Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, November 1, 2010.
BB: How are we doing today? Good win yesterday. It was certainly a lot better in the second half than it was in the first, but, you know, [the Minnesota Vikings] are a good football team. They have a lot of talented players. They gave us some problems. We gave them a few, and in the end, we were just able to make a few more plays, certainly in the red area, third-down conversions. I mean, that last drive, offensively, was a big drive for us. We had a lot of guys step up and play well; it is hard to single anybody out when you have a game like that. There were a lot of people that contributed to it, so that was good. It is time to turn a page and move onto Cleveland. After watching them against New Orleans, it is a pretty formidable group they've got, so we have a lot of work to do. I know they got a jump on us in terms of preparation with their bye week, so we have a lot of catching up to do.
Q: In terms of the running game, specifically in the fourth quarter, was Minnesota just getting worn down or were there adjustments that you made to get a little more space?
BB: I don't think so. I think it was pretty much the same plays. Some of them I think we probably executed better a couple of times; they matched up against us something different than we had in the first half. We missed a couple of things in the first half, and they made some good plays, too. It wasn't like there was a whole new ... it was really the same plays.
Q: How have you seen this offensive line group come along?
BB: Well they have pretty much been together through the whole year and through training camp. It is a good hardworking group. They are out there; they're tough. They have been on the field a lot; they've taken a lot of snaps in practice and a lot of snaps in the games. They try to do what we ask them to do. They are a hardworking group and like I said, they are out there doing what you want them to do: trying. So I totally respect that. It is not always perfect, but they do a pretty solid job.
Q: I am sure you have heard the news about Randy Moss being waived, has Minnesota called and asked for their third-round pick back yet?
BB: You know I can't comment on the status of any of the other players in the league or any other transactions or anything like that.
Q: So they haven't called you?
BB: You can't bait me into it; I can't comment on anybody else's teams or players or transactions.
Q: Hypothetically, if you went all the way through the league...
BB: If the moon were made of Swiss cheese...
Q: We will get to that one in a second. Hypothetically, would you have any interest in a player who could bring that kind of production?
BB: You know I can't comment.
Q: If you guys hadn't scored on BenJarvus Green-Ellis' third-down run, would you have gone for it or would you have kicked the field goal?
BB: It probably would depend on what had happened on that play. It could have gone either way. You can make an argument for kicking, making it a touchdown game, or trying to score there from wherever the ball was and 99 yards if you didn't make it - you could probably do it either way.
Q: What are your thoughts on Dan Connolly?
BB: We have asked Dan to do a lot. He has played left guard obviously, but has also played fullback in our short-yardage and goal-line packages. [He's a] smart guy. [He's a] good technique player. He has really improved a lot over the time he has been here. He has gotten a lot of playing time this year and has continued to improve. So he is doing a solid job.
Q: He is another example of one of those practice squad guys. You seem to place a lot of value on them and you seem to be able to develop them more than most teams. Can you speak on your philosophy and what you look for in those guys?
BB: I think that is what you hope the practice squad is for; to find players that with more time, experience, physical development - whatever it happens to be - that at some point, they will be able to contribute for you. Sometimes you just get practice reps out of them to help your team prepare, but hopefully you have a player that can develop. You are right, we have had a number of those and a number of offensive lineman. We have also had them at other positions as well. You know, a lot of it is really up to the player to take the coaching, the opportunity they have to improve their techniques, their knowledge, again, their physical development, work on their strength and their speed and their explosiveness and technique and all those things, and then at some point, whether it is this year, the year that they are on the team or the following year. You know, Ryan Wendell was on it for a couple of years, really, on and off it. So it is a little bit up to the player as to how much they are willing to work - how hard they are willing to work - and how much they are able to develop even when they are not out there playing on a regular basis like the other roster members are. So it definitely takes a kid that wants to work hard, wants to get better, will put in the time and make some sacrifices even though there is not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for a while.
Q: Do you like the feel and the make-up of this team since the Moss deal?
BB: This team has been here, together, since basically the spring. We've made a number of changes in the team between whenever we started - mid-May - to the first of November, so we are just trying to make the team and do the best thing we can for the team all the way along and that is what we do with everything: players, schemes, whatever adjustments we make with our schedule, our routine, whatever it is. It is constantly changing. Every week is different; every day is different. There are new challenges and new opportunities. There are variables and you adjust to them and try to make them come out as well as you can. That is what every day is, so it isn't really ever about one thing. There is a whole combination of things that are involved in a football team. It is a continuous process.
Q: How often are you ever genuinely surprised with something that happens in the league, from your experience?
BB: I'd say it has probably been a little while. But, you know, I don't really care about it. I don't really care about the league. I am worried about our football team. Whatever rules the league changes or whatever moves other teams make, that is their team. I can't really worry about that. I can barely coach the team that I'm in charge of, so I can't worry about everybody else's team, try to solve the rest of the world's problems. That's not my job, so I am not really worried about it. There are a lot of other people that can do that.
Q: Do you plan on voting tomorrow?
BB: I will take that under advisement. Maybe I can get my absentee ballot in.
Q: The challenge that you made on Adrian Peterson's goal-line run, I was curious if they had enough footage on that. Were they not able to see or did the referee tell you that he couldn't see it and that's why they upheld it?
BB: Yeah. Basically, that's what he said, that he couldn't see the ball, so they couldn't tell if it crossed the line or didn't cross the line. That's what stood on the field, which brings up the obvious next question...
Q: Goal-line cameras?
