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Patriots Replay Thu Apr 15 | 12:00 AM - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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BB: After looking at the tape today I think that we saw a hard, tough fought game like we saw yesterday afternoon. Cleveland really had some physical guys on defense and they definitely gave us some problems. We were I thought, pretty inconsistent on offense throughout the whole day. We ran the ball inconsistently. At times we were able to throw it and gain some yards, but we couldn't finish drives and get it into the end zone often enough. Part of that is us and part of that is Cleveland. They did a good job. Corey Fuller, that guy is really a good football player. He definitely gave us some problems. I thought it was overall our best game on special teams of the year. I thought we had more consistency than we had shown. We made a couple of big plays and everybody will think maybe it is because of the punt return and that was a big play, but I thought our coverage was better, we did a good job in the punting game. Several punts, whether it was by Kenny [Walter] who I thought hit the ball well or Adam [Vinatieri], down deep in their territory and put them on a long field. Defensively I thought it was also probably one of our better games of the year. We had some pressure on the quarterback, we had some turnovers. This is team, for the third week in a row we were going against a real high turnover ratio team, Cleveland, the Jets and New Orleans and we were able to come out on the plus side of this one. So that was a real credit to our defense taking the ball away and doing some good hitting out there and forcing the balls to come loose. We are obviously happy with the win, it is good to get through a tough Cleveland team and again that is a real physical group and I thought our guys did a good job of playing physical and hanging in there with them. It wasn't easy. It has been like that every week and it will be like that again this week in Buffalo, we will have to do it again.

I don't think that we have any injuries that I can report to you right now. We have some guys that are banged up. We got some bumps and bruises in the game. It was obviously a real physical game. At this point we will have to see how those will turn out. I am not expecting anything negative, but you never know. All of the guys that didn't play like [Willie] McGinest are obviously getting better and hopefully we will be at full strength here as soon as possible.

Q: How much attention do you pay to keeping a fine line between resting players to get ready to play and at the same time eager enough to play?

BB: That is a great question. That's the challenge at this time of the year, it really is because it is a long year. We have been in a lot of tough games. These guys have played a lot of football. At the same time you have got to do the things that you need to do to get ready for the game and that is a fine line trying to balance that between having a tired team and doing too much in your week of preparation versus covering all of your bases and making sure you have everything covered for the things that could come up in the game. It is a tough one. I think you have to do some of it just by feel. When your team looks like it is tired you have to try to back off and give it a chance to freshen up a little bit on the other hand I think you have to push them a little bit. You just can't sit there and say, 'It is the 12th game, we will know how to do this, or yeah we have done that before we will get it right this time,' and then go out there and blow it because you haven't repped the play enough. So that is a fine line and I don't think it is the same every week. We went out in pads this week and had a long practice on Thursday to cover a lot of things that I felt like we needed to cover and maybe it helped. I don't know. Maybe we would have played better if we hadn't gone out in pads Thursday and lightened up, we will never know, but the week before against the Jets we didn't go out in pads at all. I just felt like the team needed less contact and a little fresher legs and a little more energy. So it is a tough one.

Q: What are some of the telltale signs that you look for other than that they are tired?

BB: Well I can't say it is any one thing. I think you just kind of have to get a feel for it. At this time of year it is not just the physical part although that is tough, it is the mental part. It is a new game plan every week. It is new adjustments every week. It is new opponents and studying film and getting ready for new tendencies and all of that every weekend and mentally that is a grind. Some teams have had a bye week and sometimes that is good to break it up. We have pretty much have gone straight through and after awhile it just wears you down a little bit mentally. It does as a coach too. You know every single week you are grinding away seven days a week and then you start all over again and sometimes you have to push yourself through it. I think one thing I would say that I could gauge that on is when I am feeling that way then I imagine that everybody else is probably worse.

Q: Do they have today off?

BB: Yeah either today or tomorrow. They will have to come in and get their postgame workout in with the strength coach and all of that, but we are not going to meet as a team today, no.

Q: Are you more prone to doing this now, the time off, then you were in Cleveland?

