Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
BB: It looks like we have playoff fever in here. How are we doing this morning? We gave you the run down yesterday. The Ravens team's impressive, as I said, in all three areas of the game. They're physical. They're good on offense, real good on defense. They do a real good job in the kicking game. They have a great differential in the kickoff return area, kickoff [and] kickoff return. They've been extremely good on defense against the run in the red area. They're playing smart on offense, not turning the ball over. They're playing good on third down, taking advantage of their opportunities. There's been a lot of close games. As I said, Ray Lewis' quote the other day about what they've been through, I can see that. I can see what he's talking about. They've been in a lot of tough games. [They're a] good team.
Q: Both teams have played in a lot of close games this year, what can players take from that?
BB: Just a lot of situations. You're ahead at the end of game; you're trying to run the clock out; you're playing a defense that's dependent on what the situation is; playing from ahead versus when you're playing from behind. Then, you're trying to get the ball back; you're trying to score; you're in your two-minute offense and all the kicking situations that go with those. You can talk about those, you can watch them on film, but we've been through them in game situations. That's the ultimate learning experience. Not that they're all the same, but you can learn from all of them. The Ravens have been in a lot of games that have gone back and forth in the fourth quarter, like the Indianapolis game, Minnesota game, those Pittsburgh games were both three-point games into overtime, fourth quarter. They're learning experiences. You've got to think you're going to be in a close game at this time of year, whoever you play is a good football team and you've got to feel like there's a good possibility it's going to be a last-possession game.
Q: What are the qualities that Tom Brady has that makes him particularly good to adapt to change in personnel?
BB: Tom does everything pretty well. He's smart. He's well-prepared. He can handle all elements of the game: the running game, the passing game, play-action, third down. He's a very experienced quarterback. He's got good talent, good skill and he's done it.
Q: How much has Joe Flacco changed since you saw him Week 4?
BB: Not too much. Cam [Cameron] has his offensive system and that involves power running, play-action, spreading the field out, giving the offense a lot of different looks, and he handles those easily - the different formations: slot, empty, unbalanced line, two tight ends, three receivers, all those different kind of things. So he looks very comfortable doing it. I think he's done a good job taking care of the ball. He hasn't given up a lot of turnovers and he's managed the game well. He's done a solid job. It's a veteran team now. Other than [Michael] Oher at right tackle, they're a veteran team on offense and they're a veteran team on defense. They lost [Lardarius] Webb, but with [Chris] Carr, [Frank] Walker and [Domonique] Foxworth back there, it's a very experienced front seven, a very experienced secondary. They're a very experienced team. I mean, Flacco is another young guy along with Oher, but the rest of them are all - those guys have been around for a while, one way or another.
Q: You mentioned Cam Cameron's system. Everywhere he goes it seems like the running back is either the leading receiver or catches 70, 80 or 100 balls. Are those check downs? And why is that?
BB: Some of it is. Some of those are check downs off of play-action. That's definitely a concern. I mean, I'd say the main reason is because the backs are good receivers, that's No. 1, guys that can handle the ball. You know, [Ray] Rice, even though in college he wasn't a big receiver in their offense, I don't think there's any question about his receiving skill or return skill, for that matter. He just wasn't used that way, but it wasn't that he couldn't do it. He's shown that he can catch the ball. He's very dangerous after the catch, so they have some plays that go to him. They hit us on the angle route here in the first game, so there are some plays that are designed to him. Sometimes they come as outlet receivers and when you're down there chasing [Mark] Clayton, [Todd] Heap and [Derrick] Mason around, that creates some space for the backs. So it's a combination. Some plays are designed, some plays just evolve that way. I think any time a quarterback has confidence in a back like that to get him off the hook when there's pressure or somebody's not open, it's easy to throw the ball to a guy like Rice, let him run with it and see what he can do.
Q: What's the biggest thing you can take away from the first meeting with the Ravens this year?
BB: Well, just what I said, they're a real good football team. They're good in all three phases of the game. We had problems with them in everything: offensively, defensively, special teams, running game, passing game. It was a very competitive game. We know we've got our work cut out for us. I think they've improved over the course of the year. I hope we have. I know they're tough. I know they're physical. They're well-coached. As I said, they've got a lot of veteran players. They've got a lot of guys who know what they're doing who have been through it before. They were in the AFC Championship game last year, so this is a mentally and physically tough team. I took that out of our game, but that's what we've seen all year long.
Q: One of the things the Ravens do well is the zone blitz. How do you teach a quarterback about that and how to deal with that?
BB: Well, it really doesn't matter what type of system the defense runs. What it comes down to in protection is you have certain guys blocked and you have certain guys that aren't blocked. So, if a guy who is not blocked blitzes, then somebody has to make an adjustment. The quarterback has to get rid of the ball to a back, a tight end, a receiver, somebody has to adjust their pattern, or maybe the pattern that's on the play takes care of it, it's already built into the play. The quarterback throws it to him before the rusher gets there. If the guys that are blocked beat the guys who are blocking them, then that's a physical breakdown. But from a scheme standpoint, the quarterback has to know the players that are picked up and the ones that aren't. He has to be responsible for them, along with the receivers that, again, have that same responsibility. I mean, they have to be on the same page on that. That's fundamental of the passing game. It doesn't make any difference if it's man or zone. If a guy blitzes and he's not picked up, then the quarterback has to have some way to get rid of the ball. It comes down to the coordination [and] the overall execution of the offense, in terms of protection, route running, route adjustments and the quarterback seeing the same thing that the offensive line and the receivers are seeing on those plays.
