Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, October 25, 2010.
BB: Just following up from yesterday, just really proud of the way the players played. Tough place to play, good football team. Chargers do a lot of things well, they've got a lot of talent. Always a tough place to play, and [there have] been a lot of hard-fought games out there. Good to come up with a few more plays than San Diego did yesterday, come out on top. A lot of big plays in the game that affected it or had they gone a little bit differently, things might've been different either in their favor or maybe more in our favor, I don't know. But in any case, it came down to a couple plays there at the end. It was tight, but I thought our guys really hung in there and fought hard, fought for 60 minutes. Wasn't perfect, but there are a lot of things we need to do better on all levels—coaching, playing, execution, decision-making, technique, you name it. It was enough, so we'll take it, correct it, and move on.
Q: Were you a little disappointed with some of the drives after the turnovers in the first half?
BB: No question we missed some opportunities. We missed opportunities in all three phases of the game. Missed them on offense with good field position. We had a couple of plays where we could've really ended drives, third down, fourth down. Kicking game, missed opportunities there. Start off the game with a penalty. Had four penalties on special teams in the first half. Certainly, a lot of room for improvement, no question about it. We could've done just about everything better at some point or another.
Q: On the 4th and 1, Jake Ingram was having trouble snapping the ball, did that factor into the decision and are you concerned?
BB: No, no, well yeah, we're concerned about our execution in every phase of the game. No, we felt like we could pick it up and kind of end the game there. If we would pick that up, it would've been close to putting it away. We just didn't, obviously, just didn't get it done. A lot of things that could've been better on that play: coaching, playing. Just, they did a good job on it. Give them credit.
Q: A lot of the players spoke about feeling so prepared for those situations because of what you guys work on in practice as far as situational football. How specific do you get to the situation?
BB: There's no way to replicate the situation that far in advance when you only have X number of plays in practice. But you talk about when you're ahead. You talk about when you're behind. Or when they're ahead, when they're behind. And how they play in those situations, what we would want to try to do. One scores, two scores. Yeah sure, so we talk about all of that. As I said, we need to do a better job when we get in those situations. We've got to coach them better, we've got to play them better. We work on them, we talk about it. I do think we're prepared, but we've still got to do it better.
Q: What went into the thought process of making Sergio Brown active for the game?
BB: [Jarrad] Page's injury last week. Of course, Sergio's been on the practice squad, so all of our practice squad players are really told to be ready every week. They could get called up at any point during the week up until Saturday. They all prepare as if they have an opportunity to play. And then if it doesn't happen, then they start again next week. And Sergio's been doing that now for these first five weeks, six weeks including the bye. With Page's injury and his unavailability for this game, we felt like we could use some more depth for the safety. Unfortunately, Patrick [Chung] wasn't able to finish the game, so we really did need him. We were down another safety. But he did a good job. Sergio did a good job. He stepped up and played a lot more than I think he thought he was going to play or than we thought he was going to play. He played on defense. He played on special teams. Played a couple of different positions there. I thought he played a solid game. Wasn't perfect, there are a lot of things he'll learn from. But he made some good plays. He definitely helped us. I'm glad we had him.
Q: Despite not playing your best football the last two weeks, how encouraging is it that you guys are able to pull out the victories?
BB: Better to win than the alternative. We've got a lot of things to work on. We know there is still a lot football ahead of us. We've got a lot of football left. Just try to keep getting better every week. Try to improve on the things we're not doing as well. Try to keep the things that we're doing good, consistent. Each week's a different challenge with our new opponent and their schemes, coaching staff, players, matchups. Just really have to stay on top of that. A lot of the time, situations over the course of the year will start to reoccur or repeat themselves in a similar fashion. So we can learn from those. It's good to win, but also we know we're one or two plays away from that being the other way like most teams in this league are. 5-1 could easily be something else. And something else with some of these other teams could easily be 5- or 6-1. We know how fragile that is. The big thing is just being able to make the plays at the critical times of the game that you need to make. That has as much to do with winning as anything. You just never know when those situations, how exactly they're going to come up, but when they do if you can make those two or three critical plays in the game, a lot of times that'll put you over the top.