BB: No I think it has more to do with the time of year. I think it is more the time of year. For example this week, one thing that we are going to do a lot this week is watch our game with Buffalo from November. So a lot of the things that will go into this week's game will have a lot more to do with how we played against Buffalo and how Buffalo plays than it will with Cleveland. Now there were certainly enough mistakes in the Cleveland game to make the film worth watching and worth correcting and we will take some of those plays out and show them to the players and say, 'Hey when this situation comes up again here is what we are looking for.' Rather than at the beginning of the year in the third, fourth, fifth game of the year where I think it is really good for your team to see all of the games, see all of the situations and talk through everything. Well a lot of the things that we are going to talk about in the Cleveland game that are mistakes it is not a question of, 'Oh gee I didn't know that was what I was supposed to do, I should be doing this instead of that,' it's just we didn't get it done and Cleveland did it a little bit better than we did on those plays. A lot of that we know, we just need to do it better and execute it better. Whereas early in the year, particularly in the situation like this year where there are a lot of new players, making sure that everybody sees the same picture and knows how we want certain plays played and assignments executed that that is more critical earlier in the year. But I think now, again, the mental break is as important as the physical break.

Q: 13 weeks into the season a lot of guys are banged up, if this was week one more guys would be on the injury report than they would be now, is there any guy now that doesn't have something nagging them?

BB: I can't imagine. I don't know who it would be. I don't know who it would be. I mean it is a lot of football. It is practice and it is games and it is cumulative. I think the guys that don't have something right now are probably guys that are just getting over something and the guys that are clean now are probably going to have something pretty soon. I mean it is a long grueling season, but you know, hey, that is the same way it is for everybody. I am not saying that you get used to it, but you play through it, you deal with it and that is just part of football. I think if you ask any other NFL player that has been playing for 12, 13, 14 weeks they would probably feel the same way.

Q: Your team has had several strong defensive efforts in a row, what do you attribute that to?

BB: I think this week was a little more consistent. I didn't think we played real good defense in the first half against the Jets and I didn't think we played real good defense in the second half against New Orleans. I thought that we played good defense in those complimentary half's, but I thought yesterday that we played more consistently. We had a few problems in the first quarter, but we were able to get out of that without much damage and then in the last three quarters I thought our pressure was more consistent, our coverage was tighter and for the most part our run defense was okay throughout the day. Yesterday was a good solid team effort defensively. We had plays from almost everybody in the secondary. We had four turnovers. We had some plays from the front line guys, the pass rushers and our linebackers. I thought [Tedy] Bruschi was in on a lot of plays, Roman Phifer, I thought those two guys did a real good job. We got some plays from [Anthony] Pleasant, [Richard] Seymour, so there were a lot of people that contributed, but overall I thought it was a more solid effort than a good quarter or good half of what we had in some of the previous games.

Q: You touched on two things run defense and pass rush, have they improved since the beginning of the year?

BB: Well I think that with the pass rush some of that has come from pressure. We have gotten some plays from blitzes. When your cornerback is in there knocking the quarterback down it is obviously not standard defense. You are trying to bring guys in there, but I think Pleasant, Seymour, Seymour has given us a lift inside and I thought Bobby Hamilton had one of his better games for us rushing the passer. Actually the last couple of weeks he has shown up, Brandon [Mitchell] had a big tipped ball last week. So it is gradual and that comes from more technique and guys working together and I think also the coaches expanding the game plans a little bit and run the new stunt or run the new blitz. They try to attack the protection and keep them off balance.

Q: Even with the injuries is Seymour ahead of where you thought he would be?

BB: I think when you take a new player, particularly a rookie, you don't sit there and say, 'Well this is where I want him to be in week six and this is where I want him to be in week ten, this is where I want him to be in week 14.' You take them on week one and you tell them these are the things that you need to work on and you try to improve those from week to week and you keep going every week. You don't sit there the third week and do anything other than, 'Okay this is an area of your game that is not coming along as quickly as this other area and here is what we need to do to improve it.' So that is really the way it is. It is more day-to-day, week-to-week and Richard has I think improved his pass rush in the last few weeks. I thought his run defense was probably coming along a little quicker in training camp and earlier in the season and that has been pretty good. I think his pass rush has improved more lately and also his conditioning. He is playing more plays and even to the point where I told him a couple of weeks ago, 'You are going in there on a punt return. We need plays on the punt return. That is not a down off for you, but we need to get something done,' and he made a big play for us yesterday at the end of the play there on [Chris] Gardocki and that's what it is about. It is continually improving your game and doing more whatever the situations were. Earlier with Richard special teams were just limited to the field goal rush and he helped us there and we got a couple of plays out that. Now it is a punt return, I don't think we will be going too much further than this, but we need contributions on all four downs, not just the first three.

Q: When the schedule came out you had the bye week at the end of the schedule which was either seen as an early exit to the season or a chance for a rest before the playoffs, how much does that play now that you are in the playoff race? Is that a coach's aid for you?

