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Replay: Patriots Postgame Show Sun Nov 28 - 06:00 PM | Mon Nov 29 - 08:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/27/2002

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BB: Okay, I'm open, whatever you've got. No changes on the injury report. I thought we had a good day yesterday at BC. Given the conditions here it was good to be able to work over there, I appreciate their cooperation and we'll be outside today and we've got everything cleared off, we should be ready to go.

Q: The running game in December, why is it so important?

BB: I think the weather's probably more of a factor than … Whatever the fatigue is it probably evens out because everybody's played the same amount. There are times out there were it's just hard to complete passes, especially anything … The longer it is the harder it is just given the conditions. Sometimes that could be the field, the footing being frozen or soft or sometimes it's the wind, or sometimes it's the hardness and the coldness of the ball in the hands and so forth. You go out early in the season in training camp and throw a pass and there's almost nothing that would effect it. This time of year there could be some other elements, and that's not saying you can't throw it now, but there are some other elements to deal with.

Q: Does Ricky Williams give the Dolphins something they were missing at this point last year?

BB: Oh, I don't think there's any doubt that they've probably got as good a running game as anybody in the league this year. They weren't quite at that level last year with their running game, but he's had a great year and Norv's [Turner] done a great job for them, of course I think Norv's had a lot to do, as I said before the first game. I think Norv has had a lot to do with the success of their offense and their running game with the system that he has put in and has been successful running it through out his career going all the way back to Dallas and Washington, and San Diego. I think that's been a part of it too, they've had good continuity in the offensive line and you've got to give credit to all those guys, the blockers, [Rob] Konrad, Ricky Williams, the offensive line, they've done a good job.

Q: What makes Norv Turner a tough match up?

BB: Well, number one, he's got a good system, and number two, he's a smart coach, he does a good job of game planning, he gives you things scheme wise that put more stress and strain on what you're trying to do and as you get into the game I think he does a good job of game adjustments and seeing how the match ups are coming out in the game and which ones to back off of and which ones to press on with. Again, Norv's a good experienced, smart coach that's had success in the National Football League for 15 years, or however long he's been in it, but somewhere in that neighborhood. He's been through the wars and he knows what he's doing. And Dave [Wannstedt] and Bill Lewis, that's a good veteran staff and they do a good job of coaching.

Q: You talked about handling the ball, have any players talked about differences in the ball?

BB: No. I mean it's all controlled through the league and the officials and whatever's done is done right there in front of them by people from the league or people the officials supervise. So whatever it is, it's the same for everybody, and there's nothing I can do about it so I really don't concern myself with it.

Q: I was wondering if players have noticed. The players haven't talked about any differences in the ball?

BB: We really haven't made it much of a point

Q: With Miami's defense being so predictable, does that make them easier to game plan against?

BB: No, I wouldn't say easier. It's a different way of game planning. I will say from experience I've been down that road before too, when you only do a few things defensively you have to be able to handle everything that comes your way. It's not like you're going to say, 'Okay well they're running this play so we're going to run that defense, and they're running this type of play, we're going to run this defense.' You have your basic defenses, you have a couple of adjustments off them, but they're not going to have any trouble finding you, they know where you're going to be. Therefor you have to deal with everything, one of the advantages that that gives you defensively is that when something happens, when a play occurs, you're going to be in the same spot the next time that play occurs too. And then you try to adjust your techniques and the way you play that play properly so that it doesn't hurt you the next time they run it, whether it's a route or running play or whatever it is. It's easier to recognize sometimes because again, that player's in the exact same spot, so if they run a screen, the next time if they try to run that same screen, it's going to be the same player getting that exact same look, and that's what you relay on when you run that kind of a system. Is that through repetition, you're playing you're same defense a lot more than that offense is running their plays and you'll be able to recognize and adapt to it quicker and then it comes down to really the physical game because you're not really going to be out of position because you're always doing the same thing sand you can be much more sound that way.

Q: Does that put more emphasis on lining up and execution as opposed to scheming?

