New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, October 27, 2008.
BB: After watching the film you get an appreciation for the swings back and forth that took place in that game. First of all I thought that, as I said going into the game, St. Louis is playing good football right now. Jim [Haslett] has certainly done a good job with that team. He certainly gave us everything what could have won it yesterday. We thought we responded to a number of situations, adversity in the game. We had the situation in the second quarter, we were down by three, they got the ball on our 20 yard line and they end up getting knocked out of field goal range. Then we score and get it back and score right before the half. It was a big swing. We really had four turnovers in the third quarter with the onside kick, getting stopped at fourth and one, in addition to the two interceptions. So, that was a lot of short field for the defense. Offensively, we were down by three and end up winning by seven. So, [there were] a lot of swings back and forth in that game and I was proud of the way the players hung in there and played good situational football. A lot of real specific one situation type plays, our red area defense, the two minute operation, offensively getting the ball in on a double move there to Kevin [Faulk] - plays like that, things we certainly have been working on. It is good to see those come to fruition and help us be the difference in the game. Now we are on to Indianapolis. You know what kind of battle that will be up there. I know it is a new stadium and all of that. I am sure it will be a lot of the same elements that we have seen before in that dome. That will be a big challenge for us. But it is good to win, good to be 5-2. We have a lot to get ready for this week.
Q: It looks like Matt Cassel's pocket awareness is getting better, is he progressing in that regard?
BB: I think that is fair to say. I think Matt is really progressing in all areas - his decision-making, his read in coverages [and] his pocket presence. Not that we are cutting anything back but we are building offensively as any team would in the seventh week of the regular season relative to the first week of the season, relative to the fourteenth week of the season. You build things not just with your quarterback but with your entire offensive, or defensive, or special teams unit. You add plays, you add wrinkles, you do complimentary things and so that has been a part of it too. I think Matt's improved in a lot of areas in his game. As have a lot of other players as they have played more. His pocket presence, his decision making, reading the coverages, going to secondary receivers, reminding guys offensively about their splits or their depths - just part of the overall operation of offense is better than it was two months ago. I would hope it would be after all of those practices and all of those games. I would like to think we have improved a little bit in some of those.
Q: How important was it for Matt Cassel to have his first come from behind win?
BB: In all honesty I hope he doesn't have to do it again. I hope we don't put ourselves in that situation again, I hope we can play from ahead. But if that is what we have to do than that is what we have to do. We work on those things every week. We work on all the situational plays every week. Whether we are ahead at the end of the game or behind at the end of the game - what we want to do in those situations and half is a little bit different, red area goal line, all of that stuff. The last play defense, the five seconds at the end of the game, the punt at the end of the game on a tight punt - we work on those situational plays every week. It is great that Matt did that. I hope we are not in that situation every week though, I really don't. We have to practice it because we might be. If we are then I am confident whether we are ahead or behind at the end of the game that we will be able to go out there and do what we need to do to turn the thing in our favor.
Q: St. Louis' onside kick - is that a good teaching moment?
BB: It was a great... Yes, we definitely could have played it better but it was a great play by St. Louis. [Josh] Brown hit a perfect kick that came down right in the dead spot right over the ten yard restraining line. I think we could have reacted to it quicker [but] even if we had I don't really know whether... It was a very well executed play by them. As much as I would have liked to be upset at how we handled that, sometimes you just have to say they really did a good job at that play and obviously we have to defend it going forward and not let that happen. But it was a very well executed play on their part. I mean it wasn't as much of a, we didn't see it coming and it was a big surprise as it was a perfect kick and it was perfect. I give them credit for that. Josh Brown is a good kicker.
Q: You were scrambling at corner back yesterday, did that remind you of the game against St. Louis four years ago?
BB: Unfortunately. We were just taking names there in the fourth quarter, seeing who was available and who we could put in and 'if he went there someone else would go here' and 'he knows this' and 'he can do that' - it was a little bit of that which was unfortunately a little reminiscent of the St. Louis game in '04. It was definitely a scramble. But those things happen from time to time and that's why in training camp you play guys at different spots and make them learn different positions. You just never know when it is going to help you or help that player create move value for himself to your team. When you only have 45 guys, you have a couple quarterbacks, you have some offensive linemen, you have some defensive lineman - in all honesty those players don't have a lot of flexibility. They do what they do and that's great but you take out the quarterbacks, kickers and lineman in the game [and] you are down to honestly not that many players for when you get to multiple receivers and multiple defensive back defenses. It is just not an unlimited amount of guys there. It is not like preseason where you can just keep dropping down and bring another one in. We were scrambling.
Q: How important was your red zone defense?
BB: It was huge. Both times we held them. They got the touchdown on the long pass obviously but it was huge. We all know that is the difference in a lot of these close games. Their two trips in the red zone are a field goal and your two trips to the red zone is a touchdown you have more points than they do. It was huge. We have been working on it and it was good to see it come through and pay off and conversely it was good to be able to get it in the red zone. I know the numbers were two for four but that one at the half wasn't a great red zone opportunity. We were down there but we really didn't have a great shot at the end zone. We were fortunate to get rid of it as quickly as we did to have a second left for the field goal. Our red area execution on both sides of the ball had a lot to do with the difference in that game.
Q: (On situational football specifically Matt Cassel's kneel down play - managing the clock and using a timeout...)
