BB: The injury report is a little shorter than it's been and that's good. Miami has been a very impressive team to watch. They're very good on defense, very good against the pass. They're very good on special teams and they've been pretty resourceful on offense. Of course we went back and watched our game and Miami played very well and we really couldn't get much of anything done. So in order to be competitive against Miami on Saturday, we're going to obviously have to play a lot better than we played in Miami back in October. I think one of the things that's been really impressive about Miami has been their … We talk about it every week with our team, about being ready to play 60 minutes and expecting a 60-minute game, but Miami's more than doubled their opponents' score in the fourth quarter. They've come on strong at the end of a lot of games, Denver being a good recent example. So I think that they're the type of team that can kind of go along for a while and get a couple of turnovers, get a couple of big plays. You don't know where they're coming from. They could come on defense, they could come in the kicking game, they could come from [Chris] Chambers, [Oronde] Gadsden, any of those guys, so they can explode in a hurry and they've done that. That's why they have a good record and that's why they lead this division. So we're looking forward to the rematch and we're going to have to play a lot better than we played in Miami.
Q: You had talked about putting more effort into the passing game. Did you iron out some things yesterday?
BB: Actually, that's more of today. What we did yesterday was we brought the players in and gave them a scouting report, watched some tape, and tried to get a mental jump on the preparation this week and the actual physical practicing and installing the game plan and all that will take place today. Based on the Buffalo game and against Miami down there, we threw for about 70 yards, whatever it was, the combination of pass protection, timing, routes, throwing, catching, all those. For it to be better, we're going to have to execute it better. It's going to start at practice and hopefully carry over to the field on Saturday. And today will be our first day this week to address that, other than in some meetings and talking about things, we'll actually get a chance to do something about it.
Q: Are you going to put some extra time in?
BB: Well, we're on a tight schedule this week, so it's hard to devote a lot of extra time, but we'll certainly devote all we can to it.
Q: This team hasn't passed well against Miami. How do you get it going? Do the receivers just need to step up and make some plays?
BB: The passing game involves everybody. It's not just the receivers. It's everybody. It's the pass protection, it's the timing. It's not only the receiver catching the ball, but a combination of receivers and the backs running the patterns and the quarterback making the right decisions and making good throws, catching it and running after the catch, all those are elements of it and they're all important. Any one of them can slow you down or shut you down. I think that transcends the whole unit – all 11 guys.
Q: Their defense seems to be quicker than most, maybe the quickest in the league. Just getting to the ball and reacting…
BB: Well, I think it's a combination. Their interior defensive linemen, their two defensive tackles are very big, powerful guys. You know that [Daryl] Gardener's out, but they have a little rotation going in there. They have big guys that are hard to move. I wouldn't call them quick, but they're good. They're strong and powerful, they're hard to move and they take up a lot of space. And then they have a lot of speed on the outside with their ends. They do rush their ends inside in pass rush situations to try to get more quickness and probably a little more athleticism on the field on third down. Their linebackers are fast and they're active, so if those big inside guys can tie up their blockers and the linebackers can run, then they're a good pursuing team. And they can run, those linebackers can run, [Derrick] Rodgers, [Morlon] Greenwood, Zach Thomas, Twan Russell, whoever they have in there, those guys can all run.
Q: Despite the fact that they are the top-ranked pass defense, they are having some problems against the run. Do you see a difference in their run defense?
BB: I think that basically, they play the way they play. They have a certain style of play that's pretty much the same each week. They went up against one of the best running teams last week in San Francisco, and San Francisco got ahead of them in the game and then they were able to play the game on their terms and had a lot of running plays and were able to run it and not have to throw it every down. We got into a situation down there where we fell behind in the game and basically were throwing the whole second half, and that's definitely not the way to go. So I don't know if Miami's problems … I think a lot of teams would like to have the problem that they're having on defense, believe me. They ran up against a good team, San Francisco did a good job against them. I think Miami's a good defense, I think they're tough to run against and tough to throw against. They're good defensively.
Q: Tom Brady's production has dropped off a bit in the past few weeks. Is that something you've seen with him or with the receivers?
