New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2008.
BB: Well, we're moving right along here on the Chargers. This is a big day for us in terms of our preparation, getting into all of the early down stuff first and second down and their running game and their run defense and their play-action passing game and their regular down defense and stuff like that. We'll all build in some situational stuff towards the end of the week, but this is really a big day for us to get our timing down, to get some execution down on those early down situations - And they're important. Certainly you don't want to be in a lot of second and longs against their defense and by the same token, you don't want to put their offense in a lot of second and twos and second and threes. First down and the second and medium situations will be important in this game - as they always are, but I think probably especially important against the Chargers. That's what we're working on today and they're good in all of those situations, so this will be a big challenge for us, just like we talked about.
Q: For the season you've had so many guys step up to the table to make plays. What does Nick Kaczur bring to the team?
BB: Nick's done a good job for us at right tackle and he's done that for us since his rookie year. He was thrust right into the fire right away. He's a good athlete, he has good skills for the position, he's tough, he's smart, he has good mental toughness. Tackle is a tough spot to play.
Q: How much does it help to have someone like Junior Seau on the team, with his hunger for postseason success? Is it contagious?
BB: It's great to have Junior. Junior's great. I mean, I love him. I love having him on our team. I think every one of our 53 players has to… He can't do their job. They can't do his job. Each and every one of us has to do our job and try to do it well, and that goes for every player, every coach, assistant coach, trainer [and] everybody else in the entire organization. We have to try to maximize our performance this week against a great football team and that includes everybody. It includes Junior. He has great leadership and experience on this team. I think that's been well-recognized, but every one of us has a job to do and nobody can do anybody else's, so I don't think you want to make too much out of somebody doing three or four other people's jobs. It just -- I don't think it works that way.
Q: How much more comfortable have you become with James Sanders at the safety position and how much have those benefited from postseason play last year? Was that a jumping off point for him coming into the season?
BB: No doubt about it. I think James had an outstanding year last year. There were some ups and downs early in the season, but I think he kind of got in there and did a real good job at safety when Rodney [Harrison] was out, then Rodney came back and he was out again and James took over for him again. He's done an outstanding job for us this year all the way through and whether it be in regular or sub, I think he's improved tremendously as a player in the last couple years. He works very hard at it. Nobody works harder or is more conscientious and studies any harder than James Sanders. He's a true pro, even though he's a young player. He's tough, he puts a lot into the game, it's really important to him and he's one of our most dependable players, in any situation - on the field, special teams, defense, preparation, practice - He's outstanding. He's a pleasure to coach.
Q: Is there a discernable difference between strong and free safety?
BB: In the NFL the way we play and the way offenses attack you, if there is, they try to get you in the other spot anyway, so if it looks like you have a guy that's comfortable playing one spot, they try to formation you so you have to play the other spot or move the tight end or move it around so you have to get in an uncomfortable position. In the end, in our system and in most systems, really, both guys have to be able to play both responsibilities.
Q: Following last week's win, Tom Brady brought up last year's AFC Championship game. Does the fact that he would even talk about that mean there's still a little wound that some of the guys from last year are wanting to heal this time around?
BB: I would hope so. We've worked all year just to get to the same position we were at last year. I hope we do better this year than we did last year.
Q: Is your preparation any different his week because of the possibility of facing two quarterbacks?
BB: No, not really. No, we always prepare for all 53 players and we've gotten into games - the Buffalo game this year was a good example - after the first couple plays one quarterback's out and another quarterback's in. You have to be ready for all the guys that are active, and whether they switch them or whether something happens - Just like you have to prepare for all of your players to play in the event that you need somebody to take somebody else's spot. That's true on the other side of the field, too, so you have to prepare for all of them and know their strengths and weaknesses and we can say, yeah, there's a higher probability that this guy can get in the game than that guy, but in the end you have to be ready for all of them, so that's what we'll prepare for.
Q: Does it help that you got to see some of Billy Volek last week?
BB: Well, we've pretty much seen everybody. I mean, there isn't anybody that plays in the league that we haven't seen - or very few, I would say. Whatever there is, we go back and find it or get it or whatever. Our personnel department does a good job of keeping us up to date on the reports and also film clips of players, whether they're playing or not. You know, teams sign guys off a practice squad on Saturday afternoon the day before the game, they're active for the game [and] a lot of times they play. Maybe the last time they played was preseason or the previous year, whatever the situation is, so we always try to stay on top of that and make sure that we're prepared for the individual players as well as the schemes that our opponents run.
Q: I know you don't want to get caught up in weather forecasts, but just the anticipation of the cold at this time of year, how does that affect the offensive game plan?
BB: I think we'll take a look at it as we usually do when it comes closer to game time and see what it's like and the decide whether it does or doesn't. Right now the game plan would be, based on the forecast, dress warm.
Q: How different is this Chargers team from the one you faced a year ago?