BB: Well it could be. If that's the way you want to play the game you could play it that way, there's no question, on the other hand, the other thing you can do is because you know where they're going to be, you can try to give them the same look and then maybe do two or three different things out of it. Give them one look and then run over here to the strength of the formation, give them that same look and bring something back away from the strength, and then give them that same look and fake like you're going to run into the strength of that formation and throw out of it. Try to force them to react to what looks like all three plays star tout the same, but they end up attacking different areas of the defense. That's really what you try to decide in terms of game planning what your strategy's going to be. Whether it's going to be to try to force them to adjust as much as you can make them adjust, or whether it's just to say, 'Okay, we know they're not adjust we're just going to go right at them.' Or, 'We're going to give them the same look, the first time we'll get what we can get, the next time we figure they're going to take what we did last time and react to that, we're going to have something different off it.' Then try to keep them off balance that way.

Q: But given your experience in the division, what's been more successful against their defense?

BB: Well I think that when you look at Miami's season a couple of games that they've lost they've lost … Let me put it this way, most of the games that Miami's lost this year they've been on the negative side of the turnovers. Which is a combination of A, giving the ball away offensively, and B, not taking it away defensively. Now some of that goes hand in hand, when you're ahead and a team's trying to throw every down it's a lot easier to get strip sacks, and tips, and interceptions and all that then it is when you don't have control of the game. That being said, our game was a good example. [Jason] Taylor comes in, they get s trip sack early, we end up falling behind, throw a couple interceptions when we're behind, they come into the Oakland game, get a couple strip sacks there early, get ahead, that creates some other turnovers. You go the other easy, you go to the Jet game, or the Buffalo game, get a couple interceptions, get one run back for a touchdown against them, they end up losing, give up a couple of plays in the Buffalo game in Buffalo, a couple long passes. Give up a turnover there on a strip sack, get hit from behind. That's how they've lost their games, and that's how they've won them. Obviously you're always trying to get into that situation when you play, you want to get ahead, you want to get turnovers, you want to get control of the game, and it's always easier to play from 10 points ahead, then 10 points behind. If you're looking to sum up their season, that's really what sums it up, their' turnover situation. They're very good in the kicking game, they haven't given up long returns at all in the kicking game, they lead the league in that. They lead the league in red area offense, they lead the league in red area defense. They run the ball more than any other team in the league. When they've won they've won the turnover battle, when they've lost they've lost it.

Q: What does Tom Brady have to do this week to improve on his performance the past two weeks?

BB: Well I think offensively we need a more efficient passing game then we've had the last two weeks, which includes everybody in the passing game form the center, to the quarterback ton the wide receiver, to everybody in between. We need to perform more efficiently as a team, that's routes that's passing that's catching that's protection that's everything.

Q: Matt Light questioned the teams heart after Sunday's game, have you questioned the teams heart this week?

BB: I think you'll have to ask Matt exactly what context those remarks were made in, I'm not sure exactly how he said that. You'd have to talk to him about that.

Q: Have you seen the teams confidence grow as the week has progressed?

BB: I think what I've seen through out the week is the attention to preparation, and that's really where it needs to be. Doing the right thing, seeing what formation they're in, or what defense they're in, or recognizing what our assignments are and then executing the play or defense that we need to do against what Miami's going to run. That's really what practice is about. Preparing your team to play in those situations, so as you go through the week and the player see, 'here's what the play is, here's where everyone's going to be, here's how we're going to execute it,' and you see it in practice, then you gain naturally a level of confidence in running the play in the game because you've seen it work successfully in practice. You run a play in practice and it doesn't look as good, then you correct it, and again, try to show everybody what needs to be done for that play to be successful. How it needs to look in order for it to work against Miami's defense. If that's what you're talking about in terms of confidence, then that's part of the natural preparation during the week that the first day usually doesn't look as good as the last day because you've had two days t practice it, correct it, show them more film, talk about it, and get it straightened out. That's the process during the week.

Q: In your experience, have you ever made a decision based on the magnitude of the game?