Q: You were able to do a pretty good job at least early on keeping them off the scoreboard in the first three quarters. Were you doing something differently in the fourth or was it just lack of execution?
BB: Again, give them credit. They have a lot of good players. They have a good offensive football team, a good quarterback, good backs, good tight ends, good receivers. And they're well coached. Norv [Turner] does a great job. They lead the league in offense. Certainly, there are things that we thought we could've done better. No intention of us trying to give up 20-yard pass completions. That's not part of what we're trying to do. But they hit them. Again, they have good players doing it. And we need to defend them better, the pass rush and the coverage and the disguise and everything else. All the things that go with it. We just need to do a better job in that situation. They're a good football team. They've hit 20-yard completions on a lot of people this year, every year.
Q: (On defensive play calling)
BB: We didn't do anything different in the third quarter than we did in the second quarter or the first quarter. Played the same defense.
Q: Did you play more conservatively later in the game?
BB: Definitely not. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see that.
Q: (On onside kick execution on both sides)
BB: It was well-executed on their part, and it wasn't well-executed on our part. We've got to do a better job of that. That's the second time that's happened. We've got to be more alert in that situation, maybe change something that we're doing schematically, and also just be more prepared for that play. It's come up twice this year. I don't think we've handled it the way we need to handle it either time. That was a great kick by [Kris] Brown. They were right there. We were ready for it, but we didn't play it very well. Again, it doesn't take much in this league—an onside kick, a pass, a turnover. The game can turn around in a hurry. Every play's a big play. They did a good job on it, and we didn't. That's a bad combination, those two together.
Q: Will you be preparing this week for Brett Favre?
BB: Of course. He's started 8,000 games in a row. Same thing we were all talking about with [Antonio] Gates last week. He wasn't going to play and all that. I don't think you can ever count players like that out. I don't know when the last time Gates has missed a game. Favre, it's like playing Lou Gehrig. Of course I expect him to be there. But you have to be ready for everybody. You always have to be ready for all the players that are on the roster. We all can see one player. Whether they want to substitute or not, they could be forced into a substitution, and so could we. We have to be prepared for everybody that's going to potentially be active for the game. If that player gets in the game, then that's part of your preparation, you as a staff and as players, individual players that know what that player's strengths and weaknesses are, what his abilities are and what things he does well, what things you can try and take advantage of. That's absolutely part of the program.
Q: Any chance you might hear from Brett Favre?
BB: Right now, just trying to process the San Diego game and get our scouting report ready and get ready for the Vikings.
Q: At the start of the third quarter you made a switch at left guard with Ryan Wendell going in for Dan Connolly. What factored into that decision?
BB: Both players have played there. They alternate in there on short yardage and goal line, that kind of thing. Just felt like that we'd give that a shot there. We had a good drive in the third quarter, so we stayed with it. We have a lot of confidence in both players. I'm sure you'll see them both playing for us as we go forward.
Q: You mentioned Sergio Brown earlier. Brandon Deaderick had another start. Rob Gronkowski had a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez had his catches. Brandon Tate's been contributing. You have a lot of rookies or second year players contributing so far this year. In your career, is this the largest number of young players, first or second year, that have been able to contribute?
BB: I don't know. I think we had like 23 rookies in 2000, including practice squad and all that, some pretty high number. Look, the players that are out there, are out there because they deserve to be out there. Nobody gets handed anything around here. Everybody's got to earn their role, their playing time, their opportunity. You earn that through practice, hard work from the spring camps to training camp to the preseason games to whatever other practice or game opportunities you get. The guys that are out there are out there because they've earned it. They've performed better than the people they've competed with in our opinion as a staff. So that's why they're out there. If that changes, then it will change. Everybody's aware of that. They understand that. We have to do what's best for the football team, and that's based on competition and competitions decided amongst the players. Young have, a lot of those guys have worked hard. They've earned their opportunities. Some guys have played better than others. Some gjuys have played well at times and not as well at other times, and so forth. That's all part of it too. In the end, we're just trying to put the best football team we can out there on the field, and the players that are out there to get them to contribute in their individual roles, which those may change from week to week as well. Everybody should be prepared. Everybody should be ready to go. Young guys, veteran players, whatever it is. Based on the game plan and game situations, like I said whoever we feel the best player is, that's who will be out there.
