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Replay: Best of Patriots.com Radio Thu Apr 18 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 23 - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/18/2003

Belichick: The first game against the Jets, we offensively didn’t do real well in the red area so that is certainly an area that we would like to, as always, take advantage of our scoring opportunities and be able to come out of there with a few more points.

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BB: Just following up what we talked about yesterday, this is a three days into two type of week. The red area, goal line, two-minute, and third down, all of those situational things just get compressed a little bit. The first game against the Jets, we offensively didn't do real well in the red area so that is certainly an area that we would like to, as always, take advantage of our scoring opportunities and be able to come out of there with a few more points. We will be working on that today. Otherwise, I think that is pretty much it. What are you guys up to?

Q: Do you expect any of the players on the injury report to practice today?

BB: We will see. We will get them out there and see how they are doing. Hopefully, but I am not sure.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of a positive turnover differential?

BB: Well, I think if you look at the statistical breakdown on the turnovers, that very highly favors the winning team correlated to the turnover advantage. Obviously the more you have the higher it is weighted. The stats back it up. I don't think there is any doubt about it. It is field position, usually about half of the field roughly in terms of turnovers, that is a lot of yardage and a lot of opportunity. Then if you can get, what I would say, a bonus score of a turnover, in other words, score on defense or score on a special teams play that you really don't count on going into the game scoring in those areas. So if you can ever get points off of a situation like that then those are really bonus points that, again, statistically there is a big advantage to the teams that can score like that in terms of the outcome of the game.

Q: Where do you guys stand in the bonus points?

BB: I think we have had, I don't know, what is it, six touchdowns this year or something like that. Whatever it is.

Q: Is that fairly high amongst the league?

BB: Yes. We are in the higher part of the league on that. Interception returns and kick returns and that kind of thing. We are up there in that category.

Q: What do you mean by field position?

BB: I am saying that if you fumble the ball at midfield instead of punting it down there to the 10-yard line and they get it at midfield, that is 40 yards. That is a big chunk of field position. You take the interceptions and a lot of times those interceptions they can occur anywhere. They could occur at the line of scrimmage. They could occur 50 yards downfield. If they are on the average say 10 to 15 yard variety and then you combine an interception return with that, a lot of times you are looking at more negative field position than you would be on a fumble. It would depend on the play but I am talking about if you average it out. I don't think you can underestimate the importance of them there and then there is certainly a momentum factor.

Q: Is there anything that stands out to you about Chad Pennington?

BB: Well, his accuracy. I would say overall his accuracy. He has had a very high completion percentage in however many games he has started, 17 or 20, however many it is, statistically he is really up there in the completion percentage. He is accurate. He throws a nice ball. It looks like the receivers have a relatively easy time handling his ball. He doesn't have a lot of drops and he puts it not only where they can catch it but they are in a position to continue to run with it on their crossing patterns and that type of thing. I would that and along with his decision-making, he does a good job of seeing the field. He uses all of his receivers. He gets check downs and the flare control when the deeper patterns aren't available. I would say those two would be big strengths of his.

Q: Does that accuracy change the way you have to cover him at all?

BB: Well I just think you have to be aware of it. Some quarterbacks are more inclined to go to certain receivers and stay on certain receivers or not throw to other guys. You may see some guys playing that they have two or three catches all year and they are pretty much on the field all of the time. I am not saying you don't have to cover them but you pay a lot less attention to them than guys that are getting the ball a lot more frequently sometimes in double coverage, sometimes in some tight places where even if you have them covered it doesn't mean they won't throw him the ball. That changes from quarterback to quarterback. Sometimes it depends on who the receiver is. Sometimes it is worth throwing it those guys. Just because they are covered it doesn't mean that they aren't going to come up with the ball. It just depends on the match up there. I think it does change a little bit. Some guys use all of their receivers, get the ball to whoever it is. They don't care so you better have them all covered or they will find the open guy and you will be chasing them.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of developing continuity on the offensive line?

