New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 26, 2008.
BB: We feel like we are back in the division again with the annual game or two against Pittsburgh. As usual they look pretty good. There aren't enough superlatives to use on their defense. They lead the league in everything and deserve to. They are very good at every position and have a great scheme. They are well coached. They are tough. They blitz well. They tackle well. They cover well. You can't run the ball against them. They are very good in all of those things. I think they have improved tremendously in the kicking game from last year. From a coverage standpoint they are right at the top of the league in kickoff coverage. They do a good job covering punts. You get a guy like [James] Harrison who has twelve sacks and is right at the top in special teams tackles. He is a really complete player. Offensively, running backs [Mewelde] Moore and [Willie] Parker have different styles that we have to be aware of. They have a great quarterback, very good skill players, tight ends, wide receivers - [Hines] Ward, [Santonio] Homles, Heath Miller, [Nate] Washington. They are pretty well loaded and have a big offensive line. They are a real good football team. They are well coached. I think Mike Tomlin has done a real good job there and Kevin [Colbert] for putting that team together. They do a lot of things well to make you earn every yard you get and you have to stop them. They don't do a lot of things to stop themselves. We are going to have to play a good football game out there on Sunday in every phase of the game. They challenge you all the way across the board. They have a good kicker. They do a lot of things well, as they usually do.
Q: With Dick LeBeau having been there for so long it seems like they have run the same system defensively for 15 years now. How much has it varied? Is it the same defense that you have seen every single year?
Q: Is there an advantage to that?
BB: They have a big scheme. It is not like they just do one or two things. They have a pretty good scheme and they tailor it to their personnel. With a guy like [Troy] Polamalu there are some things that he does but before that it was [Carnell] Lake. Out of curiosity I have gone back to some of my scouting reports in Cleveland where we played them twice a year and it is the same blitzes. Instead of being four wide receivers it is three wide receivers and a tight end with Heath Miller who is like a receiver at tight end. But it is the same basic plays, same protections. I don't want to say there are no changes but they are minor. In this day and age that is pretty rare. Same thing offensively, they run a lot of the same off tackle, outside runs, more one back than they used to be. They were more two back in the past but they are a little more one back now and spread out a little bit more. When they run the ball it is still the same kind of blocking scheme. They are very good at it.
Q: I would assume that if you have had the same system in place for so long the execution has to be at a high level.
BB: The execution, particularly in that defense, it is probably as veteran as any team you are going to get. They have been doing it in that system for a long time. I think when you have that kind of continuity it helps the drafting process because your scouts know exactly what each position's requirements are. They can see different guys doing it through the years and why one guy has been more successful than another guy and what attributes you have to play: outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end or corner. You don't have to worry about every two years changing coordinators. They are very consistent, so I think that helps the drafting and the player acquisition process. It helps the execution from the guys who are doing it, doing it repetitively and doing it with the same people. You want to keep your offensive line together and communicate and see the game through one set of eyes. Defensively, you like to do the same thing with your front seven and your secondary. You want to do that with the same people as much as you can. There is a lot of that there.
Q: In your eyes has the team been successful because of their speed and athleticism or is it the quick reaction from knowing the system so well?
BB: I would say it is a combination of power, speed, athleticism and reaction. They are well coached, they have good players and they play well. They play well every week. You can see them playing well every week. They are consistent. Their quality of players is high. Their scheme is good. They are well coached. They are well prepared and they are consistent. They are a very powerful and physical team. They are as physical as any team we will play. Their power, I think, is a tougher matchup than their speed. I am not saying they don't have good speed but a lot of times they just overpower people.
Q: Are Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore's styles similar?
BB: I would say they are pretty contrasting. Parker is fast. He is a good perimeter runner. I would say Moore is more along the Kevin Faulk lines. He is quicker, smaller guy, good receiver, kick returner. But I think Parker has a little more power and straight line speed. Parker is as fast as any back in the league. Fred Taylor and guys like that, they can really run. He can really run.
Q: You mentioned going back to your notes of when you were in Cleveland, is that something you do often?
BB: No, most teams have changed eight times since then.
Q: What led you to do that?
BB: Just out of curiosity. We were talking about it. Ernie [Adams] and I were together in Cleveland and we were sitting around talking about it. It is the same way they ran it back then, right? We go back to our notes and yes, it is the same thing.
Q: Is your handwriting still good?
BB: It was better then. I am saying that in a positive way that there haven't been a lot of teams that have been able to stay the same and not be forced to make changes in one way or another. I remember their whole first and second down against multiple receivers defensive philosophy. That changed one time about five or six years ago and it looks like they might have changed it back. There is not much of that.
Q: I know no coach likes to go into a game with a fine or suspension pending on one of his starters. If it is a fine over a suspension do you feel like that is a bullet dodged in the case of Matt Light?
