Patriots coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference on Friday, October 15, 2010.
BB: We're winding down here on the Ravens. It seems like six months since we played Miami. It will be good to get back out there. I feel like we've had a pretty good week of preparation. They're a hard team to get ready for, but we're doing the best we can there and hopefully we will be ready to go on Sunday. They are a good football team. This will be a good test for us. They all are.
Q: How do you envision defenses covering Wes Welker differently now without Randy Moss?
BB: I don't know. I'd say there's probably been less of that as time has gone on. We'll see. They'll have to defend some other guys, so we'll see how they choose to do it. I don't know.
Q: When you say 'less of that,' what do you mean?
BB: I think teams have been playing more of just what they play [and] less specific coverages for a particular player - Wes or Randy or whoever. Not that we don't see that, but just I'd say less [and] lower frequency.
Q: Just this year or last year as well?
BB: I'd say things changed kind of in '07 and then in '08, '09 kind of gradually declined a little bit.
Q: Brandon Tate said this week felt a little different out there on the practice field. How good of an opportunity if this for him?
BB: He's been out there all year.
Q: Nothing different for him going into this game?
BB: Every time a player steps on the field, that's the opportunity - every time they are out there on the field.
Q: How much pressure have the Ravens shown as far as blitzes and bringing pressure?
BB: Sure, yeah, they do it. They mix it up. They do a good job of mixing it up. It's hard to count on anything with them. They mix it up on you. Some games it's more than others. Some games they don't do it as much, but it varies. They do a good job of keeping it moving. They don't just line up in the same thing all day and say, 'Here we are.' They change their looks, change their fronts, change their coverages, mix in pressure, mix in some three-man rush. They use some three-man rush. They use some five-man rush, some six-man rush. They'll mix it up on you.
Q: Four games into his rookie season, Aaron Hernandez has done some things here. What has been your impression of what he's brought to your offense?
BB: I think Aaron has done a pretty good job of taking advantage of his opportunities. He's had some opportunities to make some plays and he's done a pretty decent job of that. [He's] done well with the ball in his hands after the catch, made some yards on some catch-and-run plays. Aaron is a smart kid. He's worked hard. He's been on the field. He missed a couple practices there and a game or two games or whatever it was in preseason, but he's been on the field a lot. He's taken a lot of snaps. He works hard after practice with the quarterbacks and also working against our defensive players and one-on-ones and things like that. I think he has worked hard. He's gotten better and he's been able to capitalize on some of the opportunities that he's had. He's getting better. I think if he keeps working hard, he's got good talent, he's a smart kid. He understands football. He's an instinctive player. If he keeps working hard then I think he should continue to get better.
Q: Have you ever had a hybrid tight end who possess the same skills that he has?
BB: A lot of players have different skill sets and can be effective. The Mark Bavaros and you can go right on down the line. He's a good athlete. He catches the ball well. He runs good routes. He's got pretty decent size. He's got some things and his package is a little bit different than other players who have a little different skill sets.
Q: When he's out there with another tight end, are defenses treating you as a three receiver offense or more of a two tight end offense?
BB: I think we've seen both. Yeah, we've seen both. I think it depends a little bit, defensively, on your scheme and it depends on what matchups your scheme would put you in against certain players like that, whether it's a back or a tight end or a certain group of receivers. You look at it defensively and say, 'OK, how do we match up against this group?' If you like your base defense matchup on it, then you stay in it. If you don't, then you probably go to some kind of different matchup that you would feel better about. I think it's a function of who we have out there, but it's also a function of who they would have out there in their base or their nickel defense and whether they feel more comfortable with one group or another. That's how I would look at it. I think that's probably how most teams look at it, rather than just saying, 'When so-and-so is on the field, we're going to play this.' Well, it depends on what you have and also who else is out there with that player. What other combination of players are out there? I don't think you necessarily would treat them all the same.
Q: Is that the primary problem that guys like Aaron Hernandez or Dallas Clark or Antonio Gates present - that you have to make that personnel decision?
BB: Sure. Those players are all hard to matchup on. We've seen good tight ends all year; in the first game with [Jermaine] Gresham and [Dustin] Keller. This week with [Todd] Heap, and [Antonio] Gates next week. You can go right down the line. You can probably name eight, nine, ten teams on our schedule this year that will have players like that who will be hard to matchup with, one way or another. Whether it's us or anybody else, it's hard to find the guy or find the right combination of guys to handle them and whatever else they put out there. And of course, that's what those teams do is they try to either put those players in positions or put them in there in combinations with other people that make it difficult for you to match up the way you want to.
Q: Baltimore's running game in the past has done some stuff with their lines with unbalanced formations. Have you seen that much from them?
BB: That's their offense. Yeah, that's their offense.
Q: They're still doing it?
BB: Absolutely- definitely going to get an unbalanced line. They run a good combination of shifting and motion and trying to disguise what they're doing and use some different looks. It's a lot of their core plays; they don't change a lot of plays from week to week, but they give you different looks on them. But absolutely [we're] going to see unbalanced, going to see some closed in formations, some opened up formations, different personnel groups, two tight ends and two backs, two tight ends and one back, two backs and one tight end, two backs and two tight ends, offensive linemen playing tight end. They'll give you all of those.
Q: Does having Le'Ron McClain in the backfield present a little different challenge in that they will give him the ball more than other teams might give the ball to a fullback?
BB: I don't know. I think we saw that last week with Miami with [Lousaka] Polite. But I'd say the thing about McClain that probably puts him a little differently than some other fullbacks we've faced is him in the passing game; he's a better receiver than a lot of fullbacks that play that position. They don't use him a lot on third down because they have [Ray] Rice and they have [Willis] McGahee, but they have used him on third down. I'd say he can play on third down. I wouldn't call him a third-down back, but he's certainly capable of picking up the blitz, running routes, catching the ball, running with the ball after he catches it, those kind of things. He's kind of a full back with better running back skills than some fullbacks. So I think that's kind of what makes him, relative to other fullbacks, a little ahead of the game in the passing game at that position.
