New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 24, 2008.
BB: We've spent the past three days looking at the Giants. Even though we just played them a month ago, I think that they've certainly improved dramatically as a football team. The number one area I would say is in the kicking game. They've really done a good job there. I think they've pretty much had the edge in that phase of the game in all three of their playoff games, and not turning the ball over, offensively. That's been very impressive, especially against the defenses they've gone up against. Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay are all outstanding defenses and they protected the ball perfectly, really, in those games and of course came up with the turnovers on defense. [They're a] real good football team. We had a great game with them a month ago, roughly, so we have a lot of get ready for and I think it's a team that's playing its best football at this time of year. Tom's [Coughlin] done a great job with the team and he's an outstanding coach. They have a great organization. They're physical, they do everything pretty well and this will be a big challenge for us. Hopefully we can have a real good week up here in terms of our preparation and getting a lot of things done - not everything, of course, but getting a lot of things done so that when we do head down there on Sunday we'll be familiar with a good chunk of the game plan, what we want to do, and then be able to just polish it up a little bit in Arizona. That's kind of the plan for this week and we're excited to get started. I think the players really had a good attitude this morning about coming in and getting on to business. We know we have a lot of work to do and we're anxious to get started on the preparations.
Q: The familiarity of having played them a month ago - The coaches obviously have an advantage, but what about the players?
BB: Sure. Yeah, I think it's sort of like a division game when you've played the team once earlier in the year and you're familiar with your opponent more so than a team you haven't played. I don't think it's an advantage for either team - both teams are working from the same point - but it's just more familiarity so there's a little bit of, we did this the last time. Do we want to change it up? Do we want to stay with what's been successful? Do we think they'll adjust to it? There's a little bit of that game that you go through anytime you play a team a second time in a season - actually, this is the third time, counting the preseason game. There's a little bit of that, but I think the familiarity, it helps the coaches, it helps the players, it gives you a higher starting point in your preparations, but I don't think it favors either team. It's just more information.
Q: Can you comment on Tom Brady's foot and any concerns you may have?
BB: No. I don't have any comment on it.
Q: Is he going to practice today, regular practice?
BB: Well, we'll go out there. I don't know. The injury report will be out next Wednesday and we're excited to give that to you. That form will be filled out completely and I can't wait to give that to everybody. I know you're anxious for it, so when it's due on Wednesday, we'll have it for you. Don't worry about that.
Q: Can you comment on the historic nature of the game coming up, the Super Bowl? It's been one game at a time for you and now this is it.
BB: I think there's always a time to reflect back on the season; this isn't it. Right now the time is to focus on the Giants and prepare for this game, so that's what we're doing. Later on after the season or whenever, some other point in history, looking back is fine, but we're not anywhere close to that right now.
Q: You kind of make it sound like it's just another game, like any old game.
BB: Well, it's the championship game. That's what it is. Last week was the AFC Championship game, this week is the championship in the National Football League, and the most important thing for us is to prepare for the game and do the best we can in it, so that's where we're going to put our time and energy.
Q: Does it make it more special for you given your personal history with the Giants, to be playing them?
BB: I don't know if I would use those words, but certainly I had - My 12 years with the Giants was a great time in my career. I enjoyed really everything about it. It was a great organization, with Well [Wellington] and Tim Mara. We had good teams. I was fortunate enough to be a part of an outstanding defense. We had a lot of great players there and we all had a lot of success. We had a great coaching staff. That period of time was a good one for me and so I have very fond memories of it, particularly the two championships in '86 and '90. But that being said, that's all in the past. We've moved on and whoever we're playing this week, it's the biggest game of our lives and we're going to put everything we have into it. But [I am] familiar with the Giants and what's on the other side of the field to a degree, more so than probably pretty much any other team.
Q: Because of the undefeated season, if you win the Super Bowl, will this one be more special than the others?
BB: Right now we're just thinking about doing the best we can on Sunday against the Giants. That's all we're thinking about.
