Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 18, 2009.
BB:Alright, a couple days outside, this should be close to what we'll get in Buffalo. It's good to get out there and get some fresh air. [It's a] division game, [it's] been a long time since we've played them. It's interesting - when you play a team the first game of the season and then pretty close to the last game of the season. You look back at that one and it was a long time ago. You see some of the things that have changed on your team [and] changed on their team. It's kind of interesting, to put it in perspective, because those aren't usually the games that you go back to. You go back to the last three or four. We played Miami, that was like four or five weeks apart, but this is a pretty good stretch. [There're] some new faces there, but again, they do a lot of the things they've been successful with and they've been very successful on defense. [They have] great backs in the running game. They've been competitive the last few weeks, so I'm sure they'll stay with it. They're good in the kicking game. It's a good team.
Q: With the two different running backs, is it the kind of thing where you need to be aware of each particular guy and who's on the field?
BB:It's kind of interesting. I think there're a lot of similarities. They're both very good. It's kind of like last week with [DeAngelo] Williams, and [Jonathan] Stewart and even [Tyrell] Sutton, even though he didn't play a lot. It was similar, but [Marshawn] Lynch and [Fred] Jackson both have great vision. They're both hard to tackle. A lot of people bounce off them because of their lower body strength and their balance. They both catch the ball very well. They're dangerous in the passing game. There're a lot of similarities. Honestly, sometimes, if you don't look carefully, it's a little hard to tell who it is because physically they kind of look a little bit a like and [one is] 22, [one is] 23, sometimes you've got to look and say, 'That was [Fred] Jackson. Oh, no, that was [Marshawn] Lynch.' That kind of thing. They're both very good.
Q: Buffalo seems to break a lot of tackles.
BB:Their skill players are outstanding. They really are; they're outstanding. [Terrell] Owens is hard to tackle, Lee Evans is hard to tackle, Josh Reed was a running back in college; he's very hard to tackle. Do you remember the slip screen he caught against us a couple years ago up there? He broke about seven tackles on the touchdown run. Roscoe Parrish is hard to tackle. Lynch, Jackson, the quarterback [Ryan Fitzpatrick]; he's hard to tackle, he's a very elusive guy. Their skill players, it's as good a group as we'll see and they're very dangerous after the catch, or in this case the run with the backs. It doesn't really matter who has the ball, they're all - as opposed to guys that make a lot of plays in the passing game just down the field - these guys make those plays. But they also have some catch-and-run plays and take it on a route. Like Owens did last week, he caught a little one-yard crossing route and scored. Like he did in our game, he caught a four-, or five-yard crossing routes and picked up 20 yards, 25 yards, stuff like that. Those guys are tough with the ball in their hands.
Q: When Fred Taylor went down with his injury you could have placed him on Injured Reserve, can you talk about what went into that decision?
BB:There're a lot of things that play into that decision. You're right, really it could have gone either way. But the way the rosters are set up now, the way the rule is, you've got to deactivate either eight, or seven players if you have a third quarterback. You have to deactivate eight players every week anyway, so there can be players on your roster who are deactivated that there's still a reason they are on your roster. It could be a young player that you want to protect, maybe can't go on the practice squad because somebody else would get him and you want to hang onto him even though he's inactive. It could be a player like Fred [Taylor] who has a long-term injury, multiple weeks. And then you get into that situation, which we've been in before, which is you have players like that and then you get into a bind, you lose some guys, you have to put some players on Injured Reserve and you need some spots. Then, sometimes those players have to go on IR in order to create a roster spot. That never really happened for us this year, but if it had we would have had to make a decision. I think this year we haven't been, a couple times we've been kind of close, but for the most part we haven't been real close to the inactive list. In other words, you're inactivating healthy players, not guys that ... Everybody's injured and they are deactivated because they are hurt. They're deactivated because you select somebody else.
Q: How close is Fred in terms of getting back on the field?
BB:Closer every day. He started practicing last week and this week and I think he's a guy that's looked better every day. Kind of like Sammy [Morris] did - whenever it was - when he came back. He came back, he practiced for awhile and you could kind of see him getting better each day out on the practice field. And then at the end of the week, you kind of have a picture of where he was and then you start the next week and you see that jump. I think that's what we saw with Fred. At the end of the week last week to the beginning of the week this week that he's made that jump. He's definitely getting closer, there's no doubt about it.
Q: What concerns do you have about the depth on the defensive line?
BB:Well, we'll see where they are. One thing about those guys, they've played a lot of football for us and they know how to play our techniques and all that. Would you like to have everybody out there? Sure, but I think those guys could play without having practiced the whole week. We'll just have to see where everybody is here at game time or maybe tomorrow and figure it out from there.
Q: Buffalo added a couple of veterans this week, how do you react to that?
BB:[Joe] Klopfenstein was there. They released him earlier in the week and then resigned him. They kept him on the injury report, so that was kind of interesting. But absolutely, we played against [Richie] Incognito last year, when he was with the Rams, and we go back and look at our game but also some of the games this year to see them as a player, knowing he's in a different system. But that's all we've got to go on. But he's still the same player, so is everybody else. No matter what uniform you put on them, they have the same strengths, quickness, speed, technique and all that. Then there're things that vary with scheme, how they're used and they do a technique a little bit different, but basically it's the same.
Q: Is that one of those extra things that gets added onto your preparation at the end of the week?
