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Bill Belichick Press Conference

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about their win over the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday, 24-10.To read a full transcript, click below.



BB: Was it a long flight?

Media: I was at the airport at 5:00 in the morning.

BB: Yeah, sorry. Get those frequent flyer miles and the overnight points at the Marriott right?

BB: Obviously we were real pleased to come out of that one with a victory. I thought that we had some guys step up and play real well on the defensive side of the ball. That is obviously our best defensive effort to date and I thought it came from all positions, a lot of people. We had real good coverage in the secondary, there was some pressure on the quarterback. We had a couple of big plays that we gave up, but for the most part we played aggressively and played pretty soundly, other than a couple minor penalties, but it was encouraging to see us fly around and play well on that side of the ball. That certainly was a big plus in the game for us. Offensively I thought it was just an okay performance. I didn't think it was anything special. We had some real bad series. We were three and out too many times and we had some penalties. That one series where we took over the ball on their 25 yard line and had 30 yards in penalties is just, that is just bad football. We got a break there on the long touchdown pass, which we will happily take, but we have got to understand that those things are not going to happen every week. There were some positive things in the running game and the third down conversions and I thought that Kevin Faulk had a real big play on the first touchdown and [Marc] Edwards. We got some production from some guys in the passing game that maybe when you look at the stats for the last couple of weeks you don't usually see their name up there, but we had a lot of guys step up and produce in the passing game. In the kicking game I thought that we obviously had some problems with our kickoff coverage and that is a concern because it has been a recurring problem. I thought it was a lot better for the last couple of weeks and then it reared it's head in the game yesterday, which the defense bailed us out a couple of times, but that was a concern. I thought our punt team overall did a pretty good job. Got some decent punting, it was good conditions, but that helped us when we did have to give the ball up. Overall it was good to come out of there with a win, it was good to beat an NFC team, it is good to be back home, but I think we are going to have to play a little better than we did yesterday this Sunday. So that is where our focus will be this week.

We had a few guys get banged up in the game. In talking to the doctors and the medical people last night it is really kind of too early to tell here where we are at, but I think that we will obviously have a better idea on Wednesday with Curtis Jackson and Greg Robinson Randall. Then we had some guys last week that I thought really tried to get ready, were close at the end of the week, but in the end just didn't make it like [Matt] Light and Rod Rutledge. [Drew] Bledsoe's situation is the same as what it has been. He will continue to function in the same role this week that he did last week and Terry [Glenn] is improving and I think that he will be questionable this week. It looks like we are making some progress there, but we will just have to wait and see on Wednesday where we are on the field, but it seems to be headed in the right direction.

Q: Watching yesterday's game it seemed like on defense that you were bringing more people than you have at any point in the year, is that a change that will stick or was it a one game thing?

BB: It was going well and when you bring people and they are getting home and they are being disruptive and they are causing problems on offense then you tend to do more of it and when you give up plays doing it then you tend to do less of it. We actually gave up a couple of big plays on our blitzes. One was a long run and the other was a 35-yard scramble where [Michael] Vick split it and got out on us. There was a little bit of downside to blitzing, but we had a lot of positive plays. I think the real key to it, there were two keys, one was the coverage that we had in the secondary and the second was the job that the blitzers did in terms of being in the right lanes and containing the quarterback when they tried to roll out and doing those kind of things so that everybody had a gap to hit and we were able to penetrate aggressively. We got some one-on-one blocks in there and a couple of guys made some plays and got home. But without the coverage in the back end then that all falls apart in a hurry. So it was a combination of a lot of things going well there.

Q: Was this [Richard] Seymour's best game?

BB: Seymour hasn't, let me put it this way, I think Richard's progress has been good. I think that every time he has played he has showed up and he has made plays. I don't know that this one was significantly better than any of the other ones. When he has been healthy and he has been on the field and he was all through preseason, I think he really adds a lot to our defense, he adds a lot to the front. Unfortunately it hasn't been every game during the regular season. Hopefully he can get into a…Willie [McGinest], not to switch gears here but, Willie I think has played progressively better each of the last three or four weeks and he really came out and made some plays last week and I am hopeful that Richard can do the same thing. He played about 20 some plays yesterday, maybe that will be a little bit more next week and he can build on that both in the number of plays and the number of productive plays, overall consistency in his performance, and that is what we are hoping for, but I think that he can really give us a lift in there. He's big, he's powerful, he's disruptive and that is what you need with your front seven. You need a couple of guys that can do that.

Q: How difficult is it to make the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4, especially for a rookie?

