New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, October 24, 2008.
BB: [It's a] quick week here. It's a fast turn around. We have been doing a lot of cramming. It feels like finals in college. We are getting ready for St. Louis, a team that we are not all that familiar with. It's been four years and they are playing well. We are on short time here but I think everybody is starting to get much more comfortable towards the end of the week then we were on Wednesday. As we get into some more situational football here red area, two minute, third down, goal line, short yardage and kicking game. You really have to work hard to pull it all together here at the end of the week and that is kind of where we are. I think Jim [Haslett] has really done a good job with this team especially the last two weeks. The turn over differential, the consistency in the running game and the big plays they are making on defense against a couple of good football teams has been impressive. They are very good in the kicking game. I think that is something easily to over look for this team but they have real good specialists. [Donnie] Jones and [Josh] Brown are as good a combination of kickers as there are in the league, with [Dante] Hall, [Chris] Massey – a real good snapper, good coverage guy. They are good in that phase of the game too that is definitely a concern for us. Anyway that is where we are today. We will just keep plugging ahead on the Rams and try to keep cramming for this final.
Q: Can you talk about the contributions you have to expect from BenJarvus Green-Ellis given your running back situation?
BB: We have been fortunate. I think that we have had contributions from all of our running backs. Whichever guy has been in the game has been productive for us – LaMont [Jordan], Sammy [Morris], Kevin [Faulk], BenJarvus [Green-Ellis], Heath [Evans], Laurence [Maroney]. I expect that it will continue that way. Whichever guys we call on and whatever situation they are in, we try to break that up a bit, they will come through like they always have. So, they all know they are ready – Kevin is ready on every down, BenJarvus is ready on every down, Heath is ready, LaMont is getting ready and Sammy is getting ready. They are all working hard to be ready to go on and whether they are or aren't on Sunday we will just have to wait and see on that. Whichever ones are, they will be ready and they will continue to perform as they have. That is my expectation because that's what they have done. [They all have] different styles and it's the same plays. It's not, this is a play for this guy and that set of plays for another guy and these are the plays for somebody else. They have to run the same plays, they have to block the same protections and run the same routes. You have to understand some guys do some things better than others but in the end we can't cut out 25 percent of our offense because this back is in the game and cut out 25 percent of our offense because another guy comes out on the field. It just doesn't operate that way. They all have to be versatile enough to do what we do.
Q: (On Oliver Ross...)
BB: Yes. I think he is getting better. He hasn't played football in about a year. There was a lot of running, conditioning, lifting weights and all of that. But getting out there and getting the contact, playing at his position especially - hands leverage, pushing guys and getting pushed - these two weeks have helped him. I think he is getting really close.
Q: (Rule change option to defer...)
BB: That is a good question. In the end, you get the ball to start one half and they get the ball at the start of the other half, however it works out. It's not like you have really gained an extra possession. It is probably just a question of preference so I think a lot of coaches in the National Football League have been used to taking the ball at the start of the game. I think there is something to be said for that about setting the tone offensively and going out there - first drive and all of that. At the half, if you are kicking off at the half, if you have received the opening kickoff, now you start the second half and say, 'OK. They are going to take the ball.' Then you really have a decision to make relative to the wind, if that is a factor. Do you have it in the third quarter when you are kicking off, or do you want it in the fourth quarter when the passing and kicking game might be a little more important? I think it is a little bit of a reverse of that when you defer. You have the opportunity for two possessions - one at the end of the half, and one at the start of the third quarter - so there is a chance for that back-to-back possession and then you don't always have that third quarter decision. If you defer than you take the ball and take the wind at the start of the game then the second half it puts the ball in their court as far as that wind decision goes, which is always a tough one. Whatever you decide to do on that you are always giving some consideration to the other side, do I want it in the third or do I want it in the fourth? So I don't even know if I have answered your question. It certainly has made it more of a decision than it was in the past. Unless you were playing in a hurricane you just automatically take the ball. Now there is some things to consider and I do think there is a certain comfort level in the National Football League with just taking the ball. But I bet you in ten years if this rule stayed the same and a bunch of college coaches came into the NFL I bet they would feel more comfortable deferring. It is interesting. I saw before the Denver game, I saw some of Coach Shanahan's comments of 'we always want the ball.' I can see that. The Kansas City game we made that same decision, we took the ball.
Q: Have you touched on it with the players and asked what the players prefer?
BB: I have never talked to the players about making that decision. I have explained to them what it is and what the benefits are and so forth. We have talked about the situation but as far as what they want to do, we haven't really done that. I really think that this is more of a coaching decision.
Q: The only reason I asked is because Jay Cutler told Coach Mike Shanahan when he wanted the ball.