BB: Well we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Q: I am not trying to jump ahead, but I am…

BB: Yeah I understand, yeah right…

Q: We just want to know if we are getting any days off?

BB: Right yeah, I know you want to get some of those articles written early, but really that bye week and all of those other things that you talked about that is the furthest thing from our minds right now. We can't do anything about that and I don't know what the situation will be a week from now, two weeks from now or anything else. I don't know what our team will need in two weeks. Maybe we will need to go out there and have more contact and maybe we won't, I really don't know. What I am really concerned about right now is this coming game. Correcting the things that we have to correct from the Cleveland game and moving forward and playing a team that gave us all we could handle and more a few weeks here in the stadium in Buffalo. So that's really, that's the target right now. It is not anything past that and we will deal with all of those things when they come.

Q: In baseball homerun hitters say when you try to hit a homerun it doesn't work you just have to go out and hit the ball hard and make good contact. Is that sort of the way it is with turnovers, do you go out there looking for turnovers or is it a case of being around the ball and playing good defense?

BB: One thing, do we go out there looking for turnovers? Absolutely, every week we talk about where the opportunities are, where we think they will be, which situations that we think could come up in the game will give us opportunities for turnovers. Sometimes it is the way certain players, opponents handle the ball or maybe things they will do on their routes or the quarterback techniques and that kind of thing and if that is an opportunity we will certainly bring it to all of the players attention, make sure they are aware of it so if they get into that situation that they can capitalize on it and try to get the ball out. On the other hand most of the time defensively your number one job is to make the tackle. That is the only way the play can end or knock the ball down, but make the tackle. Once that is secured, once the tackle is secured then definitely the second and third guys coming into the pile are looking to get the ball out. A couple of the turnovers yesterday, one was a contact play where Tebucky [Jones], at the end of the game, that was contact that knocked the ball out, but we do try to emphasize on contact and any time you can make contact on the ball which he did…in other words the more pressure you can put on the ball the more likely it is to come out. We have all seen guys get hit right on the ball as hard as they can hit and the ball not come out and we see other times where guys barely graze the ball and it comes out. There is nothing exact there, but we do try to emphasize pressure on the ball and tell them where the opportunities are, but other than that you are trying to get on your coverage, you are trying to make the tackle and a lot of times it is just the timing and the way the play comes out. The other thing I would say though is the more guys you have around the ball the better chance you have of getting it. So effort and hustle do play a factor there. You never know when that is going to happen, but the more guys you have got around it the better your chances. Even in a couple of cases this year when we have intercepted passes and fumbled them on the returns, which is really inexcusable, I mean that is not a good play on defense. It is so hard to get them and then give them back that easily, but luckily we have been hustling on those plays and we are actually able to recover them, but the effort is certainly a big part of those turnovers.

Q: You are plus two over the last three weeks against teams with a high turnover ratio?

BB: Right. Well I think those were big factors in all three of those games and those teams have had a lot of success because of their positive turnover ratio and we didn't want to come out, I mean we never want to come out on the negative side on the turnovers, that is never part of the game plan, but there is no question that there was a little bit of extra emphasis put on it for those three teams just because they have been so successful at it.

Q: Buffalo is last in the league in turnover ratio, is that a focus this week?

BB: Yeah, but they got them against us. They got them against us and we had a hard time with Buffalo offensively. We struggled in the running game and we had trouble getting the ball down field. They forced a lot of shorter throws for us and we really weren't able to score very many points. Antowain [Smith] broke off the run at the end of the game, but that was a 14-point game there. They did a good job and turnovers are a part of it and that will kill you, but to not be able to score any points that won't get it done either.

Q: Is Roman Phifer playing the best football you have ever seen him play?

BB: Yeah, I'll tell you Roman is having a terrific year, he really is. I thought he played well for us when I was there with the Jets in '99, but I think he is having…we did a lot of film work on him prior to signing him with the Jets and then of course we saw him last year from here when he played in New York, but I think, yeah, this is the best I have seen him play in the last three or four years. His pass rush has really improved and he has always been a good coverage linebacker. He had another play yesterday breaking up that pass in the end zone. He is in on a lot of tackles, you know he is instinctively a football player, but I think the thing that's really to me jumped up with Roman's game has been his pass rush. He has had sacks, he has had pressure on the quarterback, the offense has had trouble blocking him and that is something that I think he is doing a lot better at then he did when he was in New York, even last year.

Q: Are there things that you are doing on the defense that are freeing him up to be more of a noticed guy?

