Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
BB: First of all, I want to pass along Thanksgiving wishes to all of you, the fans, the players' families and everybody that has to put up with us through the year. It's a great time for all of us to be thankful, especially those of us with the Patriots. We have a great situation here. It's a great opportunity. I appreciate the Kraft family giving me an opportunity to be the coach here. We certainly have outstanding facilities, and support and everything to work with. Robert [Kraft] talked to the team this morning, I thought he put the day in a good perspective - or tomorrow, as it would be. It's a good time to reflect and be appreciative and take at least one day out of the year to do that, we probably should take every day. Anyway, with that being said, we are onto New Orleans. They're a real good football team, strong in every area. They turn the ball over on defense, make a lot of big plays, everybody's a problem on offense - tight ends, receivers, quarterback, running backs, offensive line, good in the kicking game, explosive returners, a strong punter, consistent kicker, good coverage team. They are very well-coached. They present a lot of scheme problems both offensively and defensively. Sean [Payton] and Greg [Williams] both do a real good job of making it hard to move the ball against them and to stop them, and then they have outstanding players to implement into that system. They create a lot of problems. We'll need all the time we can to prepare for them. They give you a lot to get ready for. I can see why their record is what it is; they deserve it. They've won every game by double digits - most of the time they are running out the clock in the middle of the third quarter. They are a very good football team and we know it will be a very energetic atmosphere and certainly a hostile environment towards the Patriots down there. So [there are] a lot of challenges in place for us Monday night that we have to get ready for.
Q: When you look at New Orleans can you point to one weapon?
BB: I can't even point to one weapon at one position. Look at their running backs, [Reggie] Bush, [Mike] Bell, Pierre [Thomas], those guys are all good. They have all been productive. They're different styles; they complement each other. And it's the same thing with their receivers; they all make plays - tight ends. Defensively, they've got a lot pass rushers. It's a good linebacking group, make plays in the secondary. They are solid across the board. Bush returning punts, [Courtney] Roby returning kickoffs, so they spread it around. But, look, they have 18 different guys that scored touchdowns. You can't stop one and let the other 17 go. I know a lot of those are defensive touchdowns, but still that's a lot of different guys. [It's] fourth and one against the Jets and they're throwing to offensive linemen in the end zone, so everybody's involved.
Q: You mentioned defensive touchdowns. What has it been that's enabled them to turn those into points?
BB: A couple of them, they've just been open-field, they get the ball and run it in the open field. They recovered a strip-sack in the end zone for a touchdown. They've got good pass rushers, they've got good speed at linebacker - of course headed by [Jonathan] Vilma - but all those guys can run and they're good in the secondary. They take advantage; they are very opportunistic. If you run a sloppy route, you make a sloppy throw, you don't pick up one of their blitzes, and the quarterback gets hit as he's releasing the ball and those plays are not only turnovers, but they've ended up in a lot of touchdowns. They scored eight return-type touchdowns on defense, special teams - the next in the league is four. And they've had a couple called back, too. When you watch the film you just see them running back for touchdowns and you forget that a couple of those got called back, so it's really been 10.
Q: Why is Darren Sharper such a weapon for them?
BB: He's played the way he's always played from when he came out of William and Mary. He's a ball hawk, he's got good ball skills. [He's] tall; he's a hard guy to throw over. He's got good length, good hands, good anticipation and he's a smart football player.
Q: Because of his experience is he always in a place...
BB: Yeah, he's very dangerous. I think it's different than Ed Reed, but similar in that you've got to know where he is when the ball leaves the quarterback's hands the quarterback better know where that guy is because he's tracking it. I mean Ed Reed is in a class by himself, but Sharper is really good. He makes a lot of plays on anticipation, route recognition, reading the quarterback and they have a good pass rush to go with it, so that helps those guys in the secondary. The quarterback doesn't have long to hold the ball back there and look people off, he's got to look where he's going to throw or otherwise he's not going to get it off and that attracts a crowd.
Q: How much of what they do on offense is they get you in positions that you don't want to be in?
BB: Well, they run a very complex offense with all the different personnel groups you could imagine and all the formations. If we took the other 15 games we play and put all the formations and personnel groups together, it probably would be about the same as the Saints. It's that many. So they get you one everything. They run mis-directions, they run reverses, they run boots, they run power plays, they run draw plays, they run bubble screens. You name it, they run it. They have a very diverse attack. As I said, they use different backs, they use different receivers, they use different tight ends. They mix up the formations. You can't really draw a beat on them because there are too many different things happening. You have to try to boil it down and categorize it. You just don't get a look at the formation like you do with a lot of teams. Over the course of 70 plays, there are hardly any repeat formations in the game. It's hard. Do they run mis-directions? Yeah, they run everything. You can't name a play they don't run. Honestly, I can't think of one.
Q: The number of guys they run in and out of there, is it almost impossible to avoid a matchup you don't want to see?