BB: Well, I think offensively the past couple of games haven't been our best games of the year. We've had some good ones, we've had some that are not as good. I think that those are functional of the team, and the passing game especially.
Q: On the same token, when you were down three points and you went to the hurry up, they got down the field quickly.
BB: We always have it available. We have it available every week. Some weeks I think it could be a change of pace and that's what it is. And other weeks I think that it has less advantage. Some weeks it looks like it's better than others. I wouldn't rule it out, I wouldn't say that we wouldn't do it. It's something that we have available to us and if we think we can use it as a change of pace and it gives us some advantage, we wouldn't hesitate to put it in there.
Q: What is Willie McGinest's situation?
BB: He's probable. We expect him to practice today. He's better than he's been and I talked to him yesterday afternoon and I think that he'll be able to do a lot more than he did last week. Our injury report's shorter and again, our injured reserve list's as long as probably anybody's in the league. So if they're hurt, they're on IR and if they're not hurt, then they're active. But I'm sure that you couldn't find many teams in the league that have the number of players that we have on injured reserve.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about Miami's defense, but your defense has also played well, not giving up a touchdown in the last 11 quarters. Is there something you can point to in that evolution?
BB: I think that in the last few weeks, the defensive players have done a good job of executing the game plan. I think they've played with more consistency and have done a better job understanding some of the things that we need to do to be successful against a particular team – against Cleveland, against New Orleans, against Buffalo – rather than just going out there playing. It's been very specific and they've done that in the game and I think they've done a good job of it. I don't necessarily think that we did a great job of it early in the year at times, but I think it's been better lately and I think that that's where the credit deserves to go. We've expanded our scheme a little bit. We've been in a 3-4, then we've been in a 4-3, and we've played a little combination of both. We've been playing some extra defensive backs, with Terrance Shaw and [Terrell] Buckley, Matt Stevens, we've had a couple of combinations there, so we've been able to expand it a bit, but in the end, it really comes down to execution, and I think that that has definitely improved from where it was six weeks ago.
Q: How do you feel about this maybe being the last game at Foxboro Stadium. Have you thought about it at all?
BB: Well, sure. It's obviously getting a lot of play and just from a personal standpoint, I was in college when the stadium was first opened and so through my professional career, and in '75 when I was with the [Baltimore] Colts, we played up here that year. Played here intermittently, on and off, and I've coached here, so it certainly has a lot of memories and there's a lot of feeling here. The fans have been tremendously supportive, both in '96 and the last two years here, and there are a lot of great feelings from my end on that. And I expect that will continue as we move forward, or I hope it will. It's part of sports – you move on. Certainly it's a facility that could use some updating.
Q: Do you have one particular memory of the stadium?
BB: It would probably be when the lights went out against Jacksonville. If you have to point to one thing that sums it up … That was the AFC Championship Game and we're in the dark.
Q: On the development of [Tom] Brady, he's been in some big games, coming back to win against the Saints and then the Jets game was enormous, you smiled and jumped and got all excited, so we knew it had to be a big game, but the fact is that he'sbeen …
BB: Is this a roast? [Laughter]
Q: … But he's had big game exposure. Does that play into this week?
BB: Yeah, you know, they're all big. They're all big. In this case, we have a chance to stay in contention for the division against Miami, so that makes it a big game. There aren't many left and at this point in the season, you can't afford to stumble, so that makes it a big game. But, like you said, there are big ones all the way through. They're big when you're 0-2, they're big when you're 1-3, they're big in the middle of the season when you're trying to get to .500 or over .500 against Atlanta and Buffalo, so they're all big games, and I think everybody at this point in the year has been through the "pressure" of a big game. Whether it's [Richard] Seymour, [Matt] Light, whoever they are, this is the 15th game, so … I think really it comes down to execution, to understand what it takes to beat the Miami Dolphins, as a team, how we're going to have to play specifically, things we're going to have to take away, some thing that we think we have an advantage on that we're going to try to exploit, and playing a smart, alert football game, because these are the kind of games that can turn on one or two plays, the way the ball bounces, getting hit on a punt that's rolling around and becomes a careless turnover, or a decision to handle the ball inside the 10-yard line, a late hit on the quarterback, or grabbing somebody on a pass interference, all of those little things, and any one of them could be the big play in the game. It's as alert as you can be, as opportunistic as you can be, all 45 guys on Saturday and that's our best chance. This is a very physical football team and that's the way we need to play, so if we can go out there and stand toe-to-toe with them and slug it out, being alert, being able to capitalize on opportunities … And we don't know exactly what those are going to be. You never do, but I think if you're well-prepared and if you're alert, you just have a lot better chance of capitalizing on them.
