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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transscript - 11/29/2002

Belichick: Convert on four third downs, it was a really good, strong finish in the fourth quarter all the way around.



BB: Good morning. Sorry to hold you up here. Well I think from my standpoint yesterday, of course the best thing about the game was the way it ended, being able to stop them on third down in the red area at the end of the game, and then being able to control the ball and finish the game with that kind of drive. Convert on four third downs, it was a really good, strong finish in the fourth quarter all the way around. There were some points leading up to it that certainly could have been better, we had some penalties, we had some dropped balls, we had some third down conversions that we gave up defensively, had a punt blocked, so there were plenty of things there that weren't perfect, but in the end we were able to do the things we need to do to win the game. That was good to see us do that. Nothing new to report on the injuries, I know that you'll be asking about those, but there really is nothing at this point. So, we're on to Buffalo, we all know what's ahead of us, it's just gong to keep getting harder each week. Which it always does this time of year if you're in contention, and we have three big division games out of the next four with the Monday night game at Tennessee We know what's in front of us there, but the main thing that's on our minds now is preparing for Buffalo, and we know that what happened the last time we played them. I'm sure they'll make some adjustments. This game will have some different dynamics to it, like it always does when you play a team a second time, it's never the same, so it'll be different on our end, I'm sure it'll be different on their end. We'll start that process today. In fact, it's already started.

Q: Is it a collective sigh of relief that this stretch is over?

BB: Well, I don't know about that, but there's no question, if you play four out of five on the road, and I think a lot of credit needs to go to the assistant coaches and the players for the job that they've done in terms of playing these games, coming back week after week, back-to-back road games, playing on short weeks so forth. They've done a real good job of hanging in there and getting through a tough stretch in the schedule, but it's all tough. I don't think we look forward to, or look favorably or unfavorably on any situation, they are what they are, we're going to meet them, we're going to be there when we're supposed to be there and play them. If you've got a short week, then you've got a long week, if you have a long week, then you have a short week, in 16 games it all evens out.

Q: When you had lost four in a row, were you concerned about something technically, or was it something fundamental?

BB: I never thought that the team wasn't working hard, I never thought the team wasn't trying to prepare and do the things it needed to do to win, we just weren't playing good enough to win. I did think that we played better against Denver, after the bye week, not that that was good enough, but there were some encouraging signs there, there was some improvement. Fortunately that carried over the following week into Buffalo. Anytime you lose four in a row your confidence isn't going to be real high, there's going to be some doubt about what's going on, but I never saw a letup from anybody in terms of trying to get things done, it was just frustrating that we weren't doing better, and we all expect better, but we weren't producing it.

Q: Could you just recap the injuries?

BB: [Richard] Seymour and [Tedy] Bruschi both have sore legs.

Q: And they're both awaiting test results?

BB: They're probably in there getting treatment right now.

Q: Now that you're able to look back after the five games, you've got to be pretty pleased with the outcome.

BB: Well, when you're 3-4 you've got to win some games to really get into contention, to be back in it. It's hard to be in a race when you're under .500, so we were able to win some games to get back on the plus side of the ledger, we've got some division games coming up, so we're in there fighting with everybody else. When you're 3-4 you might be in a race but you're not feeling very good about where you are at that point. So, top be able to win four out of five was important for us at that point.

Q: And what about two wins in less than a week?

BB: They're tough, we know that … we expected it to be tough in Detroit and it was, they always play that way. That's their game, they play hard every second in the game, so as I said, I think it's really a credit to the assistant coaches and the players, you know, new game plans, new adjustments, new personnel, new preparation every week, on a short week, forget one game, go right to the next, forget that game, go right to the next. Come back from a road trip across the country and all that, I think certainly a lot of credit is deserving to those guys. Give them credit, it's tough to win in this league, and they were able to pull it together and win four out of the last five.

Q: As far as the situation with Kenyatta Jones and Greg Randall, are you waiting for someone to step up?

BB: That would make it a lot easier. If somebody would step up and play really well at that position on any kind of consistent basis, that's who would be playing there. We'd love of that to happen.

Q: Can you talk about the level of play of Ty Law?

