Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 13, 2009.
BB: It's funny after last week this seems like a short week. It's really not, of course; it's a normal week, but after the Bye Week and the extra time we had for the Miami game this one seems a little bit short. It's going by quickly. The Colts are a tough team to prepare for. I think the players have really worked hard. They've put in a lot of time, a lot of extra time. I think they've worked hard to get ready for this one. We know we're going to have to go out and play our best game in Indianapolis. I'm sure it'll be a very energetic environment - a lot of noise, a lot of energy, a lot of motion out there - so I just hope we can play well. We're going up against the best team in the league, one of the best teams in the league. We know it's a big challenge for us on the road, but I think our players are ready to compete.
Q: Do you practice in the field house today to get them used to indoors?
BB: No. We had a couple days out there in the wind and we're just tying things up a little bit. We had two good work days outside and today's a polished up review for the most part. We did some red area, goal line, a couple situational things, but a lot of it was a review. It was a good working environment in there.
Q: Is this game against the Colts going to require a unique perspective on time management and game management? In this game, do you have to make a lot of decisions off the board?
BB: I think you have to be ready for that every week. You never know how the game is going to go over, what situations are going to come up, so I think you have to be prepared for those every week. The Colts, they're a great team and they offer some unique challenges as every team does. Playing them is different than playing anybody else. Some things maybe get handled a little bit differently.
Q: Does Peyton Manning compress the game on you a little bit?
BB: They're so explosive that they can score on one play no matter who has the ball - strip sacks, interceptions for returns, big plays on offense - so they're very explosive and one mistake... It could be 14 points in two minutes or they score, they strip sack; they can get on the board in a hurry. I think you have to respect their explosiveness. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but we've all seen them play and seen them score a lot of points in a very short amount of time. That's always a concern.
Q: [On the competitiveness of the Colts]
BB: Well, even going back to the Tampa game a few years ago where they were down by - whatever it was - 21 points with three minutes to go in the game or something like that. I can't remember exactly, but it was three touchdowns in three minutes or three and a half minutes.
Q: You guys had 11 guys sit out yesterday. Is it nice to have everyone back and did it feel a little more complete out there?
BB: Yeah, it did. It was certainly good to see most of the guys out there running around [and] participating. Some of those, of course, will be game-time decisions. We'll see how things turned out after practice here, how these guys are doing, but it was definitely good to have them back out there, no doubt.
Q: Does it give you more options when you have these guys back in terms of what you're able to do in practice?
BB: Well, I mean, we pretty much do the same things in practice. If the players are out there and are available then we work with them and if they're not, then somebody has to fill in for them. We've had a couple days of that, the filling in thing, and today we had some guys that I think might have a chance, but we just have to wait and see. If the game was today, I'm not sure if all those players would play. The game is Sunday, so we know we've got another 48 hours plus and sometimes that can make a big difference in how quickly they turn around at the end of the week. We'll just have to see how that goes.
Q: A couple of the players were talking about, defensively, how much of an advantage it is to go up against Tom Brady in practice in getting ready for a quarterback like Peyton Manning. Do you agree with that?
BB: Sure, I think there are some similarities between Tom and Peyton in terms of their ability to read defenses, quick release, accuracy and those types of things. There's not a lot of margin for error defensively. If you don't have the receivers covered pretty closely then both quarterbacks get it in there. We've seen Tom, [he's] done that plenty in practice and Peyton [has done that] in games. I agree with that.
Q: You guys seem to be real efficient in the short passing game this year and a couple of those crossing routes have turned into touchdowns. Is that advantageous for you this week, considering the speed of their front four?
BB: I think in playing the Colts, you have to have some kind of balance; you can't do the same thing every time. Throwing the balls short is good, cutting some crossing patterns and all that - maybe we'll hit some of those - but it'll take more than crossing patterns to beat these guys. We'll have to do the things we do as an offense and mix it up on them a little bit and not let them get too geared in. When they know it's coming, they do a pretty good job of stopping it. I think you have to change up on them a little bit. They're fast, they're aggressive and it's hard to hold the ball because they have an excellent pass rush. Their young secondary is quick and they've made some plays back there, too. I think for us to do a good job offensively we're going to have to be good across the board, all 11 guys. We'll have to get contributions from everybody.
Q: How different is Melvin Bullitt from Bob Sanders?