BB: I think the biggest adjustment for Richard has been playing on the nose. He has played in the other spots in college whether it be on the tackle or inside of the tackle or in the guard/center gap or even head up. I think the biggest adjustment for him has been when we have played him on the nose. He is a lot better at it now then he was when we started in training camp. I don't think it is a finished product, but he's certainly made good progress there and it creates some mismatches. There are a lot of centers that have trouble handling a guy like him if he can get it going and then this match can work in your favor. Going all the way back to the Bear days, when they would take [Dan] Hampton who was an end and move him inside and put him on the nose and end up in the 46 defense. That's really when it started and of course when Buddy [Ryan] went to Philadelphia and started doing it with Reggie White that is what really threw the centers pretty much into an insane asylum. You think of Reggie as an end, but when they went to that 46 defense and put him on the nose that was a center's nightmare.

Q: Antowain Smith, is he giving you what you expected, is he exceeding expectations?

BB: I think Antowain, the big thing that has impressed me with Antowain is that he runs hard. He really runs hard and we have seen him on the goal line and some situations like that where there really isn't much there on the one or two-yard line and he pushes it in and we have seen him when there is a crease, he hits it and he hits it hard and those arms don't bring him down. He runs threw those and he gets some pretty solid gains there. I think those are the things that have really been impressive in addition to some screens and blitz pickup. What we need is a little bit more consistency on the four and five yard runs. We have too many one or two-yarders and then a ten-yarder. It would be nice if we could get a few more four or five yard runs and get those second and eight's to third and two's or first and ten's to second and five's instead of having first and ten, second and ten or second and five or third and six, that kind of thing.

Q: What persuaded you to sign him after the year that he had last year, he wasn't that productive?

BB: Actually he was productive when he played, he just didn't play very much and if you remember his last game against Seattle it was the last game of the 2000 season in Seattle and he had a pretty big game. I forget what the numbers were now, 130 yards or whatever it was, but he ran pretty well. It wasn't like he was a player that was coming off any kind of injury or that kind of situation it was just that…I think in Buffalo's offense and I don't want to speak for them because I wasn't there, but it appeared that because Doug [Flutie] was in a shotgun so much and they were using a lot empty backfield with all of the receivers split out and all of that, that they wanted to have guys like [Jonathan] Linton and guys like that who they could split out and maybe were more involved in the passing game and that kind of thing because they did that a lot. But when they put Antowain in there to run he had some productive games it was just that he wasn't active that much and just didn't get many opportunities.

Q: What was it that [Tom] Brady lacked that allowed him to drop down to a sixth round pick?

BB: I think that the way that Michigan handled the situation there really wasn't a whole lot to go on. He was a backup quarterback and then he played as a junior and then as a senior he split time with Drew Henson. I think just generally in this league when you look at most teams they say, 'Well the guy is not starting in college, what is to make you think that he is going to come in and save your franchise.' Now every once in awhile you get Thurman Thomas playing behind Barry Sanders or a situation like that where a college team just has tremendous depth or a unique situation. Sometimes that kind of thing happens, but for the most part and I know I look at college film, you look at a guy and you look for a comparison and sometimes you go back a year and look at a guy who came out a year ago and played in that offense and say, 'Well this guy is just not quite up to snuff' or maybe they have a young kid, a freshman or a sophomore who is a whole lot better than the guy that you are looking at and saying, 'Yeah okay this guy is pretty good, but in two years they have a guy that is going to be really good coming out of here and he is going to be a first or second round pick, let's not get too excited about what we are looking at here.' I think that probably had a little bit to do with it. The fact that he didn't get a lot of playing time as a senior initially, but as the year went on he got more and just the fact that the coaches would take a starting quarterback and try to hand the job to a freshman, we know freshman are good and they get all of the hype and all of that and they are big recruits and so forth, but when you are trying to win games you want the best guys out there. I think those things kind of send up a red flag to the scouts that are going out there.

Q: Conversely, what did you see that you liked?

BB: Production, production. When Tom played he played well. We weren't looking at Drew Henson, he wasn't coming out. When he played he played well and he was productive and they won. He got the team into the end zone and there were a lot of little things that quarterbacks can do that use the cadence to draw them offside and play faking and handling of situations, clock management and all of those kind of things. Third and five, making a throw for the first down instead of trying to throw the 80-yard touchdown and missing it and coming up and punting. Just all of those decision-making things that Tom, I think that is one of his real strengths, his ability to handle a lot of different things a lot of different situations and a lot of it you can't script. They just come up during the game. There are times when the quarterback can step up into the pocket and hold the ball a little bit longer and get it in there and then there are other times where if he does that he is going to get strip sacked. We have all seen them. Sometimes you just see those guys coming and the quarterback can avoid him and then there are other quarterbacks that never seem to see them coming and they just get blindsided. He just has I think a good knack for playing the position. He does a lot of little things well and the more he does sometimes the more it grows on you and I think that is what happened at Michigan.

