New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 7, 2008.
BB: We are winding down our preparations on Buffalo. One thing I would say about them, we kind of always talk about, is their play in the kicking game. Again this year I think it has been exceptional. Year in and year out they are as good as anybody we face in special teams. I can certainly say that is true again this year. In every phase of the game they are tough. Rian Lindell is a great field goal kicker - a bunch of 50-yard field goals and field goal blockers - Langston Walker, [John] Wendling and [Jabari] Greer. Punt return [Roscoe] Parrish is as dangerous as anybody in the league. They are also a very good rush team. They have been close on three or four of those this year. Their punt coverage team is excellent again [Brian] Moorman - big time guy that can change field position, [is a] very good plus 50 kicker. Wendling is a good gunner; they have some good interior coverage players like [Blake] Costanzo, [Keith] Ellison and [Bryan] Scott- guys like that. And of course their kickoff returns year in and year out amongst the best in the league. [Leodis] McKelvin has done a good job for them there, we know [Terrence] McGee can do it - he has done a couple this year. They are always dangerous there and their kickoff coverage is good with Lindell and their cover guys -[Jon] Corto and all those linebackers: Wendling, Scott and all those guys. So, they really have the ability to win games and control games on special teams- Seattle would be a good example of that. They hit a fake field goal against Seattle, ran a fake punt last week, ran a fake punt against Dallas last year, ran for 40 yards against us a couple years ago when Moorman bobbled a snap. And their punt and kickoff returns are dangerous. It is an area of the game that we say is important every week. It is a third of the game but with Buffalo they are very explosive in that phase, they make a lot of plays in all six phases and don't give up very many. The more [I] watch them in the kicking game the more appreciation that I have for what they do on a week in and week out basis. [This is] something that doesn't get a lot of attention if someone is looking to fill up some space, I don't know.
Q: Does Buffalo do anything different schematically or is it individual players that make them so successful on special teams year after year?
BB: No. I would say schematically they are very good. They do a lot of little things. I wouldn't say it is anything one thing but they do a lot of little things. Like their field goal rush - they get them inside with Langston Walker, they get them outside with [Donte] Whitner, [Jabari] Greer, [Ashton] Youboty or whoever their edge guys are; it's not always the same guys. They get them inside with Wendling who jumps up over the line. I am not saying they haven't blocked eight kicks but they are close, they are this far away on several of them and they got one last week or two weeks ago with Walker. So it's not one thing - 'We have to get this guy' - It's not one guy, you have to get a bunch of them. It doesn't matter whether it is McGee returning kicks or McKelvin returning them - he goes 95 yards against Pittsburgh in preseason, goes 56 [yards] against Oakland and had another one last week. It doesn't matter who it is and it's not always the same thing but there is always production in the kicking game. Last year we were trying to block Sam Aiken, this year we are trying to block Wendling, Corto, Scott, Costanzo and those guys. Coy Wire - you can go back to the last four or five years and just change the names but there is still a lot of production and the one constant, of course, have been the kickers. But it is even like this year, they lost Parrish who we all say, 'this guy is one of the best returners in the league' and then they put [Fred] Jackson back there and he is averaging 13-, 14-, 15- yards a return - whatever it is. Before that we said, 'Nate Clements - glad they got rid of Nate Clements now we don't have to worry about him anymore' - but now it's [Roscoe] Parrish. It doesn't really matter who they have doing what - it looks pretty good.
Q: Is directional kicking one way to contain kick returns?
BB: Directional kicking is like anything else, it is a strategy, there are some advantages to it and there are some drawbacks to it. One of the advantages is you can shrink the field and put the ball in a certain location and that can be good. The drawbacks to it are one: it creates a lot of field somewhere else so if they bring it all the way across the field you are defending a lot more space. So another words if you kick it long enough or low enough or they can hold you up long enough to get back there sometimes you don't solve a problem, sometimes you create one. It is hard to tell your coverage players to all go to one spot because you can't always get the ball kicked to where you want it to. It is hard enough to kick the ball, high, long and straight. Now you are talking about hitting the corner of the green, carry the bunker and all of that. Well, if the ball is not over there and you send everyone over there and the ball ends up down the middle or god forbid out of bounds on a kickoff…It is hard to place the ball perfectly right where you want it in the punting game and even on kickoffs. You can sometimes favor a side but it is not 100 percent that the ball is going to be over there. How much do you commit your coverage when you kick it that way? And then if it is not kicked that way, you are out numbered or you are out flanked and again anytime you try to directionally kick, let's say to the short side of the field, sooner or later those teams are going to try to test you out and comeback to the big side - the long field and if the ball is not all the way over there and [you] happened to have that on, you could be really giving up a big one. There are some good things to it, it has a place both on kickoffs and punts [but] it has some downsides too. You have to either do it very well or pick your spots. Sometimes when we play out here or in Buffalo, because of the wind, whether you want to directional kick or not, you are directionally kicking. You don't have any control over it - it is just too much. That changes the game a little bit there and it probably shortens the field too because the ball just doesn't travel as far.
