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Bill Belichick Press Conference

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about their win over the Panthers (38-6) that earned them the title of 2001 AFC East Champions.To read a full transcript, click below.

BB: Well it was an enjoyable ride home for us. Obviously the team and the organization were…there was quite a bit of emotion and I think maybe a little confidence expressed when we heard that the Jets beat Oakland and gave us a first round bye. It is an honor to be in that seeding and obviously a lot of possibilities on what will happen in that first game so there is still a lot for us to get ready for and we will start moving that forward as quickly as we can here. It has really changed a little bit from where we were at the end of last week. So that was a good end to the day yesterday. I thought that yesterday wasn't one of our sharpest games of the year again Carolina on the other hand we continue to have some big plays and some people come through for us at the most opportune times and any time you get kind of three bonus scores, two on defense and one in the kicking game, those are points that are huge swings for you. It is hard to ever count on those, you can't count on them and when you get them that is a tremendous boost for you. I thought that our kicking game was very strong yesterday. I thought those guys played extremely well and Brad [Seely] did a tremendous job of having a good game plan and having them ready to go and they really played well in all phases of the game. The punt return obviously was a big play, but the coverage on [Steve] Smith was exceptional all day and our field position was as good as it has been and that of course helped us out defensively when we gave up more yardage a lot of times then what we had hoped to give up. I think that is pretty much the state of the situation right now. We are going to bring the players back in on Wednesday and that will give the coaching staff the next couple of days to try to zero in on our preparations and our focus this week until we can be a little bit more definitive at the end of the week and really be specific on our preparation starting next week.

Q: You alluded to the fact that it probably wasn't the sharpest game that you have played, how much of that can be attributed to the bye week?

BB: I don't think the bye week had anything to do with it. I really don't. Carolina they played us tough defensively, they ran the ball well. They did some good things. As I said all week they had some good players and that was a hard fought game kind of back and fourth, nip and tuck there and then some plays went our way there at the end of the third and fourth quarter and then the game got out of hand, but it certainly wasn't that way through the first two and a half quarters. That's a football team that as I have said is better than the record indicates obviously, but our performance wasn't the sharpest, but I certainly wouldn't blame or make any excuses about the bye week. We did some things well, we did some other things not so well and we need to improve those and we could say that about all of the other games probably other than…I would say most every other game we have played this year we could say that about too and there weren't bye weeks involved there. Some things we did well, other things we didn't do as well.

Q: So in other words you don't have a concern as to another bye week and changing anything that you did, it is kind of a unique situation?

BB: It is unique, yeah.

Q: To have gone through a bye week with a big one at the end and now have another one with a huge game at the end?

BB: Yeah, no I am still glad that we have it and we will try to use it as effectively as we can. I do think that the bye week helped us for the Carolina game. We had a couple of the big plays in the game that I know everybody saw were really the result of a lot of extra work that was put into those situations in the bye week. So if there were any negative effects whatever they were I think they were far outweighed by the things that we were able to accomplish positively in the extra time and preparation that we took in some of those areas on defense and in the kicking game.

Q: Were you listening to a play-by-play of the Jets game on the plane?

BB: No we couldn't get it. Sometimes people would make a call on their cell phone, but then eventually the pilots were getting the scores from the air traffic controllers and passing it along. Yeah it was like Morse Code.

Q: So it was just a big roar when the result was announced?

BB: Yeah, I think somebody…at that point there what do you call them the little TV things, somebody saw [John] Hall make the field goal and then when they stopped them on fourth down yeah a big roar went up on the plane.

Q: It is an amazing business where today the man you competed against yesterday got fired…

BB: Was that announced today?

Q: Yes, but the paradox between what he is going through and what you are about to go through it is the nature of this business, do you have any feelings about that part of the game for him?

BB: Obviously it is not anything that I take any joy in. I hate to see that happen to anyone. On the other hand we all know that in this business those things happen. I will tell you this though I have been on the other end of it when it happened February 15 and if it is going to happen it is better to happen January 7 than February 15, I'll say that, but unfortunately that is part of the business. I know a lot of people on that staff and I think there are a lot of good coaches down there and George [Seifert] had a better record than any other coach in pro football for awhile there so that is too bad.

Q: What was that period of time like that you just alluded to?

BB: Not good, not good.

Q: What were the specific plays, was the punt return one of the things that you worked on over the bye week?

BB: Yeah that was definitely one of them.

Q: Was there another one?

