to 80 percent for any decent kicker in this league. The good ones are hotter than that. You're still well over 50/50 when you put a kicker out there to attempt it no matter who is. But I just don't think you can coach, 'Well, alright this is a field goal situation, but I'm not going to kick the field goal because I am afraid that the kicker isn't going to make it.' You just can't coach like that.

Q: I guess I meant, when your offense is still on the field, does your play calling maybe say, 'Okay, we're in Adam's range here?'

BB: I would say only if it was the game deciding field goal. If it's the middle of the first quarter, nobody has the attitude of 'well let's just run a couple of quarterback sneaks and kick a field goal,' we're trying to get in the endzone. Now if came down to a kick that would decide the game for you, then that a little different story. Then you try to maybe get it as close as you can to increase the percentages that he will make it without throwing the ball, taking a chance on a tipped pass or a sack or a negative play or something like that. Not that there aren't places for those plays, I'm not saying that. But maybe you're strategy is to just to get as much as you can and then let them kick it. Other than that, we're trying to score touchdowns.

Q: A number of times this season obviously you guys have struggled to stop the run. What would be your summation of why it is that way?

BB: Well, why it was the case Monday night was because of the quarterback and the third down runs. That was the problem. When the running back average is less than three and a half yards per carry, that's not the issue. The issue is your third down conversions and the quarterback scrambles in that particular game. Now that wasn't true against San Diego. It wasn't true against Kansas City. It was definitely true Monday night. I mean you are sitting there and the running back is averaging less than three yards per-carry. Yeah, it's hard. I am not going to sit here and say that is really bad defense. Most games you take that. But when the quarterback runs for 50 yards and they are running sub-runs on third down for big yardage then those are problems. But they are problems of a different type. It's not the same as a normal off tackle play. You give the ball to the back over 30 times, he's going to get 100 yards.

Q: So you are not as concerned now as you might have been after Priest Holmes?

BB: Well, no. I'm concerned about the yardage that was given up. I'm really concerned about it. But it's different than the yardage that LaDainian Tomlinson gained. It came in a different way, (and) in some points at a different time. Not saying that one is more damaging than the other, they all hurt. They hurt on third down, they hurt when the quarterback converts on third down, they hurt when the running back runs on first down too. They are different problems, that is all I am saying. It's not the same thing.

Q: This is a do or die game. Do you have a sense of urgency with the team?

BB: If you don't, I think … if you don't have an urgency about this game then it's time to get out of football. For me, the players, coaches, everybody else, this is a game that we need to win.

Q: (On the two running backs in the Tennessee game, Eddie George and Robert Holcombe)

BB: Well, again, a lot of Holcombe's yardage came on third down; not that he didn't have a couple of runs there at the end of the game, where I would say the outcome wasn't really in balance. But you know, must of his damage came on his third down runs earlier in the game.

Q: Personnel wise, in your experience, do you make any guesses or assumptions about they might try to do based on what they saw Monday night?

BB: Sure, that's our job. It's our job to try to figure out what we think they are going to do. Part of it is what they do, and what they do well. And I am sure part of it will be looking at what they perceive our weaknesses to be and where they would want to attack us. I think that's a double-egged sword. We have to be cognizant of problems that we've had and address those and make sure that if they are attacked in the same way again they are defended better. But at the same time, we can't sit here and say, 'Well the Jets are just going junk their offense and run with somebody else ran.' We have to understand what the Jets strengths are and how they want to play and what they've been doing for 14 weeks, what they're good at and there is a good chance they'll try to use that and feel like they could have just as much success with that offense as somebody else had with their offense. That's what you do as a coach. There is a balance there, but I think you have to have your eyes open on both targets.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the job that Herman Edwards has done there at the Jets?

BB: I think he has done an outstanding job. Not only Herm, I'm sure the whole coaching staff and the players as well, they all responded to a poor start and a couple of disappointing games at the beginning. (They) had a big win out in San Diego and have had a lot of good performances since then. We've see a lot of teams in the league go through that. You can take pretty much most of the teams in the AFC and see there are some points in the season where they had a dip, they had a string of games that weren't what they were looking for and they came out of it. Certainly, the Jets have come out of that and they have come out of it flying high. They're playing good football in every area. They're playing well on offense, they're playing well on defense and they are outstanding in the kicking game. It's such an overall turnaround that I think, starting with Herman and working all the way down, you'd have to give them all the credit in the world that's it's not just one side of the ball or one guy, it's a total team performance.