BB: We thought when we took possession and looked at their two timeouts, we thought that we would probably be punting them the ball with about 25 seconds to go and they would be getting the ball with about 20 seconds [on the clock]. So they have 20 seconds to go on the 20-yard line or wherever the field position was. We knew we couldn't kneel on it and run the clock out completely but we wanted to try to stay up on the kneel until Matt [Cassel] was actually going to get tackled and try to bleed a few more seconds off the clock. So that's what we were trying to do there. Just after the first one and after they called timeout, I talked to the referee Scott [Green] about it and we talked about how the timing on that play was being officiated - we didn't quite see it the same way. So we were going to give them the ball back with, we thought, about 20 seconds. It actually turned out to be a little less than that and the way that play turned out... The punt return was pretty unusual with [Dante] Hall running around in the end zone. And then they only had five seconds left. I thought they would have time for two to three plays to go 80 plus yards, hopefully.
Q: At the end of the first half can you talk about your decision to force them to kick the punt again?
BB: Well, [Donnie] Jones is a great punter. I forget what the net was on that but it was a lot. We had them inside the five or whatever it was. Kelley [Washington] almost blocked the punt and they were punting from the six and Wes [Welker] got tackled on our 45 [yard line] so they netted 50 on the punt, which is a lot. We knew it would take a little more time to re-punt it but we felt like we could gain more yards on that plus the fact that the penalty put them inside the five. I think when you punt from inside the five with the punter a little bit closer a lot of time psychologically the protection is thinking 'I have to stay in longer', 'we don't have as much room to punt', 'it is not our normal punting depth from the center to the punter' and also when you make a team re-kick it, guys aren't as fresh and you don't get quite the same energy in the coverage sometimes on that second time around. All of those things played into it. Yes we were giving up a little bit of time but we hoped we would make up the difference in that time with more field position. So we ended up 10 yards. So it would have been the equivalent of completing a pass for ten yards in 13 seconds that we lost on the second punt. I don't know if that was the right trade off or not. We gained a lot of confidence in our punt return game. Wes [Welker] has done a good job [and] our hold ups are good. We are at the top of the league in punt returns this year. We feel like that is a positive play for us. But Jones hit a good ball on the first one. It was a 50 [yard] net but he must have hit it 60 [yards]. Some of you would like to think he is not going to hit it 65 [yards] this time, he might. We did the same thing in the San Francisco game when he [Andy Lee] kicked the 80-yarder. It was the same thing. It was 82 yards or something like that. The last one of those since Randall Cunningham kicked it [91 yards on December 3, 1989] against us at the Giants.
Q: (On being rushed to throw on offense...)
BB: We had our moments. I think it was a good rushing team. They do a good job with their schemes and their players. They have a lot of guys that can rush. So there were times we blocked them and there were times when they had some pressure on us but overall for the most part I thought that we weren't rushed to throw. But Matt [Cassel] saved us on a few of those. He ran three or four times where he scrambled out and got positive yards. So those were plays that could have potentially been losses, balls that weren't thrown. Overall I thought the line did a good job against a good pass rushing team. It wasn't perfect but we did a decent job.
Q: (On Stephen Neal rotating in and out of the game...)
BB: It was about the same as it was last week in terms of number of plays - it's about the same. I think Steve is probably getting pretty close now. He has been practicing two weeks and he has played in two games about half of each game. Billy [Yates] has done a good job for us in there and I think Steve's getting back so it is good to have another player at that position. We have confidence in all of those guys - Russ [Hochstein], Mark [LeVoir] has done a good job for us stepping in for Nick [Kaczur]. I feel like our overall depth on the offensive line and the quality of play is good, although you want it to be just five guys, I think we are fortunate that we have more than that [who] have been able to step in and give us quality performances. So, that is good.
Q: When you look at Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley, are those guys ready for Peyton Manning and Indianapolis' offense?
BB: Well we will see how things go. Tune in Sunday night. I don't know if I am ready for them [Colts], we will find out on Sunday night. All the players that are on the team we have confidence in and confidence to put them in the game or they wouldn't be here and wouldn't be activated. That answers that question. Are they ready? Every week you find out. Do we have confidence to put them in there? Absolutely, that's why they are here.
Q: (On managing backup specialists...)
BB: First of all, of all the players on your roster just across the board as a league not about our team specifically - this is not about our team - but I think if you looked at all 32 teams year in and year out you would find the biggest drop off between who you would normally have out there to whoever the next guy is that you would put on there - on those three specialists. So if you went from your first kicker to whoever your second kicker is, your first punter to whoever your second punter or your first snapper to your second snapper, you would find the biggest gap on your team compared to tackle, corner, safety, quarterback, receiver - any of those other spots. Because it is such a specialized position you don't really carry anybody else to do that job, you just have to go with the best that you have at that spot. So, you give them some snaps in practice, sometimes you give them some snaps in a preseason game - your backup holder, your backup snapper, maybe if you have a backup kicker or punter you do that. A lot of the time you are trying to evaluate other players and that is not a priority but we got into that situation in 2004 when Lonie [Paxton] got hurt in the Miami game. There is a big drop off there. A - the player hasn't practiced, B - it is not really his specialty anyway. You work on individual anyway and you work on it after practice in individual stuff and you take a few team reps in it but it is a big gap. So if you look at the 32 teams and [who] their back up long snappers are, some guys have guys that are more experienced in it that have done it in college, or high school and there are probably other teams where you are looking at a guy who has never done it in a game but he's the best you have in practice. I don't want to say it has ever come down to this but it certainly has been part of the discussion in the final cut to 'if we release so and so now our backup long snapper would then be so and so' and everybody's 'oh my god'. It is hard to keep a player to be a backup long snapper, like it is hard to go to the game carrying a backup holder, 'well here is our holder and if something happens to him who is going to hold?' But when you are taking 45 guys to the game it is hard to take a backup holder, it is hard to carry a backup snapper so you just have to make due with what you've got. If you have to compensate for it by moving the punter up 13 yards or whatever then maybe you have to make those accommodations.