Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 8, 2010.
BB: Okay, we've turned it around pretty quick here, gotten on the Bears. They're a really impressive team to watch. I think they're doing a lot of things well, which of course is reflected in their record [with a] five-game winning streak and all that. [They're] a really good defensive football team. Pretty much everything, any way you want to measure them statistically is real good: points, third down, red area, pressures, forced fumbles. You name it, they're good at all that. [Their] front is very disruptive. They cause a lot of negative plays. They're hard to block. They move a lot. They're quick; they're powerful. [Their] linebackers are very active - [Lance] Briggs, [Brian] Urlacher - it's an impressive group. [They're] good in the secondary, ball-hawking type of team; they turn the ball over a lot. You have to really protect it against them. Special teams - huge strength - as good of a special teams unit as we've seen. Robbie Gould [is] outstanding; [Brad] Maynard [is] a great plus-50 punter. They lead the league in field position and their kicking game is strong. Obviously they've got a strong return game with [Devin] Hester and [Danieal] Manning. Those guys can score from anywhere; [they're] extremely dangerous - really a problem in the return game and in the coverage game [and] blocked kicks. And offensively, I've been extremely impressed with Jay Cutler. I think he's playing as well as any quarterback we've seen and we've seen some good ones. But he's doing a great job. [He's] accurate, [makes] good reads, quick decisions, makes plays with his feet both running for yardage and keeping plays alive, scrambling. [Matt] Forte has been a very productive guy for him, running and passing. He's fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage. [There are] some pretty good players [on that list] with the Stephen Jacksons and Chris Johnsons, all those guys. So, he's up there in that elite production class. [The Bears] have got a lot of good plays from everybody in the passing game. Cutler's done a nice job of spreading it around. [Greg] Olsen's produced for them. [Earl] Bennett's come in and really done a good job. He's really made some big plays; really been a good key third-down receiver for them. And of course [Johnny] Knox and [Devin] Hester are home run hitters. Those guys can strike from anywhere in a hurry. They've got a lot of things that are a problem. They have a great defensive scheme with, of course, Lovie [Smith] and Rod [Marinelli] - they do a good job. And of course Mike [Martz] on offense is always tough to defend. They give you so many different looks and formations, personnel groupings, and all that. So, [they're a] well coached, tough, disciplined, physical team that's playing very well. [The] quarterback's doing a great job. They're tough on defense, strong in the kicking game. So, you can see why they're playing as well as they are and their record is the way that it is. They've really played consistently since the bye week and they're tough.
Q: Can you talk about the process of scouting an NFC opponent quickly that you aren't familiar with?
BB: It's tough. I think the process starts in the offseason. You get the schedule and you seen that you're going to be playing Chicago in a short week. You see you're going to be playing Detroit on a short week, so you try to do your offseason preparations on them and get a feel for what they were like the year before. But, again, with both these teams, it's difficult because the Lions had some new players coming onto to their roster and of course with Mike [Martz] coming in [with Chicago], he brings a new offense - some of the same players, but then how he uses them in the system is different than what you're going to see from the '09 season. You kind of prepare for that the best you can, but, ultimately, you end up in a short week and you have to try and get a jump on them during the long week, during the Monday night week. You just have to try and do the best you can here on Tuesday and make Tuesday into a Monday and a Tuesday and cram it in there and try to get the players up to speed on Wednesday. I think today is going to be a tough day for everybody. It already has been. What you hope for is that when you come back in here tomorrow on Thursday, is that you are pretty close to being on schedule for a normal Thursday. If you can do that, then I think you can stay on track for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's kind of our goal today, is to get to where we normally are by tomorrow morning. It's a challenge and one of the main things we emphasize to the players is how important everything is this morning with paying attention and the walk-throughs and the films and the game plans and getting on it and being on top of it, even though we haven't had a chance to do as much preparation on Tuesday as we normally would with the Monday game.
Q: What kind of impact is Julius Peppers making?
