Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 02, 2009.
BB: So we're moving on to the Dolphins. Obviously [we're] a little bit behind them as far as getting a late start with the Monday night game. [We're] scrambling to catch up and as usual, the Dolphins give you a lot of things to prepare for offensively. Dan Henne does a great job with all the different packages. He has different backs they use, quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends, formationing and all of that. [It's a] tough, tough group to get ready for and defensively they mix it up pretty good, too, especially when they get into their sub packages - nickel and dime, they use a lot of linebackers and DBs on the field, so that will be a challenge for us. Special teams [are a] strong unit there, very dangerous in the return game of course with [Ted] Ginn [Jr.] and [Davone] Bess - good covering team, strong. Couple of big legs there, so we've got a lot to get ready for, get it turned around. I know we just played them a few weeks ago, but we still need to go through all the little details on the preparation and make sure that we've got all the stuff down that they do and that we're ready for a pretty extensive package here. So that's where we're at today.
Q: [On preparation during a short week]
BB: Well, today is a little bit of a shorter Wednesday than we normally have, but basically we practiced in the walkthrough all of the things that we would have done out on the field today, just at a lesser tempo, and tried to get the scouting report and the game plan in like we normally would do on Wednesday, but we needed a little bit of time as a coaching staff this morning, too. It was a short night there on Monday, so Tuesday wasn't really a full game plan day, so we took a little extra time this morning to try to tie up a few loose ends there before we gave it to the players. But what we went through out there on the field today was basically what we would do on Wednesday, just not the timing and the tempo of it, naturally.
Q: In your experience, have you found that you can teach a team to win on the road, or collectively is that something that they have to learn for themselves?
BB: I think each week we try to work to prepare to play our best game and get better every week of the season, so that's what we'll do this week. Home, away, neutral site, whatever it is, we'll take all the factors into consideration that affect the game, whether it's crowd noise or playing surface or weather conditions or whatever it is. We'll take all those things into consideration and try to put it all together and prepare as best that we can to play as well as we possibly can each week and that's what we're doing this week.
Q: Have you found there's a characteristic of teams that consistently win on the road?
BB: They play well.
Q: Talking to the guys in the locker room, their biggest thing seemed to be that Monday has already passed and they're moving on. Is that something you had to talk to them about, or is that something that, as professionals, they already knew?
BB: It's the way it is every week. [When] the game's over, it's over. We're on to the next week. We've had big wins, we've had tough losses. We haven't had any ties, but it would be the same on that, too. We move past that game and move on to the next and then this is the most important one.
Q: Is the role of special teams captain any more consuming than other captains because you're dealing with a number of different teams of players?
BB: You know, I think in some respects it probably is. I think the special teams - [when] you talk about special teams - you're really talking about 66 different positions, not including the hands team and some other specialized situations, but just your basic kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal [and] field goal rush. There're 66 spots, so a number of guys naturally hold down a number of those spots. So you have one guy that might play on five teams or four teams or whatever it is. So when the special teams group gets together, those core guys, which is more than 11 players, certainly, when you include the specialists and some of the guys that are on just a couple teams and not on all of them. I think Sam [Aiken] has done a real good job with that. They get together and they watch film, they go through the game plan and the communication stuff themselves without Scott [O'Brien], although Scott spends plenty of time with them, don't get me wrong. But they do that separately, and I think that is a little tougher for the special teams captain, for Sam, to pull all those guys together because the offensive and defensive units have more time to just meet as a unit, and we meet with each of the special teams units individually - the punt team, the kickoff team and so forth. But then the players come together and they do some things on their own just to combine all the special teams - just to watch game film, for example - and that's something that the captain organizes and leads those meetings and all of that. So it is - I would say it's a little different than offense and defense. They're all important, but it is a little bit different.
Q: Dean Pees said one of the things that was most disappointing was not executing things that you had gone over multiple times in practice. Going into Miami, how much time will you spend game planning Miami versus going over some basic things to make sure that your team really has it down?
BB: Well, the things that we work on for Miami, those are the things that we'll practice this week. So whatever is in the game plan for Miami, whether that was or wasn't in another game plan, whatever it is, we'll rep it against the things that we expect Miami to do or that they've done in the past.
Q: How much do you have to balance attacking the defensive weakness with doing what you do best?
BB: Yeah. That's the discussion every week. It really is. What are the things that we do best? Where do we want to attack them? The things that marry together, that's easy. The things that don't - yeah, they have trouble with this, this isn't really something that we do a lot of or we'd have to make some changes to do this. Is it worth it? Is it worth putting the time and effort in to do this, which we think is good, but it's not really our thing? Or are we better off just sticking with what we do? That's the discussion every week [on] offense, defense [and] special teams. And it's easy when this is something that you do and it fits pretty good with what they give you and on offensive, defensive, and special teams systems, we're not just preparing for one thing at the beginning of the season. We know we're going to see different types of kickoff returns, sideline returns, middle returns, alley returns, counter returns, so we've got to prepare for all of them. But there are certain things that we're a little bit more comfortable with and they fit against some things better, and if we're seeing something else, then we make the decision to just do what we do and try to handle it, or do we want to make some kind of adjustment? And those are the game plan discussions on Tuesday every week. That's what we do.
Q: As an example, Randy Moss has three catches on Monday night. I'm sure every team tries to take Randy away, but do you have to sort of work to try to find other ways to get him the ball in that case?