Q: Do you look at this as almost a de facto playoff game?
BB: Well, here's what I've told the team, okay, and this is really all I know. This is all I know. For us to have any chance in this division race, we have to beat Miami. We have to beat Miami to stay in the race for the division, period. For us to do that, whatever you want to call that, de facto playoff game or no de facto playoff game, I don't know. If we want to win the division, we've got to beat Miami. We can't do it unless we beat them. So that's what I try to boil it down to. I know there's 5,000 scenarios that could happen if this team beat that team and the wind shifted and two teams tied and somebody else lost by 85 points and all that. All I know is that for us to win the division, we've got to beat Miami.
Q: I know you don't like to talk hypotheticals, but…
Q: Look at baseball, where Arizona brings in Randy Johnson in a big moment because they had to pull out all the stops. Would you be tempted to coach in a similar way in a football game of this kind of importance? Would you be tempted to make moves that you wouldn't normally make?
BB: I don't know about in the game, but leading into the game … We talked about this maybe a month ago, about putting guys on injured reserve as the season winds down when you need more healthy guys and maybe a guy could come back for one game at the end of the year, but you'd have to wait five or six games in the meantime when he's out, things like that. I think when you get to the end of the year, you can't really worry about the next game. You've got to do whatever you can to win this one. Within the game, believe it or not, I always try to make decisions that will help us win that game. I don't ever think about, 'Well, gee, let's save this play until next week or let's not try to win this game, let's try to win next week's game.' I can't think like that. So when you're in the game, whatever you think can help you win that game, that's what you try to do.
Q: So the question that goes along with that is, this week, do you give Drew Bledsoe any extra snaps?
BB: Our preparation this week will be the same as it's been.
Q: With the development of [Chris] Chambers, do you see anything different in the Dolphins offense? Anything they weren't doing in October?
BB: Well, he's given them some big plays. No question. He's given them some big plays in the passing game and he's given them big plays on kickoff returns. He's got top speed, they use him on a lot of vertical downfield patterns and I think the fact that they've hit him on quite a few, the threat's there so even if they don't throw it to him, it forces your defense to soften up and defend those and sometimes opening up somewhere else. There have been several plays where you can see the defensive back, it looks like he's got good position or maybe he's stride for stride with Chambers and then Chambers pulls away and makes the play at the end. You really have to respect his speed and he's made some tough catches, like the touchdown against the Colts in the end zone was really a good play, and he has that same burst on kickoff returns, too. He runs hard. He really hits it going full speed like that big play in the Carolina game, that kind of gave them a little momentum there. He comes up there at 100 miles an hour. He's not holding anything back, and if he can make the crease, he's going to make a lot of yards.
Q: So if Brady doesn't get hurt, is there any chance Bledsoe plays in this game at quarterback?
BB: Nothing's changed.
Q: When you were coming back from Miami in October after losing to go 1-3, did you ever think that you would be pointing to this upcoming game as one that you needed to win the division?
BB: Well, I wasn't looking that far ahead. I was looking at San Diego at that point. But what I did think coming back from that game was, 'I hope that when we play Miami at the end of the year, that the game really means something.' And it does. So that's what I was really hoping for, that this game would have an impact on the postseason. And it looks like it's going to. I think that was more the feeling coming back from Miami than thinking ... It's hard to think where you're going to be 10 games from now or …
Q: But you know what I'm saying …
BB: Right, right. I'm sure if you had told anybody on the plane coming back when we were 1-3, 'Would you take it if the situation is what it is now, would you take that in December?' I'm sure everybody would have said yes. Again, you're not really thinking like that. You're 1-3, you're trying to win another game. We had only won one and so our thoughts were trying to see how we could beat San Diego.
