New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, November 24, 2008.
BB: As I said last night, it is good to win a division game on the road against Miami. It was a tough, hard fought game like expected. There were a lot of key plays in the game, a lot of back and forth for quite awhile. There were a lot of lead changes and big plays. It was a credit to our players. They stepped up and made a few more than Miami did and made them at the right times. The players did a good job. We have a lot of guys banged up [and] fighting through some bumps and bruises like every team has this time of year. But I thought those guys really sucked it up, had a good week of practice and played hard down there. Give the players credit for that one yesterday. They did a great job. They earned it.
Q: Right after the game Randy Moss expressed some disbelief that he saw so much single coverage in the game, were you surprised at all by that?
BB: Not really. Miami does that. That is really the way they have played all year. They play a lot of post-safety coverage, single safety, a little bit of split safety coverage but a lot more single high safety. They did a lot of what they have been doing all year. They've had a lot of success. They have won four in a row. They are playing as good as any team in the league going into last weekend. They did what was getting them there.
Q: With all the different coverages that are thrown at Randy Moss all year how easy or difficult is it to recognize when there is single coverage? Is that obvious at the line of scrimmage?
BB: Sometimes it is more obvious than others. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's disguised, sometimes they show you what they are going to do, sometimes they give you one look and roll into another.
Q: How about using yesterday as an example, were those obvious situations? Was that something Matt Cassel knows right when he steps to the line or is there something more involved?
BB: There wasn't a lot of press coverage out there. Look, you have to confirm it every time. I don't think you can go to the line too many times and say, 'Ok, this is what it is.' As soon as you do that you start guessing and they give you one look and roll into something else or drop somebody underneath and that's when you get in trouble. I think you do the same thing. When the ball is snapped you confirm, pre-snap read it, you take a look at the pre-snap and can eliminate certain coverages by pre-snap reads and then when the ball is snapped you can confirm and identify what the coverage is and go through your progression of reads. I think that is what you do every time. As soon as you go to the line and start guessing, that is when you get into a lot of trouble. We don't ever try to do that. I am not saying it never happens but that's not what we try to do.
Q: Do the games tend to get more physical as the games become more important in November and December?
BB: I think when you have physical teams they play physical be in September or November and you have a lot of physical guys on the field. You have guys like Matt Roth playing outside linebacker who a year ago played defensive tackle. You have big physical inside linebackers, big defensive lineman, hard hitting safeties. Bell, they bring him down in the box a lot and you get the same thing with Pittsburgh this week. Guys like Harrison, Farrior, Foote [and] Polamalu comes down and he hits like a linebacker, maybe harder even though he is a safety. Big corners like Taylor and those guys. I think if that is the way the team plays, I think they are going to play physical. I think if you watch Jacksonville, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they are physical teams and they play physical every time of year. I don't think it is just related to Thanksgiving or Christmas. I think they play rock'em, sock'em style ball all the time and Miami has become that kind of a team. They came in running the ball. They ran eight, nine plays - direct snaps to Ronnie Brown. Those were basically all runs. They might be outside plays but there is still a lot of physical blocking and all of that. I think they are going to keep doing it; they did it all year long.
Q: Brandon Meriweather said about his interception that he was just doing what the coaches told him to do when you made a sideline adjustment. What was the adjustment that was made?
BB: Well, we had a couple of different ways of playing those spread formations and kind of as the game got spread out in the second half it became more of a passing game and we made coverage adjustments on how we were going to play the spread looks.
Q: Is that an adjustment he could have executed to that level last year? Is that an example of the steps he has taken?
BB: I don't know. I think that Brandon did a lot of good things last year but I think he's at a higher level this year; there is no question about it. I don't want to characterize it that he couldn't put one foot in front of the other, I am not saying that, but I think everything is better this year. I think everything he does he does a little bit better. Whether it is making adjustments, playing the ball, tackling, communication, drops, reading the quarterback - I think all of those things have improved and as they should for any second year player. He has done a nice job for us.
Q: How much time of your week did you have to devote to preparing for the Wildcat against the Dolphins?
BB: Well, I would say 15 percent. They ran it how many plays - nine out of 65 plays - so, one out of seven. They ran a lot of empty formations. They ran a lot of spread formations. You work on red area. You work on third down. You work on the regular running game. You work on the play action game. You work on all, what we call, their out people where they have two halfbacks in the game whether it was Ronnie [Brown] and Ricky [Williams] or [Patrick] Cobbs and one of the other two guys. That's a lot different than when they have a regular fullback like [Lousaka] Polite in there. I don't think you can devote 80 percent of your time to Wildcat and then none to everything else. You have to treat it as one of the things that they do that you have to commit time to, but Miami does so many other things that I don't think you want to put all of your eggs in one basket then find out this isn't a Wildcat game, it is an empty game and you haven't prepared for that. That is one of the things they get you on. They have so many different packages and [Chad] Pennington executes the passing game well and they are a big physical running team. So, if you don't do a good job on any of that stuff you could be in trouble, but that is part of it. That is another log on the fire and just another thing to prepare for.
Q: Why do you think Matt Cassel is so comfortable in the spread offense?
BB: I think that was a good way to play Miami yesterday. I think Josh [McDaniels] and the offensive coaches had a great game plan and I think that Matt did a good job with it as did the receivers, pass protection, backs and their roles of pickup which we ended up getting blitzed quite a bit in the second half and running routes. So, that was good for yesterday. Whether that will be good for next week or some other week, I don't know.
Q: It was also good in the second half against the New York Jets...