BB: Well, you set up a game plan on a lot of different levels - first down, second down, third down, red area, two minute, all those things. And sometimes those situations don't come up in exact percentages in the game. You don't know how many third and longs you're going to have or how many third and shorts or how many second and longs or those things, so there're some variables there. But you know, you put together your game plan and you try to be balanced, and if they're doing one thing, theoretically you should be doing something else. If they're doing something else, then you have some kind of counter to that, whether it's a specific play or whether it's one play where on this play if this happens we run this side of the pattern, or if this happens we do that side of the pattern or something like that. You want to have some options built in a good part of the time - maybe not on every play, but you want to have some options. But then you see how the game unfolds and maybe on third down what you thought was going to happen, happened, and maybe on third down what you thought was going to happen, they've changed. You have to make some kind of adjustments to it. You need to be flexible enough to make those adjustments.
Q: Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are facing off this weekend in the SEC Championship game. Are you at all surprised that they've found each other again in the title game?
Q: And do you think you'll have a chance to watch?
BB: I don't know, what time is the game? We're traveling to Miami, so...maybe we'll get there for the end of it. You know, I don't follow college football real closely this time of year. I get to see a few games on TV, but that's about it, but no, obviously they are great coaches and they have great programs. I know in looking at Florida and Alabama players that came out of those schools last year, you can't help but look at the underclassmen that are there. There is a lot of talent. They're obviously very well coached, two great football teams. I know a lot of people felt last year that was the national championship game. I don't know enough about all the teams in college football to know if that's right, but they're ranked at the top, so it's a great matchup. They're well-coached. They've got a lot of talent there. They play extremely well every week, so I'm sure it will be a great game.
Q: Without Ronnie Brown, what is your biggest concern with this offense?
BB: Well, I think Ricky Williams has really taken Ronnie's spot there. I think when they had both players, they were comfortable with either one of them in the game, and if there was only one of them, then they were comfortable with that player in the game. So whether they shared the load or it was all Ronnie or all Rickey - based on the availability of the players - I think their offense is pretty much the same. They had the one Wildcat package with Ronnie and Ricky in the game with the speed sweep with Williams coming across the field. That looks like that's died out and has been replaced with more of a Pat White package they started with us, but have built on that. Not that they started it with us - they did it before our game - but they used it successfully against us. But they've built on that the last three weeks against Tampa, Carolina and then Buffalo. It looks to me like 95 percent of their offense is the same as it was with Ronnie and looks like they've maybe replaced a little bit of that Wildcat package with both of them in there with some other things, maybe the Pat White package, I don't know.
Q: In what way has Sam Aiken emerged as an option on this team?
BB: I think Sam's played well for us all year. He made some plays for us in preseason, had a big play in the Tampa game. When he's had his opportunity he's stepped up, caught the ball and also run with it well after the catch. He's a big, physical player - definitely different than Wes [Welker] and different than Randy [Moss]. He has a different playing style, different set of skills. I think they all complement each other pretty well, and he's a physical player, which we see in the kicking game, but that shows up on offense, too. Sam works hard. He doesn't say much; he's a quiet guy, but he works hard, he's always prepared and he's tough. He's obviously earned everybody's respect around here and when he's had an opportunity to play he's stepped in and done a good job for us.
Q: It looked like Sam had a pretty strong training camp when he lined up at receiver. Was there anything you wanted him to get better at at the wide receiver position to earn that playing time, or was it just a matter of personnel changing?
BB: Well, yeah, there're always things for everybody to work at and we move our players around a little bit so they are not always in the same spot. So they need to work on techniques as inside and outside receivers and that's one of the things that Sam does a good job of. He can play inside. He can play outside - not that Randy and Wes can't. Wes is more of an inside receiver, Randy's more of an outside receiver, they interchange some, but I think Sam is a little more interchangeable than what they are. From that standpoint, he has good versatility, but that means a lot of extra work and a lot of extra learning of the inside positions, the outside positions and the techniques and formations that go with them. That's something that he's had to work on. Anybody would because it's a lot to learn, but he's done a good job of it and he did - he had a strong training camp. He had a big role on special teams and we were kind of reluctant to expand that role too much, too fast. We would have a hard time replacing him in the kicking game. That's a little bit of an issue for us now. The more he's playing receiver then how much of a role does he have in the kicking game? We want to try to balance that and in the end do what's best for the team, but that's something we have to take into consideration with him. It's a good problem to have, but I think it's something we have to keep an eye on.
Q: Miami hasn't thrown a ton with Pat White yet, but that could be an option, so do you blindly have to prepare for that?
BB: It's not blind; they've thrown, he's thrown. He played in preseason. He threw the ball in preseason. He played quarterback and we did a lot of work on him at West Virginia and we know he can throw the ball. He was a good passer and is a good passer. I think the things that they did, and even in our game, we'd seen before - we actually worked on them we just didn't do them very well in the first half and then kind of got better in the second half - but that's one of things they do. That's one of the hard things about playing Miami: they keep it moving on you. You work on one thing and they are working on something else. Sometimes they come back to it; sometimes they don't, so you've got a lot of different bases to cover. They did a good job of keeping us off balance. They just keep pecking away and sooner or later they get you on something [where] you don't have quite the right placement or technique or distribution on, and you can be in trouble.
Q: How much different is it defending Pat White, knowing what he can do back there?
BB: A lot different. He's a quarterback. Ronnie's not the passer Pat is and Pat's not the runner that Ronnie is, but they both can do elements of both. That's how they give you problems. That's why they use them the way they have. That's why they're effective. They both can run. They both can throw. They have their strengths and they have enough versatility to put pressure on the defense.