Q: Do you devote more time in practice on special teams when you play a team like Buffalo?
BB: Not dramatically. Sometimes there may be a little bit of change and some emphasis and that is true every week. Every week some things take a little more time or a little more emphasis; sometimes they are a little more difficult so you need to spend more time on it. Normally in the kicking game we do two phases a day. There are six phases so we do two a day. We might double up on something during the week if we think it's a problem or something that needs more time but I would say for the most part it is about the same. Again, we try to go out and play our best on special teams every week whether it is Buffalo or whoever it is. I am just saying these guys are real good at it and they have been good and they are consistently good. The players change and like I said, they are still very productive.
Q: Would you like to comment on reports about D'Angelo Hall?
BB: I would love to. I would love to. No, I will just comment on the players that we have on our team and leave the other thousands that aren't.
Q: Do you have a relationship with him from the draft or Pro Bowl?
BB: Well, he was in the Pro Bowl a couple years ago but not on our team. I think we might have been in the pool together.
Q: You mentioned Sam Aiken - has he been for you, on special teams, the way you thought he would be?
BB: Yes. I think Sam has played for us about the way we thought he would play and about the way he played for Buffalo - kind of like Sammy Morris or Wes Welker coming from teams in your division that you play against multiple times and you try to deal with them. Then you get that player on your team, you try to put him in similar situations and let everybody else deal with him. He is very good on coverage. He is very physical. He is a strong kid for a receiver. He is very strong, powerful and a hard guy to match up with. If you get a guy as fast as him, he is probably not going to be as strong and if you get a guy as fast as him, he is probably not going to be as strong. So, he is a tough match up in the kicking game from a coverage standpoint and a blocking standpoint. Again he is a guy that can block a fast guy and he can block a bigger guy, like a linebacker, and there are not a lot of receivers that you can say that about. Although Kelley Washington is different but similar to Sam - he is a bigger receiver and is a tough match up for a lot of players in the kicking game unless you have another guy kind of like that. He is too fast for most linebackers and he is too big for most wide receivers and cornerbacks.
Q: What makes Fred Jackson a compliment to Marshawn Lynch?
BB: He is pretty good at everything. He catches pretty much anything; he has real good hands, which we see in the return game [and] in the passing game. He is tough. He is a quick cutter. He has good run vision - you see him in a lot of inside runs with real good patience where he waits for the blocking scheme to unfold, he doesn't rush into it and gives the blockers a chance. Buffalo has a big offensive line, one of the biggest in the league so it is not really a case too often of them not creating a hole somewhere, it is just where is it going to be, when is it going to come open and when is the back going to come into it? Both Lynch and Jackson do a good job of waiting that out. They feel confident that sooner or later something is going to be there and they try to hang with the play as long as they can until something opens up. Rather than some runners just get the ball and the first time they see a little bit of daylight they just run in it. Sometimes that is the best place to run and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes if you had a little more patience something better would open up. I think Jackson's got good vision, good balance, [is a] good inside runner, is good in the passing game, is good on the perimeter and is good in space. He is a good player. He is a good blocker too. They used him a little as a full back, not a lot but a little as a full back. Like in the San Diego game they ran a tall sweep right behind him for about a 15-yard touchdown; he blew up the corner. He is a good football player. He is a tough kid.
Q: Jabar Gaffney's production has been down compared to last year, can you comment on that?
BB: Well, I think overall in the passing game we don't have the same kind of production that we had last year. We have a lot more production in the running game. So our balance on offense is pretty good statistically and so I think however you look at that it is going to be a lot more balanced this year than it was last year. So therefore the rushing numbers and averages are better and the passing not as good.
Q: LaMont Jordan didn't practice yesterday, is he still progressing or is he 'plateauing'?
BB: Yes, I would say he is day to day. A lot of times when guys come back, they are ready to go out there and practice every day. Other guys come back and they are not ready to absorb that full load on a day after day after day basis. Sometimes it is better to work them, back them off, work them, back them off until they reached a point where they are ready to get into the main stream and do what everybody else does. So, we try to do what's best for each individual player based on his situation, so that's what we are doing.
Q: So he hasn't necessarily suffered a setback?
BB: Not necessarily.
Q: (On Fred Jackson's background…)
BB: We have talked about that before. It seems like there is one of those players kind of every week whether it is a Steve Neal, Antonio Gates at San Diego or guys that are out of football for a year or two, guys that are in the [Arena Football League] or don't play college football. I think every team has a guy - 'Where was he? What happened to him? How did he end up…? How does Steve Neal end up starting in this league, he never play high school or college football?' There is a story there. I mean really, I don't want to say every team but I bet you just about every team we have played this year has a guy like that. It is interesting. It's very inexact signs. You see some guys come out, they are three time all Americans - they are all this, they are all that [and have] never played a down in the NFL. Then you get other guys that don't play in high school, that don't play in college, they can barely play in division whatever and here they are playing in the National Football League. So, it's inexact.