Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, October 13, 2010.
BB: We're definitely deep into the Ravens this week. As usual, [they're] a real good football team. Coach [John] Harbaugh has done a real nice job with them. They're strong in every area: good in the kicking game, good on defense, good on offense. They cause you a lot of problems and they execute very well. They're a tough football team. They play hard. They make you earn everything. We're just going to have to do a lot better job than we did against them last year in the playoff game to be competitive. So I hope we can do that on Sunday.
Q: When you were scouting Brandon Tate, he didn't have a ton of receiver snaps. How much did you get to scout him as a receiver as opposed to just a returner?
BB: He played half the year down there in a pro offense. It was basically a pro offense at UNC, so it wasn't - I think you could see him do some of the things we ask our players to do. And he [also] did a very good job returning it. It was half a season, but I think the games you saw were good competitive games. High level of competition and he was doing things more like an NFL receiver would do them than I would say a lot of other guys you would scout. So it wasn't that bad, just unfortunately he got hurt.
Q: Can you describe the skill set of Haloti Ngata?
BB: [He's] big, explosive, a good technique player, uses his hands well. He's big and strong and explosive, but he's also a good football player. He plays with good technique both in the running game and the passing game. He's a pretty instinctive player and he's a hard guy to handle. They use him in all situations [and] try to mismatch him in the running game and the passing game. He really can play across the board. You see him on the center, on the guard, on the tackle, so I think he can play pretty much any place and play well.
Q: How does his skill set complement a guy like Ray Lewis, if at all?
BB: Well, it's great. I'm sure that Ray is glad to have him in front of him and I'm sure Ngata is glad to have Ray behind him. It's hard when you've got to block a guy like that on the line of scrimmage and then you have to get another player like Lewis behind him. It's like when Pittsburgh had 'Mean Joe' Green and Jack Lambert. The sooner you got to Lambert, the more you left Green. The more you hung on Green, the more you freed up Lambert. A little different scheme, but that was always the problem in playing the Steelers: how do you get both guys? You're lucky if you can get one of them.
Q: Even though it's only been a few months, how different in the team with Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
BB: Good. They've got more weapons. They're well-balanced. They've two good backs; all three of those guys contribute for them and [Jalen] Parmele on kick returns. They've got a couple of the rookie tight ends to go with [Todd] Heap. [They've got] a good receiver group, good quarterback, good offensive line, so they're solid across the board. They've got a lot of guys. They use different formations and all their skill players have been productive for them, I think they've got, what is it, 5 guys, who have all caught long passes. [Joe] Flacco has spread the ball around, they've gotten good production out of their backs running and catching. They give you a lot to defend. It's a good scheme, they're well coached and they've got a lot of good players.
Q: Their secondary was a big question mark entering the season due to injuries like Ed Reed, and yet they have the best past defense in the league. What stood out to you about their secondary?
BB: I think the thing that stands out about Baltimore is just their team defense. I don't think you can just isolate it to one guy. They have a lot of great players, a lot of good individual players. They play very well as a team. Everything is well-coordinated. They complement each other well. There's good communication on defense. There're not many easy plays; you've got to work for everything you get. You make a few plays against them, but you've got to really work hard and execute well. They don't make many mistakes and give up easy plays. As usual, any part of a good team defense is really the entire unit. I don't think it's just one guy or one particular thing. As outstanding as any of those might be, it still takes all 11 players and a good coaching staff and a good scheme and a team that communicates well. I think they do all those things.
Q: Depending on the week, I think you've used two or three first-year starters in your linebacking group. How do you see those guys kind of come together around Jerod Mayo as a unit?
BB: I think our defense is coming together a little bit each week: better communication, guys getting more experience, more playing time together going through different situations. Even though we talk about them and walk through them and practice them, it's always a little bit different in the game. We've learned from each one of those situations, each one of those experiences. We have a long way to go. We need to keep getting better. We need to accelerate the pace, but I think they are gaining experience as a group and individually. Hopefully we can continue to head in the right direction and play better defense.
Q: How different does it look with Tom Zbikowksi in there instead of Ed Reed?
BB: It definitely looks different. Ed Reed is Ed Reed. Zbikowski is a good football player. He's tough. He's a very physically tackler. They play him down in the box a little bit at times, as they did with Ed, but maybe a little less so. But those are two hard-hitting safeties. [Dawan] Landry and Zbikowski are both tough, physical guys that can both tackle well. They are impact players. They're hard-hitting guys.?