BB: I would say, if for whatever reason your quarterback feels strongly about something, that is worth taking into consideration. If a quarterback comes to you and says 'I don't feel confident in this play' than we are not calling that play, we have enough other plays we can call we don't need that one. If he says 'I love this play and have a lot of confidence in it' unless you have some good reason why you won't want to call it, I think that would probably be a good play to have and probably call early.
Q: Are the officials cracking down on offensive pass interference with screens?
BB: It is a close call and once the ball leaves the quarterbacks hands, then you are good. But as long as he has the ball in his hands and you block a guy; if the official thinks you are blocking a guy, then it is a foul. Unless it is within a yard of the line of scrimmage; then you can do it. But I think the problem is that there are some that are clear that they are definitely interference and I agree with them: the receiver comes off blocks, the defender and the ball still hasn't been thrown yet, then it's offensive interference. There is no question about it. I think the harder ones are when the receiver has a defender right on him and he's trying to release, or sort of trying to release, and the defender is trying to jam him. Then what is it? Is it offensive interference? Is it just the contact of the defender jamming the receiver? Sometimes, is it defensive holding? Because the receiver is trying to block another guy, and the tackle is going to come out and kick out the guy that he is on, he is just trying to get away from him, but the defender is trying to jam him because he doesn't know it is a screen. He's trying to jam him in the route. So it is tough. There are some tough calls. Some of them could go either way; you are right. If you really wanted to be tight, you could probably call more than what is called. On the other hand, I think some of the ones that are called aren't offensive interference at all; it is just the receiver doing what he's trying to do and the defender won't let him do it.
Q: (On Brandon Marshall's offensive pass interference call...)
BB: Those are tough calls out there. To me it is like the charging call in basketball. You see the play and it is a bang, bang play and you know there is contact and you know it was a foul on somebody but was it charging or blocking? Then you run it back 50 times in slow motion and go 'it's on him' but when you are out there standing 20-30 yards away from the play and you have two good athletes, one guy is trying to jam him and the other guy is trying to get away and they have to do it within five yards and there is contact – then what's legal and what isn't? It's tough. To me it is really like a basketball call. It's a tough call. If you are an offensive coach than everything is interference and if you are a defensive coach there is no fouls, if you are objective you call the flagrant ones. What is too much? What is not enough? They are tough calls.
Q: How has James Sanders evolved?
BB: James has come along way as a player. He improved as a rookie but I think he dramatically improved after his second year after the Denver game in his communication and his understanding of the passing game. I think when he came into the league he was a real good special teams player, real good physical player, real good tackler, real good in the running game. I think he has really developed in the passing game - coverages, techniques, understand coverages, how to organize the coverages in the secondary. Generally speaking, defensively, you always have one more defender than the offense has receivers. So if you rush four and cover with seven, they have five eligible receivers. There is seven against five whether it's three-on-two, or four-on-three, or two-on-one, you always have one extra guy somewhere. The question is, defensively, how do you take advantage of that extra guy? If it's this receiver, if it's this split, if this is their favorite pattern, how do you get into the right, or best leverage position on that? And that's something I think James has done a great job of. In the last couple years, understanding it, communicating it, so that everyone is on the same page so we can be in the best coverage leverage position that we can be in on that call. It is not easy. Sometimes it is a real quick decision. Sometimes a guy comes in motion and which receiver is it? Is it a tight end and two receivers? Is it two tight ends and one receiver? Is it a tight end, a back and a receiver? Sometimes those make a difference of how many vertical threats there are, how many short threats there are and that sort of thing. I don't mean to get complicated, but I am saying there are a lot of decisions that a safety has to make in the passing game that are bang, bang, bang and what you call on third down maybe is not what you want to call on first down by game plan. So he does a great job of that. From where he started, I don't think he had much background in that. He's very, very good at it as well as working in his coverage techniques and his pass defense skills. He's improved a lot over the course of his career.
Q: Along those lines can you talk about Brandon Meriweather?
BB: I think Brandon was a guy, I don't know if there was any defining day but maybe half to two thirds of the way through the season last year where things really started to hit the upswing with him. Whether that was him getting more comfortable with the defense and getting more experience with it or whatever it was he has really progressed from that point, that general area starting with the spring camps going into training camp. During the season he has made more plays on the ball this year in four or five games than he has made last year, the entire year, including pre-season. I think his awareness, his preparation, his overall decision making and recognition of what is going on and the quarterbacks and their tendencies, all of those things have improved significantly and he works hard at it. Brandon works hard at the preparation and I think that has paid off. Even though teams run the same patterns, who is running them and who is throwing them is different. So sometimes you want to play them differently. The plays he has made on the deep ball this season, he has been really productive back there.