Q: Can you talk about Tom Brady's toughness? Even at different points in his career, when he's been banged up, he's had the ability to play through it.
BB: I think Tom's one of the toughest players on our team, mentally and physically. He works hard and he can be focused on his job regardless of what's going on in all of the surroundings - the crowd, the game, the - whatever it is, stuff flying around him, but he's very calm. He's a great competitor, but he's very calm.
Q: What has been the difference with Eli Manning?
BB: I think as usual it goes to the entire team. And Eli's done a great job, I'm not taking anything away from him, but the coaching staff, the offensive line, the protection, the receivers - last week against Green Bay he made some excellent throws but the receivers made some great catches against tight man coverage in certainly less than ideal conditions. His offensive line has given him good protection. They've done a good job with the running game, which has kept defenses off-balance so that they have to play everything. [Ahmad] Bradshaw and [Brandon] Jacobs have done a nice job of balancing the offense. They've been productive and have gotten plays out of the tight end, [Kevin] Boss, which I don't know how much was expected there when [Jeremy] Shockey got hurt, but he's stepped in and done a good job. [Steve] Smith's stepped up, so I think they're getting contributions from everybody. They're playing very well as a team, offensively, and again, I think that starts with the coaching staff and the quarterback but it certainly extends to all the other players on the field as well. And Eli's done a terrific job, I'm not taking anything away from him, but I think it's not just him. It's the entire unit.
Q: You mentioned the Giants' kicking game. How significant is that in your mind?
BB: Very significant. I thought they - really, they killed us in the last game. They returned kickoffs and that was the big equalizer in the game. We had a few more yards than they did, but they more than offset that with their kickoff returns and their good field position. They return kicks well. Of course, David Tyree I think is one of the best special teams players in the league. He's outstanding and everything. He's a threat to block every punt, he's a gunner, he's outstanding on kickoff coverage, so he's very good. Their specialists are good. They're a very physical team. [Chase] Blackburn, Tyree, [Gerris] Wilkinson, [Reggie] Torbor - they're a big, physical group. [Madison] Hedgecock - they're 240, 250, 260 kind of guys and they're hard to stand up to in the return game and they're hard to get around into coverage. And they have outstanding skill players. [R.W.] McQuarters has done a good job for them, and of course we've seen the kickoff returns. Nobody saw it better than we did. That's held true in the playoffs as well. That was a great play that Tyree made in the Tampa game, downing the punt on the 2-yard line. Just like it was a big play for us against San Diego when Kelley [Washington] did it. Those are almost like scoring plays. They don't go down as scoring plays, but they result a lot of times in scoring plays. They're good. They've done a real good job.
Q: The fact that Tom Brady has been able to start 126 consecutive games, does that speak to his toughness, or is that just luck that he's been healthy?
BB: Well, Tom works extremely hard. He trains hard, he's a well-conditioned athlete and he does everything he can to be ready so I think that certainly has something to do with it. On the other hand, I've seen other players that have trained hard that have had bad breaks and have missed games because of injury. If I had the answer to that question, I wouldn't be standing here; I'm sure there'd be something else I could do. But he trains hard, he's in good condition. There's no question about that. I'm sure that helps him.
Q: Ahmad Bradshaw seems to give them a significant spark in limited touches. What does he bring?
BB: He gives them a spark when he touches the ball. You just answered your own question. He has good quickness, he has good power, good vision, he's a good cutback runner. He made a huge play there in the draw play against Green Bay. I known it got called back, but they had him for no gain, he broke a couple tackles, used his quickness to break out of there and went the distance - 50 yards or whatever it was. He's done a good job for them in kickoff returns. When he missed out game, they replaced him. He really hasn't gotten back in there, but I know he can do that as well. He was very productive doing that earlier in the year. Bradshaw is a good back. He's quick, he's fast, he catches the ball well, he has good vision and he's a threat to go anywhere on the field. He'll hit the hole and he'll cut it back.
