Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 17, 2010.
BB: Back in the division again. Just like Pittsburgh. The Colts, as usual, look real good. They're good at everything. But really, defensively, the three plays at the end of the Cincinnati game kind of summed it up. Cincinnati's got a chance to go ahead [and] they strip them and get back-to-back sacks with [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney. That's kind of the way they play. They're a big-play team and [they] cause a lot of havoc, turn the ball over, sack the quarterback, strip them, tip balls and all those things. Offensively, they're still really efficient, as they always are, with Peyton [Manning] running the show and an experienced offensive line. They've used some different people in there, but they've all been productive and it's obvious they have good depth and a good quality of players and, obviously, a good system with Reggie Wayne still making a lot of plays, [Pierre] Garcon, Manning, [Joseph] Addai - I'm sure he'll be back. So, they've got a lot of good players and they've got a real good team.
Q: Is it a testament to how good Manning is that they can keep bringing receivers in and out and they're still successful offensively?
BB: Yeah, it's no secret he's good. I don't think that's a big news story, right? He's great. He's a great quarterback. He does a good job no matter who's in there. There are not a lot of bad plays from him. Not many at all. He does a great job in managing the team, getting the team in the right play. [He's] a very accurate passer [and] he takes what you give him.
Q: How much do you attribute the success of each the Patriots and the Colts to the systems that each team uses? Is that a big part of the success of each franchise?
BB: I think it's got to be. It's got to be. I don't know; those are hard questions. When you have so many things that go into a team, so many things that go into what's happened over the last decade, which ones do you point to? You can make an argument for a lot of different things. In the end, it's each individual team and that collection of players that particular year and that particular time during the season or whatever it is, that was able to go out there and be successful. Certainly part of that is the organization, part of that is the stability of the people there, but also part of it is the people who came in and fulfilled those roles during that time. I don't really know where it starts, where it stops, where the credit goes, but in the end, there are a lot of people involved, an awful lot of people. No one can do it by themselves, that's for sure. Everybody's important; everybody's got a job to do. The Colts have done a great job over the last decade - whatever it's been. They've just been good. [They've] won a lot of games [and] done it the right way.
Q: I know a part of you would probably like to play crappy teams every week ...
BB: Well there aren't any in this league. Ask the [New York] Giants.
Q: But do you appreciate playing the Colts every year and the theater that it has delivered?
BB: They're a great team [and] it's great competition, so from that standpoint, you go up against good teams every week, good players, good coaches, good organizations. So, every week is its own challenge, but the Colts are certainly at the top there and they're a huge challenge to play. Just like Pittsburgh was last week. That's the way it is every week. But [the Colts] are outstanding. There's no question about it.
Q: Can you explain your decision to cut Shawn Crable?
BB: We made a decision based on what we feel like is best for the football team at this point in time. A lot of things went into it, we just feel like it's best for right now.
Q: Have you seen anything from Pierre Woods during the time he's been gone that has led you to feel it was the right time to bring him back?
BB: Well, no, I'd say just based on circumstances and the situation, all those factors, we felt like he would be able to help our team this week. Whether that's the way it is next week - that wasn't the way it was last week - I don't know.
Q: Did you do a workout with him? Did you know he was in shape?
BB: We've been in contact with him, [just] like a lot of players that we've had a long history with. I think we have a pretty good idea where he is.
Q: How do you explain the success of Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch and Wes Welker, who are all under 5'10", in a league of big men?
BB: I don't think it's about height. You can find Barry Sanders, plenty of guys in the Hall of Fame that are - what was he, 5'8"? Each player has his own set of skills, whatever they happen to be. How those match up against somebody else's is the composite of all the skills: physically, mentally and so forth.
Q: As a defensive coach, do you think their lack of size can be an advantage?
BB: Well, again, I think it's how the player performs. I think that's the big thing. Whatever the whole package is, whatever his characteristics are, you get them. You get how fast they are, how tough they are, how smart they are, how tall they are, how much they weigh [and] how much experience they have. Whatever it is, it's all one guy. You can't take this from this guy, that from that guy and this from another guy and morph it all into [one] player. You just can't do that. So whatever this player's qualities are, that's what they are. Whatever the next guy's are, that's what his are.
Q: Do you think guys like Blair White and Jacob Tamme are fitting into what the Colts have always had at receiver, even though it's different guys?
BB: I think you can go through the league - you can go through, really, a lot of individual teams -and find receivers with different skill sets. I think you can find that at Indianapolis. Bottom line is they have to be able to go up and catch the ball. If you find that that's what they can do, [then] they're good receivers. If they can't do that, then I don't how you can be a good receiver.
Q: Is this closing the book on Crable or is there a possibility he could be back?
BB: I never said that. Anything's possible.
Q: Both you and the Colts have had to overcome injury this season. Are you always confident in the guy that you put in there to replace players like Kevin Faulk or Leigh Bodden?
BB: Sure, otherwise I think you'd put somebody else in there. Now, sometimes you put players who have less of a track record or are less proven. Maybe you like the player's skills or what he's done, but he just really hasn't had a chance to show it, and sometimes after a period of time, your opinion changes on that player. But, at the time you do it, I'd say that for the most part... But, look, when you're coaching a football team, you've got to be prepared for the guys who are taking the most reps, [to not be] taking them. That happens to every team at every position, sooner or later. There's always a transitional element to professional football, any football for that matter. You don't see [it] in a lot of other sports and it's not nearly as big a factor as it is in football. You have to prepare for it. You have to plan your depth, whether that's with other players or players that you're going to move around. However you're going to handle it, you have to have some way to anticipate that and manage it. Sooner or later, it's going to happen. You hope it doesn't [and] you try to avoid it, but it's part of the game. To play 16 regular-season games at this level, as competitive as the National Football League is, stuff's going to happen. And it's very unpredictable. You see big hits [and] guys walk right up from it. You see other things that are nothing like last week against Pittsburgh, guy's running down a kickoff and pulls a hamstring and is out for the game. There's no contact; there's nobody even within 20 yards of him. So, you never know.