Q: I know you are not around Chad Pennington, would you assume that he's benefited, sort of like the way Tom (Brady) did from not being thrown into the fire right way and kind of sit on the sidelines and watch?

BB: I think that is certainly possible. You would have to ask him that. I think a player certainly could learn in that situation if he's got the right attitude. I've seen some guys play behind as good a players you'd want them to play behind and don't learn anything from because that's not their mind set. It's, you know. they're kind of biding their time until they get a chance and they're not really observing, they're not absorbing what they could be absorbing in that time frame. I think that's only valuable if the recipient approaches it the right way. But if he does, sure there's a lot of valuable lessons to be learned both good and bad especially with a guy like Vinny who is experienced and talented and as skillful a quarterback as anybody in the league.

Q: When you were with your other NFL stops, does any player standout as a guy who we were just talking about, kind of like buying their time?

BB: Well, I think you could say that really about a lot of players. I'd hate to just single anybody out. But I think you could say that about a lot of players. How many rookies, I mean really when you think about it, you look at each draft, just look at the impact that the rookies had their first season versus what it is two, three, four years down the line. That's usually the way it is. I mean there are a couple of players, you know, Lawrence Taylor came in as a defensive player of the year his rookie year and all of that, but for the most part that's pretty unusual. You don't have too many of those. The majority of the situations are guys that either don't play or they play sporadically. Even if they are playing, they end up playing at a higher level as their career goes on and they're learning something from somebody. Some of it is game experience from themselves and some of it is from their peers.

Q: What does it mean to have these last two games at home?

BB: Well, I think the most important thing is to play well. That's what's really important this time of year, is playing well. That's where our focus is and that's what we can do. It's nice to be at home and it's always nice to be at home, but we had home games earlier in the year and we lost them and we've had other home games that we won. We've won games on the road and we've lost games on the road. I think what's important is to play well.

Q: As a staff, specifically talking about the Jets, Do you look at a game where they weren't successful in like Chicago? Where is the area that you want to focus on?

BB: I would say all of the above. When we look at a team, we probably look at no less than six games and sometimes more than that, especially with a team like the Jets, who we've already played once so we had six to eight games in the bank on them earlier and now another six to eight games, so you're looking at even going into last year, because it's the same staff, the same approach, the same philosophy and the same scheme. So, you're looking at almost two years worth of information on the Jets. I understand that some of those players have changed and this year's game's not the same as a game that was played in September, I think there are certain elements of it that you can take a look at. I would say all of the above. The more recent games, the last four or five are significant, but sometimes the way those games hit, you're watching teams do something that maybe isn't quite the way you do it and you can go back to another game and find a team that plays more of a similar style that you do and then that can give you some insight, too. It could be two months ago. I don't think there's any set rule. You always look at the last four or five games to see what the team's trends are and what they've been doing in the last month and a lot of times there's carryover just because you can't change things too dramatically. I think the best thing is to have a good overall understanding of the team on a longer frame and then so when something does happen during the game, you have some kind of background to put it in perspective.

Q: Do you spend anytime comparing common opponents?

BB: I guess the way I would answer that type of question would be that we always expect a team to play their best against us. If there's a game that they've played previously where they didn't play as well for whatever the reasons were, we don't put a lot of credence into that because we certainly can't count on them playing that way in this game. We count on them coming in and playing their best game of the year. Here's where it is, it's Chad Morton returning kickoffs, it's Moss returning punts, it's Pennington hitting third-down conversions, it's Martin running his counter plays and his draw plays, it's (John) Abraham coming off the edge and strip-sacking the quarterback. Those are the plays that worry you the most, those are the ones that you focus on and you want to make sure that you take those into account, handle them and deal with them the best way that you can, not a play where they fumble a snap from center and the ball rolls to the linebacker and he flops on it. You can't count on those. You can't count on a guy going out and missing a tackle, a guy catching a two-yard pass and gaining 50 yards. You count on the good plays they make, you count on their successful ones and the ones that are well-executed and see how you can best match your execution against them in those situations. I think in general, that's how we try to approach it. We're expecting their best and looking for their best and in a game like this, I think we're going to get it.

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