BB: I think their playing style is similar. Sanders is a great player, I'm not saying that Bullitt is Sanders, but I mean they are both aggressive, they are both big hitters. They're very good run players. I think the playing style is similar. Sanders is one of the faster players in the league and very explosive. I'd say Bullitt is, too, but maybe not quite to that level.
Q: How unique is Dwight Freeney's spin move and does that make him harder to double team?
BB: Yeah, well it does and he has it timed up pretty well. When he's getting hit from the outside, a lot of times, he spins in there to get away from it. Freeney's very good and we've seen him against all the great tackles through the years and he gives them all trouble. He has his combination of his speed move, his spin move, and his speed to power. He's good at all of them and he's good in the running game, too. He's kind of like John Abraham, a guy that is very disruptive in the running game and not just the passing game. You've got to account for him on every play.
Q: Does that kind of bring the guard into it more?
BB: I think it depends on the protection, but if you're blocking them from the inside out the guards are [more involved]. If you're blocking them from the outside in then it's a tight end or a back and then he's seen all of those. He probably sees them all every week, but those are basically your two options - you can either help the tackle from the inside out and kind of overset him, or you can help him from the outside in and have the tackle take away the inside. That's basically all you can do.
Q: For a rookie, playing Peyton Manning for the first time or first couple times, do they get star struck?
BB: No, I don't think it's star struck. I just think their offense is kind of unique and the way they handle it and all - you don't see that every week. If you haven't played in this league, you probably haven't seen it at all. I think talking to our younger players through the years, guys like [Brandon] Meriweather and [Jerod] Mayo, talking about the first time they played them, it certainly helps to play them once. There is no doubt about it. The timing, the tempo of the game, Manning's quick release and his ability in the pocket to get rid of the ball so quickly and to scan the field - like Brady - like we've talked about. But competitively, you don't see too many quarterbacks at his level. Having played him before, I think that's certainly helpful for young players. As much as you can talk about it before the game and say this is the way it's going to be and all that, but until they get out there and experience it, it's not quite the same. [Brian] Hoyer's done a real good job for us this week, I'll just say that up front. He's done a great job of running the Colts offense for our defense, running the scout team, and I think he's run the plays, made the decisions and given our defense the looks that are probably most similar to what Manning would do. He's done a nice job of that.
Q: Do you have him specifically do everything that Peyton Manning would do - the barking down the line and all that?
BB: We do it in our terminology, of course. He doesn't want to run a lot of bad plays, so if it's a bad play into a bad defense, then he's going to go to something else and that's pretty much what Brian's done for us. Whatever plays we have called, if our defense happens to be in a look that we think Peyton wouldn't run that play against, then we have him go to something else. We don't know exactly what it's going to be of course, but it's the process and the flexibility they have at the line of scrimmage that was well simulated.
Q: Is the pace hard to simulate? I know a couple of the players said that until you get out there, it's almost impossible to know what pace they are going to create.
BB: Yeah, especially because they change the pace. They have an ability to play fast, they have an ability to play at a moderate rate, and sometimes they can slow it down and go to the line and make a bunch of calls and snap the ball with one or two seconds left on the 40-second clock and wait and get their look. It's a problem for the defense because if you show it early, then if he sees it early he can change it. But if you're not ready to play when they're over the ball, then they can snap it right away and then you're out of position. It puts some stress on you from a timing standpoint of disguises and showing what you're going to do. If they don't like it, then they try to get to something they prefer against that particular look.
Q: Given the fact that there are a lot of young guys on your team, how much do you think you can expand what they are doing?
BB: I think each week there's something that's a little bit new in preparing for the opponent that's a little bit different from last week, or a little bit different than something we've done. [We're] not trying to reinvent the defensive system - I'm not saying that - but you add a call or you add an adjustment or you do something to take care of a problem that they're giving you, whether they're giving you a lot of it, or maybe they're not giving you that much of it, but just when it comes up, here's how you want to handle it. Those accumulate through the year and for young players that's part of the process. It's not just learning the stuff at training camp, but learning the adjustments and the additions throughout the year. Some of those you might come back to you when that situation from earlier in the season presents itself again. You might come back to that, so that kind of experience is good for them. So do we keep doing more? Yeah, we do, because we have to defend more. To be honest with you, we have to defend more from the offense. You look at any team in the league right now after seven, eight, nine games [and] they're doing more than they were doing in week two, and we're doing more than we were doing. The multiples add up.