BB: You've got to be careful of them matching up. They definitely put a lot of pressure on you on that. If you match up with them, you've got to do a good job with it. They don't make it easy for you. And it's not just getting the right people on the field, but then it's also finding them because you don't know where they are going to be. They mix that up a lot, too. They do a good job formationing, even the normal formation that looks the same - they vary the receiver splits, they move the tight end around - so the same formation can look different on 10 different plays, it really can.
Q: [On the Saints balanced offense]
BB: More defensive backs on the field can be advantageous if they are a passing team. In the Saints case, they are a very balanced team. I think when you look at them they've got about the same number of runs as they do passes and they are very productive in the running game, too. It's not five-yards-a-carry-kind of runners. They are pretty balanced, they really are. They can throw it, but they can run it. They play action, they throw it deep, they throw it short, they spread you out, they bring them in. They are very well balanced, you can't just zero in and say, 'This is one thing we have to stop.' There are about 20 things you've got to stop and that's what makes it tough. Sean done a great job, they've done a great job with that program the last three years. They've done a great job there. That's a team that we haven't seen a lot of, but they are pretty good.
Q: [On the Saints running the ball]
BB: They've had as many big plays in the running game as they've had in the passing game. When you go through there with their cut up drills and look at the running game, there must be 20 runs of 20 yards or more. They have some 50-yarders, 40-yarders, 30-yarders, it's not all passing, believe me. Don't get me wrong, they have a great passing game, too. They have a heck of a quarterback, running backs, tight ends. They hit you on screens, mis-direction plays. And Bush out of the backfield, as I said, he's kind of a Marshall Faulk type of a player that can line up as a receiver and look like a receiver. Most backs when they line up there look like backs, but he looks like a receiver. They keep it moving, too, they aren't just going to sit in one thing and you have to be ready to adjust to them.
Q: What are your impressions of what you've seen from Drew Brees?
BB: [He's a] good decision-maker, very accurate and obviously a really smart guy. Again, they do a lot of things with their passing game, it's not just one concept. There are a couple simple, basic things they do. They run pretty much every concept you can have - vertical routes, horizontal routes, combinations of levels, crossing patterns, empty. And again, they spread out, they bunch up, they overload, they balance you up, they can attack you however they want to do it, it looks like it's in their system and they motion to it and use all different people doing it. He's very smart. He can sort it out. He can get the ball to the guy that's in single coverage. He's a very accurate passer. I think that's a big thing, even when defenders are close to the receivers he has the ability to slide it in there. They are very good in the red area and of course that's a big part of it, too. It's always tight down there, so he's very accurate on third down in the red area and just seeing things.
Q: [On winning on the road]
BB: It's important to win every week, at home, on the road, at a neutral site, every week's important.
Q: [On Jeremy Shockey]
BB: Again, he's almost an impossible guy to match up against. It's hard for linebackers because of his speed, length and his height and it's hard for defensive backs because of his size and the physical nature he plays with, not just after the catch but in terms of getting open, contact and that kind of thing. You put a big guy on him, and it's kind of hard to match up speed-wise and with his quickness. And if you put a smaller guy on him, it's hard to match up with his size and his length. He's a tough matchup. And we've seen a lot of good ones [tight ends] this year and he's tough. He's tough to matchup against. His numbers aren't what some of the other tight ends numbers are [and] it's not because he's not capable of it, they've got so many guys. Everybody's got numbers down there - backs, receivers, tight ends. They all make a lot of plays.
Q: Do you see where David Thomas is a good fit for their offense?
BB: Yeah, David's a versatile guy. They move him around a lot. He lines up pretty much everywhere. He's outside, he's in the backfield, he's in the tight end position and he complements Shockey. Look, they use everybody and they get production out of everybody - all three tight ends, all their backs, all their receivers - they are good.
Q: [On the defense matching up with the Saints offense]
BB: This is one of those games where everybody is going to be matched up on everybody, I'm telling you. Shockey's at the tight end, he's flexed out, he's out there on the outside. Bush is in the backfield and he's in the slot, he's outside. [Robert] Meachem, [Marques] Colston - those guys are inside [and] outside - [Devery] Henderson. Everybody's everywhere, so unless you just play match up and go out and find a guy, but even then they have so many different personnel groups you would have a different matchup because it's not always the same five skill players on the field. Everybody's going to be matched up against everybody at some point in this game. I don't know how it's going to unfold, but they move them around so much - that's just what they do.
Q: In regard to Gary Guyton and his performance, how much have you seen him grow?
BB: He did have a lot of responsibility those few games when Jerod [Mayo] was out. We played a lot of four-man line, and he played a lot as the inside linebacker and handled a lot of calls. Now, he and Jerod do it together. Gary's been good since the day he's been here. He's gotten an opportunity to play a little bit more this year, but I think he's a guy that really everybody on the team has a lot of confidence in - the coaches, the defensive players, the offensive guys from playing against him last year in training camp and the scout teams. He's just a good football player. He's in the right place at the right time, he's smart. He knows where to go. He can rush. He can cover. He can tackle. He plays the run well. He's got a lot of strong points and he's a very mature player for his age, as Jerod is, they both are. They're very mature. They are instinctive. They kind of know how to play. Stuff they haven't seen before, most of the time they just seem to do the right thing. They just know what to do.
