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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri May 07 - 12:00 AM | Sun May 09 - 11:58 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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BB: Well, we're starting to finish up our preparations on Oakland. One of the things that we didn't talk about yesterday was the special teams. I think Oakland's got a real strong special teams unit. I think that out of all the teams we've played, they rush more punts than any of the teams we've seen on film and I know they're going to rush us like they rush everybody. That will be a key area for us. Also, they've blocked several field goal and point after attempts this year. So the protection will be big. A big play like that could obviously be a huge swing in the game and at the same time you're worried about protection, you've got to worry about Charles Woodson and Tim Brown bringing them back. So that's a big threat there. That's probably an area of the team that we didn't talk too much about yesterday that I think is a little bit underrated for the Raiders. That's another part of their strength and part of the way that they continue to stay on the attack. We're going to work here today. We're going to be practicing here. We'll get outside. I thought we had a good day yesterday at BC, but we need to get out there and deal with the elements.

Q: You have experience with what a kicker can do for you in the playoffs. How important is it for a kicker to have experience kicking in inclement weather conditions?

BB: I think that's pretty much the normal scenario. Adam [Vinatieri] and Brad [Seely] and I talk before every game about what the range is and not whether you can get it there, but how hard is the kick to make? Just because you have the distance, depending on how much of a factor the crosswind is, when do you really feel, say, 75 percent confident that that kick's going to go through? Versus, if you had to have one on the last play of the first half or at the end of the game, where could you get it there from? It's really two different conversations. So that's always a part of the game plan. It's part of the strategy. It's something that the offensive coaches and Charlie [Weis] have to take into consideration as well based on when we're in field goal range and when we're not in it and at the same time defensively with Romeo [Crennel], knowing where field goal range really begins for them and when we've really got to try to make our stand in terms of a field goal versus when they're already in range and they've got a legitimate attempt at it. There's no question that the conditions are a factor and I think Adam handles those conditions pretty well he's kicked in about as bad conditions as you can kick in, being from South Dakota and having kicked here through the years. On the other hand, they've got a guy from Poland and I can't imagine it's any worse here than it is in Poland. If I had to give someone the edge, I'd have to give it to the guy who's kicked in Poland. I don't think that's any advantage for us.

Q: You were here in '96 when Adam came into the league. Can you talk about Adam's growth and development?

BB: I think that when you talk about a kicker … He kicks the ball for us, but when I look at him as a coach and the rest of the team looks at Adam, you don't really see a kicker. He's a football player. In the offseason programs, all the conditioning, all that we do, he does the same things that everybody else does. It's no different. It's not like there's any special program for him. He runs with what we call the intermediate group. The tight ends, running backs, linebackers, quarterbacks, he does all the running with that group. As an athlete and just as a pro football player, those are the people he works with and he's right there with them. As far as kicking goes, I think that he's so steady and so consistent. We see it out there every day in practice. There are some days where the winds are hard crosswinds or we have to kick into the wind or the conditions are pretty tough and he handles them probably as well as anybody that I've ever been around. He may be even a little bit better in those conditions than sometimes he does when it's almost perfect out there. We've just come to have a lot of confidence in him and I think it's just from seeing him day after day, day after day. Being able to be here every day and work hard, whether it's in conditioning, whether it's kicking field goals or kicking off, he's pretty consistent. He gives you what you expect pretty much every time out.

Q: Bill, is there any kicker in the league as willing to deliver a hit as Adam is?

BB: He's a tough guy and he's a good tackler. He's saved us a couple of times, especially earlier in the year when our coverage was not quite as good as it's been lately. When [Matt] Bahr worked with him, he might have got a little bit of that from Matt. Matt knocked himself out trying to make some tackles himself. But Adam, I know he's our kicker and that's his job, but I think I see him and everybody else sees him as just a football player, because he doesn't do anything any differently than everybody else does. He certainly never looks to beg out of any extra work.

Q: Can you talk about home field advantage? Is there anything you can do to increase home field advantage?