BB: It is not intentional. It is not like we are going into the game saying, 'We are going to call these defenses and this is going to give Roman a chance.' No it is not that. We call them and we don't know whether it is going to be Roman or AP [Anthony Pleasant], Mike Vrabel or Seymour or whoever. So they are not designed per say they have just turned out that way. He has made some of those, taken advantage of those mismatches, sometimes he has been on the back, but he has run by some tackles this year on the pass rush too.

Q: Is the improvement on the pass rush is that just do to his own work ethic that even though he is 30 something his attitude is that he can still get better?

BB: Yeah and I think that he has improved his pass rush techniques. That is the big thing. Most all defensive players want to get to the quarterback and they will come hard to the quarterback, but it is more than just coming hard it is playing with technique and using his hands and knowing when you can power a blocker and when you can't power a blocker and when you need to use your speed and quickness, when you can make an inside move and when you can't, those kind of things. I mean Aaron Brooks, you don't want to make an inside move on him he will run around the corner for 20 yards. There are other quarterbacks that are less likely to do that and maybe you can beat a guy inside. A lot of that is decision-making, but in Roman's case I think he has really improved his pass rush techniques. He is using his hands, he is coming off a better body lean and he is just taking advantage of what the blocker is giving him and working on the weaknesses at the point.

Q: Can you comment on your red zone defense?

BB: Yeah it saved us. It has really saved us. We have given us certainly our fair share of yards, but the overall point production has been good and that has all just hinged on red area defense and goal line. We got some big plays on the goal line. We talked obviously last year where the production was poor on both sides of the ball. That was one of our big offseason targets. It started back in the min camps with the coaches planning in the offseason. It has really been overall a really solid area for us the entire year. I think that is a lot of work that has gone into it. I can't say that there is any magic wand that was waved over the red area, but the work started a long time ago and it has continued all the way through the year and I think the players understand, again, what we are trying to take away and what we are willing to give up and they have done a good job of that and even some of the plays that have come against us still haven't been scoring plays. I mean the ball has still been either in front of us or in a position were we can, as we say, live to fight another down.

Q: I understand the focus is on Buffalo, but in the beginning of the season things looked bleak you started off the season 0-2 with your star quarterback down, has their been a certain issue organizational re-tooling, not necessarily coach, that you have been a part of in terms of preparedness down the road?

BB: No, no, absolutely not.

Q: Tearing down the old stadium and you have all sorts of things that are happening within the organization?

BB: Yeah, well we have people in the organization working on that, but I mean believe me the furthest thing from my mind is taking down the stadium and I know it is going to come down…

Q: I guess what I am asking you is has anybody called you in to update you on the situation given the way that the team is playing right now?

BB: I understand that there are a lot of things going on here with the stadium. I have been involved in the offseason and at other points in the last two years talking about the layout of the new stadium and where certain things are going, the offices, you know some general things like that and our facilities and so forth, I understand they are being re-worked. At the same time we have things coming up on the horizon like the draft that we are going to have to hold it somewhere, we are going to have to have something setup somewhere. Where is that going to be? Is that going to be in this building or another building and what are the ramifications with all of the construction that is going on around here? I can tell you that that has impacted us without a doubt because of, not that I know anything about construction, but once the construction started out here on route one internally we have had a lot of problems with our computer system, our video system and things like that because for whatever reason they have been disrupted somewhere in that whole operation, like I said, not that I have any idea where or how. So yeah, am I aware of those things? Yeah. Do we spend a lot of time or I would say anytime, very little from my standpoint. Organizationally we have got other people that are on it around the clock.

Q: When you were here in '96 Troy Brown had a supporting role, now he has a featured role, probably the only featured wide receiver in the league returning punts…

BB: Tim Brown took one back yesterday…

Q: That's right, at any rate he is a player that has come up through the ranks unlike any other player that I can think of, did you think that was possible when you saw him in '96?