BB: Well you are looking for that at every position. It is important. As much as you can have it, it is good. But you can't always have it. When you don't have it then you have to make the necessary adjustments. But it certainly helps because when you draw up the assignments for an offensive line, it is very seldom, 'I am blocking you.' It's, 'The three of us have these three,' or, 'The four of us have those four,' or whatever. Depending on what happens after the snap, it's not really verbal communication but it is visual communication of them all seeing the same thing, all reacting to a certain stunt or a certain charge and being able to account for all four of those people or three or whatever it is at the end of the play. That comes through repetition, through experience, through, again, all of us seeing the same thing and treating it the same way. There are sometimes when you end up in a one-on-one match ups but there are a lot of times where our combination of guys against a defensive combination of guys.

Q: Would it give the quarterback or the running back a little bit more peace of mind knowing these are the same guys who have been in the last few games?

BB: If they are any good it would. Yeah, sure, if they are any good. As I have said before, you could probably take five of us and put us out there and play together for five years and the guys behind us would probably take a real beating. I think you have to have good players and that is more important than playing together. But when you combine the two of them, that is more of a strength.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Shaun Ellis?

BB: I think Shaun is having an outstanding year. It looks like he is lighter. He is playing a little bit lighter, I don't know, maybe around 280 or so, down from I would say around 300. That is what it looks like. That is what it seems like he is moving quicker. I think he has shown good quickness and explosion on the pass rush. He gets the corners. He has a good inside move and he still powerful. He is still a strong guy. He is very active. He is making a lot of plays. He is playing very well for them. He is predominately playing outside in the past at times they had worked him some inside as the three-technique or they had played at end and then moved him inside in some passing situation. This year he is almost exclusively been on the perimeter and the inside players have been Chester [McGlockton] and [Dewayne] Robertson and [Jason] Ferguson and [Josh] Evans and that group of guys. He has pretty much stayed outside the whole year. Again, not that he wasn't out there before but he is pretty much always out there now.

Q: Has Asante Samuel playing times stayed pretty consistent? Obviously when Ty [Law] was out he played more…

BB: Right, around that sixth or seventh area

Q: Has he been playing less or has he been pretty much in there?

BB: No, I would say Asante is playing the same as he has pretty much played all year other than when Ty was out and he played for Ty. It is just situational. So if you are in nickel 20 plays a game, he is playing 20 plays. If you are in [it] for 40 plays, he is in for 40. It looks like it more, and it is more but it is situational.

Q: Has he gotten better in any one particular area?

BB: I would say this about all of the rookies – I think they have gotten better. I also think that as they have played more, teams have looked at them and tried to take advantage of them. When you start playing against a rookie in the early part of the season, a lot of times you don't have a real good read on his playing style or what the best way to attack him is. After you have seen him out there for a few games, then you sometimes start developing game plans so you can go after a certain player or try to hit one a match up or hit a weakness that you think you can exploit. A lot of times that doesn't occur early in the season. So I would say that is something that probably all of our rookies have had to deal with. Yes, they have gotten better and they have improved in the things that they are doing. At the same time, teams are getting a better look at them and they are maybe making them a little bit more of a target of their attack rather than say earlier in the season where it was just harder to do because you just haven't seen enough of the guy.

Q: How do you combat that? Do you watch more film? Do you change what you do?

BB: Well they have to continue to improve and work on their weaknesses, the things that they are not doing as well or as consistently. There is a lot more chance that the opponents will force them into that situation maybe then before they get a real good look at them. Sometimes it comes up, sometimes it doesn't. Once you really have had the chance to study a younger player and you can really see what his strengths and weaknesses are, you always want to go after his weaknesses. It is the same thing we do. I am sure teams are doing the same thing to us.

Q: Has the team given you any concern that they are looking ahead down the road to maybe a first round bye and the playoffs and not the target at hand?