Q: When you still see Ray Lewis running around out there, what do you think?
BB: He's a tremendous football player. I have all the respect in the world for Ray Lewis since the first day I met him down there at the University of Miami and spent an afternoon with him watching film in their football offices. He's just really impressive in terms of his overall knowledge, understanding, passion, intensity. Just in one meeting you saw that, but you've certainly seen it through his career. He's good at everything. Good in the running game. Good in the passing game, very instinctive. The team really...he's obviously a strong component of that defense and everything centers around him as kind of the quarterback of the defense and the guy that makes calls and makes adjustments and is kind of the pulse of that unit. There are a lot of other good football players besides him; I'm not saying that [there aren't], but he's outstanding and is a true Hall of Fame player. I think the mark of a great player is a guy that makes all the players around him better and I think that Ray Lewis has certainly done that. As great as he's been, I think he raises everybody else's game up a little bit that plays with him. I think that's really a testament to how outstanding he is.
Q: You would have been scouting him for the Patriots then, in 1996?
BB: Yeah, I was with the Patriots, with Bill [Parcells].
Q: They took him with the pick you traded, right?
BB: Yes, that's right.
Q: So you messed up basically?
BB: Yeah, I was looking for him, but...yeah.
Q: Rice has obviously always been dangerous, but considering the passing options we just mentioned, how tough is it now even to key on Rice considering what can happen on the outside?
BB: He's a dangerous guy, and I think that's part of the problem with playing Baltimore is that they have so many weapons. They have a lot of good players. It's not a one-man band; you can't zero in on one guy or the rest of them will kill you. Heap is a great tight end, Boldin, [Derrick] Mason, T.J., Rice, [Willis] McGahee, [Le'Ron] McLain. They use all those guys. It's really a good group. [Ed] Dickson made a big play last week in the Denver game early in the game. It's a really good group. If you just zero in on one guy, you play the price with everybody else. Once again, it comes back to good team defense. Everybody has got to do their job. Everybody has got to take care of their responsibility. I don't think you can just set your defense all towards one guy or you just open it up for somebody else.
Q: In a game like this, do you tell the players to put the previous loss in the past or hold on to the memory of the playoff loss a little for motivation?
BB: We really try to focus on this particular game and do the best we can on that one.
Q: Do you think it's just specific to each guy as to how much he remembers the sour taste of the loss?
BB: Yeah, sure. Nobody feels good about the playoff game, but what happens out here Sunday is going to depend on how the players and the coaches and the teams execute between one and four Sunday afternoon. We've played a lot of games before this, good and bad. Each game comes down to its own individual battle there between those two teams and how they perform that day. It's not about who the better team is; it's who plays better that day. That's what it's always about. The team that plays better on Sunday, I'm sure they'll feel a lot better than the team that doesn't. I don't think that necessarily has anything to do with what happened in the past.
Q: How long do you personally hold on to those losses?
BB: I mean, I can remember games I lost in high school, so...I lost one game at Andover, football and lacrosse. I remember that one.
Q: What happened?
BB: We got beat by a Brown freshman at lacrosse. [I was] undefeated [in] football, but lost one game in lacrosse. Lost one game all year, but you remember those.
Q: You still hate Exeter?
BB: We did pretty well against them. Vernon Park bested us my senior year in high school. St. Mary's beat us at lacrosse in high school. I remember those games. I don't think you forget those if they were important to you. Maybe if that game's not important to you, you forget it, but if the game's important to you, I think you remember.
Q: What was it like seeing Deion Branch out there yesterday?
BB: Good. It's good to have Deion out there. I think he will help our football team. He's a quality player, a good person, good individual, hard-working guy who is a good, instinctive football player. I think he will be a good addition to our team.
Q: You talked about watching film with Ray Lewis in college. Was he above average then?
BB: I would say exceptional. Exceptional. I think when you watch film with players, like I did with Ray that day, you think back over the number of times I've done that and some of the guys that really stand out, there's a handful of them. You really remember those and how impressed I was coming out of Miami after spending the day with him. You watch a guy play, but you don't really know what's inside there, but when you sit down and talk to him and he can recall and tell you about things [like], 'This was what this play was.' 'This is this.' 'This is what I'm keying.' 'This is what happens.' 'This is the situation.' 'We check to this.' 'They did that.' 'This is the game plan.' 'We made this adjustment.' I mean, all those things. You really have an appreciation for this guy - who knows a lot more than what he's supposed to do on the play. He has a great concept of the defensive scheme, of the opponent, of situational football and all of those things. It was really impressive. There's probably a handful of guys like that that I can think back to but he's definitely one of them.