BB: I think that we've been practicing in the same type of conditions that we're going to be playing in. But at this point in the season with an experienced team like Oakland, I'm not sure that there's really a big advantage there. Again, when you've got guys from Poland and all, they've been in cold weather. It's not like they don't know what to do. And the crowd is a factor in the game, in terms of communication. But that kind of works both ways, too. We have trouble at home here with our defensive communications, because that's usually when the crowd's loud. And if we have to make checks on defense, then that really puts extra stress on us to communicate those adjustments, just like it does on the offense when they try to audible. So it's just different. When you're on the road, you have trouble offensively and in punt protection and those kinds of things on communication, and when you're at home, then defensively there's a little more strain there. I think you just have to adjust to those and it's good to be in familiar surroundings, but I think that if you look around the league this year, those numbers all come out pretty evenly.

Q: It's always important to establish the run, but is it more important this week because there's such a high-octane offense on the other side?

BB: Well, there's no doubt that the less they have the ball, the less opportunities they're going to have to score. So it's good to be able to control the game and I think that more importantly than establishing the run, I would say is controlling the line of scrimmage. Sometimes those two are synonymous, but if you can control the line of scrimmage, whichever side of the ball you're on, then a lot of other things are going to fall into place a lot easier than when you don't have control and you're always hanging on whether you're on defense or you're on offense. I think that will be one of the real big challenges for us this week. Oakland has a very aggressive defensive front and they really attack the line of scrimmage and offensively they're a big, solid offensive line that has experience together and [Rich] Gannon does a good job and [Jon] Gruden goes a good job with the snap count and the cadence and all those types of things that can keep you from being as aggressive as you'd like to be defensively, but whichever team can control the line of scrimmage, there's no question that they'll have a big edge.

Q: I know whatever weather there is will affect both teams. Have you been checking the weather for this weekend?

BB: We check it early in the week, just in terms of trying to plan practice and from a scheduling standpoint, how we'll be able to get our work done and as it gets later on in the week, then we keep track of what the game conditions are going to be. Again, that changes a lot. I'm sure all of us that check the weather look at it now at 11:00 and then look at it at 1:00 and you get a whole different forecast. This time of year, it moves in and out. But as it gets closer … The night before the game is when we take most of our time to make our players aware of what the anticipated conditions are.

Q: Do you believe that playing in 20-degree weather is to your advantage?

BB: No. It would be 20 degrees for them, too.

Q: This stadium, Buffalo and the old Shea Stadium were always considered the toughest places to kick. Do you think that this place and Buffalo are now the two toughest places to kick and is that an advantage to you guys?

BB: Well I think that the winds in the stadiums that you mentioned are different. It's more just getting used to the conditions that you're playing in. For example, for most of our games here, the wind is usually straight up and down the field. But we had two games where the wind was kind of quartering, coming over this end zone back here. So that changed a little bit. It not only affects the distance of the kicks, but on the field goals and the punts, it affects the placement, and also the passing game as well. But in other stadiums … For example in Giants Stadium and Shea Stadium, and I have experience in both of those stadiums, because of the height of the stadium, the wind kind of tends to whip down so you could be standing in the end zone at Giants Stadium and it would be perfectly calm. I remember when I was coaching special teams for the Giants, some of Dave Jennings' best punts into the wind were out of his end zone where it was real calm there and he'd bang them out to midfield. Whereas if you go and stand out there at midfield, you'd feel a 30-mph gust, and just dropping the ball from your hand to your foot, you didn't know how it was going to come down, so on a 50- or 40-yard space there, there was a dramatic change in the conditions and I think that's also true in those kind of stadiums as the ball rises, for example on punts the way the wind affects the ball relative to kickoffs. I think it varies from stadium to stadium, is what I'm saying. This stadium is a little bit different because it's lower in the way the wind comes over the top. It tends to be more consistent in whichever direction it's blowing. When it's quartering, as opposed to going just straight down the field one way or the other, that definitely makes it a little bit harder to deal with the changes in the elements.

Q: Are you going to work under the lights this week?

BB: No. I didn't want to disrupt your schedule and bring you in late Thursday night.

Q: You've talked a lot about their offense. What about their defense?