BB: I though Ty played well yesterday, I though he played well last week against Minnesota. Ty did a good job in Oakland, I think he's put together a string of good solid efforts, I though he did a nice job yesterday, he's playing probably as consistently … well, he's playing very consistently, lets put it that way. From play to play, from game to game, he's done a good job, he did a good job yesterday.

Q: How about Lawyer [Milloy], he seemed to be up by the line of scrimmage a bit yesterday.

BB: You know, we tried to mix in some blitzes, both the linebackers and the defensive backs, and he was involved in some, got in on some plays. I thought that overall, defensively, we did a pretty solid job, the biggest problem we had was I thought we gave up some pretty easy third down conversions, some third and long situations, and that's just bad. We were better in the red area, not bad in the running game, other than the reverse and the draw play, we had to bad running plays. But the safeties, Vic [Green] and even Antwan [Harris] who was in there playing a little bit of safety, and Lawyer were all involved I think Vic and Lawyer both were in on a bunch of tackles, I mean they probably had 15 tackles between them.

Q: Could Lawyer show up more playing inside the box?

BB: If the play's there, he can.

Q: Is it natural that he'd get less opportunities to make plays playing cover two?

BB: Well, yeah, last week against Minnesota one of the opportunities in that game came on a pass down the middle to [Randy] Moss, he and Vic came in and made a nice hit on the play. Unfortunately it doesn't show up in your stat sheet as a tackle or an assist, or whatever you guys are keeping track of up there. When you get an opportunity to make a play, then that's what you count on a player to do.

Q: Is he still a guy that you rely on?

BB: No, I think it just falls into the scheme. You don't know … it's hard to, when you call a defense, if you knew what the play was going to be, it'd be easy, you could just call a defense that would put all your missiles right into that one target area. But when you call a defense you honestly don't know what they're going to do. You play the percentages. You don't know if they're going to run it inside, if they're going to run it inside and the runners going to bounce it outside, if they're going to run it outside, if they're going to throw it short, if they're going to throw it short inside or outside, or they're going to throw it deep. You really don't know that, you really don't, so when you calm the defense everybody has to be accountable and responsible for their jobs. Like I said, you can play the percentages, first and ten, they're 65 percent run, 'Okay, so two out of three are runs, but one out of three aren't.' So, wherever you put anybody … you can't call a defense and say this guy's going to make the play. It's just really hard to do. I mean I've had Lawrence Taylor, and I've coached some of the best big-play guys in the history of the game, particularly Taylor. I could never call a defense and say, 'Okay, this is Taylor's defense, this is Taylor's play.' If you happen to hit it right, he might be right there in on the action, but that's maybe on out of 10, one out of five, it's tough.

Q: Is Lawyer a guy you use to account for a trouble spot?

BB: Well, I'd say yes because of the position he plays. He plays safety, but you would do that with any safety. In other words, you have a defensive line, and linebackers, you have your front seven, well they pretty much have to account for the front and the line of scrimmage. So you don't have a lot of flexibility with them, you move them all over to one side you got nobody over on the other, so you have to have some kind of balance there. The only people you can move are the corners because they're committed outside on the receivers, man or zone. So the guys you have flexibility with are really your two safeties, and that's one more than the offense has because they have a quarterback. So he's not really part of the formation, you have the other 10 guys. That's where your 11th guy comes from, it's your safety and if you want to commit him to a receiver, commit him down to the box for the running game, blitz somebody else, so he can take that guy's man, that's really where your flexibility comes, strategically, is from those two safety spots. So, absolutely, the safety in any defense is a very adjustable part of the defense and he helps solve problems, but that's kind of the nature of the position, and Lawyer does a good job of that too. Lawyer does a good job of that, don't get me wrong, but whether it's Buffalo's defense, whether it's Detroit's defense or whether it's anybody's defense, that's really the only alternative you have to doing it, you can't take your outside linebacker and move him over and put him on the other side, things like that would be really hard to do, so you do it with your secondary.

Q: What separates that?