Q: Is it an issue, too, of prioritizing and saying, 'This is what you have to know'?
BB: Yeah. That's always an issue. You always want to prioritize what's important, because by the end of the week we're sitting here on Friday or Saturday and every player has been told 1,000 things: 'Do this,' 'Do that,' 'When this happens, do this,' 'When that happens, do that,' 'If they do this, you're going to check to that,' 'Read this guy,' 'Read that guy.' He's got 1,000 things in his mind and I think it's important to boil it back down to, 'OK, those are all techniques and they're all adjustments and they're things we need to do, but what do we need to do to win this game? Let's make sure we've got first things first.' Because somewhere between those 1,000 things, there's one and then there's 1,000. There's got to be some kind of priority, so I think every time you come to the end of the week, you want to bring it back to what are the most important things to do as a team and at each position, whether it's tight ends, 'Here are the three most important things for you to do this week.' For the corners, 'Here are the three most important things for you.' That type of thing, so that you don't lose sight of the big picture and so you don't take a chance on players not knowing what the most important things are and making those decision themselves. You remind them that this is how the game is played. This is what your role is. This is what your job is. First things first.
Q: When does that final distillation happen?
BB: Today and tomorrow. Friday is certainly a coming together time and Saturday a lot of times is just a further coming together or further solidifying. Maybe we put some things on the back burner. 'We've got this if we need it.' 'We've got that if we need it.' 'If this situation comes up, this is how we're going to handle it, but this is where we're going to go with. Here's how we're going to play the game.' Now if we have to adjust it, we adjust it. Because again, when you go through all of that in the beginning of the week, the players don't really know - and sometimes the coaches don't know for sure either - exactly how it's going to unfold. Again, I think to just identify and get everybody on the same page - 'Ok here's how we're going to start, so let's don't get confused with this other stuff. If we need it, we'll come to it, but that's not what we're going to lead with.' So then the players can really zero in on, 'Ok, these calls, these adjustments...if this is called and that happens, here's what we're going to do. There's another play were that might happen, but that play is 40 plays down the road. That's not what we're thinking about right away.'
Q: Do you ever install things on Tuesdays, work on it Wednesday and Thursday, but then Friday you don't feel great about it and decide to tell the team to scratch that?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That happens, I would say, pretty much every week. Sometimes it's on Thursday, sometimes it's on Friday, sometimes it could even be on Saturday. We could say, 'Look, cross this play off. Cross that play off. Cross this adjustment off. We're not going to do that.' Either we ran it a couple times and for whatever reason - either it didn't look good, or we didn't get a run right, or we just don't have enough time to practice it against what we really think we're going to see. We just say, 'That's it.' And we talk to the players about that, too, players - particularly the quarterback, but not just the quarterback. If we had a secondary or the linebackers and we talked to them at the end of the week and they're like, 'I still don't really feel good about this,' well, alright. You know what? We don't need it. We've got other stuff we can call, hopefully. The whole game isn't just hinged on this one thing. If Tom says, 'You know what, I don't really feel good about his play down here, they do this, do that...' Ok, well maybe if you ran it three or four more times, but we don't have time to run it three or four more times, so you just say, 'Ok, let's pull the plug on it. We have other plays. We have other stuff we feel good about, so let's forget about that one.' So today, Friday, is the day when you go through the last - we do a walkthrough on Saturday, but Friday is the last day where you really run everything. If something comes up today that's still kind of a little bit dirty, then that's probably not a good sign. But sometimes you have to do it and you say, 'Ok look, we'll take a little more time on Saturday and set it up in the walkthrough. We've got to get this. When this happens, this is the only way we can handle it, so let's go through it one more time and make sure everybody's on the same page.' Again, you get later in the week and you deal with some one-time situations: two-minute, backed up, four-minute, two-point plays and things like that that are just kind of one-time deals that may or may not happen - kickoff return after a safety, you know, all that stuff. You do it and if you make a mistake on it, you've just got to correct it and move on. I mean, there's no...you throw that out and then you've just got to put something else in. I think the big thing is you want everybody to feel confident and feel good going into the game that what we're going to call, we know what to do and we can be aggressive doing it. If you have that, then you've got a chance. If you don't and you can't play aggressively, then that's not what you want to do.