Q: In terms of general scouting, when there is such a gap in judgment how do you take that, that it is not an exact science?

BB: Let me just say one other thing about Brady too, Brady is a lot better than he was two years ago. First of all he was a skinny, 205 pound guy who looked like he might get killed back there and he might have, but the thing that Tom has done that I think that a lot of the people, the Media and the fans just don't appreciate is how hard he is working and how much he has improved. For a skinny kid to put on 15 pounds of muscle and to work as hard as he has worked on his fundamentals and his mechanics which are a lot better than they were last year, he had a couple of throwing flaws that if you were teaching a guy how to throw you would say, 'You don't want to do it this way' you know, but he has straightened those out and physically he is stronger and he understands the offense better. He has spent a lot of time with guys like Bledsoe an experienced quarterback who knows what is going on and he's deposited that in the bank and that is earning interest as opposed to some guys that just wave at it as it goes by. So he has been able to take a lot of those things and apply them and benefit from them. Look, I think if Brady had played in the situation last year that he is playing in this year, I think everybody would be talking about what a mistake it is and he's not ready and he shouldn't be in there and all of that and it probably would be right, but this is a different point in time. This isn't last year and it isn't '99 at Michigan either, this kid is improving.

Q: Do you think that when there comes a time when you have to say to him that he has to sit that he will be able to handle that now?

BB: That time is not this week, he will start against Buffalo. You can print that.

Q: Are you aware of Terry's complaint with the EEOC and do you know what his physical disability is?

BB: I have a general awareness of it, nothing specific and anything that is involved in any type of situation like that, any kind of grievance or hearing as I have noted many times before, I just can't speak to those issues. As much as I would like to give you a lot of comments, I just can't do it.

Q: Getting back to Tom for a second, a coach once said to me that when you are interested in a player a lot of times you are really aware of who else is interested in the player or conversely who else is not interested in a player. Were you worried or did you ever say to yourself, 'We seem to be the only team looking at this guy' or that kind of thing?

BB: I think that is a real good point. When you are after a player and nobody else is after him the first thing you have to say is, 'What are we missing? Why does nobody else want this guy and sometimes if you look you can find that out and then there are other times where for one reason or another a guy slips through the cracks and that's scouting, trying to differentiate between what is and what isn't. By the same token you can see the number one rated guys and just assume that they are the number one rated guys. A good example of that, I remember back in, I forget if it was the '92 or '93 draft, David Klingler was the number one quarterback and this guy was going first and I remember when we were at Cleveland we were drafting at eight, nine, ten somewhere in there and we said, 'Okay this guy is going to go first, but wait minute, what if he doesn't go first? What if he is there when we are picking? What do we really think about this guy, would we take him?' Conversely you ask that same question too, 'What does everybody see in him, I am not saying Klingler, pick a name, this guy is the number one guy well what is the big deal? Why is he the number one guy? What is everybody so excited about?' I think scouting organizationally and individually when you scout a player you need to ask yourself those questions both ways and on the other hand you just don't want to go with the crowd, you are never going to get ahead that way, but I think you need to be diligent and ask those questions. No question though, when you are on a guy and nobody else is on him, I think you have to throw the flag up and say, 'Wait a minute, everybody else can't be wrong, what is the story here?'

Q: Did you feel that way when you were saying to yourself why aren't other people really interested in him, did you keep getting reassured by what you saw?

BB: Yeah the biggest question I had was just if he is so good…and when you go into to talk to Michigan people they love Brady, they can't tell you enough great things about him, so okay if he is that good then why his senior year did he split time? But when I first came into the league in 1975, I will never forget this, Bert Jones, the same situation at LSU. Bert Jones alternated quarters at LSU and he was the first pick in the draft in '73 or whatever year it was that he came out and he alternated at quarterback…It is a lot like the situation back in the fifties where Rice had, who did they have, Cahill and Frank Ryan, both great NFL quarterbacks. Every once in awhile that happens and you say, 'Okay well there are two great quarterbacks.' The Thurman Thomas/ Barry Sanders example, every once in awhile that happens, but when you take a program like Michigan that has a starting quarterback and then they come in and split time with a freshman next year, I think that sends up the alarm, 'What can't this guy do, what are they unhappy with.

