New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, October 29, 2008.
BB: Well it almost feels like we are back in the division playing Indianapolis. We have had so many games with them and so much history with this team the scouting report looks like a phone book. But, they look as explosive as ever. There are a lot of examples of that: the first quarter of the Baltimore game, the fourth quarter of the Houston game, they came back on Jacksonville. They can score in a hurry. They are very explosive. [They] turn the ball over. They have a lot of fast guys on defense. They strip the quarterback. They strip the running backs. They intercept passes. They play very well against the running game. Several games this year and very recently teams are barley getting three yards per carry against them. They cover kicks very well - outstanding, [they have] good specialists and offensively I think we all know what the story is - [they have] a great quarterback, great receivers, good scheme, they can run it, they can throw it, tight ends, backs, receivers - you name it. [Peyton] Manning is as good [of a quarterback] as we play, [Reggie] Wayne, [Dallas] Clark, [Anthony] Gonzalez - right down the line. Tony [Dungy] and Bill [Polian] have done a good job with that program, very consistent. They have gotten a lot better on defense in the last couple of years. They are fast, they are active, they make a lot of plays and they are as explosive as they are offensively. You have to be alert of them in every play of the game. There is never a situation where anything is safe, you could lose the ball on any play, you could give up a long touchdown on any play. As we saw last year [we] gave up a 75-yard touchdown on a two-yard pass. So you really have to be on your toes the entire 60 minutes against this team. We know how energetic and what kind of emotion they have playing at home, we have been there before - so we have to be ready for that too Sunday night.
Q: I know it has been unfair comparing Matt Cassel to Tom Brady but do you see similarities in the first seven or eight games when Tom took over in 2001 to Matt's first seven or eight games?
BB: I don't know. It is a long time ago. There is no real common, other than Kevin Faulk, denominator. There are so many different players; there are so many different things. Matt has been here four years, I think he has had more time and background in our offense than Tom did when Tom took over in '01. They have both gotten in there, have done a good job, have worked hard, made plays to help us win and have managed the game the way they should offensively in terms of time management. I think Matt's done a real good job of managing the game with the two minute warning at the end of the half with the time, getting out of bounds and throwing the ball away and making all those kinds of decisions. Those are the kinds of things that a quarterback has to do to be a good quarterback. It is not just throwing the ball and having a big arm but it is making the right decisions, managing the clock, we use a lot of different personnel groups so getting that all straight. That is a big part of it in our offensive system and both quarterbacks did that.
Q: Good news on Vince Wilfork? No suspension?
BB: I really don't have any comment on that. I think we will leave that to the league [and] whatever they have to say about it. Really, it is a league matter. I don't think it is appropriate for me to comment on because I really don't have anything to do with it, we don't have anything to do with it. It is a league matter. Whatever they want to say about it, they can say about it.
Q: Will you do anything in practice to simulate Indianapolis' game speed?
BB: Yes. We will try. We will obviously work with the noise offensively, which I am sure there will be plenty of that on the road. The players we put in there at different positions to try to simulate their players and getting them to play like they play as much as we can. We will definitely do that. Personnel and trying to coach them up on…Make our defensive players watch plays on Indianapolis' defense and make our offensive players watch plays on Indianapolis' offense so they can kind of get the idea of the look that they are trying to give the other group, absolutely. We will meet on it [and] spend some time trying to coach them to get that.
Q: Are Indianapolis the fastest defense you will see or have seen to this point?
BB: Overall, I would say so. Denver was fast, San Francisco was fast but these guys - [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney - I can't think of two better edge rushers than that that we have faced. The linebackers are active. Really they make a lot of plays from behind. I think they have made more plays from behind than any team that I have seen on film in quite awhile. There defensive lineman, their linebackers, check downs, screens, even running plays to get through the line of scrimmage - a lot of time the tackle is made by guys coming from the backside after it looks like a guy has been blocked he comes off the block, makes the tackle and a lot of times strips the ball out too. They are very fast. The play they made against Houston the one Mathis made on [Sage] Rosenfels, the strip sack there that was kind of typical. It is hard running away from them, they have too much team speed.
Q: How pleased have you been with Benjamin Watson and David Thomas at tight end?
BB: Well that extra guy out there on the edge makes a big difference for a tackle. If it is one man wide or just a body out, there even if he is not blocking, it makes a difference in the pass protection. They have done a good job. There are times when they have to stay in when they blitz then we have to block them. If they don't blitz then we can check out into the pattern and let the lineman block the four pass rushers if they don't bring anybody else. But reading that, helping but at the same time getting out so they get into the pattern to affect the coverage, draw the guy they are supposed to draw so the pattern is evenly distributed - that is part of it too. They have done a good job with that. It has been helpful.
Q: Last year Rodney Harrison covered Dallas Clark. With Rodney out hurt, is there any concern there?
BB: There are plenty of concerns with Dallas Clark. There are concerns about everybody - Clark, [Marvin] Harrison, [Reggie] Wayne, [Anthony] Gonzalez and [Joseph] Addai. It is about team defense, you can't double everybody. You can't set your defense to stop everybody they have too many good players. In the course of playing good team defense there will be a lot of different people that will have a lot of different responsibilities all the way through the course of the game. We will have to hold up all the way across the board. It will be a challenge from sideline to sideline from Harrison to Wayne to Gonzalez and everybody in between. [Tony] Ugoh, [Jeff] Saturday, [Curtis] Johnson, Clark - everybody is going to have to hold up everywhere.
Q: With Rodney Harrison out does it change significantly?
BB: Well he is not a part of it so whatever we do, obviously, other people are going to have to do it. We still have to play team defense.