BB: Defensively, number one, they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They attack the line of scrimmage, they penetrate those gaps and they do a real good job of being disruptive on the line. They have good quickness up there. Their linebackers are fast. [Elijah] Alexander and [William] Thomas probably run as well as any outside linebackers in the league. [Greg] Biekert's a real experienced, heady middle linebacker who's got a good nose for the ball. I think that their speed in the secondary and at linebacker is very good. They have excellent cornerbacks, and then when [Tory] James comes in as their third corner, he's probably up there with any third corner in the league. So that's pretty good talent at those spots, and then they move [Rod] Woodson inside. I think they're a good coverage group, they're disruptive with the quarterback, and they do a good job on third down. They're one of the top third down teams in the league. They're also a good red area team, and that's really the mark of a good defense.

Q: Do you feel more comfortable with your offense and their defense?

BB: No. I just think it's interesting because of the contrast in the style, because offensively they're so complex, Gruden runs everything in the book and Gannon is an experienced quarterback and he executes it. Whereas on the defensive side of the ball, they do a lot fewer things and they really emphasize doing them well and they do them over and over and over again. And they're effective doing it that way. Sometimes you see it and that's kind of the personality of the team. In this case, it's a little bit of a contrast between how exotic they are offensively and how more basic they are defensively. They don't give up a lot of big plays. They don't take their safeties out of the middle of the field very often. There's usually at least one guy back there. They play a lot of man-to-man coverage and they shoot those gaps and they shoot them repeatedly. And they just force you to get in front of them and try to block them. And they do a good job.

Q: When you look at Rich Gannon and how far he's come, do you ever think back to when he was drafted here and how they had the intention of making him a defensive back because he was so athletic?

BB: I really haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that. When you look at a guy like Rich and you look at his career, and not to take anything away from Gannon because I think he's a terrific player, but I think you've got to give some credit to Gruden. He just didn't have the same kind of production and the same kind of performance until he got out there to Oakland. Whether that was the system or it was Jon's coaching or a combination of both, and he's got Jerry Rice out there now to go with [Tim] Brown, but that wasn't true a couple of years ago, he's been pretty productive all the way through since he and Gruden got together. I think you've got to give Gruden a lot of credit for going out there and bringing him out there and making the guy. I think there were a lot of people in the league that when Jon did that said, 'How far is he going to take them?' Well, he's taken them pretty far and he was the best quarterback in the AFC this year. But I think a lot of that credit has to go to the coach as well as the player.

Q: How do you go about slowing down Brown and Rice?

BB: It's tough. You could let the air out of the ball, but I don't think you can do that. It's tough. Those guys, Brown, Rice, [Charlie] Garner and then you've got to count Gannon in there even though he hasn't produced that much yardage, he carried the ball 53 times and those are basically pass plays that he ended up scrambling on, I mean, those guys have produced 80 percent of their offense. They've combined for about 4,000 yards. Rice is receiving, Brown's receiving, Garner's running or receiving and then what Gannon's done. And that doesn't take into account the other guys who are all pretty good football players, too. Those guys have produced 4,000 yards. You can stop one guy and then the other two guys kill you. Really, the other three guys if you put Gannon in there. You can't just load up and say, 'Okay, we're going to double Rice,' or 'We're going to load up on Garner.' They've got too many other guys who can kill you. And they have the scheme that can pick you apart. It's going to take good team defense. Everybody's going to have to step up and do their job and we're not going to be able to overload one guy or another or we'll pay the price somewhere else.

Q: It's been noted that their strength – the passing game – will be going up against your strength, which lately has been your secondary.

BB: Oakland's a little better offensive football team than Carolina. With all due respect to Carolina, Oakland's a real good offensive football team. So that's a huge challenge for us. It's a huge challenge for us and I think our defensive players have seen it from when we started looking at Oakland last week and going over the scouting report and talking about them. When you don't play a team, you see some highlights on TV and all that, but when you really start looking at the tape and you start looking at them closely and you see just how productive they are and how efficient they are, how well they execute the things that they're doing, you really understand what a challenge it is to stop them and I think that's the way the coaches and the players feel about Oakland's offense and their system.

Q: Is there one particular area of their offense that you think will be more challenging than the others?