Q: Terrence Nunn was signed to the Tampa Bay Bucs active roster, have you filled that spot?
BB: No we haven't.
Q: Do you have to?
Q: [On communicating on defense with all of the Saints' personnel groupings]
BB: It's definitely a process and you know you don't have a lot of time to talk about it. When they sub guys on and off the field, you try to identify what group they have out there. How many tight ends? How many backs? How many receivers? And then that information is usually relayed into the defense separately from the call because a lot of that times that happens at the same time the calls going on, so one coach might be giving the defensive call the play that we're going to run and then the other coach is giving a personnel signal to somebody else. So it's not a long string of things to the same guy. But within those groups it depends on who the players are. Last week, it depended on [Ben] Hartsock and [Dustin] Keller at tight end. There was a difference between Leon Washington and Thomas Jones as running backs; things like that where you have players that have different skills. It's sort of the same, but it really isn't the same. That adds to it as well and then when you have a team that runs guys on and off field at the same position. You run two receivers off, you run two receivers on - well, you start to see those two receivers come on and you don't know if that's going to be four wide receivers. If it's going to be a two-for-two sub, if it's going to be two receivers for a tight end and now you have three receivers on there, so it delays the process. Really every second is precious on that because by the time the ball is spotted, and the offense makes their substitutions, and starts to make their play calls and all that you're usually between 30-35 seconds. Just by the time they get off the pile and all that and now they're coming out of the huddle - you don't have a lot of time. And a lot of your calls are predicated on the personnel that's in the game. If you call a certain defense and you think a certain group's going to be out and it's a different group, then that can be confusing to the players. Sometimes you end up making mistakes, blowing a timeout or something like that and that's an issue, too. And the Saints really try to stress you on that, probably as much as any team I can remember.
Q: Is it important to relay that information to an experienced player, one that can think on his feet?
BB: That's always the case. That's part of football. There are always things that happen out there that are not by the book. They're not exactly the way it was drawn up or diagramed or presented - there's loose plays, scramble plays, guys line up where they're not supposed to, or they give you a new look you're not prepared for and you have to make some kind of adjustment for it. Or they run a play you haven't seen before and here's your read, but it's a little bit different. Some guys can handle that better than others, but you always need to handle that. That comes up in every game.
Q: Why did Gary Guyton go undrafted?
BB: That's a good question. We blew it, too. We took a linebacker ahead of him. We talked about him and [Bo] Ruud and which one to take and obviously we drafted the wrong one, too. To me it was a miracle that we even signed him. That was his first question to me, 'Why didn't you draft me?' And he was right. I don't know, that's a good question. I think when you look at the Georgia Tech defense, I would just say over the last couple years, he probably isn't the only player down there that wasn't taken at the right spot either too high or too low, as it's turned out. Some of the things they did down there were a little bit different, and I think that might of led to some - as a pro team - misevaluating college players, instinctiveness and all that - based on what they were doing - and now putting them into a different system, how they would react to it. That's one of the hazards of scouting, you don't know exactly what other players are being told, how they're being coached, or what the emphasis points were and you look at it and say, 'Gee, why's he doing that?' But maybe that's what he's supposed to be doing and you try to find that through scouting, but if you're not really coaching the guy or coaching the team sometimes you don't really know that. I think there was a little bit of that. But Gary's big, he's smart, he's fast. He's a good tackler, so when you put it in that perspective that's when you've got to say, as a coach or a scout, 'What are we looking for here?' We've got a big, fast guy that's tough and can tackle. Let's get him. There are plenty of guys that don't fit that criteria that end up getting drafted, so here's one that does. I mean, yeah, we definitely blew it on that one. He should have never been a free agent.
Q: How would you characterize Greg Williams' defense?
BB: Aggressive. Aggressive.
Q: So that's what he's brought to the Saints this year?
BB: Well, they kind of keep it moving, too. They are sort of the mirror image of their offense. They give you a lot of different looks - they pressure, they man pressure, they show pressure and drop out of it, they overload. They've got a good pass rush, so it isn't like they need to pressure, but when they do pressure that singles up those guys a lot. Again, they mix in man coverage, zone coverage. They have a real good free safety. They have a real good middle linebacker, those guys make a lot of plays right there in the middle of the defense; they are strong down the middle. Greg is very aggressive, he's creative. He has a couple new wrinkles for each week. And over the course of four, five, six weeks you watch him and you kind of don't know which one of those you really have to prepare for and which one you don't. They run five or six things that aren't their normal thing. Are you going to get those or do you just have to waste time on them and they are going to do something else? It puts pressure on you from a preparation standpoint that way. It's just like when we played them in Buffalo. They give you a bunch of different looks. They're going to put pressure on the front and on your offensive line and your backs and tight ends in blitz pick-up and in the running game. You've got to be careful with the ball because they read the quarterback very well. If you're sloppy throwing it or run a sloppy route a lot of times the ball ends up in your hands and if you stand back and hold it they've got a lot of strip sacks, too, so that's a problem. They do a good job. They're good on defense.