BB: I think Lawyer's number one strength is his intelligence, and his instinctiveness. He's a good football player so it doesn't really make any difference what you ask him to do, he's guy that's going to take very few reps, relatively little coaching, and have good understanding of not only what you want him to do, but what the people around him are doing. For example we put him on kickoff coverage for the last three weeks. Well he hadn't been on there all year, he probably hadn't been on kickoff coverage since I was here in 1996. But with a little bit of coaching and a little bit of practice, he's right there on top of it and our kickoff coverage has been much better, and he's been a part of it. Mike Vrabel's been a part of that too, some guys just are naturally instinctive football players that when all the chaos breaks loose, and there's 21 other guys out there running around on the field and they have to make a decisions on what to do in that particular point in time, they usually make the right decision. And that's what an instinctive foot ball player does. Some guys are better than other at it, and some guys are faster, some guys jump higher, some guys bench press more, some guys are just more instinctive and more into it, and Lawyer's very good at that. Along with his physical skills, obviously he's a hard hitter, and he's a tough guys and all that, but he's very smart and very instinctive.

Q: Was there any emphasis on "old fashioned" tackling this week?

BB: I know it doesn't look like it sometimes, but we work on tackling every single day defensively, because those are the guys involved in tackling. Every day we have tackling drills, now when you have a short week like we did last week, we didn't do live tackling, and we don't always do live tackling, although we do it periodically through the season, to just stay sharp on it. But we work on it every single day, the thing you get into with missed tackles are, number one, first of all the guys carrying the ball in this league, some of them are pretty good. So the more space you give them, then the hard it is to tackle them, so if you've got a guy surrounded with two or three guys, you've got him right up against the sideline, there's a lot fewer missed tackles in those situations, even though there's still going to be some, there's fewer of them because the guy ahs less space. The more space he has the tougher it is to get him down, and the more fundamentally correct you have to be as a tackler because there's a lot more margin for error, so a lot of tackling is leverage, position, and giving the runner only one way to go so that when he goes that way, the you can close into him and get him. The other part of that as well is the more people you have around the ball, the less the missed tackles are noticeable. So when you've got two or three guys there, one guys goes up and misses him, another guy goes up and misses him, and then the third guy gets him right there, and he gains a yard, you don't even realize there's two missed tackles. You come at the end of the day and you hand out the grades to the players and you say, 'You know, you had three missed tackles, you had two missed tackles, you had three missed tackles, for a total of five yards,' well the player's still upset about the missed tackles, 'You gave me a missed tackle on that? I slowed him up, I was in on the play.' 'No, you missed him.' Whereas, he missed eight tackles for 150 yards, now those missed tackles, there's a big spotlight on those, so, again, believe me, we have missed tackle sin every game. Every other team has missed tackles in every game, but it's A, how much you miss them for, and B, what the rest of the pursuit picture is on the play. But tackling is the most fundamental skill for a defensive football player. We tell our scouts, we go out on the road, when they grade players, don't bring us a guy that isn't a good tackler on defense: What are we going to do with him? Your job on defense is to get the guy with the ball and get him down. If you can't tackle him, it doesn't make any difference what they vertical jump, it doesn't make any difference what they bench press, if they can't tackle, they're not going to be productive football players.

Q: Is tackling a part of combines?

BB: No.

Q: If anyone is skeptical of combines, which are about jumping through hoops and tires and…

BB: … And broad jumps and all that.

Q: But the question is, can they play football?

BB: That's the question. That's the question you have to answer. The only thing you care about is how the guy plays on Sunday. But, the combines are part of the picture. They're part of the puzzle. So, you've got all the receivers that are coming out in the draft. How fast are they? That's all they're saying. How fast are they? Am I faster than you or are you faster than me. It doesn't mean that I'm a better player or you're a better player, it's just a measure of speed or a measure of strength. It's just a part of the puzzle. If that's all you go on, you're going to be wrong a lot of the time. That's all it is. I'm going to go out and time every receiver, the Bears are going to go out and time every receiver, the Cowboys are going to go out and time every receiver. The guy's running for 32 different teams at 32 different times at 32 different spots. Let's just do it all at once to get it out of the way because we're all interested to see how fast the guy runs. That's really what it's about. Once you start going and drafting based on broad jump, and you know, you're going to get the best broad jumper, but you might not get the best football player.