BB: Yeah a couple of the defensive plays, a couple of the third down stops, Otis' [Smith] interception. Yeah, the punt return was a play that, again as we have been talking about all year we have had a lot of our starters or our key guys on the field for that play and in that case it was Otis and Lawyer [Milloy] on [Jarrod] Cooper which was a big match-up for us. Ted Johnson had a real key block there on [Jason] Kyle and of course Troy [Brown] obviously made a terrific run. He got by the fullback and then made a move on the punter, but those were things that we worked a little bit extra on because Ty [Law] and Otis and Lawyer hadn't been working quite as much on the punt return and we got some extra work with them this week. Overall I thought they did a decent job with Cooper. That guy is pretty good. We thought that we might have some opportunities to return the ball because [Todd] Sauerbrun is such a long punter.

Q: Do you already have a list of things to work on this week?

BB: I think just based on yesterday's game I could give you a quick short list. Our run defense obviously and our running game, our goal line offense, things like that come to mind pretty quickly, but again there's some carryover things from last week that we worked on in practice that we can still stand to work some more on and improve. We had some breakdowns defensively on third down and obviously our run defense was not very good yesterday at all.

Q: So do you work on stuff that you just immediately saw was a problem or do you look back?

BB: No we will go back and kind of review a) where we are based on 16 games and b) where we are based on the most recent game, but again I am just saying based on yesterday's performance it would be hard to say, 'Our run defense is great.' It obviously, it got ripped way too many times.

Q: Without a definitive opponent do you prepare for either eventuality or do you just kind of retreat back into yourselves?

BB: I think that when we take a look after tonight, after the Baltimore game tonight, that we will have a little bit better idea what the seedings are. We are pretty familiar with a couple of the teams that we could be facing and we wouldn't be as familiar with obviously Seattle if they are in it, Baltimore if they are in it or Oakland. Depending on how the seedings go whoever the sixth seed is then we would not be playing them. We know that if they were to win their first game they would go to Pittsburgh so that would eliminate them. Then we would have to take a look at the other teams and again prioritize our preparations this week and most likely it would be with the teams that we are a little less familiar with. Then I would assume next Saturday that if Oakland were to win their game next Saturday then that would mean that they would be our opponent. So we will know probably by next, the way I understand the schedule unless I am screwed up this, but the way I understand it is we should know by Saturday night whether or not we would be playing Oakland.

Q: Coming off the bye week for you guys is it better to play a team that you are not familiar with and a team that is not familiar with or…?

BB: If we know them, they know us. If we don't know them then they don't know us. So I think it is a wash.

Q: Do you ever sit back and marvel at the way things have fallen into place?

BB: Well you know there is an old saying that things even out in sports and they probably do whether it be a close call or a close game or a bounce of the ball and that kind of thing. I think you just take what comes. Again those things are not anything…they just happen and we have to react to what happens and I think if you are in the game long enough they probably do even out. We have all seen some things go against you and then there are some times things work out in your favor. I think from our standpoint it was hard to root for the Jets, but it was nice that the Jets beat Oakland and gave us a bye week in the playoffs. If they hadn't then we would have been ready to play this week. So that is all we can do. It helped and it certainly went our way as far as that game went and I have been on the other end of it when you are sitting there hoping somebody will beat somebody else so you can get into the playoffs and they don't and you are out that year. I think that over the course of the long run that those things probably even themselves out.

Q: Did you see the highlights and if so are you going to thank Tom Tupa for the hold?

BB: Yeah I saw that. Yeah, I did see the kick on the highlights and that is about all I saw. It looked like a great play by Tupa, which I have seen him do it…I saw him do it in Cleveland, I saw him do it here and I saw him do it at New York. He is a tremendous athlete and that was a great hold and it was a pressure kick.

Q: You and your two coordinators have a lot of playoff experience, how much of an advantage is that?

BB: I think the chemistry of the staff is good and I think particularly with the coordinators including Brad and the kicking game. We have been together for multiple years and been through a lot of situations and I think that we can help each other identify and re-identify the specific things that are the highest priority. Other things, the bases that need to be covered, but aren't quite as high on that scale, but I know Charlie [Weis] and Romeo [Crennel] I think, just in terms of preparation, do a tremendous job in all facets of the game whether it be game planning, personnel or longer tem planning. We have been through all these type of scenarios where it could be two or three different things happen and how best to manage the staff's time and get the preparations as far along as you can until you know for sure when the defining moment is going to come and who that team is going to be. So yeah having those guys is a huge asset for me all the way around.

Q: What would the defining moment of this season be?