BB: We will prepare the same way we always do. Right now, we are preparing for everybody to be ready to go.
Q: Does that mean Matt Light has practiced with the first team this week?
BB: That means we prepare just like we do every week.
Q: How deep are the notes that you have taken over the years?
BB: It is the thickest file. It was the thickest file in Cleveland because the coaching was the same and playing them twice a year. We played them when I came here in 1996. That was the playoff game out here in the fog. Then we have been playing them, it seems like twice a year here a couple times. It hasn't been too many years that we haven't played them, I don't think.
Q: To you is that an important job that the head coach has, to keep notes to refer to?
BB: Well, most of that stuff has changed even going back to Barry Foster and Eric Green. There are a lot of different players now. I am just saying from a scheme standpoint they have had a lot of consistency and certainly watching them play 11 games this year has a lot more impact on what we do than anything that happened back in the '90's or back in '02 or '03. But, I am saying that it is pretty much the same. Harrison is different than [Jason] Gildon and Gildon was different than Kevin Greene and Kevin Greene was different than Greg Lloyd. But, they are all 10 sack or more a year guys. Whoever those players are they have been able to maintain a lot of continuity in their system even though the players have changed multiple times through the years.
Q: Is there some element of that here because Dante Scarnecchia has been here so long, that your scouts know the type of players that he prefers?
BB: Yes, but I think that has been the whole program since 2000. If the coach stays but you change coaches and you change systems...Like Larry's [Kennan] offensive system before we got here and Charlie [Weis] was the coordinator - we ran that offense. But, even though we have changed coordinators our offensive system hasn't changed. It certainly changed between 1999 and 2000. Even though you are an assistant coach in the same system if the system changes, which sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, it didn't in Pittsburgh but it did here in 2000. I think the scouts have to recognize the system change even though the coach might be the same.
Q: On Logan Mankins...
BB: I would say Logan is one of our most consistent players on and off the field. He is really pretty much the same guy every day. It is like time standing still. He has played that one spot. We have never really moved him. He has played well. I am not saying that he hasn't improved, he has improved. He has played that same spot and he has played it pretty well. He has the same personality whether he was a rookie or whether he is a veteran player, one of the more experienced players now on our team. He is pretty consistent.
Q: Why did James Harrison take so long to blossom?
BB: I think it is more just opportunity. It is a little bit like Mike [Vrabel]. I think Mike was a good player when he was at Pittsburgh but he had a couple guys ahead of him and they didn't give him much of an opportunity. He got more of an opportunity here and he has been pretty good here.
Q: How much different does James Harrison show up on film than Joey Porter?
BB: He is a very unique player. He matches up well against everybody. Dean [Pees] coached him in college and he was pretty dominant there. He is a smaller more compact, explosive guy. You see a lot of outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense that are 6-3, 6-4 or 6-5 that have a longer reach and a more linear style of play. He is a more compact guy, which is a little more unusual for that position. But he is really fast, explosive and powerful and he can still rush the edge even against those bigger tackles. It is kind of like Dwight Freeney. Freeney is six feet but you don't see a lot of right ends that are that short that don't have that kind of length. But, he has great explosion and quickness like Harrison does.
Q: If you don't have that length you have to be able to cover a lot of lateral...
BB: You have to be able to win somehow. If you don't win with power then you have to win with quickness, speed or technique. You have to have some winning pitch. If you only have one then some guys are going to be able to defend that. If you have two or three like Harrison does... I think Harrison has as much skill as anyone else but it is just that he is in a different package. He is not 6-4 but he is fast, explosive, very powerful and quick. He is a good technique player. He has great instincts. He does a great job of using his assets and using them in a complimentary way so you are not always blocking the same thing. Like I said, to me it is different but similar to Freeney.
Q: On shorter pass rushers having an edge...
BB: It is different. I don't think it is better or worse. I think the better player is the better player. The shorter guys don't do very well out there. You don't see very many of them. The reason is because you are playing against tackles with a lot of length and height for the most part. So the ones that do well have to be exceptional in other areas like Harrison and Freeney are. Freeney may be right. He may have an advantage because he is different than the rest of them but it is hard for a big guy to push down on a little guy and get their hands on them like they can do on a 6-5 guy. You see guys that are 6-5 that are fast and come off the edge with great speed. But, a shorter player has a shorter stride length and a lot of times they are quicker and can make the up and under move quicker than the guy with the great length in stride that can get the edge. Sometimes those guys don't have as much power or sometimes they do. It just depends on the player and what his skill set is. Harrison is shorter but he has a lot of skill. That guy is a really good player and it shows up in the kicking game too. He makes a lot of plays on special teams. He can run. He is tough. He is a good tackler. He is quick in space and he is a hard guy to match up against.