Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 22, 2010.
BB: Okay, well, we're back to the division. I've really been impressed watching Buffalo here the last few days. The last six weeks after the bye week, after that 0-8 start, they've really played well and won four of the last six. They lost a tough one to Pittsburgh that they probably deserved to win, but we all know how that goes. [They're] just playing solid in all three phases of the game: good on special teams, good specialists, good returners - really a solid core group of coverage players. Offensively, Ryan Fitzpatrick has done a nice job for them all year, really doing a good job of taking care of the ball and getting it to all the skill players and all those guys have really stepped it up for him: [Steve] Johnson, [Fred] Jackson of course, [David] Nelson had some big catches for his - especially in the red area, [C.J.] Spiller, so that's a good group. And then defensively, [they're] changing it to the four-three, mixing in a good amount of pressure [and] getting in a good pass rush. Then Kyle Williams is really having a terrific year. He's been a good football player; he is a good football player, but he's just been outstanding. [Marcus] Stroud inside, [Arthur] Moats has done a great job for them. That kid's played well along with [Chris] Kelsay outside. Their secondary is tough. They've been turning the ball over. They've been getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and getting their hands on some balls. They've been making some big plays when they've had to, like last week against Miami. They had a couple of big stops on defense, ran the clock out against Cleveland, ran off the last five minutes of the clock when they got the ball back there. So, things like that, they've been doing a good job. Of course the comeback against Cincinnati, [they were a] 1-8 team going in there and being down by 21 points, coming back with that kind of second half was pretty impressive. I think Chan [Gailey]'s done an excellent job with that team. They have a good scheme. They make it hard for us to prepare. They do a lot of different things and they execute them well. As I said, the turnover ratio and really their ability to make plays at critical times in the game the last few weeks has been impressive.
Q: Has Vince Wilfork added some of his pass rush skills this year, or is that something he has always had?
BB: I think Vince has good skills in all areas of the game. You've seen him play nose and tackle, three-technique, whatever, so he's really been in all those spots. But he has good skills to rush the passer, to play the run, to stunt, to play on tackle, play on the guard, play in the center - he's done all of those throughout the course of his career. He's certainly done all of them this year as well, so he's been a versatile guy for us and he's also been a very productive player. We've asked him to play more in recent games in terms of the number of snaps in all situations and he's come through with some really outstanding performances the last couple of weeks and a lot of plays against Green Bay.
Q: What went into the personnel move you made today, with signing defensive lineman Landon Cohen?
BB: We just felt like he had a skill set which given our situation at this point in time, that he might be able to contribute. We haven't worked with him before so we will see how it goes. We met with him for a couple of days here, yesterday, this morning, trying to get him some information and get him caught up and see how it goes in practice. Whether or not he can be ready, I'm not sure.
Q: Chan Gailey said that he hopes their kicker kicks away from Dan Connolly. Has he become a new weapon for you guys?
BB: Yeah, I bet Chan's really worried about that.
Q: This is the time of year that people start talking about the 'rookie wall' with some players, but you've had the rookie class contribute quite a bit. Have your guys done a pretty good job of avoiding that wall?
BB: Well, we have our ups and downs, but I think each week is its own week. Certainly there is a lot at stake this week for us, so I think our football team will have to meet a big challenge in Buffalo on Sunday. We know that and the Bills are playing really good football and I think they've got a lot of confidence. They're playing well in all three phases of the game. They're getting contributions from a lot of players. Their young players, they've stepped in there, too. It's the same point in the season for us as it is for them, so we'll see who can get more done on Sunday.
Q: Julian Edelman's production seems to have dropped. What kind of season is he having in your eyes?
BB: Well, you know, he's had good production in the punt return game, really, throughout the course of the year when he's had an opportunity. We haven't been able to get him started. We still have a lot of confidence in Julian and I'm sure that when he gets his opportunities, his production will come offensively as well. I really don't see much of a drop off in the punt return game.
Q: What challenges have the injuries posed for the defensive line?
BB: Well, any time that you have to move players around, that's... But hey, every team's got to go through that. We're just like everybody else. That's our position, but everybody else has got it in other positions. That's football; that's the National Football League. You take the players you have and you do the best you can to prepare them. Sometimes some guys have to play more. Sometimes guys have to move to a different position, but you know, Gerard [Warren], Kyle [Love] - of course Gerard's been playing for us all year - but Kyle stepped in and got a lot of snaps last week. Vince played more. The guys that are there, if they have to play more, they have to play more.
Q: Is there a common thread on how your team has performed in the last two minutes of some games: the Colts, the Bills, last week?
BB: Well, I think each game is different. Each style of offense is different. Some of our calls that we were in, some of the plays that developed were different. I think the big thing in that situation, whichever side of the ball you are on, is just communication because it's all happening quickly and then just execution - being able to do your assignment, your job, better than the other team at that point in time, whether you're trying to move the ball or you're trying to stop it. At this point in time, I don't think conditioning is a huge factor. Everybody's played a lot of games. Everybody, wherever they're going to be, that's where they are. It's just a question of execution and recognition and anticipation and making sure that offensively, defensively - whatever side of the call that you're on - that you get done what you're supposed to do, whether it be offense, defense, special teams, [the] Giants situation - whatever it is - just being able to execute the way you want to execute.
Q: As a play caller, is there anything that you save for the last two minutes of a game?
BB: Well, no, I think each... Well, every coach can do it differently or however they want to do it, but I think your plays in the two-minute situation, you know what those plays are going into the game. Sometimes those plays may come up in another situation earlier or sometimes they may not. Sometimes you just want to do them in two minute because of what you think the offense or defense is doing and that's really more of a situation for them than say a third-down situation, so it could be both.