Q: On Sunday, is it going to be dawn-to-dusk preparation for you or are you going to watch Buffalo and Miami?

BB: We'll watch the Buffalo and Miami game, because, again, we know Buffalo. It's the same system that they had last year defensively, it's a little bit of a new system this year offensively, but we just played them, we studied them all the way through the season, and now we'll watch their last games against the Jets and Kansas City, go back and watch our game, so you can see a little bit on TV, just if they have something new, like for example against Kansas City, defensively, Buffalo used a three-corner defense. They used their regular defense, but they took a safety out of the game and they used three corners and one safety instead of two corners and two safeties. So, you might be able to pick something like that up on TV. It's hard to do TV scouting, because you just don't get a big enough view of the field.

Q: Is there any part of you that would watch for pleasure?

BB: Well, this isn't really the time of the year for watching. We've got a job to do and we're just trying to win games.

Q: I'm just probing here, whether a part of you would just sit down and …

BB: Well, Sunday we'll watch the game because we have a vested interest in the game. If I watch the Army-Navy game, I'll watch that for pleasure. I'll root for Navy and that'll be pleasure. It's not this week, but it's the following week.

Q: Will you yell at the TV at all?

BB: Yeah, I probably will. I'll kick the TV and hit the dog. I'd watch that game for pleasure.

Q: Obviously, your focus at the beginning of the year was to get the team off to a better start, which it did. Yet, right now you're kind of in the same situation you were in last year, either having to win out or close to it to make the playoffs. Was there an inherent flaw in the Targeting September approach that caused a little gap in the middle there, or is there something about that that allowed the players' focus to maybe lessen after that initial goal was achieved?

BB: I don't think so, but I don't know if we'll ever know the answer to that question. I think we were a lot better off winning the first three games than losing them. I don't know where we'd be if we had lost those games. I don't know. Maybe we would have won all the rest of them since then or maybe we'd be, whatever, four and whatever that adds up to, 3-9 or 4-7, I don't know.

Q: But, do you think that …

BB: But, again, from last year, we started off the year 1-3. We just tried to start better than that. That's all. I'm not looking to start 1-3 any year. Not this year, last year, next year or any year. Who wants to start 1-3? Our goal was to have a better start than that. In saying that, that's not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is where you are at the end. But, if you want to be better than 1-3, then let's set a target higher than that, and that's really what it was about.

Q: It seemed almost like there was a letdown after that initial goal was achieved. Going 3-1 in that first month obviously was a better start, but whether it was a flaw in the team that had to be corrected over a period of time, or whatever it was, but it just seemed like maybe if there was any possibility for the team to stop at that point, I don't think you'd allow them to do that, but …

BB: I know what you're saying, and hey, I've thought about that. When we lost four straight, I thought about everything. I thought about if we should be practicing on Tuesdays, should we give them Friday off? You name it. But, the thing I would say, and here's one thing that we try to do as a staff is to try to look at the game before you play it. You go through your preparation week, you go through Tuesday with the coaches and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practice, then you come to the end on Saturday where you pull your final preparations together and get ready for the game. Usually not a bad time to evaluate what happened from Tuesday to Saturday, is Saturday. Because, when you evaluate it on Monday, everything just comes down to how the game went. If the game didn't go well, then Wednesday was bad, Thursday was bad, Friday was bad, we didn't do this, that guy was late for a meeting, this guy dropped a pass in practice, we stink and that's why we lost the game. If you win, then you come in there on Monday and it's the same thing, this guy made a nice catch in practice, that guy made a really good interception, boy, it seemed like the players were really alert on Wednesday. Again, that's all tilted by the game. So, when you sit in there on Saturday and say, 'Hey, how did the week go? What could have been better this week? Where are we concerned about our preparations, the attitude of the team?' So forth and so on. That's why you've heard us say from time to time that the team didn't practice well on this day or whatever. So, that's a good time to look at it. Now, if I had been sitting there on those Saturdays, when you don't know how the game's going to come out, and said, 'These guys just don't care. They just don't care. They just can't get it going, they're complacent. They just think we're going to roll the ball out and win.' If I felt like that on Saturday and we played like that on Sunday, then there's validation that that's the way the team's acting and that's the way they're playing. But, when you're sitting there on Saturday, feeling the same way you did a couple of weeks ago when you won, saying, 'They're on it, they're trying, they're really working hard, they're in here watching extra film, they're up tempo in practice, and so forth and so on.' You say, 'Okay, I think we're ready to go,' and you go out there and you don't win, then it's hard to back there and say, 'We had a bad attitude and didn't work hard. We were complacent and we didn't care this week.' That's how I try to evaluate it. I don't know if that's right or wrong, but that's how I try to do it.

