New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 19, 2008.
Q: If an offensive team executes their play perfectly and the defensive team executes their play perfectly who comes out ahead?
BB: It depends on the play because there's different, depending on what you're in defensively, you have more guys here, fewer guys there, running play, passing play… I was at a clinic right when I was out of college and the coach was talking about plays. He drew up the offensive players like this and the defensive players like that and if you have better players than they do then it comes down to a lot of individual one-on-one matchups. It's 11 against 11 and there's a lot of scheme involved but if you have a good guy blocking a guy who's not very good or you have a guy that's not a very good blocker trying to block a real good player, I think we know how that one is going to come out. I think a lot of it comes back to personnel and the individual one-on-one matchups, not just in the big picture but even on each individual play. You might have one guy who would win on one play and another guy who might win on another play based on technique and execution on that particular play. It's a great question. Ernie [Adams] and I have debated that one many times: who's going to block who, whether you can get open against man-to-man coverage, who is going to win those matchups. And a lot of games and a lot of football comes down to individual matchups. So, that's a great question.
Q: You guys have played in some pretty nasty conditions here but how much adjusting do you have to do on the fly when the forecast becomes clearer during the week?
BB: I don't know if it ever becomes clear during the week. I think it's more of a game time or closer to game time decision, but it could definitely affect us. It certainly affects the kicking game first and then the deep passing game second and then everything else third. So, depending on how severe the conditions are [whether they are] wind, precipitation, cold, whatever it happens to be. I think it, to me, goes in that order. Kicking game, deep passing game and then everything else, ball handling. We're aware that the conditions are going to probably be less than ideal this weekend but what exactly it will be… I'm always hesitant to talk to the team about that too far in advance because then when you are wrong you've just wasted a lot of time talking about a situation that, guess what, is not the way it is.
Q: Are you staying outside today?
BB: Absolutely. Yes.
Q: Is it as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge coming east for some of these teams? Obviously, they haven't had a lot of success coming from the west to the east this year playing. Do they have two aspects to overcome?
BB: I don't think the mental part of it is a big deal at this level. These guys have all played in cold weather. They've all played on the East Coast. They've all played in those kinds of situations. It's not like it is high school and this is the first time we've gotten on a plane or something. This is the National Football League. Guys played in college and the NFL and I'd be surprised if there are too many players that haven't experienced the conditions. [Larry] Fitzgerald played at [Pittsburgh]. He's probably been in as much of this as some of our players have. The guys we have from Georgia, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee - some of our younger guys here aren't exactly from the winter wonderland. The way I see it, it's the Patriots against the Cardinals. I think our opponent is the Arizona Cardinals and I have a lot of respect for their team, their coaches and their organization. In order to beat them we're going to have to be better than them. I don't think it's about the weather, the wind or the sun or any of that. I think it's about whether we can go out there and collectively play and coach and execute better than the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. That to me is really what it comes down to. I think the rest of it, yeah it's a little bit of a factor here and there. But, we're not going to get beat by the wind; we're going to get beat by the Cardinals. If we beat the Cardinals it will be because we played better not because of what the temperature is.
Q: What do you feel like you have to watch out for with their running game?
BB: Everything. They've got good runners. They can spread you out and run and they can pack it in and run. They do a lot of check with me plays where they run against a good look and throw against a look where you have more guys in the running game but less in the passing game. They have a number of different ways to attack you and I think you have to be ready for all of them. They do a good job with misdirection plays, like draws, screens and reverses. They can be a power running team. They can be a zone running team. They have a lot of different running schemes, good backs, a very athletic line, a couple of very big guards: [Reggie] Wells and [Deuce] Lutui are really strong, physical guys in there. [Lyle] Sendlein is a very athletic center. Both tackles are athletic: [Levi] Brown and [Mike] Gandy. I think they have a good combination of power, size, athleticism, backs with good vision and good running skills and a scheme that they attack the defense where it's weakest. You want to get up there and play the run, they'll throw it. You want to drop everybody off into coverage, they'll run it. They make you defend everything.
Q: They have one of the best special teams players in the league in Sean Morey. He won a game with a blocked kick earlier this year. Do you make any special provisions for a very good special teams player like him? Do you try to know where he's going to be?
BB: Absolutely, we try to know where every player is going to be on special teams. We go through every player on the kickoff team: what their strengths and weaknesses are, where they line up, if they move around, if they are usually in the same spot, who the safeties are, who the contain guys are, who the first guy down is, which guys play behind. Somebody is the first guy down. Somebody plays behind them. Some guys go to the ball. Some guys are more lane players. Absolutely, we go through that every week, every game and we do the same thing on the punting game, punt returns and kickoff. We have an individual scouting report on each player that plays on every one of those teams: what their tendencies are, what their strengths are, what we think their weaknesses are and how to play them.