BB: I can't tell you what everybody is thinking about. I really don't know what is inside our players minds but our approach is week-to-week. I sincerely hope that is the way that everybody is looking at it because that is all there is. That is all we can do anything about. What is actually in there and what they are actually thinking, I don't know. Some of our games are better than others. Some of our practices are better than others. Some plays are better than others. I am not sure that I could give you a specific reason for every one of those breakdowns. Sometimes it is technique. Sometimes it is communication. Sometimes it may be focus. I don't know.

Q: How much better are you now than you were in week one?

BB: I think it is hard to evaluate game-to-game. I think you look more at trends, the first quarter of the season or the first half of the season, you put a few games together, you can go out and do something well in one game and then do it bad for three games and rather than going from great to bad, maybe that one game was just circumstantial more than it was really a great performance. I think there are a number of areas in the game that we have improved in. I think that we have improved in a lot of areas of the game, so has everybody else. So it is relative. There are still a lot of things that we can do better. A lot of that is situational too.

Q: You are down to three receivers last week. Now you have five. Do you have enough you think to get you where you want to go?

BB: I don't know. That could change week-to-week. A couple of weeks ago we came in and signed two receivers in two days. We have signed two snappers in less than a calendar week. You never know. I don't know. I hope so. There are some positions where you go all year and you go with the same guys you started with and nothing ever happens. Then there are other positions where there is fluctuation. But it is hard to predict, it is hard to tell.

Q: Have you done any more looking around? I know you mentioned J.J. Stokes as a possibility.

BB: Yes, Stokes is at this point not with anybody. So I am sure he would be a consideration if, if we got to that point. Whether we will or not, I don't know. And I am not saying it would necessarily have to be that way. It would depend on whatever the rest of the circumstances or moving parts were.

Q: Has Tom Ashworth shown that he can protect the quarterback? He went up against a pretty good guy in Denver.

BB: yeah, he has played against a lot of good guys. He has played against [Kevin] Carter. He has played against [Michael] Strahan. He will see Ellis this week. Miami, they are pretty good, Courtney Brown. We have seen a lot of good defensive linemen this year. We have seen a lot of good right ends. I think it has been certainly a learning year for Tom. He hasn't had the opportunity to get the type of playing experience that he has gotten this year. I think he has benefited from that. At the same time, I think he still has room to grow, literally and figuratively.

Q: Are there little ways you can help him with a guy like Ellis? Maybe with the backs or tight ends?

BB: Sure. You can always do that. The problem becomes that the more you commit extra blockers to rushers then either the fewer people you have distribute it in the passing game or if they are playing man-to-man coverage then a lot of times that just brings somebody else into the rush. If I am covering you and I see you block then I rush, then, now who has me? There is a way to counter that defensively. You just have to be careful offensively when you start committing extra people to pass protection that aren't assigned to pick up blitzers. Then that creates some other problems down the line. You just have to decide how much you want to do that. There is certainly a ripple effect when if you do that.

Q: He came out of nowhere, because you have had him on and off for a couple of years right?

BB: Yes.

Q: He was on the practice squad and then he went off and then came back. What did you see in him that you felt he could fit in the mix?

BB: Well, I think he really only played tackle one year in college. You have to look at a player like that as what their development could be not where they are at that point. Tom has a big frame. He is smart. He has a good playing style. He was athletic enough to play tight end which you need a tackle to block some of the athletic rushers that that position sees. Those things are all positive. It is hard for me to feel like he came out of nowhere because he has been working hard for three years. It is day after day and the increase on a daily or weekly schedule is so incremental, it is so small. But when you pile it up week-after-week and month-after-month and year-after-year then you can really see some gain. It is a slow hard process but one that he has benefited from and I think he deserves the opportunity. With the success that he has had is certainly a result of a lot of hard work and dedication on his part.

Q: The reason I say out of nowhere because wasn't drafted was he?

BB: No, he was at San Francisco. We took him off preseason tape.