Q: You have won some games by looking really good out there, and you've also won a few games where things haven't looked very good, like last week and a couple of others. Does this leave the thought in mind that the team's capable of playing badly when it can't afford to?
BB: I think in a couple of the games where you characterized us as playing badly, and there certainly were a lot of instances where we weren't happy with the way we played, I think defensively we did a pretty good job last week. I think what I'm seeing out of that is that if we can put it all together, in a game where you know that as a team you haven't played your best, but you've got good performances out of a couple of units … Again, last week we got a good performance out of the special teams and we got a good performance out of the defense. We've had other games where it's been other combinations. So I think when you come out of a game like that, you feel like if we can put it all together, if we can get a good performance out of all three units that we can stay on the field with anybody. We've had teams – St. Louis for one – that we feel like we were pretty competitive in that game and they're a good football team. But we didn't put it all together that game and didn't deserve to win, either. I think we feel like if we do play well in all three phases that we've got a chance.
Q: Is there one area of the defense that has really picked it up?
BB: I think the biggest thing has been the red area defense. That's the bottom line is keeping them out of the end zone and keeping them off the scoreboard. If you can do that, that's the most important thing in any game. Our third down defense hasn't been great, but it's been better, certainly better than it was last year. We've been able to keep the points down in the red area. We've gotten a little bit more pressure on the quarterback in the last five or six games. Some of that's been from blitzing and some of it hasn't. But I think mixing it up a little bit there helps the rush and helps the coverage. Again, I think in the end, it just comes down to better execution by the players. I really do. I think that's the bottom line. When we've had the most success on defense is when we've gone into the game saying, 'Look, these are the things we've got to get done. We're going to have to take some chances in some other areas, not saying that we are going to let those go, but we want to make sure that our major targets get hit.' And when we've done that, that's when we've had the most success.
Q: Because the offense is struggling, does Romeo [Crennel] or the defensive staff tell the defense to help out and keep them out of the end zone?
BB: I think that's the way you've got to approach every game. Sometimes it changes from game to game. Defensively we played pretty well against New Orleans in the first half and they were up and down the field in the second half. That type of thing can change. We've all seen it change in a hurry. A little bit offensively last week – we're moving the ball real well, took the ball at the end of the game and went down and drove right down and kicked a field goal. the same thing in the Jets game – we couldn't do anything in the first half, then we scored every time we had the ball on the last four possessions, running out the clock on the last one. When you have a team, the thing you really want to think about when you have a good team when there's a chemistry and there's a good, cohesive feeling on the team, what you really want to think about is doing your job, taking care of what you have to take care of and having enough confidence in your teammates and everybody else doing what they need to do and that allows you to be more aggressive and that allows you to execute better. My experience has been that whenever you start worrying about what everybody else is doing, then usually the first thing to go is your performance.
Q: Adam Vinatieri's kickoffs in Buffalo were pretty good. Was it a mechanical thing that he fixed?
BB: Yeah, he hit them well at the right time. I wish I could sit here and tell you, 'Well, gee, we moved his steps over a couple of inches,' but he's been working hard at it. I know that it's important to him and they couldn't have come at a better time. He hit those kickoffs and they were big for us. They were not only deep, but had a little better hang time on them and that really helps the coverage.
Q: Do you have a preference for the weather, or is it an issue?
BB: You can't worry about it. Whatever it is, we try to … What we do is we look at the forecast usually 24 to 48 hours before the game and if we feel like the conditions are significant to the game, then we certainly go through with the players, 'Okay, we're expecting 25-30 mile per hour winds,' like before the first Indianapolis game here. We tell them how it will come into play and go through each situation: offense, defense, time management, field goal rush, punt returns, so forth and so on, if it's wet conditions, whatever it happens to be, but usually we save that for the 24 to 48 hours before the game time frame. I just feel like if you do it now, especially this time of year, the weather starts changing so much anyway that you start talking about a big blizzard and then you come to Sunday and it's 60 degrees and the players look at you like, 'Great job, coach.'
Q: What's more important, looking at film of your last meeting with the Dolphins, or looking at them over their last few games?