Q: After the last regular season game, could you see how dangerous the Giants could be in the postseason?
BB: Well, we saw it going into the game. You're the only ones that didn't think that was - that there was some kind of mismatch in the game. You never heard that from us and you never saw it from us. They're a good football team. We felt like that was a playoff caliber game when we played in it, and they're a playoff team, which obviously they were. They had already qualified and didn't need to win that game to get in the playoffs, but they're physical. They're a good football team. They're physical, they can run it, they can pass it , they can stop the run, they can rush the passer, they're good in the kicking game. They're a good football team - and they're getting better. They've gotten better through the entire year. Just look at their series with Dallas. I think those three games are a good example of their progress as a team from Week 2 or whenever they played them early in the season to the postseason game. They started behind, but by the end they passed them up. I think that's where their team is.
Q: What's the common denominator on a team like that, that gets better as it goes along - confidence? Your 2001 team had that.
BB: I'm sure confidence is a part of it [but] I think playing good football is a bigger part of it. I think you'd have to ask them that question. I'm sure they'd know more about it than we would, but they've done a good job and they've played their best football in the last month.
Q: Does having as many players as you've had play in Super Bowls and big games - Can you measure that at all?
BB: I don't think there's anything wrong with experience. I don't think that's a negative, but I don't think it really does anything, either. I think the team that plays the best is the team that's going to win. We went into the 2001 Super Bowl in New Orleans with a lot less playoff experience than the Rams. It didn't seem to make any difference in that game, so I don't have any reason to think it would make any difference in any other game. I think the team that plays the best, that's the team that's going to win, not the team that has the best statistics or the most experience. I don't think those are negatives, but I don't think that really does anything, either. You have to go out there and prove it.
Q: If you were in our position, would you be portraying Brady's injury as a non-issue?
BB: Portray it however you want.
Q: How do you depend on your veterans to guide guys who haven't been to the Super Bowl before, and will your team have a curfew?
BB: We'll handle the team the way we feel like is best for…the best way to prepare for the game, in everything we do, whatever it is. Whatever decisions we make will be what we feel like is best for our football team. Again, I think experience is good and I'm glad we have players that have experience, that are veteran players, but in the end each person has a job to do and I don't think anybody can do anybody else's. Whatever everybody has to do, they have to do it themselves and we all have to depend on each other and we all have to do our own job. I mean, I can't play, they can't coach, the receivers can't play defense, the defenders can't block. That's the way it is. Everybody has a job, everybody has to get ready, everybody has to play well, so each person's accountable. I don't think it hurts to have experienced players, but at the same time each individual player has to go out there and get ready to do his job next Sunday. That's the challenge we all face, whether they have experience or not.
Q: How important is it to stay away from some of the stupid penalties?
BB: It's always important to stay away from penalties. Penalties, obviously, they can't help you. All they do is give your opponents other chances or give them extra opportunities or take away positive plays that you make. You want to have as few as possible. Our goal is always to have no penalties. I think it's unrealistic to go through a season with no penalties, but from game to game we try to do that. Some weeks we do that, or we hit it in certain phases, you know, no penalties in this phase or that phase and maybe we get them somewhere else, but that's always our goal. The only time we'd ever take an intentional penalty would be a delay of game penalty, something like that, if we wanted to lose some field position, but that's it. We try not to have them. Are we perfect? Far from it, but we'll keep working at it.
Q: How personally pleased were you to see a guy like Tom Coughlin reach a Super Bowl as a head coach?
BB: Tom and I have a good relationship. We go way back to the '80s there at the Giants. We worked together closely, as a secondary coach and a receiver coach would. He's a good personal friend, and Judy and his family. We've spent time with them away from football, whether it was at BC, Jacksonville and so forth. I respect Tom. I think he's an outstanding coach and wish him well in every game but this one.
Q: Did you try to reach out to him after the NFC Championship game?
BB: Again, I think whatever personal relationships or conversations we had, we'll keep that at that level.