BB: Last week Garner ran for 150 yards and they threw for 300-and-something, they're balanced. And if you take one away, they don't have any problem being unbalanced the other way. If you can't stop the run, they've got no problem running it for a couple of hundred yards and if you get everybody up here to stop the run, they've got no problem throwing it for 400 yards. I really don't think they care how they get their yards or how they move the ball. They just want to move it, and they do.

Q: What difference do you see in Rice this year as opposed to last year when he was in San Francisco?

BB: Not a lot. He's still a receiver that works hard. He runs every route hard. He doesn't take any plays off. He runs hard whether he's getting the ball or whether he's clearing out, whether it's a long route, a short route, inside, outside, whatever. He runs those routes full speed and he's got great stamina. When you're a coach, a lot of times what you do is you watch what we call cut-up tape. For example, you might watch all of Oakland's passes when it's just a one-back set. When you're watching those plays, you're not watching any game sequence, you're just watching and saying, 'Okay, here's a one-back set and here's what they do, here's the next play, boom, boom.' So when those plays all fall together, you don't know if it's the first play of the game or the last play of the game or some other play in the middle, unless you go and check it. But usually what you're looking for is how they do it by a certain formation. And I would just say if you watch it like that, you don't know if it's the first play of the game or the last play of the game when he runs his route, because he has such great stamina and endurance that his fourth-quarter routes look just like his first- and second-quarter routes. They're fast, they're quick, he's explosive off the ball, he's explosive out of the cuts, and he's got good running ability after the catch. That's the way he's always played and that's one of the things that makes him such a great receiver: his work ethic, his consistency, but his stamina and he's as hard to cover on the last play of the game as he is on the first, because he's still going at that same speed. He might not be able to go out and run the stopwatch 4.3, but I really think that whatever his time is at the end of the game is the same at the beginning of the game and to be able to keep that going throughout the game puts tremendous pressure on you defensively and I think that's where he wins a lot of battles. He just wears them down.

Q: Has the amount of production you've gotten out of Roman Phifer surprised you?

BB: I don't think we saw quite as much playing time as what Roman has gotten this year. We saw Roman as a very productive player, as a three…what really we call a four-down player, because he can play on first down, second down, he can cover on third down and he can play on fourth down in the kicking game. And you can't say that about a lot of linebackers. You know some of the better special teams guys don't play on the defensive downs and vice versa, but he's really a four-down player. We anticipated Roman playing in the neighborhood of three quarters of the time, whether it was more sub in one game and a little less regular or vice versa. We could see that he had some flexibility there, but as it's turned out he's played almost every down on defense as well as…he's on the kickoff return team. He's on the punt team. So he's also a key contributor for us in the kicking game. So he's played more snaps than we thought he would play, but in terms of the quality of play I would say that, no. I think Roman's playing very similar to the way he's played in the past. I think the biggest improvement that he's made this year has been his pass rush. I don't think that in the past he's had as much production as a rusher as what he's had this year and he's just done a better job of getting off on his initial takeoff, keeping his body lean lower and using his hands on particularly those offensive linemen, the tackles who have tried to block him. You know we rushed him at the Jets in the 3-4 system and he just, he seems to be more confident and a little more proficient now than he was a year or two ago.

Q: Charles Woodson has been banged up a little bit. From watching tape, where is he now?

BB: He looks pretty good to me. He looks pretty good to me. I think that this guy is one of the most talented players in the league and I've talked, of course I've spent a lot of time this week talking to [Tom] Brady about him, who you know was with him at Michigan. I think he's a guy that has real good athletic ability, real good quickness and balance. You know you see him at times on film get in some, they look like kind of awkward positions where maybe he slips on the turf or he's trying to make a tackle and a guy blocks him and he has just an amazing way of regaining his balance and coming back up on his feet and balancing up and making a play, that kind of thing that is really rare. His quickness is very good. I would say really to me the thing that, of all the things that Woodson does well, and there is a long list of them, I'd say the thing he probably does the best in terms of corner play, is tackling. I think he's one of the top tacklers in the league. He wraps them up. He very seldom misses and he's usually pretty physical and knocks a lot of people back. A lot of corners don't…a lot of corners would rather cover than tackle. I think Charles is the type of guy that when he hits them he's a very … I would say one of the top tackling corners in the league.

Of course he doesn't have to make a lot of them

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