BB: I would say two things one that, one would be that I was in a situation very similar to this in Cleveland with Keenan McCardell. Keenan McCardell was a 12th round draft choice or something like that out of Washington. We signed him at Cleveland on Plan B, which is really dating myself, but back in Plan B, he was on the practice squad for a couple of years, he was waived through the league I don't know how many times, anybody could have had a shot at him for two or three years and Keenan just kept getting better and better and better. Every time he played, which he had a couple of games against New England in '94, every time he played he was productive and played well and improved. I think his career speaks for itself, but you could see that coming too when we would work against him on defense and try to cover him on the scout team or one-on-one. Keenan was a problem, he was a problem to cover. Now he didn't have the blazing speed of Derrick Alexander or that kind of thing, but he was a problem and Troy was the same way in '96. Troy didn't have the down field speed of a Terry Glenn or a Shawn Jefferson, guys that we were working against at that point in time as well, but Troy would beat us deep. Whatever routes we were trying to cover on the scout team or in one-on-one drills, we had just as much problem covering him as we did anybody else and I don't know that his confidence was where it is now, but he was a good player then, but I think he has improved significantly and the thing that really has shown up with Troy as much as anything is his run after the catch and that is something that is harder to evaluate in practice because you are running routes and all of that, but when a guy catches the ball we are not tackling him and putting him in the ground and we have all seen Troy make a lot of good yardage after the catch so that has been a game condition thing that he really, it is clearly one of his strong points. Did we know about him then? Yeah. Did we think he was pretty good then? Yeah we really did. I mean Ty [Law] and Jimmy Hitchcock and Otis [Smith] and Jerome Henderson and all of those guys, I am telling you, they all had trouble with him. They had plenty of trouble with him, but as the years have gone by and of course the last two years he has been [knocks on wood] healthy and he has been productive throughout the year, whereas in the other years he had a lot of production when he was on the field, but he missed a little time.

Q: [Tom] Brady's two interceptions yesterday, the first one did [Corey] Fuller jump the route or…

BB: Well yeah Tom made a bad read on the play, but Corey made a good play on it. Corey is a, that guy is a good player, he is a good player. You watch him and he did the same thing this year that he did to us last year. You look at him and say, 'We can get this on him,' and it is there and then when you come back and try to get it, it's not there and you really should be doing something else and then you say, 'Okay well he is taking that away so we are going to be able to get this on him.' But then you go to run the next route and you should have had the first one on him. He is one step ahead of the posse and he's really a smart player. Like I said it is the same thing that happened to us in the game we played against them last year. You look at the play on tape and say, 'God I wish we would have had this on instead of that.' But he does a good job of anticipating, he reads well and he also baits you into some things, he knows what he is giving up. He knows he is giving up something and if you happen to have it on, you have got it.

Q: Is he what you would call a guess hitter?

BB: Well I think it is more than guessing, it is not all luck. He knows what he is doing, he knows what he is doing and he got us on the first one, he definitely got us on the first one and Tom made a bad read on it too. We could have prevented, but Corey did a good job. We went after him a couple of other times and he did a pretty good job.

Q: As for Brady's other pick?

BB: well he was trying to throw the ball outside, he was under pressure there, he obviously shouldn't have thrown it he thought he could get it off, but he didn't and in retrospect it would have been a lot better if he has pulled that one down, but that's a fine line there for the quarterback. When you are throwing the ball you want to make that throw at the last second and let it go and take the hit and make the completion. On the other hand if it is just a little bit too long and they knick you before the ball is off then it is up for grabs and that is what happened. He should have pulled it down. He didn't get it over [Earl] Little and Little made the play.

Q: How well did you know George Young?

BB: When George Young took over the Giants in '79, it would have been I would say, February of '79 he hired Ray Perkins as the head coach and then Ray hired me I would say the first of March or somewhere in there. So then through 1990, so I was there for 12 years, through 1990 then George and I were really the only two people, I think now I might have missed somebody, but I think we were the only two people that were there through that whole length of time. Of course Ray left and there were some other people that came in after '79 that came into the Giants organization that we all had a lot of success with like Romeo [Crennel], but they weren't there in '79. So I was there for 12 years with him at the Giants so I knew him pretty well.

Q: Do you have a lot of fond memories of him?

BB: Well we won a lot of games, we won a lot of games. That organization won a lot of games.

Q: Was it a bad read when you threw that pass to your daughter and missed it? That was fun last night?

BB: Well you know it is tough during the football season to spend a lot of time with the kids and all of the kids like football and they don't really get to play it too much so it was good to go out there. But you know I can cook up some plays that they just can't handle and even though I can't do anything, but we have got some plays that work and some signals that work.

Q: Is Troy Brown more of a Pro Bowl choice because of what he has done for this team?

BB: I don't know about the Pro Bowl voting and all of that. I have never felt real comfortable commenting on that especially in light of the fact that I just haven't seen all of the other players in the AFC. The ones that I have focused on are the ones that we play and we play against a lot of good ones, but there are a lot of other good ones that I just really haven't concentrated on or focused on,

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