Q: A long time ago you mentioned Lawyer Milloy as being one of those guys. Who else?
BB: [Devin] McCouty was one for sure. Guys start telling you what the nose is supposed to do on a particular stunt when he's playing corner and stuff like that. Usually you don't get that. I'd say Devin was a guy, sitting down with him...and I know a little bit about that scheme from Coach [Greg] Schiano and what they do and so forth, so you kind of [say], 'What's this guy doing? What's that guy doing?' and kind of keep going and say, 'Well alright, so he understands what the linebackers are doing. He understands a couple adjustments. Ok, now what about this?'
Q: Do you walk out of a film session like that and hope nobody else asks the guy about that stuff, or do you know it's going to be out there?
BB: I think this league has got a lot of pretty good people evaluating personnel on every team: scouts, coaches, personnel people and so forth. I assume in the end, probably pretty much everybody knows [or] can find out whatever they want to know anyway.
Q: Why does that seem so rare for a guy to know what everybody else is doing? Is it that difficult?
BB: Let's just say a lot of players don't...some players just know what they do, which is ok. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. You can talk to some guys and you ask them what the defense was and [they say], 'Well, here's what I do on that defense. Here's what I do on that play. This is what my assignment is. If this happens I do this. If that happens I do that.' 'Well, what does the linebacker do?' 'Well, I'm not really sure, but here's what I do.' I'm just saying it's different. When you're a middle linebacker it's certainly helpful - [Jerod] Mayo, Ray Lewis, guys like that that really have a good understanding of not only what they're doing, but what the line is doing, what the secondary is doing, why we can't play this coverage against this formation, why we can't run this line stunt against this type of blocking scheme. Then they'll never call those things. They won't put your team in those bad situations because they have such a good understanding of it. Or maybe it's something that you would do, but not in this particular situation. There are a lot of things in football that are good calls, but if they're done at the wrong time, they're really bad calls. It's not that the call is bad, but to do it at that particular time wouldn't be the right thing. Having an understanding of all that and having a feel for the game - Pepper [Johnson] is another guy. [To] just go through the whole game and not do something but then get to the one critical time in the game where it's really the right time to do it and then make that call and put your defense in an advantageous position, that's what good football players do. I would definitely put Ray in that category.
Q: As you game plan for this game, how much does the presence of Dean Pees on the Ravens coaching staff factor in?
BB: I don't think it's too big of a factor. We played them twice last year. I think they know us pretty well and we know them pretty well. Every game changes anyway because of dynamics of personnel and just the normal progression of your team from one period of time to another. Dean obviously knows us well. I'm sure he knows our personnel and can help their players and their coaches with some of the strengths and weaknesses of our individual personnel or maybe a particular scheme that we run that he's familiar with. But I think in the end it goes back to the players going out there and playing well and executing well. I think that's really the most important thing.
Q: With guys like McCourty who are so good when you're watching film with them, are you impressed with their instincts on the field, too, with how quickly they can recall that?
BB: That's right. When we're out scouting players, we're scouting players, not coaches. I think that's not really the process. I think, again the personnel evaluation process is a big one. It's a mosaic. You put a lot of stuff into the painting and it comes from a lot of different sources and the information is varied and then you have a composite and then you make a decision on what the composite is. I don't think it's based on one individual thing, but there are a lot of little individual things that all add up to the big evaluation. Absolutely part of it is distinctiveness and quick reactions. When you work a guy out on the field, you can do those same kinds of things in workouts. Make them react quickly to different situations. Create different situations for them and see how they react to them and respond to them. Do film study, watch them play, talk to their coaches. There are a thousand different ways to gain information. I don't think any one of them necessarily is overwhelming or overriding, but take them all into consideration and when all the arrows are pointing in the same direction then that's usually a pretty good sign.
Q: A little bit relieved that you don't have to face Ed Reed?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Although again, I think this is a really good defense and I think Zbikowski has done a good job for them [and] Landry. But yeah, we're never in a big rush to see Ed Reed on the other side of the field.
Q: One of the players in the locker room said that with you leading the defensive meetings, the message has been a bit more clear. Have you noticed a difference in play on the field with them maybe understanding different schemes a little bit better?
BB: I don't know. I guess you'd have to ask them that. I just try to coach the team the best we can and get our players to do the things that we feel are important to playing good football and winning games. That's the way I've always done it and I don't think that will change.