Q: Was his progression any faster than the other guys that you had seen?

BB: It is hard to compare him because different players need different things. Some guys need physical development. Some guys need more technique development. Some guys maybe they don't have enough athleticism so they have to refine their game in other ways. Some players don't have much experience in a sophisticated pro offense, just NFL offense, I am not saying ours in particular but any NFL offense. There are a lot of different ones and there are combinations of them. Each guys is different. Again, I think the main thing you are looking for is continued rate of improvement. Once they level off or once they level off and then start to not show much improvement, then that is probably going to be about where they are. Then you have to decide is that good enough or not. If you are happy with that, then okay, great. You have that level of performance. If you think that is not going to be satisfactory then it is hard to see how it is going to get any better, then it is probably time to move on.

Q: You talked in the past about late game execution. You have a pretty good record when leading after three quarters. What are some of the keys to staying ahead once you get ahead?

BB: Well I think some of that depends on the situation. There are some games where you might be more inclined to continue to play aggressively almost as if you are not ahead.

Q: Kind of like Indianapolis?

BB: Yeah. I think there was an element of that in that game. There could be other games where you play it a little bit differently. You can change your style of play a little bit based on the game conditions. I don't think there is any set formula. Obviously, defensively, not give up big plays and offensively not turn the ball over which are the two quickest ways to let a team who is behind either ahead or back into the game. I think a lot of times if you can force teams in that situation to have to execute, 10, 12, 14-good plays in a row, the odds are with you. There is a certain point in time where the number of possessions goes down. You look at it and say, 'Well, okay well now they are only going to get the ball, two or three more times, whatever it is.' 'How much of a lead do we have? What would they have to do in those final few possessions to be able to win or tie the game?' As those possessions dwindle then your strategy towards using the clock, then the clock really becomes more important than the score in a way.

Q: Does how well your defense is playing this year affect that offensive mentality?

BB: I think it is more game-to-game. I think a lot of times when you look out there in the third quarter of the game, regardless of whether you lead the league in defense or your last in the league in defense, you have a pretty good idea of how it is going, the way you are matching up against that team and the way you are playing on that particular day. I think a lot of it is really to me, I am more influenced by the way that game is going than statistically where we rank based on a bunch of other games. If you look out there in the third quarter and you have been having trouble stopping them all day, I don't care if you are first in the league in defense, there is a pretty good chance you are going to have trouble stopping them here at the end of the game too and vice versa. If you are playing pretty well and they are having trouble doing certain things and that is the way it has been the whole game even though your ranking might be 25th or whatever it is, it is probably a good inclination that you are going to be able to continue to play pretty close to the way that you have been. That doesn't say you are not going to have a breakdown or something. I would be more influenced by that.

Q: How about the running game? I know the yards per carry probably weren't what you were looking for but was the ability to get those carries good?

BB: Sure. It is always good. That is in part reflective of the score. You certainly would like to do more with them and like to average more and gain more yards and have more first downs. The fact that you are able to continue to run it based on the score and if you can get enough done, then that plays into your favor especially when you have the lead but you are still looking for production. If all you want to do is snap the ball for runs then you can just run quarterback sneaks. But you need more than that. Until you get it, then I don't think we're probably going to be satisfied with that.

Q: Phil Simms said that the most important stat in the running game is how many times you run not so much the yards you get. Do you agree with that?

BB: Well, I think the number of times you run it is usually in proportion to the score. If you have run the ball to get ahead, then that is great. If you are ahead by two touchdowns, however you got ahead by two touchdowns, whether it is by interceptions or by long passes or whatever it is, then you are going to have a lot more runs than passes at the end of the game. Is that important? I mean being ahead by 14 I think is more important.

Q: So it all depends on the situation, you are going to run the ball if only just to kill the clock and you are ahead by two touchdowns?

BB: Well you are going to have more runs per game if that is the score of the games. I can guarantee you that.

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