BB: Because of the magnitude of the game …

Q: In other words, everything's on the line …

BB: Right, I understand what you're saying, I'm trying to think of an example on that. A similar question came up like that the other day, but because every game counts so much I can't think of any game where I wouldn't o that. Where you would say, 'Well, it's the eighth game of the year, we're not going to do this because it's the eighth game of the year.' I think you can get into a scenario at the end of the season in the last one, two or three games where some times there are factors besides winning the game that could be important, a tie could be as good as a win, or could be better than a loss. Depending on how the standing are sometimes it's the same as a loss, there could be a scenario like that, there could be a scenario in terms of point differential and that type of thing, where that might effect it. I could see that coming into play, I don't think that's really coming into play in this particular game. I think this is a game that both teams pull out all stops to win because the loser's not going to be in the playoffs. From our standpoint we pulled out all stops last week against the Jets, we pulled them out against the Titans, I would imagine Miami pulled them out against Minnesota. It wasn't like we went into those games saying, 'Well we're not going to do this or that, let's wait until Miami and do it,' we tried our best to win those games, just like we are on this one. Obviously this is the last bus stop, there's nothing after this if we don't win. That being said, there is an urgency that comes with this game that doesn't come with any other, but at the same time I can't really think of a situation where as you're trying to ask where there would be one point. Unless it came down to a point differential thing, or a tie's as good as a win, if that's the way the standings were set as it went into the l;ast game.

Q: What about a personnel decision?

BB: Right. But again, I'm trying to separate that from any other game. If a player's not playing well, or he's having a hard time with something, I don't think it would change if it was the third game of the year or the 16th game of the year. I think that if you felt like the player was just … this just isn't the situation you want him in and you want somebody else in there, then I think we would make that move in any other game as well, regular season game, not preseason. I definitely understand what you're saying and I know the baseball analogies about pitching on one days rest and pinch hitters and all that. I just don't see it that way in the National Football League other than a couple real isolated examples there, maybe … Sorry.

Q: You signed a wide receiver from the outside this week to your active roster and didn't promote Scott McCready from the practice squad. What did you see in Fred Coleman that you didn't see in Scott?

BB: Whenever you bring somebody on your team, I don't think that's saying anything negative about somebody else. It's saying something positive about the person that you bring on there. In Fred's case, Fred has a little bit more experience in our system, he has a little bit more experience in the league, a little more experience in big games. That's not anything critical of anybody else, but that's what he does bring and he knows the system. He's been through some regular season games and has been through some playoff games. He's played in the kicking game for us and just gives us some depth at that position. That's some depth that we didn't have. Just on the point of a practice squad player, and I'll just say this generically, if you bring a practice squad player on to your active roster, then that opens up a practice squad spot. Sometimes it's hard to find somebody to put in that spot. At this point in the season, most of those good players are spoken for. A lot of them have been moved from the practice squad on to the regular roster, so logistically, there's probably a good chance you would have either a vacant practice squad spot or somebody in that practice squad spot who probably would have a very low percentage chance of ever being elevated on to your roster. Where if you bring somebody in a put them on your roster, that still doesn't preclude you from moving somebody up from the practice squad because they're still out there practicing every day. But, in your top 58, you're probably getting a better player at 53 if that's where you want to put him, than taking 58 and moving him to 53. That's thinking that you're going to get a real good player at 58 who's in your system and you're probably going to get somebody that hasn't been on a practice squad all year or has had minimal time on a practice squad all year and they're able to play inexperienced. That's basically what's out there. I'm not saying that's the wrong thing to do or a bad thing to do, but when you look at your options, you try to make the best decision for the team. Fred's a guy we brought in last year at a similar time of the year, it was a bit earlier last year, but it was a similar situation and he was productive for us and was with us in training camp and he's had some experience, so given our situation at receiver, we thought that was the best thing to do.

Q: When you play a team like Miami that puts the ball on the ground a lot more than maybe their record shows, do you approach that any differently?