BB: We've faced them since then, and they're very good. They're very good. As all teams, we've all improved since September and the Chargers are playing great football right now. They're playing as well as anybody in the league, basically since the middle of the year, since Thanksgiving. They're good at everything. They're good on offense, defense, special teams, they can run it, they can stop the run, they can rush the passer, they can throw it, [they are] good in the kicking game, [they] have outstanding specialists, so they're real good at everything. That's the way they've been playing and it's January, and this is where you need to play your best football of the season. I hope we can play ours on Sunday - we'll need to.
Q: What is Norv Turner's touch on this team, as opposed to a year ago when they had a different head coach?
BB: I think Norv's run his offensive system and, as usual, it's very productive. Again, over the latter part of the season they've been the second-highest scoring team in the league, behind Jacksonville. They've been very productive and balanced in their passing game and running game. They do a good job of throwing it, catching it, running it, play-action, short yardage, goal line, red area - all of those situations. They're good at all of those things and Norv's had a lot of productive offenses that he's run through the years. We all know that, and this is another one.
Q: Some coaches saw the motivation they have to do this job comes from the thrill of winning the games. Others say the preparation. What motivates you and does it come more from either side of the table?
BB: I enjoy all aspects of it - especially Wednesday at noon.
Q: Do you prepare for that?
BB: You know, there's a lot of different things that go into this job, but really I enjoy all of it. I enjoy the preparation, I enjoy the practice, I enjoy the offseason, team-building, working with the younger players, working with older, experienced players, the game planning, the game decisions, practice - all of the things that go into it. They're all challenging, they all have their own place, they're all important and so in the end, you try to put it all together and get a good product.
Q: You're considered the ultimate team-before-self organization and before he got here Randy Moss had a reputation of being self-before-team. What convinced you that you could get him to buy into what this organization is about?
BB: I think based on what we knew about Randy - what I know about Randy - is that he's a very competitive guy, [a] very smart receiver, a tough, dependable player that you want to have on your team, and that's exactly the way I feel.
Q: Of all the things Randy Moss has done this year, what has impressed you the most?
BB: All of those - his consistency. [He's the] same guy every day. The same professional guy every day.
Q: You always talk about one week at a time.
BB: Is that what we're talking about now?
Q: Does that get easier as the stakes get higher or does it get harder?
BB: It's all the same, so I don't know. It's one week in September, it's one week in October, it's one week in January, so it's all the same, really. I mean, back then you're trying to talk about all of the games that are going ahead. Now you're trying to talk about all of the games that have gone behind, so it's just a question of what point you are in that journey, but it really doesn't matter. It's just where you are at that particular time.
Q: Looking back at the Chargers/Colts game, San Diego's defense never really stopped the Colts' offense, other than on the last two possessions, but they forced two turnovers in the red zone. Can you talk to San Diego's strength in forcing turnovers?
BB: They do a great job of forcing turnovers - 18 fumbles, 30 interceptions in the regular season and then follow it right back up in the postseason with another five turnovers in two games. Basically, they're averaging three turnovers in a game and they make the offense pay for mistakes. And they force a lot of plays. I think the fumble that Merriman had in the Tennessee game where he stripped the runner from behind, sometimes they're opportunistic and they take advantage of a tipped ball or a mistake by the offense, but a lot of those plays are caused by the defense, by a good read or reaction or hit that knocks the ball loose, or they make a play on the ball that… Some of [Antonio] Cromartie's interceptions are just some spectacular plays, really. The amount of ground he covers and his play on the ball are some of the real highlight plays of the year. They come in a lot of different forms. You know, when [Ron] Rivera was in Chicago last year, that was a little bit of their trademark. They came in here and got five against us. I'm not saying it's all him, but I'm saying it's part of that philosophy that San Diego has, Rivera had in Chicago that now has in some way or part traveled to San Diego. They've been very productive with it.
Q: You've seen a lot of great linebackers over the years and you've coached a lot of them. How much do [Shaun] Philips and [Shawne] Merriman help each other, playing together?
BB: I think it helps when you have two perimeter players, whatever they play, whether it's outside linebackers, corners, receivers, to a certain extent tight ends where you can balance off the formation and not be heavily tilted one way or the other. Going back to the Giants days when you had a situation there, Lawrence Taylor, it was easy to run away from him until he had Carl Banks, and then it wasn't so easy to run away from Taylor and into Banks or away from Banks and into Taylor. So again, it's kind of the same thing. Whether it's two corners or two linebackers or two receivers - If you only have one, then sometimes it's possible for the other team to scheme and work away from that guy or double him or however you want to look at it, whatever the position is. Verses if you have two, you're going away from one, but you're going into the other. I think it does help.
Q: You have a lot of guys with championship game experience. Does that help in the week leading up to the game, knowing what to expect?
BB: I don't know. I think what helps the most is going out there and playing well. There was a time when we didn't [have a lot of championship experience] and we won. I don't think that - If that was all there was, then St. Louis would have won. They had more than we did. I don't think that's the bottom line. I don't think it hurts. I don't think any experience hurts, but I think what's more important is to go out and execute and perform well.