BB:Yeah, right, absolutely. We do that with all the players and also practice squad players. This is a time of year where you see a lot of practice squad guys get activated on Saturday. At the end of the week, you don't really know that until they do it. You can sort of anticipate it and say, 'They might bring this guy up. They might bring that guy up. They're a little banged up here and there.' But you don't really know that for sure, so a lot of times you don't want to waste a lot of time on somebody, and even if they bring them up the player might not even be active. So you don't want to spend too much time on it, but on the other hand, you don't want to go in there and get surprised by somebody either. We definitely do it as a coaching staff, and how much of it we give to the players and how much emphasis we put on it depends on how important we think it's going to be.
Q: Is there a fine line between being a game-plan team and developing a so called identity?
BB:Yeah, I think there is. I think that's a good point. What I would say is I think we have a broad enough base so that when we walk in there on Wednesday with the game plan, we're not drawing up new offenses and new defenses. 'OK fellas, we invented this defense yesterday, here's how it works.' It's all things we have done since training camp and sometimes it might be, 'OK, you guys are doing this and you guys are doing that. And here's what we're going to call it. We're going to call it Buffalo.' It's techniques or it's a fundamental part of what we're doing that everybody's familiar with. Maybe on a pass pattern you run this pattern on this side and what normally would be this pattern on the backside we change that to something else. Is it really a new play? Well, we've run this pattern on the backside before, not just with the combination on the front side, so maybe it's a little bit different read for the quarterback, but the rest of it's the same. Maybe we change a rule in our protection for a certain particular rusher they have - like an Aaron Schobel or somebody like that, or a [Donte] Whitner - somebody that's a key blitzer for them. 'Well, if we do this, this is the matchup we're going to have.' Do we want that? Or can we make some other adjustment? So again that's really kind of how it develops. Are we a game-plan team? Yeah, we are, but we feel like it's within our overall framework and system.
Q: Is that limited this year?
BB:Yeah, and again, it's not like it's a lot of new inventions, it's just a question of how many plays do you want to run that you already have, and then how many of those can you get practiced and how well do you execute them in the game. If we have 75 plays on offense, we all know those plays, but the other team runs six, seven, eight, nine different defenses, the multiples are exponential. We're better off running 60 plays instead of 75. It's more that kind of thing when we say cut it back or eliminate a couple checks on defense because of the amount of stuff they're doing. We're better off, it's not the greatest thing in the world but we can live with it, [and] we're better off living with it than we are trying to change it and going through the how quickly everybody can recognize it. Those are kind of the decisions that you make. Like we talked about a few weeks ago, a lot of times those are real important decisions that the assistant coaches make for a tight end, a back, or an outside linebacker, how to treat a particular look that maybe we've treated two different ways. We've done it this way and we've done it that way. This is one that maybe doesn't come up a lot, but how are we going to do it this particular week and identifying those kinds of things.
Q: Tom Brady said on Sunday it felt like you guys had a 'grind-it-out' kind of team. Do you feel like your team has an identity and is that it?
BB:Well, we're one of the highest scoring teams in the league, which I like that identity. If it's 40 runs, it's 40 runs. If it's 50 passes, it's 50 passes. We threw the ball 50-something times against Buffalo the first game, we ran the ball 40-something times, whatever it was, last week against Carolina. If we're scoring points and winning games than that's the identity I want to have.
Q: What have you seen out of Titus Adams?
BB:Titus has been here a couple years now and he's a real hard-working kid. [He's] smart, plays a lot of different positions for us in practice - inside, outside, on the nose, on the guard, on the end, in the kicking game. And he's a pretty versatile guy. He's a smart kid that works hard [and] is pretty dependable. I'd say that's a big strength of his is that he can do a lot of different things. He doesn't need a lot of reps, doesn't need a lot of coaching points. You just throw him in there and he can sort of know what to do without a big documentary on it. He's got good size, good quickness.
Q: On the conference call with Coach Perry Fewell, he reflected back on a scouting trip you took out to Vanderbilt when he was a defensive backs coach and Corey Chavous was the guy you were scouting at the time. What do you remember about that? He said some of the stuff you told him about defensive back play he still applies in his coaching.
BB:Woody was the coach there, Woody Widenhofer. Woody was with me at Cleveland after the 1994 season, when Rod Dowhower became the head coach at Vanderbilt. Woody went as the defensive coordinator, and a couple years later they made another change and they made Woody the head coach. So I was down there scouting Corey [Chavous] and Perry [Feweel] was the defensive backs coach. Part of that I think I was in there on a Saturday or Sunday. It was kind of an off time and there kind of wasn't anyone around, and he was in and started talking about players, but [it was] also a 'Hey coach, can I ask you a question' kind of thing. And plus the fact that they were running Woody's defense, which was very similar to what we were running in Cleveland, so there is a lot of carryover. 'Hey, when you play this call, what do you tell this guy?' So watching Corey, 'Is this what he's supposed to do? This is your nail call, right? This is your box call, right? Is this your cone technique? Yeah. Here's what we told him on that.' We were very familiar with it because, like I said, really it was the Cleveland system in Vanderbilt. And I've ran into him a couple times out on the road scouting when he was at Jacksonville. He was very helpful down there. I've never worked with him directly, but he's been a guy that you get to know, have an acquaintance with and I'm sure we'll bump into each other along the way here as our careers continue.