Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, October 22, 2010.
BB: We've had kind of a little bit of an unusual - not really unusual - but a little bit unusual situation the last couple weeks with the extra day. We had the long week with the Miami game and then a little longer week last week with the Ravens game starting on Tuesday. Now we're kind of into a regular week here. It's a three-day week, but it just seems a little rushed because we've been used to that extra day. It's been a good week of preparation, but I think we've just got to get back into the normal three-day routine instead of the four-day routine that we've been in the last couple weeks. The Cincinnati game was another one like that. These guys are good. They give you a lot to prepare for, a lot to work on. But I think the players have worked hard this week. We'll try to clean things up today and make sure we've got everything as right as we can have it and get out there and it will be ready to play a good football game on Sunday. I have a lot of respect for the Chargers. They've got a lot of talent. They're well-coached. They're tough. They've got good, physical guys. I think AJ [Smith] has done a good job putting the team together with Norv [Turner]. They're definitely a big challenge.
Q: With the flight leaving Friday instead of Saturday, do you have to make an earlier decision on the inactives?
BB: No. Anybody that we would want to bring, we'd bring. We can bring them out there and make them inactive. Guys that don't travel, I mean, obviously [will be inactive]. We can make some decisions on some guys. We have a couple guys who won't travel, so that will be an easy decision. The other guys, if there is a question about them, we'll take them and make a decision on Saturday or Sunday.
Q: I assume one of the guys that won't be travelling is Fred Taylor?
BB: Well, I don't like to assume anything.
Q: What is the impact of losing a player who is a 'big 4' player on special teams versus a starter or a full-time guy?
BB: That's the issue on special teams. When you lose a player on special teams, you really lose a starter on four teams at least. Sometimes you have one person that can replace that player so it's player A in for player B. But a lot of times you have a combination of players where you either have to move somebody around or you use more than one player to replace that guy. It just depends on the player, but that's the challenge on special teams as a special teams coach, especially when it happens during the game. You lose somebody and then, 'Ok, it's the kickoff team, the kickoff return team, the punt team, the punt return team.' It's hard during the game, usually, to have one player that does all four of those. Maybe the next week if that player is out if you have one person that can do that, you might be able to do that and make that guy active. But normally during the game you end up having to juggle some balls there. 'Ok you're in on this team. You're in on that team. You're in on something else. You're in here, but now you're moving to there.' It's one of those deals. That's why we try to use guys at different positions all through training camp, work them at different positions in practice. A lot of times on your punt team you have maybe one guy on the inside and he's the first guy in, so if you lose any of your interior people he'll be the first guy in and you bump somebody else over or he plays all the way across the board. And then you have your first gunner and then on the punt return maybe the same thing: one inside guy, one end, one vice guy, that type of deal. There are some moving parts there. It's definitely challenging.
Q: Obviously you've had some special teams production the last few games. Can you talk a little bit about what kind of game change that presents for this team going forward?
BB: We all know how important the kicking game is. We put a lot of emphasis on it with the players. I think Scott O'Brien does a tremendous job. I think he's as good a coach as any coach I've ever coached with. We try to be good at it every week. It's a combination of scheme and individual fundamentals and technique. Of course it always comes down to the specialists. If your returners and your kickers and your snappers - if those guys do a good job, then you gave a chance to be good. If they don't do a good job, then it's hard for the other 10 guys to overcome that. It's hard to be a good punting team if you can't punt. It's hard to be a good return team if you can't return. The specialists play an important part of it, but at the same time, you have to have a core group of guys to go with them. I think as the season goes on, the weather, I think, usually affects the kicking game before it affects anything else: the passing game or the running game, whether it be wind or moisture or temperature or whatever. It affects how far the ball goes, what direction it goes in, how high it's up there and so forth. That's always a big part of the game, too, the conditions and how it affects the kicking game first and then the passing game second. All those are challenging.
Q: You've had guys like Sam Aiken or Larry Izzo in the past that have been special teams captains or almost been like assistant coordinators. Do you have anybody who has kind of assumed that role this year?