BB: I think there were a lot of them. Probably as much as anything it would have to be the San Diego game. The fourth quarter of the San Diego game. When you are 1-3 that is a quarter of the season right there and you can't wait too long to make a move and being down by ten points and rallying and coming back to win in overtime, that was certainly a critical game, but you just keep going right down the line. When you are climbing uphill like that every ledge is a big ledge to get to so New Orleans was a big win for us, Cleveland and of course New York. Anytime you win a division game on the road, both of the Buffalo games were…you can't get them any closer than that. Obviously Miami so…both of the Indianapolis games were big confidence games for us as well. I mean they were good wins, but the way we won was good for our football team. Boy it would be hard to single one out, they all meant a lot.

Q: What was the defining moment or action that you had prior to this season?

BB: Maybe as much as anything, I mean if you just had to pick out one play, one moment it probably would have been the first Indianapolis game where [Bryan] Cox hit [Jerome] Pathon over the middle right at the beginning of the game. I think that set a tone and a physicalness for that game that I think, there was a little electricity to it, it caught and the team ran with it a little bit. So I think if you had to pick out just maybe one thing that would probably have to go up there on the list.

Q: You mentioned confidence and Bryan Cox had mentioned that even when this team began to win that he still felt that despite playing well their were players on the team who didn't have the confidence are you happy with the confidence level of this team and do you see what Bryan was talking about?

BB: Oh sure, yeah, I think until you go out there and win them under pressure you can talk about it all you want and you can have pregame speeches and everybody can jump up and down and put their hands together and yell go team and all of that stuff, but until you come from behind and win a game or until you run out the clock at the end of the game or until you recover an onside kick or return a punt or intercept a pass or run the ball in or run the clock out offensively and run time off in the fourth…until you do those things you can talk about them and practice them and believe in them all you want, but once you do them it is genuine then. It is in the bank. You know you have done it. It is not just theoretical any more. Each game along the way I think that has grown a little bit for us. We certainly didn't have a lot of it to carryover from last year and there are so many new people here this year I don't know how much carryover there would have been anyway, some, but not a great deal. So we are doing it with new people and a new environment and it's happened in a lot of different ways and I think that obviously the confidence level is a lot higher now and it should be because we have accomplished more.

Q: Is that a simple aspect of team building that has to happen at this level even if they played at Miami or Florida State and had success?

BB: Absolutely. Yeah it is one thing to do it in college or you can do it on another team in this league, but it is another thing to go out there and know that the guy that is standing beside you that you can count on him to do his job and therefore you can aggressively go and do yours and not worry about the what ifs and does he need help and should I be looking for this or looking for that because you are both on the same page or collectively the whole unit is on the same page and you can go out and play with higher level of confidence and aggressiveness and efficiency.

Q: Is there anyway that this team can look at a number two seed and realize that they are only one of four teams not playing this weekend and feel overconfident?

BB: Well that is a good question. I guess it is possible. I think with the negativity that this staff can bring that overconfidence hasn't been a great…

Q: That is our job.

BB: …and the media that is right thank you, but I think that we can bring them back to reality because in the end everybody has got a clean slate now. We saw Baltimore last year they weren't the number one or number two seed and they won the Super Bowl so it is what you do from here on out not where you are ranked. That determines who you play and at home and all of that, but in the end it is going to come down to performance.

Q: You talked about what you were trying to do in the offseason and with the acquisitions of all of those players to be a tougher team physically, you lose your first two games, was their any period of time when you thought maybe it didn't work out the way you wanted, was it Bryan Cox's hit in the Colts game that made your mind up that it had worked?

BB: I know that preseason is preseason and nobody really cares what those records are. Nobody cares if Minnesota was 4-0 in the preseason, I know that nobody cares about that, but there is no question that we were concerned and when I say we, I think the entire collective team, players, coaches, you name it, we were concerned after the Tampa game because we went down there feeling that we knew that that was a good football team, had a lot of respect for Tampa and we didn't really compete to their level in that game. Then I think that was…we all had to look in the mirror and see the reality of it. That is just what it was. We couldn't compete with them at that level on that night and we have tried to really rededicate ourselves the next week against Washington and I think that we came out at certainly a higher level. I know we lost the first two games and that was disappointing. They were both real close games and had one or two plays been executed better I think the outcome could have been different. I don't think it is necessarily that we were out-toughed or didn't have the right mental frame of mind. We just didn't make the plays that we needed to make to win in those games and that is really where the emphasis became was more on execution, but I do think the level of toughness on our team has gradually improved don't get me wrong, but it was pretty disappointing in Tampa, but I do think the players recognized that and responded to it starting with the Washington preseason game. I think from that point on it has been maybe not always a top level, but I think at least at a competitive level.