Q: What makes him a great special teams player?
BB: Well Sean's [Morey] a real good coverage player. He has good speed. He has good quickness. He plays hard. He plays [with] real good effort. He's a good punt rusher because of his quickness. He has a good up-and-under move - that's what he blocked the punt with against Dallas. In the return game, he's not the biggest guy as a blocker, but he's quick and he has an aggressive attitude. He says after his man. He does some of what we call attack blocking or flash blocking. He has good quickness. In coverage, he's aggressive and has good speed. He has good strength for his size. He's not a big guy, but for his size he's strong.
Q: You mentioned earlier this week about Kurt Warner and how quick of a release he has, how good he is reading defenses, reacting and how smart he is. Are there some quarterbacks that you just can't blitz because the risk is too great compared to the reward?
BB: Sure, I think there're a lot of quarterbacks that you're really careful about blitzing. They'll either get rid of the ball and you'll never really get there, which sometimes you might want that to happen, so that could be ok. And then there're other guys that will change the protections to pick up your blitzes. So, what looks like a good blitz against one protection really isn't a good blitz because if they see you coming they're not going to give you that protection, they're going to change the protection and pick it up. So, now you're hung out there against better receivers for a longer time. You can't count on the pressure getting there. I think all those things are factors. Sometimes they have plays on where they can't change the protection or even if they change it they just don't have enough guys, but the quarterback will get the ball out there quick. He'll get it to an area that maybe you're not that excited about seeing it go. You need to decide how much you really want to blitz a guy like that. Dangerous receivers are just as big a part of the problem of blitzing as the quarterback. So, you have guys like Arizona has that break tackles, make a lot of yards after the catch - just like what [Jerheme] Urban did last week against Minnesota. They throw him a three-yard pass, he breaks a tackle and it's a 55-yard touchdown. [Anquan] Boldin does that and [Larry] Fitzgerald does it. Their backs do it on screens - [J.J.] Arrington and [Tim] Hightower. So, you've got to be careful about giving the ball to those players in space, whether you can tackle them or whether they run by you like [Steve] Breaston does. Urban has good downfield speed too.
Q: Do you just have to assume Anquan Boldin will be there on Sunday and if he's not then you make an adjustment?
BB: Yes. We'll assume everybody will be there until they're declared out.
Q: How has Mike Vrabel been recently? It seems like he's been around the ball a little bit more.
BB: I think Mike's had a solid year like he always does. He's one of our most consistent players. [He's a] smart guy and is involved in a lot of things. He rushes. He covers. He's an edge setter in the run, plays defensive end in the sub, but also gets a lot of coverage plays. He's gotten more involved in the kicking game the last couple weeks. He's a versatile player. He does a lot of things well and helps us in a lot of ways: calls signals, makes adjustments, [is a] real smart guy, very instinctive player. He has a good feel for what's going on out there in the game and he's had a good solid year all the way through and the last couple weeks, but he's been good for us all year.
Q: Two games in, how are Rosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau adjusting and adapting?
BB: Good. I think it's a little bit better each week. The first week was a little bit of a scramble, especially with Junior. He was only here for one Friday practice and a walkthrough in the ballroom, and then played quite a bit in the Seattle game. I thought he had a good week. Rosie had another good week out in California prior to the Raiders game and we've had a good week this week. I think they're as prepared as you could expect them to be in three weeks. And there's not really an assignment problem with those guys. They're smart players. They know what we're doing. They understand our defense and our adjustments and they communicate well. So, I think everybody has a lot of confidence in them, their coaches and their teammates, so they're fine.
Q: Is the defensive coach to communication device something you've heard can be affected by the weather or are there any precautions you have to take if the weather is bad and that doesn't work?
BB: I mean it's not a very consistent operation, period. So, I think we go into every game [thinking] if it works, it works, if it doesn't we're prepared for that. I would venture to say probably in 80 percent of our games this year at some point it hasn't functioned correctly or we got into a situation the last two weeks where Mike [Vrabel] was out of the game. It didn't have anything to do with the operation, but he was out of the game, so then we had to go back to another method of communicating the defenses. You've got to be ready for that anyway. It's not like quarterback where if one quarterback goes out, another quarterback with a headset comes in. Defensively, that's just not the way it's set up, so you've got to be ready to work without it every week. I'd say most of the time we've ended up, at some point for one reason or another, doing that.
Q: So you've kind of made peace with that - it is what it is?
BB: Yeah, definitely. I don't think it's going to change. I don't have any expectations that in the next two weeks there's not going to be any problems whatsoever with it. I don't think that at all.