Q: What has Gerard Warren brought to your football team this year?
BB: [He's] brought a lot of experience. You know, he's a smart guy and a versatile player. He's been able to play inside and outside. He's played on the nose, both ends, both two techniques. He's played on both guards. He's a smart guy; he sees things. The screen pass he saw last week against Green Bay was a real good read on his part. He's done those things throughout the course of his career. He's never played in more than a two-gap base system like we play, but he's played a lot of one technique, three technique, so he's moved around. [He's] very professional. [He's] ready to work every day. [He's] tough. He's banged up like a lot of guys are, but he stays out there and fights through it and he's been a very dependable player for us.
Q: Has his role been a little bit larger than you anticipated it was going to be when you signed him?
BB: Well, I think when you sign a player like that, I don't know if you know what their role is going to be. If you haven't had them before - even if you had - you wait and see how their performance [is] and [how] that relates to everybody else that you have and you put it all together and see how it works out. I've got to go back to that Roman Phifer situation. [We] signed Phifer - that's a player that I had at the Jets - and I told him that I thought he had a limited role, or that we had a role for him, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was and it ended up being that he played 98 percent of the plays. So, you just don't know how it's all going to work out with your team from year to year. Some of that is a function of that player. Some of it is a function of what's going on around him. Some of it is a function of who you're playing and what they're doing sometimes. So, the expectations, I never try to tell a player exactly what his situation is going to be because it's always subject to change. This is kind of where we're going to start, but where it ends up, sometimes that's where you start, sometimes it isn't.
Q: In terms of personality and role off the field, would it be reasonable to compare him to a guy like Anthony Pleasant?
BB: Well, I think the thing with Anthony was that he had been in the system in Cleveland and at New York, so he had a lot of familiarity with the coaches. He actually developed in the system. When he was with the Browns the first year I got there and he played in Bud Carson's system and then when I came and Nick Saban - when we were there - we really took him from being one kind of defensive end to another kind of defensive end. He had to change his techniques. He gained a lot of upper body strength. He gained a lot of hand strength. He did a lot of drills to really become a player that fit well in our system, along with Rob Burnett. Then he kind of developed that throughout the course of his career, first in Cleveland and then in New York and then coming here. So, he was a guy that could say to a rookie who was having trouble with something, 'Hey, I've been there. Here's what you've got to do. This is how you can handle it,' or 'This is what you need to do to get better and this will help you.' And he can do it from experience. I think, you know, Gerard just hasn't had that background. It's not his fault; he just hasn't been with us for whatever Anthony was - four, six, seven year - whatever it was. I don't want to say he's learning it, but there're things that he's doing in the system that are different from what he's done in the past, whereas Pleasant was definitely a guy that had pretty much lived through everything: every technique, me going off, Romeo [Crennel] going off, etcetera.
Q: You do that?
BB: Yeah, once.
Q: Has this year's draft class been the strongest you've ever drafted?
BB: Oh, I don't know. We've had a number of good players from other drafts. Right now I'm not really worried about that. I'm really just concentrating on Buffalo. My focus is trying to get our team ready to play against the Bills.
Q: Can you just comment on the production that you've gotten out of them this season and their contributions to this team?
BB: Well, some guys have had significant playing time or significant roles. As a group, I'd say that they've worked hard and for the most part, they've been on the field on a regular basis. So if a player works hard and he's on the field, then he should get better. And those guys have. I think if they continue to do that, if they continue to pay attention and work hard in practice, work hard in their preparations, then they should continue to improve. I think, as a group, they have a pretty good future. But, again, right now our preparation is focused on Buffalo and this week's game and what we have to do against our specific opponents and matchups this week. I hope they'll do a good job of preparing for that because it's a huge challenge for us Sunday.
Q: Can you talk about Dan Connolly's honor of AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?
BB: I don't know if there's a lot to say. Congratulations to him. It was an excellent run on his part. He got some great blocking along the way. It's a play that we've never seen before, but it was timely and he did a good job with the opportunity. One thing about Dan is we've worked on that play a lot in practice; we squib kick every week and I'd say he probably handles the ball, if not every week, I'd say at least every other week. Sometimes they go to Alge [Crumpler], sometimes they go to Rob [Gronkowski] or whoever's back there, but we work on that on a regular basis. Dan's always well prepared. He has been throughout his career. He was on the practice squad. He was released by a couple of teams, but he kept working, kept getting better. He's developed a role for himself and has been a very productive player for us this year, even though he was playing a lot on offense, he's still took a lot of pride in the kickoff return. We've had a lot of production on our kickoff return unit with him being a key part of it as the middle guy there - the call end on the wedge - and his opportunity came up to handle the ball and he did a nice job with it. He found some open space, picked up a couple blocks and turned it into a big play. That's preparation meets opportunity; he delivered. Is that enough for you on him?
Q: Do you have to remind your team that Buffalo is going to give you their best shot, given the streak that you guys have won 14 straight games against them?
BB: There's no question that we're going to get their best effort, like we always do. It's always tough against Buffalo, but I have a lot of respect for Chan and his staff and the job that they do. I know that he'll have his team well prepared. I hope I can do a good job with our team. I think their players, they play well every week and I'm sure they'll play well on Sunday. We're going to have to go out there and try to play better than they do. But there's no doubt about it; they're a good football team. They're playing well and I know that they'll play well against us. We'll just have to play and coach well against them. It's a big challenge for us.
Q: (On how the Bills have played recently)
BB: They've won four of the last six games. How would you say that is? There're not a lot of teams that are doing better than that over the last six weeks in the National Football League. Not a lot.