BB: You go into every game looking for targets for turnovers. They're so important. You go into that every game. We talk about them defensively and on special teams. Sometimes you mention it earlier in the week, but it's always a focal point later in the week. 'This is where this team has had their turnovers.' Whether it's tipped passes, receivers getting the ball stripped away, whether it's backs fumbling. However they come up, whether the interceptions come because of pressure, whether they come because of coverage, whether they come from disguised coverages and that kind of thing, we just try to make it an emphasis point to the team, 'Okay, here's their turnovers, here's where they come from. These are the kind of things they have trouble with and we want to try to do this as often as we can.' I'm not saying every time you tackle a guy he's going to fumble, because we know that's not the case, but sometimes it's the second guy in that causes the fumble. Sometimes it's the initial hit, but if the initial hit's on the ball, that's more likely to cause the fumble. So, that's something that we do every week. Each player, each skill player, offensively, their receivers, their backs, their tight ends, their quarterback, wherever those turnovers have come both this year and from what we know historically about the team or the player, we'll bring that to the players' attention. If that situation comes up in the game, you'd expect a player to try to use the technique that you're looking for in that particular situation. Sometimes it comes up, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the quarterback will hold the ball away from his body in the pocket and you'll make that a real emphasis point to your defensive line that if you're coming from the blind side and the ball's away from his body, you want to come over his shoulder and strip the ball. Other quarterbacks hold the ball right in front of them and it's a lot harder to do. I'm not saying you still wouldn't try to do it, but it's just less of an opportunity. So, if a guy comes into the game and has that opportunity and comes over the back and tries to strip the quarterback, whether he gets the ball out or not, he's doing the right thing. He's not going to get it out every time, but he's aware and he's trying to do the right thing. That's something that we always talk about every week. But on our team this year, clearly one of the best guys that we have is Vic [Green]. Vic's caused probably more fumbles than anybody has. But, Vic's also very aware and you'll see that most of the fumbles that he's caused have been because he's been in a position where he has a shot at the ball, he has a shot at the runner and he's able to get his hands on the ball in a way that it dislodges it or rakes it out and that creates a turnover opportunity. That's a good awareness by a defensive football player.

Q: Is there anything that makes Ricky Williams more prone to fumble, I think he's put the ball on the ground six times in the last few weeks.

BB: Right, I think he's second in the league behind Travis Henry. When you play those kind of players you point that out. Look there's also times, when me say this too, there's also a lot of times on a film where you point out to your defensive players, 'Look, that player doesn't have the ball secure,' he's got it, and it's not a fumble on this play, but here's an opportunity. When he runs to his left and he carries the ball in his right arm and he doesn't really have it locked against his body, when he's going to our right his left, that's a good opportunity to get the ball out on a turnover. Maybe he hasn't fumbled all year doing that, but you can still show him that on film, 'Look, there's the ball, there's the space between his jersey and the ball, there's a turnover opportunity.' Whatever the players specifics are, then that's what you try to point out to him, and we do that, it doesn't matter if it's Ricky Williams, or whether it's Curtis Martin, Curtis Martin hasn't fumbled all year, you still look for those opportunities even though there maybe aren't as many of them if they do present themselves you still want to make you team aware of it.

Q: How do you balance that between stripping the ball and making the tackle?

BB: Making the tackle's the first thing. We think turnover after you secure the tackle, or sometimes it can be in the same process. The number one thing is always to make the tackle. To go for the ball and to miss the ball and let the guy keep running is not what we're looking for. Again, sometimes you can do that depending on the specific situation. For example, coming from behind on a quarterback. You can sack him and still try to strip the ball in the same motion. A guy's out in the open field running with it, it's really hard sometimes to do that, you're focused on keeping your head up and making the tackle. Now the second guy in on the tackle can have a lot more awareness of the ball than the first guy because he's counting on the first guy to secure the tackle. When you're coming from behind to tackle an offensive player, it's kind of like sacking the quarterback, you look to strip with the other arm depending on how he's carrying the ball. We do those drills every week with the defensive players, the different strip drills, we don't do the same one every week, but we alternate them so that we get them all handled over the course of say a two, three, four week period. The ones that come up on a weekly basis that we want to identify for the players and make them alert to, then that's where we put the emphasis. Then show them a tape, 'Here's a 15-play tape, this is where this team is more vulnerable in its turnovers.'

Q: You seem to be in very good spirits considering the magnitude of this game. What kind of mindset do you feel your team is in right now?

BB: Well this is it for us. Everything we've got on the line should be there this week, and I think that's the way everybody feels. We've started our preparations for the season a long time ago, back in the spring. Through all the camps, and all the practices, and all the meetings, and everything that we've gone through and it comes down to one game and I don't think we're ready for the season to end. We want to go out there and give it out best shot. This is a team that's in our division, that we've played before, that we have some background with, we know they're a good football team, they're well coached, but feel like if we play a certain way that this is a team that we've beaten before and we're making those same preparations again. Hopefully my attitude reflects everybody else's attitude on the team as well, we've worked hard to get to this position and we're going to put out best effort out there Sunday to keep it.

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