Q: Players get hurt every year but this year you have faced a lot of adversity. Has this been a unique challenge for you and your coaching staff?
BB: Really, we don't even think about it. So, we have had guys get hurt before that is part of football. Every team has injuries and every team has to deal with something. We just look at each game and try to figure out the best way we can to be competitive with the team we are playing. Every week it is a challenge. I know this is hard for you to believe but we don't ever sit there and say, 'if we had Jim Brown than we could run this play, if we had Tom Brady we could run that play, and if we had Willie McGinnest we could run another play' - we never sit there and say that. We just say, 'ok here is what they are doing and what are we going to do.' You take your options and try to pick out the best ones.
Q: Is it times like this that you can draw on a lifetime of football and rely on your coaching staff?
BB: I think that is part of it every week, sure. We have a very experienced staff in all three phases of the game and there are always situations through the course of the year, I am not saying every week necessarily - this is something that would apply to something we did at some other point, whether it was a certain player or whether it was a certain scheme, the way we read a play or coach it, absolutely. I think there is plenty of that and you go through that over the course of the year I would say every year. I wouldn't say one is any different than another necessarily it just depends on how things fall.
Q: Do you enjoy the challenge - it is harder now?
BB: It is the same. Every week we come in, we get all the information, we try to break it down and we go to work and try to prepare the team to play. Every team has good players, every team has good coaches, every team works hard, has a good off season program, plays to keep you honest, things up their sleeve, new wrinkles and they play hard. Each team has it's own specific challenges and you have to try to figure out how to meet those every single week. There are good players on every team. It is challenging but I definitely enjoy it. I enjoy all the aspects of it - the preparation, the on the field coaching, the working with the players, the watching film with them, the game strategy - that's what I do.
Q: Going back to the Denver game has Randy Moss been more consistent with downfield blocking?
BB: I think he has been pretty consistent with it all the way through. I remember we had a couple plays last year where he was blocking 40 yards downfield for [Laurence] Maroney. He is a good blocker. He is a big guy. He has long arms. He has a big frame and he covers some of those defensive backs up, they have a hard time of getting around him. He is quick enough to stay with them, stay in front of them and anticipate where the ball is going to go. But I think he and Wes [Welker] have both done a good job on that too. Our receivers have competed well in the running game.
Q: Can you comment on BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
BB: I think Ben has gotten better every week. He didn't get a lot of reps early in the season or in training camp, he had a few other players ahead of him. But I think he has gained everybody's confidence through his preseason play and his hard work. Anytime a guy doesn't get a lot of snaps then you put him in there and he does well on those few opportunities, you really respect that because of the 100 plays that could be called you pick out four or five and if he knows those with not too many repetitions than that gives you confidence that he is studying, that he is on top of it. I think Ben did that a lot in the preseason games where he didn't get a lot of plays in practice but whether it is blitz pickup or routes, or reads in the running game he showed that he could pick things up quickly and that led to his eventual promotion from the practice squad to the roster and opportunity to play and he has done that when he has been in the game. He still has a lot to learn, he is a young kid but he is tough and has done a good job in the opportunities that he's had and that is a real credit to him because he pays attention, he is up on all the little things and when something comes up most of the time he's pretty on top of it for the amount of reps he has had.
Q: How much stock do you put into the start of their season in terms of their record?
BB: Like I said, when I look at them I see a very explosive football team. Look at the last six minutes of the Houston game, look at the first quarter of the Baltimore game - you see plenty of good football from them and plenty of explosive football. That's what worries us and that's what we have to prepare for. It really isn't about how they did against Tennessee or how Tennessee did against them. It is about how we do against them and they do against us. Each game is it's own match up, it is it's own entity. We have had some great match ups against them in the past, we have a lot of respect for their football team and their organization. We know we are going to have to play our best game out there and that is what we are going to try to do this week.
Q: Do you take any stock in desperate teams?
BB: I think each game is it's own game - I have said that many times. I don't think it is about last week or next week, it's about how the teams match up and perform against each other. It is not three out of four or four out of seven, you get one chance to play. How those teams match up on that day - that determines the winner. It is not the better team it is who plays better. I think that is the way it will be this week and that is the way it will be every week.
Q: How much do you see the Colts offense changing without Joseph Addai in the line up?
BB: Addai is a great player. I think that [Dominic] Rhodes is a quality player too. He has shown that in the past. He certainly showed it in the opportunities he has had to play. They run their offense, he can do everything they need him to do and I think Addai is a good player too. Whichever one of them is in there we will have to be prepared for.
Q: Is Peyton Manning as dangerous as he's ever been?
BB: He sure is. He does everything well. He makes all the throws. He is smart. He reads coverages extremely well. He is accurate with the ball. He is mobile enough in the pocket to buy time. He really doesn't have any weaknesses.
Q: How much of a boost will their defense get if Bob Sanders returns?
BB: Sanders is a good player, there is no doubt about it. He is a great player - MVP in the league. I think they have played very well on defense. The way they have been playing the running game holding teams to three yards a carry, good running teams too like Green Bay and Tennessee - maybe it would be two yards a carry if he were in there I don't know. I think [Melvin] Bullitt has done a good job of filling in for him. He has made a bunch of plays, had a couple interceptions, made a lot of tackles [and] still helps them out in the kicking game. I think that [Antoine] Bethea, Sanders and Bullitt - whoever it is, their safeties have all played well. Sanders - we have a lot of respect for him as a player too. It just gives them another guy.
Q: How do you assess the communication in the secondary?
BB: I think it was all right. St. Louis is a team that gives you a lot of different looks and a lot of personnel groupings so I don't think that was really a major problem, it could always be better but I don't think it was a major problem for us.