Q: In the general sense you know down the road in several weeks if things keep going the way they are that you have a decision to make are you in your mind thinking about what the criteria is going to be and thinking, yeah, I am going to have a decision to make?

BB: I am thinking about trying to beat Buffalo, that is what I am concerned with right now, trying to beat Buffalo and Brady is going to have to start in that game to beat Buffalo and that is where we are at. If John Elway came out of retirement, I don't know, if the world was flat, I mean there are a million things, we went through this situation last year with, who was it last year…

Q: Michael Bishop?

BB: No. I have been down that road before, what are you going to do when so and so comes back. When so and so comes back there is some other circumstance that takes care of itself and it is never an issue. Right now the issue is trying to beat Buffalo. We are a .500 hundred team, that is not going to win anything in this league. We have to do better than that and we dug ourselves out of an 0-2 hole and a 1-3 hole and a 3-4 hole and we need to get over the top and this is the week that we feel like we need to do it. So I think that is where our focus needs to be as a team. That is where mine needs to be as a coach and that's where we have got to get to, not about four weeks from now, what if this happens, what if that happens, what if the weather changes and it is 80 degrees, I mean we are not really worried about that.

Q: In terms of digging yourself out of the hole, is it encouraging to you that each one of your victories has seemed to have a different hallmark, dominating defense yesterday, big plays against Indianapolis, but the versatility involved?

BB: I think it is good, I really do. I think it is good because I think it shows that your team has some resiliency. I think to be a winning football team and a championship football team I think you have got to have the mentality of we will do whatever we need to do to win the game. Whether it is block a kick, throw a pass, run the clock out, stop the run, have two minute drive, make a field goal, whatever the situation is your team needs to feel like whatever is called upon we can do it and we will prevail in those tight situations. You can talk about it all you want and bring in sports psychologists from all over the world, but in the end what it really comes down to is going out there and doing it and then having the real genuine confidence to know that you can do it and your team can do it. I think that once you get to that point and I am not saying we are there yet, but there have been some positive signs, once you get to that point then I think the what the real benefit to your team is everybody can go out there and say I am going to do my job, I am going to take care of my responsibilities because I know that guy beside me is going to take care of his. I know that if we need a field goal, we are going to get a kick. I know if we have got to protect the punter at the end of the game to get it off, we are going to protect him. I know that if we need to stop them we are going to stop them and that whatever my job is I just go out there and do it. I think that is where you get the most aggressiveness on your team and I think that's really what genuine confidence is.

Q: How much does a healthy and productive Willie McGinest change what you do defensively?

BB: I don't think it changes as much what we do defensively maybe it is what it changes what they do offensively. Because we do what we do and we have been doing what we have been doing for the last couple of years, but I think when other people see Willie and they see what Willie's production is and the way he is performing, I think it effects how they treat what we are doing. How much they want to deal with him in pass protection, how much they want to deal with him in the running game and that kind of thing. I don't think it changes a whole lot of what we are doing, a little bit, but I think it is more of how our opponents treat him and we have seen him treated really in different ways. Some people treat him as a linebacker, some people treat him as a defensive linemen, some people will slide the protection to him, some people won't. The decision that I think they need to make based on what their match ups are, what their scheme is and once you see that then you try to, if you can, find a way to take advantage of it.

Q: What was the difference yesterday in Antowain Smith between this game and say the first five or so games, I know you talked about the linebacking core of Atlanta before the game, what made the difference?

BB: Antowain hit a couple of creases and he had a couple of, I don't know, he probably had four or five runs that were ten yards, there were a couple of them that were probably closer to 20. When he is able to hit those creases and we saw it in the Indianapolis game when he took that toss play, if there is daylight, he is a big, strong, physical guy, if they don't get a solid hit on him it is hard to get him. So we were able to open up some creases there and I think that was the difference…he had four or five yesterday and then he made a great run at the end of the game, staying in bounds, whatever it was second and 19 or whatever it was that was a terrific one and a heads up play situationally knowing to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving…He had some opportunities, but he ran hard and broke tackles and that is his game. If we can get him started and…there isn't any reason why that can't be more consistent, but we need to do it more often.

Q: Good to see him playing like that heading into a game against his former team?

BB: You know it is good to see him playing like that any time.

Q: It doesn't hurt though?

BB: No and Antowain has a lot of confidence and I am sure that he is looking forward to this week's game, but the big thing is to give our offensive line and our backs more confidence in what we are doing and knowing that…they don't need a lot of room. I think our runners have shown, Marc's [Edwards] shown and Antowain's shown that if there is daylight there they will run hard. I thought that Marc did a nice job on the screen pass, had some good short yardage runs. We had good contributions from all of the backs

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