Q: How important is Haloti Ngata to their defense?
BB: He's an outstanding player, a very powerful guy, explosive player. They've got an excellent front and they play a lot of people there, but he's a major force in there. [He's] very good against the run, a strong inside pass rusher along with [Trevor] Pryce, which compliments their outside rushers well - [Terrell] Suggs and [Jarret] Johnson. He's a tough guy to block in there and they do some different things with him. They stunt him a little bit. Sometimes he's on the nose. Sometimes he's a three technique. Occasionally, he's out there on the tackle - not very often, but he can line up in a number of different spots along the line, so you never know exactly where he's going to be.
Q: There was a report this morning that you guys have signed Nick Moore to the practice squad. Can you comment on that?
BB: I think we're going to have a couple roster announcements to make later in the day. We just need to get it all cleaned up here, all tied up together. We'll have that for you before the end of the day.
Q: For the record, is there an update on Wes Welker?
BB: Whatever transactions we have, we'll give you at the end of the day here or this afternoon. I'm not sure exactly when it will be, but as soon as we get it all straightened out we'll have something for you.
Q: Obviously, Pepper Johnson has served in a variety of roles for you guys. Can you talk about the job that he's done and the role that he's played?
BB: Yeah, Pepper's really been a very valuable person for me and for our entire organization. As you said, he's done a number of different things: coaching linebackers, coaching defensive linemen, working in the offseason program with strength and conditioning and all of that. I think the big thing that Pepper brings to our staff that is really unique is that he's played in this system and he's actually done it out there on the field. I mean, I can talk about it; I've never played in it. Dean [Pees] can talk about it; he's never played in it. Matt Patricia can talk about it. Thankfully, none of us have ever played in that system, so Pepper brings a perspective of what actually happens on the field when this is called, when this is run, from a player's perspective as well as a coach's. And that's been important, not just [to] our defense, but to our entire team, talking to players. Pepper meets every year with the rookies and talks to them at different points in their rookie year about coming to the NFL; being a player on this team in this system; what's expected of them; and how to deal with different things that will happen one way or the other with your coaches, with your teammates, off the field, in games, so forth and so on. He does a great job at that. He has a good perspective. And he's got a wealth of experience and he's very good at sharing that. He does an excellent job with our defensive scout team against the offense. He runs that every week. He does a tremendous job with our defensive scout team players [who] really give our offense a good look at what the opponents are going to do. They play very competitively. They have a lot of fun doing it and it brings a lot of energy to the practice field, so he does a good job in all those areas.
Q: The New York Giants have an opening at defensive coordinator and there's a report out there this morning that they are interested in him. Could you see where the interest would come from?
BB: Right now, I'm just thinking about the Ravens. I don't really care about the Giants.
Q: Can you comment on Tom Brady being named NFL's Comeback Player of the Year?
BB: [It's] well-deserved. He's had a tremendous year. I think we all know that. Tom just brings so much to this team and our organization on and off the field: his preparation, his leadership, his performance, his unselfishness, all the things that he gives us are just top shelf, whether he did or didn't play last year. The fact that he didn't I guess qualifies him for this award, but he brings those things on a daily basis and they're exceptional.
Q: Yesterday, Fred Taylor said it's 'grab a young guy week'. How important is it for the more experienced playoff players to help out and advise the younger guys?
BB: I think it's good for everybody to support everybody in this situation, but ultimately it comes down to all of us doing our jobs and whatever Fred's job is, he'll have to do and whatever the next guy's job is, he'll have to do. But I think an older player, an experience player like Fred, certainly gives that perspective of you can't take it for granted. You're in the playoffs. You have an opportunity to extend the season, and it may or may not happen every year, but you can't count on it, so take advantage of it. [You] treat it as a one-game season, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and approach it that way. And I think that's a good message from a veteran player to a younger player. Young guys come in and they have a good year, and they might think that every year is going to be that way, and a lot of times it doesn't work out that way.
Q: Ray Rice wasn't seeing the ball as much for the first month of the season or so as he has since then. Are they doing different things with him, or is it just volume now?
BB: We saw a lot of him in our game. I think he's been a main guy for them. They have another good back with [Willis] McGahee, so I don't think it matters too much to them who gets the ball. They've both been productive with it. I'm sure they feel like they're going to need both players, and they've both been productive for them. I think whichever guy is in there is a big threat for us. We have to really do a good job against either back. They're different, but they're both dangerous, and I imagine that's the way the Ravens feel about it.
Q: Wilfork and Warren have both been out for much of the last three games. Did that sort of force everyone else to improve in different areas?