Q: James Sanders was named Defensive Player of the Week. How helpful has he been this season with the injuries this team has had?
BB: James has been a key guy for us for a number of years. Even at the beginning of the season [when] all our safeties were playing, we had a lot of guys rotating in, going all the way back to [Bret] Lockett in training camp. I feel like we have confidence in all of them; all of them were contributing. James is, as usual, one of our most professional, well-prepared players. He works really hard every week. He's always one you can count on to be on top of everything you ask him to do, whether it's kickoff return, the punt team, kickoff coverage, nickel defense, goal line. Whatever it is, he's very dependable and very professional. It doesn't surprise me that when he gets the opportunity to take advantage of a situation and make a play that he's in the right place at the right time and makes it. That's kind of the way he's been for us since he's been here.
Q: Are you surprised by the arc of Peyton Manning's career and the improvements he has made?
BB: Not really. He was the first pick, so that's a good place to start. He's a hard working guy. He's a football guy. He works very hard at his job, both physically and preparation-wise. He understands the game. I think you can see early in his career, that even though he lacked some experience, that he was still very mature and had a good feel for the game even as a young player. That's continued to develop and you constantly see him do things that are just a little bit special, just a little bit better than probably the way most other people do them that we watch on film and we play against. He finds some little thing, some little technique or adds a little something to a play or a read or something that continues to create problems for the defense. He's very consistent. He makes great decisions. He gets rid of the ball in a hurry, but not in a jittery way, just in a seeing the opening and getting the ball out on time and making it hard to rush against him, making it hard to defend against him from a coverage standpoint [way]. So, he's really good. He's really good.
Q: Do you have an understanding for how passionate the arguments about who is better between Manning and Tom Brady can get?
BB: Well, they're both really good. So I'll leave that to you - you and the experts. I mean, look, I have a lot of respect for Peyton Manning. I think he's a tremendous quarterback, but there's no quarterback I'd rather have than Tom Brady.
Q: Do you appreciate how rare it is that this might be becoming the greatest quarterback matchup in the history of football?
BB: I don't know. I'll leave that to you experts.
Q: When you weren't involved, say with John Elway and Dan Marino, did you find that matchup worth turning on the television to watch?
BB: Yeah, of course. Yeah, sure.
Q: Would you much rather be in your position, having a direct impact on how these two legends play?
BB: Would I rather have my job than yours? Yeah.
Q: You don't know how good [we've] got it.
BB: You're right.
Q: Obviously a lot of people remember last year and the fourth-and-two play at the end of the game. Does that kind of play underscore how slim the margin of error is between these two teams?
BB: I think if you look at most of our games against Indianapolis, they've all been very - most of them - have been very close, whichever way they've gone. Even if the score doesn't quite reflect that, I think the overall competitiveness of the games would, [with] a play or two here or there, [change] things in a little different direction. Our games have been very competitive.
Q: When you play an opponent that much do you have to fight against the thought that it is going to be the same every time or is it always different?
BB: I think every game is different.
Q: Since both of you have had the same system for so long, is there an added dynamic that maybe takes the chess game up to another level?
BB: Well, I think both teams know each other extremely well, but as we've talked about, there are a lot of players playing in the this game that didn't play in, for example, last year's Indianapolis/New England game. There are new dynamics to every game, every situation. When you play a team twice in your division, in your division games, those games change a lot. Even though it's the same teams in the same year, one's home and one's away, but still, anything can happen any week. I don't think anybody knows how the games are going to go. Each one's different and a few plays can swing us, especially when it's between two teams that are pretty evenly matched.
Q: Can you contrast the difference in preparing between the defensive systems of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis?
BB: Well, I think both teams, defensively, have a system that they believe in and they follow that system. I think they both have a lot of variables within the system that they can use to keep you off balance. I don't see a lot of, from either team, 10 new defenses every week. That's not really what they do. They take their playbook and they use the things that they feel like are best against that particular opponent and if something happens during the game that they need to adjust to, they make some adjustments. It's a different scheme, but I think the overall philosophy is actually pretty similar. It's just one's a three-four team, the other is a four-three team, one's a zone-blitz team, the other is more of a combination of zones, zone-blitz and man-to-man. Not that the Steelers don't play man, they do play some, but the Colts play a different type of man-to-man. Both teams create a lot of turnovers. I think the philosophies are similar, but I think the schemes and the techniques are drastically different.
Q: Did Bill O'Brien have a solid week in preparing last week?
BB: Well, I think Bill is pretty solid. Our coaching staff, they work hard. They prepare. They go through all the tape that we have. We go back with Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, teams like that, back into prior years. That all starts in the offseason. I think our coaching staff does a good job. They're well prepared. We just have to do a good job as a staff of taking that information and trying to funnel it into what's the best thing for that particular team. There're only, what, 65 plays on offense, defense, 30 in special teams, however many it ends up being, but roughly, that average. And with all the information we have, it all has to boil down to something. So that's what all of our jobs are: our jobs, the Colts' jobs and so forth. Trying to teach it to them, but you can't do everything. You have to try and be prepared for the main things and then you'll always have some adjustments that you have to make during the game.
Q: So last week, your staff had a good week?