Q: How is their passing game?
BB: [Anquan] Boldin has gotten a lot of balls. I think [Derrick] Mason is still a key guy for them. [Todd] Heap is still a key guy for them. T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] has made some big plays for them, certainly that Pittsburgh game. So they've gotten production, really, out of everybody. [Ed] Dickson, even including him at tight end. He had another bug player for them last week against Denver. They have a lot of weapons. They've got tight ends to throw it to. Both of the rookie tight ends are good receivers - and Heap. The receivers are good. Boldin is a big guy. T.J. is kind of a little quicker guy. Mason is a good solid receiver that can pretty much do it all. Their backs catch the ball well. They have a lot of guys that are versatile in their offense and they can use them in a lot of ways.
Q: Has the way that BenJarvus Green-Ellis been producing made it easier to handle Fred Taylor's injury?
BB: You'd always like to have all your players out there. There's never a case that I think you wouldn't want to have that. But BenJarvus has done well all camp and preseason. Regular season he's been a solid guy for us all the way around on offense and in the kicking game. The opportunities he's had to play, he's done well. So I don't think anything, really, is new with him. I think he's been consistent since the beginning of camp, the first preseason game and all the way into the season. Fred is a very accomplished guy, a veteran runner. I think we've seen him run the ball with good running instincts, quickness, power. I think he will contribute for us as a running back, too, when he gets the opportunity. We'll see when that is, but I don't have any doubt that he can help us. Benny can certainly help us. We've gotten production out of Sammy [Morris] and Danny [Woodhead], so we've gotten production out of all of those guys.
Q: Did the exposure that Danny Woodhead got in Hard Knocks really reinforce to you that he was a good player?
BB: What exposure? I don't know. I'll take your word for it. I don't know anything about that. We saw a lot of him in preseason. We saw him in all the Jets preseason games, which we spent a lot of time on. Their first game was the night game against Baltimore, so it was all the information we had to go until that game came in. it was really the preseason and last year, but I think Danny had a good productive preseason for them. He's played running back. He's played receiver. He played in the kicking game. So he's really played on all four downs and that's kind of what we projected him as. [He was] a very productive player in college coming out. This guy is no secret. He was available. it was early in the season. We kind of felt like we could use a little depth at that position after the trade of Laurence [Maroney]. And then unfortunately, the day after we signed Danny, Kevin [Faulk] got hurt. We had no idea that was coming, but he would have been here either way. With Kevin out, that's giving him some opportunities as a third-down back. But again, he's played on all four downs; he's played on first down, second down and he's played on fourth down. He had a big block for us on [Brandon] Tate's kickoff return last week in Miami right there on the sideline on [Jason] Allen. He's done a good job in the opportunities he's had. I'd say that's pretty much the way it looked at the Jets in preseason. He was productive for them. He played inside on the kickoff. Played their sub back and played on special teams and ran the ball. I thought he was a good solid guy. We scouted him. We liked him. We just didn't have room for him on the roster at the beginning of the year. But when that opportunity was created, he was one of the higher priorities we had in terms of - like Mel Kiper's 'best player available.' At the start of the season, I think that's kind of what each team does. You have your best player available list. Here are the top five, six, seven guys, however many it is, that aren't on an NFL roster that you would like to spot of you have a need, these are the top guys you would get. And then there is another list of guys that are just the next player - our next tackle, our next center, our next quarterback, our next receiver, our next whatever. But within that group there's the, like I said, Mel Kipers' Best available and that's just who are the best football players? Forget about what our needs are; who are the best players out there right now? Or who were they then and who are they right now? I think even now you look at some of the players that are out there and there are three, four guys that I'm surprised they're not on NFL rosters and I think that if we had an opportunity to put one of them on our roster, it would be something we'd have to think about. But you get to this point in the season and it's hard to make moves at one position and create a player at another position because you usually don't have enough depth at that position to do it. Usually it's more of a one for on swap out: we're swapping out this guy for another player at that position. But if you really feel that strongly about a player and his ability, then either you make room or when you have room, then that's a player that gets a lot of consideration. I would put Danny in that type of situation. That's where we were with him at the beginning of the year.
Q: Deion Branch was saying that he still has his game plan from Super Bowl against the Eagles and that he recently came across it in one of his drawers. Do you have yours?
BB: Unfortunately, I have pretty much everything. I've saved pretty much all the stuff I have through the years, so it's quite a bit of junk. But definitely, those games like that, that kind of stuff, it kind of goes in a place where it's not buried as deep as some of the other stuff I have is. But that doesn't surprise me. Playing a game like that, you kind of keep your ticket. You keep your seat cushion. You keep whatever other mementos there are in a game like that - the little coasters [from] the hotel room or whatever. Super Bowl this and Super Bowl that. Yeah, that doesn't surprise me.
Q: Do you ever go back and look at it?
BB: Yeah. I mean, it's not a regular thing. I'm not religious about it or anything, but every once in a while you shuffle some stuff around and move through it, or you come up with a thought or an idea. 'Hey, this was something that came up in this game or something we did. How exactly did we do it or what did we call it? Or what was our adjustment to it if they did something else?' Something like that. I think you have a tendency to remember those game plans or those situations a little more than some other ones. I'm not saying you don't remember all of them, but games like that that you put two weeks of preparation into and a specific play or specific adjustment that was so important at that particular time, you probably have a tendency to remember that a little bit more than just some of the usual, regular games.