BB: Well, no. You saw the replays. I mean, the cameras were right on the goal line, weren't they? It looked like it. So if you couldn't see the ball from the goal-line cameras, in slow motion... whatever. But, yeah, he couldn't see the ball.
Q: With the defense, you have to be happy that they made the stops on both the goal-line stand and the stop on the third-and-two to open the second half, but are you also a little weary on how easily Minnesota seemed to move the ball in the first half and part of the second half?
BB: Well they have a good offense, so they move the ball against everybody. They have a good offensive line, good skill players, good quarterback. They got a lot of good players out there; it is hard to defend all of them. So, yeah, they had some plays; they had their moments.
Q: What did you think of Myron Pryor's hit on Brett Favre and where the initial contact was?
BB: It doesn't really matter what I think.
Q: Do you want to know what I think?
BB: I am sure it will be in the column today. You know, all those calls, the officials make the calls. We coach what the rules are, what we are instructed to do and I think the players are trying to do that. So, I don't know, that's really not my call.
Q: Alge Crumpler as a blocker, does he remind you of anybody at the tight end position?
BB: Alge is a very experienced player, so he knows how to use a number of different techniques, block different types of players in different positions, which we have asked him to do a lot: block on the end of the line, in the interior line, or wham in on the nose or sometimes going all the way back to the backside. So, there are a lot of different techniques and a lot of different ways to make those blocks and he has used a variety of them. He is an experienced player, smart, really understands where the plays are designed to go and how to get his man. I'd say that the big thing with him: his technique, his experience. He is a big, powerful man with good athleticism. So he can use a combination of different techniques, whether it be power or size or quickness or whatever, to get the job done. It isn't always the same thing.
Q: What did you think of Deion Branch yesterday?
BB: What did I think of him? I thought our whole passing game was inconsistent. You know, we had our moments. There were other moments that weren't as good. [Branch] had a nice play, a nice catch-and-run on the quick screen; he made a good play on that. He was open on a couple of things where we didn't get him the ball and a couple of other times where he wasn't open. Probably about the way it was for everybody all day. It wasn't great, but it was certainly good enough. We had some key plays at key times.
Q: Is that just part of the process in the passing game? Five of Tom Brady's top six targets are new this year. So is that just part of the process of growing as a team and growing as a unit offensively?
BB: Well the passing game is certainly about timing and seeing the same thing from two different vantage points - the quarterback and the receiver - seeing the same picture in coverages and zones, route adjustments and those kinds of things. And then, of course, throw a pass rush in there, that affects a little bit of the timing as well, so that is something that no matter how long your quarterback and receivers or tight ends, whatever they are, play together, there is always an element of that, rebuilding it or adjusting it. I think it is a continuous process. The timing is different from one game to the next based on the coverages and the pass rush and the pressures that those teams use. It will affect the timing of some of the things you are doing. I mean, there is some carry-over, don't get me wrong, but there are always differences. It is an ongoing process for everyone.
Q: With so many rookies having key roles early on in their careers, are you surprised at how successful you have been and how well they have adjusted to the program?
BB: Our expectations are the same as they always are: take our players, try to give them a game plan, get them ready to go, go out and win on Sunday. It really hasn't changed. Whoever the players are, it is the same. That is our goal every week. I don't know what else it would be.
Q: Has their adjustment been somewhat of a surprise to you?
BB: I think it is really hard with young players to project and predict how it will go. Again, some players come in and they start fast and are able to maintain that like Jerod Mayo. Other guys come in and take a while to develop, but they also become good players - Matt Cassel. Some players start faster and it just fizzles out or doesn't keep rising. I don't know if there is any way, until you have a certain period of time that goes by, I don't think you know how it is going to go. As a player that's played a few handfuls of games, is this the best it is going to be? Is it going to be twice as good as this? Is it going to be one percent better? You tell me; I don't know. That is hard to predict. As long as they keep working hard and they are improving and getting better and gaining from their experience and becoming a better player, learning better techniques, developing physically, keep working at the game, they are going to continue to improve. At some point, that improvement is going to become marginal and it is going to start to level out. Is that halfway through the season? Is it at the end of the first season? Is it at the end of the second season? I don't know. You just have to keep taking it as it comes. At some point, when you have enough experience and the results are in over a significant period of time, I think there is a point where you have a much better gauge on it. But sometimes that isn't until two or three years down the road.
Q: During this stretch, you guys have had some success in the second half. I know we talked to you earlier in the year about having a complete game. Can you pinpoint the differences that you are seeing in the team in the second half that maybe you weren't seeing earlier?
BB: No, you know, we talk about that a lot. Sometimes it has been in reverse too, where things have been good in the first half and for whatever reason, we aren't as productive in the second half and vice-versa. So, our goal is to be productive through four quarters. We are always working on that. We talk about it. And you are right; we have had probably a little more production in the second half of some games this year, but certainly not all of them. If I could, I'd bottle it and do it all four quarters. That is what we are trying to do, but for some reason, and I think you probably see that with most teams, it is just not the same every week. But that's football. You are up against another very competitive team that is well-coached, has a lot of good players - they know what they're doing. You know, you are trying to give them problems; they are trying to give them to you. It sways back and forth. That's the way most games in this league are. Even a lot of times when teams get ahead, the other team ends up catching up or vice-versa. Games that are close, you see how many close games there are, last week almost every game came down to last the possession - all but one of them, whatever it was - so, you know, that is the NFL. You are going to have a lot of close games and be in a lot of tough situations. Sometimes that ebb and flow comes by halves, by quarters, but it seems like it is there most of the time and you gotta be able to ride it out.