Q: Any validity to the idea that some teams or players play better with their backs to the wall?

BB: I think a real competitor, a real competitor, that that will always bring out the best in them. I am not saying that a good competitor won't compete all the time anyway, but there are always little different levels of competition. I think a great competitor will always compete a little bit harder when there is more on the line, when it's desperation and when it's your last chance. Whether it is a big play at the end of the game in the fourth quarter or whether it's a playoff game or … The further you go into the season, the bigger games get and the more important they are. That's really what makes great players. All the players that we all know and respect and recognize is because they played well in big games. That's when they really stepped into the limelight and hit the tough shots or made the big plays. Yeah, I think there is no question.

Q: At a certain point in the season do you have to start to take into account the total picture, not just take one game at a time?

BB: Sure, you are aware of the bigger picture. But again, the only thing you can do anything about is the next game. I can remember when we were sitting there in the meeting room, we were 3-4 and talking about, 'Just sit back here for a second and think about it. Do you think that there is any team in this league at the end of the year with four losses that won't be in the playoffs? Do you think there is any team in the league this year with four losses that won't win its division?' So whether you have them early or you have them late, if that's all you have then you probably have a pretty good chance. Now that being said, what can we do about it? Play one game. Play one game. That's it. But just because you get off to a slow start, whether it is 1-3, whether it is 3-4, 5-5, whatever it is. That's not the final record. That's not the finish line. But, prefacing that, the only thing you can do anything about is the next game. There is no way you can win two in a row, or two at the same time. You can win two in a row, but you can't win two at the same time. I mean, it's impossible.

Q: What are some of the specific things that are improved now from when this team had the four-game losing streak?

BB: I think it has been different things in different games. Certainly offensively our third down conversion ratio, when that has been good that's when we've played our best offensive football. I think yesterday was a good example. That last drive that was ten minutes or nine minutes, whatever it was, was obviously the best drive we have had all year. One of the things that everyone will want to say about that drive is, 'Boy that's great, running the ball and being able to give it to Antowain, being able to control the clock and keep the ball on the ground.' And that's true and that's great. But we converted four third downs. And that's why you are able to keep doing that. So if you can convert on third down, then that keeps you offense on the field. It gives you more running game. It gives you more time of possession and all that stuff. In that game it was better. In Buffalo it was better. Our red area defense yesterday was better. Those things are good. We made some plays in the kicking game. We've made plays in the kicking game I'd say in each of the last four weeks. We've blocked field goals, kickoff returns, our kickoff coverage has been much better than it was going back to Buffalo, Denver and back in there. So in each game sometimes it has been different elements of the team or different players that have made the plays and stepped up. But in the end it has been a little bit more than our opponents have had. Whereas in that four-game losing streak, not that it was all negative, but the other team made more plays than we did and that is why they deserved to win. I've said this before and I will say it again, when we lost four in a row everything wasn't bad. Everything we did wasn't bad. It wasn't good enough, it wasn't bad. We won some games at the beginning of the year, we wont three in a row at the beginning of the year, we've won four out of the last five. Everything wasn't good when we won three in a row and everything isn't good now. It was better than the other team had four out of five times. It was better than the other team had in the first three. But everything wasn't good, and it wasn't all bad during that four-game losing streak. The thing we have to try to do is each week is to continue to try to strengthen our weaknesses, maintain our strengths and prepare for the teams specifically that we are facing so that we can play a little bit better than that team. That's the goal every week.

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