BB: I don't really think there is anybody I would put in that category. But Larry Izzo is off the charts. We're lucky we had one Larry Izzo, let alone try to have two of them. As far as a leader and a special teams captain and a playmaker and as productive a player as Larry was in his career in that role and the leadership that he gave in it was just exceptional. I've never been on another team that really had anybody at that category. So anything below that could be really good, he was just exceptional. But I don't really see that this year yet. We're still growing and we're still coming together. But there really haven't been one or two individuals that have just stood out in that area. Our specialists are still pretty young. Stephen [Gostkowski] has the most experience, but Zoltan [Mesko] is a rookie and Jake [Ingram] is in his second year, so those guys are part of it. A lot of our core players are young players as well. And we have a lot of guys that play on one or two teams who are good special teams players, but they don't play on all of them, like [Patrick] Chung and guys like that that a year ago they were on everything but this year they're not. They're only on some selected teams. That's [Alge] Crumpler and [Rob] Gronkowski on kickoff return, guys like that. [Jerod] Mayo on the punt team - guys that are just on one or two teams that are important guys, but it's hard for them to be the core four-team guy when they're only on one or two of them. I think it's a good group. I think they work well together and they've been productive, but it just doesn't have that dynamic of there's the one flag carrier. At least not yet.
Q: I remember hearing that whenever you have a special teams score, it results in the team winning the game something like 90 percent of the time. Are you familiar with that?
BB: It's a high percentage. I think anytime you get what I would call 'bonus points,' whether it's a defensive score or special teams score, the correlation between that and winning is high. I'm not sure if it's 90 percent, but it's definitely high. In the National Football League, when you have roughly half of the games being decided by a touchdown or less, if you can get those seven points that basically you can't count on, but when you get those bonus points, that tilts a lot of games right there. There's no question those are huge plays, whether they come on defense or special teams. There's just not a lot of them, so if you can come up with one, that give you a big edge. Statistically anyway, it gives you a big edge in the chances to come out on top.
Q: Is it safe to say the special teams players got game balls after Miami?
BB: You know, we gave everybody a game ball after Miami - the entire team. We thought it was just really a great team effort. We got big plays out of all three units, so everybody go those.
Q: With the way the NFL has emphasized concussion safety in the last year or so, was there any change to the way you had to handle Julian Edelman and his concussion this week?
Q: Tracy White has made an immediate impact on the field on special teams. How is he off the field in terms of leadership?
BB: Well, I think Tracy is certainly a guy that has a lot of special teams experience. He comes to us with that experience from Philadelphia and so in terms of special teams plays, he's probably played more of them than anybody else we have. So that's a big advantage for him. I think the thing for Tracy is that he's coming to a new team. Some of our techniques, our calls, the way our plays work, is something he's still adjusting to a little bit. And you're right, he's been very productive for us; he's made plays in all four phases of the game. He's a good player, but as far as really just taking over that leadership role, right now he's one of those guys who still making some adjustments to being on a new team and a little bit of a new system, some new techniques, things like that, which a lot of our young guys are too, so they're all in the same boat.
Q: Yesterday Commissioner Roger Goodell circulated the memo and video with instructions for coaches to go over it with the team. Were you able to do that yesterday?
BB: No, we haven't done that yet, no.
Q: Do you play to do it at this point today or tomorrow?
BB: Sure. If we're required to do it, we'll do it. You can count on that.
Q: Is Philip Rivers one of the tougher quarterbacks to play in terms of his play action ability?
BB: I would say the big thing about San Diego's offense is their deep balls. He's a very good deep ball thrower and they run... I mean, every play, really, is a deep pass. Not that they throw them all down there, but they have them going. So if you don't have him defended well, he hits those deep balls and of course that opens up everything else. It opens up the intermediate passing game. It helps the running game and all that. So their offense is really built around getting the ball down the field. And they've got good receivers and tight ends and even in [Darren] Sproles' case, a back that can get down the field and a quarterback that is very accurate throwing it, as we talked about there. They're the best team in the league on third-and-long. Third-and-10 to them is nothing. Third-and-10, Third-and-three, they don't care. They're fine with that and they hit a lot of them. It's really their deep passing game, and I would say that extends on all downs: first down, second down, third down, play action, drop back, three receivers, two receivers. Put out there whoever you want, they're looking to throw it deep and if you take that away, then they'll come to the underneath stuff where you don't have very many guys and they have some good receivers like [Antonio] Gates and Sproles and [Randy] McMichael and those guys. That's kind of what their passing game [is]. Other than some situational plays, that's kind of the essence of it.