Q: The offensive line has seemed to come together that must give a certain confidence in the entire offense?

BB: Sure and we didn't have that at the beginning of the year. I mean we went through the preseason games without Mike Compton, [Damien] Woody missed a couple of games, without Matt Light, it was kind of musical chairs in there. That certainly helped us get some stability there in the early part of the season even though the performance and the results weren't tremendous. At least it developed a base and the continuity as it increased the efficiency and the performance increased a little bit, you know gradually mind you through the course of the year, so no question that was a key component of it.

Q: Is this regular season eerily similar to the '96 season with the 0-2 start?

BB: Well for my health I am glad the last game this year didn't go the way the Giant game went in '96 down, what was it, 22-0 at the half? Well there's…we've talked about this before and I've talked to the team about it a number of times. In the end, other than the color of the uniform and all of that, there are so few similarities between those two teams. To me, it's really a stretch of a comparison. Again even the players that were on it, it was so long ago they're at such a different point in their career from where they were then to where they are now. Guys that were rookies or second-year guys or just kind of making their mark in the league, are now amongst the team leaders and some of the most respected players in the league and they weren't anywhere close to that back then. They were just looking up to a lot of other good players on the team. So much has changed and so many of the players aren't…that were on that team aren't on this team. So it's hard for me to make a good comparison on that. I think that that page has been turned, even though we all remember what happened. But this is a different team.

Q: Jermaine Wiggins had his fourth touchdown catch yesterday. Can you talk about his development this year? What you have liked? What you haven't liked?

BB: Jermaine, he'll catch the ball if he is open. If he's open and you throw it to him, he'll catch it. He takes a lot of pride in his hands and his concentration. They don't always look classic or the way that you necessarily want other players to emulate it, but he pulls it in and he's got good concentration. You know he made a nice play yesterday where he kind of got tripped up coming through the line of scrimmage there, kept his balance. If that had been a running play and he'd had to make a block I'm not sure whether he would have stayed on his feet or not, but since he was one of the key guys in the pattern he was able to regain his balance and made a nice play on the ball. That's another on of those plays that we've run in practice I don't know how many times, more than you would think you would need to run. But you know it's a play that's always looked pretty good in practice, had a chance to run it in a game and came through with a big third-down play.

Q: If he's not a classic, is he awkward? An unmade bed?

BB: He's got his own style. He's got his own style. But he's got some skills in the passing game. They are not classic skills, but they are skills. He catches the ball. He kind of knows how to get open. He's deceptive. He's productive in the passing game.

Q: When he's that, do you try to refine that? Or do you say…?

BB: We are trying. No, we're trying. We're trying.

Q: What do you try?

BB: Well I mean you can't take a guy who's…I mean let's face it, he doesn't have blazing speed. You know we can coach him 24 hours a day and he's still not going to have blazing speed, just like I never had blazing speed and I am never going to run fast. I talk to the players about, I wonder what it's like to be able to run fast. I don't know. I'd like to know what that feels like, you know when there is a guy in front of you and you know you can catch him and you can run him down from behind. I can't relate to that. I know what it's like to be chased. You know you've got about two steps before you are dead. So you try to work on things like quickness and body position and leverage and taking advantage of what Jermaine does have, which is size. He has a good feel for the passing game and where the holes are and how to get open and how to use his body to push off and create separation and he catches the ball well and when he keeps his pads down, he can run and gain some yardage after the catch. When he doesn't, when he stands up then he usually gets tipped over and that's it.

Q: What prompted you to bring Scott Pioli here and why does that relationship work?

BB: Scott and I go back pretty far. Scott was a guy I first met when he was still in college and he was a coach at Murray State in Kentucky and when I was at Cleveland we hired him as a…the lowest level you could hire somebody on in the personnel department. I forget what the title was, but it was going to the airport and pick up guys and stuff like that. He worked his way up through that organization. He went to Baltimore and you know when I went down and, there's a number of times as a coach, I'll try to be clear with it. After the '96 season when I was the head coach of the Jets for that brief, that very brief time frame, one of my hires during that week was Scott, who was still an assistant type capacity in Baltimore, as the Pro Personnel Director with the Jets. So we worked closely there then were able to give him an elevation when he came up here. And I've just had a long relationship with him and I have a lot of respect for his work ethic. We kind of see things the same way, which makes it easy. Even though we have our differences, don't get me wrong, but I think philosophically we see things the same way and then I think we have good respect for each other's opinions. When there is a disagreement we can be open about it and try to see what the other person sees and somehow get it resolved.

Ppart Two: click here

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