BB: You have to account for him on every play. They've got a lot of good guys on that front now. They're all good and the linebackers are good. So, it's definitely not a one-man band, but you have to know where Peppers is on every play. They do enough to keep you honest where if you're pushing the protection to him a lot then they'll drop him out in their blitz-zone package and then come off the other side so you get out-manned on the side away from him because you're paying so much attention to him. But, if you worry about the other side, then he kills you. But, again, a lot of times, he's being disruptive and that ends up with other guys making plays. Or the other guys on the front are being disruptive and he runs them down. But he's a tremendous athlete. He's got a good motor, very hard to block, great balance, quickness, speed, his length, tipping balls, getting in the passing lane and all that. You've got to really account for him. He's a good player, a real good player.
Q: In what ways have you seen Mike Martz put his imprint on the offense?
BB: Everywhere. The way they break the huddle. From there on, it's Mike Martz. They shift. They motion. They use a lot of different formations. They run the concepts that he's always coached - the passing concepts, the running-game concepts they have. Mike has a great set of complementary plays so if you stop one thing, then he's got the complementary play. If you're stopping one, then you're really not going to be able to stop the other. It's always a bit of a guessing game with that. He's got a scheme that's very challenging to everybody on the defense: the coaching staff, the front, the linebackers, the secondary. And, of course, it all goes to the quarterback and Jay's done a great job of executing it, making the reads, seeing the receivers, seeing the things that you need to see in his offense to make it run, and Cutler's done a great job of that. And at times when things haven't been there, he's been able to get away from the rush, extend the play or make yards and run for first downs, positive yardage and things like that. So, the offense itself is tough and they have a great quarterback running it and a group of explosive players - backs, tight ends, receivers - that give them a lot of weapons to choose from. And they use all of them. Everybody gets the ball; everybody's been productive. It's not the receivers or the tight ends or the backs, it's all of them, and it's the quarterback - he's their leading rusher. You've got to watch out for everybody all the time. That's hard to defend.
Q: I know you pay attention to details, so how do you prepare for a field that has been newly sodded and nobody has played on yet? Do you bring other equipment to prepare for that?
BB: Well, yeah, definitely. I think that's always a factor. I think one of the things that players think the most about is their footing. That's their lifeline: being able to run and cut and play on their feet. We've been through that before here. We know what it's like to sod a field in December. You can imagine how well that's going to take. But, it is what it is. Both teams are playing on the same field. You just have to play with your feet under you, play with good body balance and bend your knees, make sure you're using proper technique and cutting off your inside, outside foot and play with good balance. That's what it comes down to. If you're out of control, then chances are the field isn't going to be able to support those cuts. We practice on grass all the time. I don't think it's that big of a thing. Whatever the conditions are out there, they are. It's the middle of December and we're in Chicago. I don't think anyone is thinking of suntan lotion. You just deal with whatever it is, just like we do here in practice.
Q: Can you replicate Jay Cutler's arm strength here in practice?
BB: The JUG machine.
Q: Are yards after catch more of a function of scheming and getting a player in space or is it partly his uncanny ability to run to daylight and find that open space?
BB: You're always trying to get players into open spaces. That's just, fundamentally, that's what offense is. Whether it's the running game or passing game, you're trying to create space in the defense and get the ball to somebody in that area. Making yards in that situation, I think, is much more a function of the player who has the ball. There are a lot of different ways to gain yardage, whether that's speed, quickness, power, some combination of all those things. Guys that gain yards, you usually see the same players. The yards-after-catch guys are usually the yards-after-catch guys. If that's the skill that that player has, then he's usually able to produce there on a consistent basis. If some players, some receivers, are good at getting open and catching the ball and making positive yards in the passing game but they aren't great run-after-catch guys then they probably aren't going to be great run-after-catch guys a year from now, two years from now or five years from now. It doesn't mean they aren't good receivers. A lot of times they're better receivers then the guy that can run with the ball because you've got to get open and catch it first, but once you get a player that combines all those skills together, then you're really... A guy catches a ball, he takes a five-yard play and turns it into 30 [yards] or 40 [yards], and that's tough for a defense. When you're playing defense, you want to try and keep things in front of you, keep things contained and those guys that can take those kinds of plays and break out of them and break into big plays are tough. Forte is a great example. In the Lions game, there's a minute to go in the half, they're on their own 10-yard line, threw a screen pass. I'm sure they weren't expecting to score. I'm sure they were just expecting to get a first down and it was 90 yards for a touchdown. Those are the kinds of plays that break a defense in half when you can't tackle. Hester, Knox, they're very dangerous with the ball in their hand. Cutler, that guy outruns most defensive backs. You see backs get the angle on him, [but] they can't get him; he's too fast.