BB: It's a combination of both, because our game was so long ago that there are some things that have changed. I mean, every team progresses through the year after you've played over many games it's been, eight, nine games since we've played them. We've certainly spent a lot of time looking at our game and they played very well against us. I think if you're looking at it from their standpoint, why do anything different? They won 30-10; they're running out the clock in the third quarter, they had good field position all day. They beat us soundly; there's no question about it. On the other hand, though, you do have to look at things that they've progressed towards and things that they're doing a little bit different, guys like Chambers, you can't find him in our first game and you certainly don't want to ignore him. So you've got to try to balance it. Certainly spend time on both the things that we think are significant, changes that we have to be aware of, Chambers is a good example, [Jamar] Fletcher playing a little bit more for them in the secondary, things like that. But at the same time, they had a lot of success in the first game and I can't imagine that they would want to get too far away from that until they see that there's a reason to.
Q: Both you and Dave Wannstedt were in prior positions that didn't end well. Is there anything that you said you wouldn't do again?
BB: It's funny, because Dave and I really have a lot of parallels in our careers. We're both coordinators on Super Bowl teams and I was in Cleveland when he was in Chicago and we scrimmaged each other and we both kind of built the Cleveland program up and went to the playoffs in '94 and Chicago did the same thing, he built that program up and they went to the playoffs in '94 then some things happened in Chicago like they happened in Cleveland in '95 and '96. Then we both ended up back with … So you know the scenario. But there really are a lot of parallels there and I feel like Dave and I are pretty good friends. As I said, I used to work with him when I was in Cleveland, we would go out to Platteville [Wisconsin, site of Bears' training camp] and work with him in training camp for a couple of years there and I've got to know him pretty well and his wife and his family. I think Dave's a tough, hard-nosed coach. He's from Pittsburgh. Just look at his background. He's just always been a good defensive coach and has had good defensive teams wherever he's been. I think that the biggest thing in talking to him, and I've heard him say it in Chicago was, 'I've just got to stick with what I believe in and with what's got me here.' I think there's a lot of truth to that. There are so many things that go on and you're influenced by a lot of people. You've got a coaching staff, you've got different players, different opponents, you're in a new division going from Dallas to Chicago or the Giants to Cleveland or whatever it is, and you start getting a lot of different … And at some point, you've just got to go back to the fundamentals and the principles that you've had the most success with and make sure that those are really locked in solid and there's always going to be some changes and some diversity in all that, but it's hard to get away from having a core philosophy. I would have trouble disagreeing with that, and that's the way Dave put it.
Q: So you and he have had more than a couple of conversations about football philosophy?
BB: Yeah, Dave and I would have a lot more conversations if I wasn't in New England and he wasn't in Miami. The competition there is just too direct. It was like when I was in Cleveland and Bill Cowher's in Pittsburgh. It's hard to develop a real close relationship with somebody that is trying to beat your brains out and you're trying to beat their brains out twice a year. It's a lot easier to do it when it's outside of that division. So I feel like we're friends and we have a good relationship, but at the same time it's competitive and when you're the head coach, that competition is pretty much 365 days a year. We walk off the field and we don't play them again, but you've got the draft, you've got free agency, you've got all the other things going on 365 days a year and so it's hard to really develop a real close relationship with somebody like that in your division. It was a lot easier when I was in Cleveland and he was in Chicago.
Q: Dave said that he got too tied up in the minutia of what he was doing. Have you done the same thing? You were pretty much involved in everything in Cleveland.
BB: I agree that being able to delegate and have confidence that other people are going to handle things and get it done is really a big step. It's a big step for me to take because I kind of like to be involved in the details and all that. But as I've found out, I think that there are a lot of people when I delegate who do a better job of doing it than I would have anyway. And that certainly has come through to me many times. That just gives me a lot more confidence now to feel like I'm picking the right people, give them a job to do and let them do it and let them know that if there's something that they're not doing right, but 99 percent of the time, they'll correct it and it will be what you're looking for and then it just allows you to focus your time and energy on things that you really need to address and only the head coach can address. There are things that as a head coach you just have to make a decision on and Dave and I talked about that and I wholeheartedly agree with that kind of transition that I felt like I've made and I think he feels the same way