BB: Well, it certainly gave other players more playing time. And so I think in a way, that's valuable. Anytime you are out there on the field and you're taking plays, you should be learning from it and gaining experience from it. Those were opportunities for other players to do that and - some cases - maybe [there was] some movement in positions. I don't think we really played anybody in a position that they hadn't played earlier in the year, but maybe a few more snaps there. Ron [Brace], Myron [Pryor], Mike [Wright], Jarvis [Green], Derrick [Burgess] - those guys that have played basically on the defensive line the last couple weeks certainly have gotten a good workload, and I think in the long run that will benefit them.
Q: Where is Julian Edelman in his development?
BB: He's done a really good job for us this year, considering the fact that a year ago at this time, I don't think he had ever played receiver before. [He's] an option quarterback that has come in and really learned a lot about the receiver techniques and about offense from a receiver point of view. Both things are very hard, and he's done an outstanding job of it. I think he's had a good year. He's made a lot of progress this year. He's come a long way. It's amazing, really, how much he's done from where he started. But the fact of the matter is he got off to a good start and even in the spring when we tried him at receiver and catching punts and things like that. There was a point in time where he showed pretty quickly that he was capable of doing those kinds of things at this level. And then he showed that in the games and he's shown it during the regular season, so he's done a real good job this year.
Q: What did you see in him at college that made you think he could do that?
BB: Of the way he played? I mean, he's not here to throw the ball, but with the ball in his hands, he's a tough guy to tackle. He played against good competition there in the MAC [Mid-American Conference], like the Ohio State game, for example. He played very competitively. He's a hard guy to tackle, but when we worked him out in the spring, we saw his ability to handle the ball and catch it and catch punts and do receiver-type movements when we worked him out, so we thought that we would have a chance to develop him. He's developed about as quickly as you could hope for, for a guy who's never played that position before.
Q: Julian Edelman and Josh Cribbs have a similar background, both from Kent State, is there something about that offense that produces good open field players at that position?
BB: I think that's what they're looking for at the quarterback position. You still have to make a lot of decisions: whether to give it and pitch it and the run-pass checks and things like that. But both players are very good at running with the ball and breaking tackles. [They have] different running styles, obviously, but they have the ability to make yards on their own, let's put it that way.
Q: How has Derrick Burgess been coming along?
BB: Derrick has done a good job for us all year. He really has. He's been productive both in the passing game and in the running game. I think overall his run play has been good. He's a very consistent player. There are some players that rush the passer and they kind of rush the passer on every play and that's great on the passes, but then sometimes that can hurt you in the running game. Derrick really plays consistently on everything and he's done an excellent job in the running game for us - probably as good as we've had as a run player and a pass rusher. When they run the ball, he does a good job. When they throw the ball, he's competitive on the pass rush. I think sometimes guys lean a little more towards one than the other, but I'd say overall his play has been consistent on a down-after-down basis at a position that everybody kind of focuses on the passing part of it. But he's been in there on a lot of running plays and he's done a good job on the draws, the screens, the sub runs. He's made a number of plays for us on that. I think he's had - right from the beginning, going all the way back to the Buffalo game - he's had a good, solid year.
Q: Is it fair to say you got what you wanted out of him?
BB: He's definitely what we needed as an edge player. He's given us that. He's done a good job for us. It's different than Tully [Banta-Cain], but both Tully and Derrick have given us very good play on the perimeter of the defense.
Q: As an older player, at any point earlier in the year, did you think about limiting his snaps?
BB: I think we felt that he could play every down because he's done that throughout his career and he did it last year in Oakland. As you know, in games this year, there were some games where he has played almost every down, like last week, like the first Buffalo game. And then there were other games that his plays were less than that. And of course, then that flips for other players. Other players play more while ... You can only have 11 in there at a time. I think he can do it. I think it just comes down to game planning, matchups and sometimes how the game unfolds. But I think he's definitely capable of doing that. I don't know if would really consider him an older player. He's no rookie, I'm not saying that, but I think this guy has got some football left.
Q: You said yesterday that playoff experience didn't matter too much, does that hold true to young quarterbacks?
BB: It didn't in 2001. It didn't look like it last year with Flacco, either. They went to the AFC Championship game.
Q: Have they evolved any under Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison?
BB: I think they kind of found their groove defensively, what they do. The things they do, they do well. I don't think they maybe try to do everything that was done there in the past, but the things they do, they do well. I think they've been consistent, I want to say over the last however many games it is, they've only given up about 12, 13 points a game. In the latter part of the season, I think they played really as good a defense as any team in the league over the last however many weeks - probably since the Minnesota game or somewhere in there. They've been sound and they're good in the red area. They don't give up a lot of points. They've given up a lot fewer big plays than they did earlier in the season. They turn the ball over. [Terrell] Suggs is an excellent pass rusher and they have a real good front with Suggs and [Trevor] Pryce, [Haloti] Ngata, of course, and [Jarret] Johnson in the pass rush, so they're really solid there and they've been a very good run defense. They're right at the top of the league against the run, and that was after three or four weeks there, right around our game where the yardage is a little higher than what it's been the latter half of the year. So I think as a defense, for whatever the reasons are, I don't know if it's [Mattison] or what it was, but whatever the combination of reasons are, I think they played very well.