BB: It wasn't so good against San Diego. I guess my point would be that it is team offense. So, whenever the quarterback has a lot of yards passing then everybody wants to put the quarterback in the Hall of Fame. And whenever the team doesn't have a lot of yards passing, then everybody wants to change quarterbacks. When the fact of the matter is you have at least five people involved in pass protection, and usually more, you have at least five people involved in the passing game and pass patterns to some degree in terms of getting open [and] having good distribution. So, the coverages have to displace, create openings and you have the guy throwing the ball and you have guys catching it. So, when 11 people are doing a good job on that then you are probably going to have good offensive production. When you don't have 11 people doing a good job on that or if it is poorly coached you are probably not going to have a lot of production on that. I think that yesterday's offensive performance is a function of good team offense, good quarterbacking but good performance by the other 10 people as well and good coaching by Josh and the offensive staff. I think they did a great job. I think Matt executed it well as did the other 10 people who were out there on the field in whatever particular plays we had called, whether it be running the ball at the end of the game or whether it be spreading the offense out in earlier parts of the game. Whatever it happened to be, overall it was a pretty well executed game by all the people that were out there not just one guy.
Q: Is it inaccurate to say that he is better equipped to handle that now than he was in the San Diego game or is that oversimplifying?
BB: No, I don't think it's oversimplifying that a player that has played 11 games like Matt has is further along this year than he was when he played his third, fourth of fifth game or whatever it was earlier in the season. I don't think that is oversimplifying at all. I think it doesn't matter what it is: spread offense, red area, third down, play action, blitz, max coverage, max blitz, all the stuff in between. I think there is progress in every area, more experience, more comfort, better decision-making and better timing by the quarterback and all the other players on the field. We have had almost 80 practices and God knows how many walk-through's and meetings. We have played 11 regular season games and four pre-season games. So, I would think after 15 games and all the practices and all the meetings it would have been better than what it was back in August or September - that is the natural progression.
Q: Were you surprised to see Matt Light take a couple of shots at Channing Crowder?
BB: Well, I commented on that after the game. I don't have anything to add to it.
Q: Is playing Pittsburgh this week another one of those situations where you have played them so often over the last couple of years that it feels like a division game?
BB: Yes, absolutely. It sure does.
Q: How does that help at this stage of the season in terms of preparation?
BB: I don't know if it does. Teams like that, you have so much information on. Three years ago they hurt you with this and four years ago they hurt you with that. They hurt us with this in the AFC Championship game. You are still thinking about some of those plays. So, in some respects you have too much information and you have to boil it down to what you feel like you can present to the players - what you can work with. You can't cover everything. We only have... In a normal week if you run 100 plays in practice, we could probably find 300 plays worth working on against Pittsburgh, both offensively and defensively: all the different blitz combinations, all the different offensive combinations. So, you have to put your chips on something and say, 'Here are the things we have to get ready for.' We know there are a million other things they can do and we will have to adjust to them if they happen. But, if you try to stop everything then you just get paralyzed. Does it help that we know the team? Yes. Is there still a lot to get ready for? Just as much if not more than the team we didn't know as well. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. When you don't know a team that well, sometimes you just don't know so you don't prepare for them and you feel like you got it but there is just more there than you have had an experienced background with.
Q: To go back to the offense with all 11 guys, when you look at a guy like Jabar Gaffney - his production is up and has been higher the last couple of games. Is that because he has been getting open or is Matt Cassel doing a better job?
BB: I think there has been a lot more production in the passing game the last few weeks because we have thrown a lot more passes. How many passes did we throw yesterday? Forty-two, they have to go to somebody. [Wes] Welker has some, [Randy] Moss has some, [Kevin] Faulk has some, [Jabar] Gaffney has some [and Benjamin] Watson has a couple. You are not throwing them all to the same guy so I think all of the receivers' production is going to go up or one guy is going to go up when you are throwing that many passes. Just like when you are running the ball 40 times, like we did in games earlier in the season. Hopefully, if you are doing a good job you have more production in the running game. I think all of the players are getting better. I just think that there is a lot more production with the receivers because there are a lot more passes. So, like I said somebody has to catch them.
Q: You always say you want to be peaking at this point in the season. Do you think your team is peaking?
BB: I don't think we are going to know that until we play the next five games. You always want to play your best at this time of year and we will see if that is the case against Pittsburgh. I think we did some things well yesterday. I think we did some things well in the past few weeks. Some better than others in some areas and some more consistent than others. Yesterday, I don't think the score was really indicative of the competitiveness of the game because that game was back and forth for a good part of three quarters. The lead switched off how many times? They are ahead, we are ahead, they are ahead and we were back and forth. Then, in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter we got a little lead on them and were able to extend it at the end of the game but I don't think that was really indicative of the competitiveness of the game and the same way last week. The Jets were out in front and we came back. Indianapolis was another game like that where it comes down to a handful of plays. I think yesterday came down to a handful of plays too. I think that's the way it is in this league and luckily we made a few more than they did yesterday.
Q: With the AFC so bunched up, how much attention do you pay to the scoreboard?
BB: Just worry about the game we are playing - that is the only thing we can control. Whatever else happens happens. There is nothing we can do about it. I am not saying we don't hear the scores of the game, but you always root against the teams in your division, you always root for the NFC teams but it is like that in week one. What we really need to worry about is how we do against Pittsburgh. That is all we have any control over right now.
Q: Will you devote any practice time preparing for the chance that Matt Light will not be able to play this weekend? Do you have other guys taking more reps?
BB: We will prepare the same way we do every week.
Q: Are you concerned about that possibility?
BB: Every player is the same thing. We have seen players get hurt on the first play of the game, in the first quarter so whichever guys go to the game they have to be ready to play - starters, backups. Everybody that goes to the game has a role in the game and they have to be ready to do it. It is the same every week.