Q: As a group, are they about where you expected at this point?
BB: It's hard to really anticipate where a first year player that you haven't worked with will be. We've seen some players come in and have a big impact their rookie year, the Jerod Mayos of the world. We've had other players, Tom Brady, come in and do nothing his rookie year. He didn't contribute anything. He's turned out to be a good player. I don't think there is any formula for this is the way it's got to be. If he doesn't do something by this point, it's this or if he does something by that point, we've had other players come in and play some in their rookie year and then not have that significant a career. It's kind of gotten to a high point early and then tapered off for one reason or another. I think you just keep working with those players and you see how they progress. When they stop improving, then you decide what level they're at and is that level really good enough or is that level going to get passed or is being passed by other players. As long as the players are improving, you can continue to work with them. You have space on your roster, practice squad, your 53-man roster, whatever it is, those players continue to work and improve and get better on a regular basis, then you keep waiting to see how high that's going to crest, how high they're going to go. Once at some point that starts to level off or the rate of improvement is very marginal, then you kind of know where that player is or you feel like you know where that player is and based on your system and what his contribution is to your team, and what value that has. Whether that's some role that you really want to keep that player in, or whether you feel there's another player whether it's this year or next year or whenever it happens to be can compete with and possibly exceed that player's performance. I think that's kind of how it works in a nut-shell.
Q: You are getting ready to play a team that has an array of offensive weapons.
BB: Oh my god, they sure do.
Q: How does the complexion of that offensive weaponry change with Randy Moss? Does your familiarity with him help you anyway game plan for the way they may use him?
BB: I don't know how they're going to use him, but we know Randy [Moss], and it's certainly, when you've had a player, and you've coached him or he's been on your team, you certainly have better knowledge of him than you do if that wasn't the case. They have all kinds of weapons. And they've got a tremendous running back, quarterback, tight ends, receivers. Pretty much whoever they put out there is very dangerous and very good in their particular role. A guy like [Jim] Kleinsasser is not going to be their leading receiver, but in his role, he's an excellent blocker. Whatever that role happens to be, they have a lot of weapons. They're very dangerous no matter who has the ball. So they're definitely going to be a challenge to prepare for defensively. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways. They're different than San Diego, but similar in that they have a lot of weapons, and they're very explosive on offense. Huge offensive line. They definitely present a lot of matchup problems for any defense. Present a lot of problems for us.
Q: The NFL issued a statement today praising Brandon Meriweather. Do you remember any other time where a league official has praised a specific player?
BB: No, I think that would be a first for me. The officials are now evaluating the players and their performance. That's great. I can't tell you how much that means to me really.
Q: Was the league's helmet to helmet initiative dealt with by you?
BB: We comply with all the league memos and regulations that we had last week, so yes. There were no fouls for that, and those situations are very, they're not scripted. They happen on very short notice. Players have to make quick decisions. They're in different positions on each and every play. We can look at all those plays, but each one of them is kind of unique. They have their own set of special issues. As we have always done here, we know the rules. We try to play within the rules, try to coach the techniques that are consistent with what the rules and interpretations of the officials are. Try to do that to the best of our ability. We do that every week, every year with every player. We don't try to go out there and commit penalties and infractions and things like. When those happen, we try to correct them and make sure the players understand what they did wrong. What they can and can't do. What's legal and what's a foul. And try to coach them in a way that they can play and do their job without committing a violation.