Q: Is Peppers able to be deployed in ways other players aren't?
BB: You can pretty much put him anywhere. [Not] corner, maybe, but everywhere else. He can definitely play on his feet and play linebacker. I mean, he'd be wasted in there, but you could put him [there]. I think he could do it. You could probably put him at strong safety. There're a lot of things he could do as a safety. I don't know if he could do everything, but there's a lot he could do - I'm sure in safety blitzes that would be a factor. He could play inside on the defensive line. He could play outside; he's got great length to play outside. We've seen some taller players play inside - guys like [Richard] Seymour - that are tall and could be very effective in there with quickness, and Peppers has plenty of that. He's got power. He's got quickness and he plays on his feet. You could pretty much put him anywhere. You could put him at tight end. [You could] probably make a left tackle out of him. I wouldn't want to tackle him if he was carrying the ball.
Q: Do you look at a guy like Peppers and think that you could have fun with a guy like him?
BB: He was the first player picked in the draft. Usually those guys have pretty good talent. He does a lot of things. He drops into coverage. He rushes. He pursues. He's good.
Q: What if you and the devil made a deal together?
BB: Right now I just admire what he does and what he's done for the Bears. He's added a lot to that football team. I think he'd add a lot to any team. He was a problem at Carolina. He's a problem in Chicago. It's a good move by Jerry [Angelo] and Lovie and Rod to add him to their team. He's a strong player.
Q: How have you guys been able to maintain the scoring that you have with so many new guys at skill positions?
BB: We'll see. We'll find out this week. It's a pretty good defense. We'll see how it goes against these guys. We just try to put together a game plan. The players go out there and execute it the best they can every week. You watch us play. It's not the same thing every week. We change depending on what they're doing and what we feel like are our best matchups and what we feel like we can do well. Those things change from week to week and, in the end, it comes down to execution by our players. If they block and throw and catch and run, we're going to score. If we don't, then we probably won't. There are no plays that you can put on paper and just say, 'Okay, hey, here're five touchdowns, go out and just line up here.' You've got to block them. You've got to throw it. You've got to catch it. You've got to run good routes. You've got to break tackles. You've got to get open. That's what good football players do. The plays that we've had, most of them have come from guys on our team making good plays. We can all name those guys: [Matt] Light, [Logan] Mankins, [Dan] Koppen, [Dan] Connolly, [Sebastian] Vollmer, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Rob] Gronkowski, [Alge] Crumpler, [Wes] Welker, [Brandon] Tate - you can just keep naming them. If those guys go out and make good plays, then the offense is going to move. If they don't, then they probably won't.
Q: Have you seen Cutler improve in his decision making, which is the one criticism people have had of him?
BB: We really haven't faced him with the Bears. We saw him in Denver, but that was a totally different system and he did a great job for Mike [Martz] in that system, too. But watching, particularly these last five weeks, there're not many decisions that you could question that he's made and he's made some great throws. He's made some great decisions, getting the ball to guys that you wonder how he sees them, like his read wouldn't necessarily take him there. You feel like the defense has done a pretty good job of showing us something, taking it away, and then he fires it in there to a guy that you think he wouldn't even really be looking at and he finds him. I think he's making very good decisions and he's playing really well. I'd say he's playing as good as any quarterback that we've faced. That's not taking anything away from the Roethlisbergers and the Mannings or any of those other guys - they're good too - I'm just telling you that this guy is doing a good job.