Q: Did you emphasize to your team this week the importance of red area?
BB: I know it doesn't look like it, but we emphasize it every week. There's nothing really more important than the red area. If you don't give up big plays, they have to go through the red area to score, so if you don't give up big plays and you can play good red area defense, then it's hard for them to score a lot of points. Those are always two big points of emphasis every week: not to give it all up in one play and to play well in the red area and hold them to field goals. We always do that, but certainly this week. They're a high scoring team. They're going to move the ball. I'm sure they will be in the red area. So, [our] red area defense and on then on the other side of it, our ability to get the ball in the end zone and score points. We usually have been able to do that too, offensively, we know how to move the ball. Whether those result in field goals or touchdowns, that's a huge way the possession ends. It's always a big point of emphasis.
Q: What do you do on long flights like this? Do you do anything in particular on these flights? Do you game plan more?
BB: I think the game plan is pretty much done by now. It's Friday. Friday afternoon we're on the plane. We have a walkthrough practice on Saturday. I don't think there's a whole lot of game planning going on. Maybe you prioritize some of the calls you want to make. Do we want to make this first? Do we want to call this first and then come with that? Do we want to call that first and then come back? That type of thing. But I would say more so it's just getting caught up on a lot of little loose end things that come up, getting ahead on the next team. Watching film, breaking down the next team you're going to play or some of the coaches - the coaches that are involved in the pre-scouting preparation. And for the play callers, more of, like I said, prioritizing your calls and making sure, thinking bout the meetings we have tomorrow: the Saturday morning meetings, Saturday night meeting. Again, how you want to present the thing to the team, what reminders and what priorities, what film you want to show and so forth. It's kind of the preparation for that. It's pretty standard. Whether we play home or away, the Saturday routine is the Saturday routine and that follows up off what happened Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And what's the best way to bring everything together on Saturday prior to the game so you put your team in the best possible mindset and state of preparation for Sunday. Here's what we're going to call. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to save this. This is our adjustment if they do that. Here's how we're going to start the game. When they give us this look, here's what [we'll do], and that type of thing. Make sure everybody's on the same page.
Q: A lot of teams script the first 10 or 15 plays on offense. Is that something you guys do?
BB: I think that's kind of a West Coast thing. Coach [Mike] Holmgren and a lot of his disciples really popularized that. I've never been in that system, but from what I know about it, that's kind of a pretty disciplined script: play one, play two, play three. I think the thing that you have to take into consideration is the situations. Do you want to call the same play on first-and-15 that you want to call on second-and-one? Do you want to call the same play on third-and-six that you want to call on second-and-four? If you follow the script then, 'Ok, here's the fourth play.' But would you really want to call that play in that situation or would you rather call your second-and-short play in second-and-short and your third-and-long play in third-and-long? It's a couple different philosophies on that. There's merit to both of them. I've don't it both ways. At times, we've said, 'Ok, this is what we want to do sequentially.' Other times we've said, 'The first time it's second-and-long, this is what we're going to call. The first time it's second-and-short, this is what we're going to call.' It's not the same play. I think there is a place for both. It's really kind of a philosophy of either how you want to start the game or how you want to start a particular game with your sequence of call. Again, that's usually an end of the week decision - Thursday, Friday, Saturday. You've practiced everything. Here's how it looks. Here's what our comfort level is of calling the plays with our players and our team and then you make the decision of, 'Ok, this is what it's going to be.' But again, the same thing; last year against Baltimore we started off the game and recovered a fumble and we got the ball at the 15-yard line. So what play do you want to call there? The first play of your script or your 15-yard line play or your first play after a turnover? You've just kind of got to decide how you want to handle those situations because it isn't always that clean how it comes up.