New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, September 25, 2009.
BB:OK, so we're winding down here. As I said earlier in the week, I think Atlanta does a lot of things really well. The more I've watched them over the course of the week and studied them [and] just really gone into them with a lot of depth, the more impressed I am with pretty much everything they do; especially in the kicking game, they are really good there. They do a great job on offense and defense, too. They've got a lot of toughness. They play hard. They're physical. They've got good skill players. They are an explosive team. They're also a very physical team. They have a good combination of size, toughness and skill. And they don't beat themselves, you have to play a good football game against them. So this will be a good challenge for us Sunday, and they are good. They do a good job.
Q:You've seen John Abraham a lot. Did watching what he did against Jake Long remind you how good he was?
BB:Too much. Yeah, it was a reminder. But we haven't forgotten about him. He's one of the best defensive ends in the league. It's not only his pass rush. He makes plays on the backside in pursuits. He's strong on the point. He's had some rare plays, plays you don't see very often. [He will] rush the passer, turn around and chase down a screen, or come off the backside and run a guy down 40 yards across the field, or have a double team block right at him and jack it up, shed him and make the play for a no gain. He's a great pass-rusher and he has good speed, good speed to power. He's got a good inside move. He's relentless, but it's not just his pass rush, he's really good at everything. They move him around. They play him some on the right side, on our right side, their left side. You know, combined with [Kroy] Biermann, who's played quite a bit over there for them, they've had a lot of production off the edge. It's not all from Abraham although he does a lot. But they've had good production there. Their defensive line's active. They're quick. Peria [Jerry] was doing a real good job for them, certainly that's a loss. Sometimes it's hard to tell who's in there and that's scary. You're like, 'Geez who's that? Is that Abraham? Is it [Jonathan] Babineaux? Is it Biermann? Who is it?' You've got a lot of guys who can run like that, who are quick like that. That's not what you're looking for. You hope it's just one guy, but it's not.
Q:Do you think Wes Welker's situation will be similar to last week where it will come down to a game time decision?
Q:How do you do that, game plan-wise?
BB:I think whatever you're game plan is, you've got to be able to run with whoever you have in the game. Anyone could be out after one or two plays. You don't want to be drawing up stuff on the sideline. So whatever you're going to run, you have to have somebody to back up everybody to run it. You've got to have a backup right tackle, a backup right guard, a backup tight end, a backup running back, a backup receiver. Somebody takes reps at those positions during the course of the week. Now, if you lose two guys at the same position, I don't care what position it's at, now you're probably talking about some adjustments. You lose two centers, you lose two corners, you lose two linebackers, you lose two of anything, then that — I would say 90 percent of the time — would be a pretty good scramble. To lose one guy to any position, you've got to be prepared for that. Unfortunately, that's football.
Q:There's been a turnover of personnel at Atlanta, defensively, and with you guys, too. Early in the year, what kind of challenges does that present when you have a bunch of new guys and many of them are changing roles?
BB:I think it's a challenge for communication and it's a challenge just to be consistent on how you fit on certain plays: how you fit in the running game on a certain play; how you fit in the passing game coverage-wise. Who's going to take who? How quickly are you going to take them? How quickly does that mean somebody else uncovers? Just how you're going to sort out different combination patterns and different blocking schemes, or if there's a verbal adjustment that you have to make, you have a certain call, and then if they give you a particular look, then you change the way you're going to play that. Then, that communication between the players … It's a lot easier if you and I are playing together, and they come out in something, and we both think it's going to be the same thing, and here we go. It's a lot harder if they come out, you think it's this and I think it's that, that just slows the whole process down. A, you can't be as aggressive because you are a little bit tentative about knowing exactly what you're doing and B, then one of us is right and one of us is wrong and that's not good either. I think it's certainly the whole communication, the confidence, the understanding where everybody is so you can be aggressive. That's probably the biggest thing with new players, no matter what they are, offense or defense.
Q:A few years ago, there were a couple injuries in the secondary and I remember some of the players saying they were told to overcommunicate and just to continue to talk. Do you feel like, with this group, you've done that?
BB:I think you're always preaching communication. I think if you have four tenured veterans, you're still preaching communication. If you have four rookies, you're preaching communication. Football is a team sport; you want everybody to be on the same page doing the right thing, whatever that is. We're really a lot better off, as a team, if we're all wrong together than if half of us are right and half of us are wrong. We're better off all playing the same thing even if it's not what we should be in than half in one thing and half in something else. So that's just what communication is, making sure when the ball's snapped, when the play's run, whichever side of the ball we're on, that we're all consistent doing the same thing. Then, at least you have a chance. Once you're in kind of one of those half and half deals, it's almost impossible to tie it together properly.
Q:Mike Wright is a guy who has had a big role this year. Can you talk about what he's done thus far?
BB:You know, Mike's done a good job for us since he came here. His role has changed, but he's a very versatile guy, can do a lot of different things. He's played for us in the kicking game, covered kicks, punt return, been on the kickoff return team and all those types of things. He's been a third-down, kind of a pass-rush guy. He's been a first- and second-down player at nose and in the interior. He's also played a little bit at end. There have been times and this year, like last week, where he was pretty much out there almost all the time. I think he can play inside, he can play outside. He can play on first, second, third and fourth down, and that's pretty unusual for a guy at that position. He's come through wherever we need him and we're fortunate that he has that kind of flexibility to handle different roles, athletically, and from a technique standpoint.
Q:Is there anything you can do at practice to quicken the rapport between a quarterback and a receiver? Or is that just something that happens with game experience and time, in general?
BB:Well, that's what practice is for, [it] is to work on all the things that we do in practice: communication, recognition before the snap, recognition after the snap, on both sides of the ball. That's what we do out there at practice. Believe it or not, we actually work on those things. And the game, it's a live situation, it's maybe a little bit faster speed or sometimes the situations are a little more specific, time, or timeouts, or field position, or down and distance, or whatever it has to be. There're a lot of different components there that could change something like that. Game situations are great learning experiences, but we're out on the field practicing. In football, we can't wait to get better in each game - there're not enough games. It's not like baseball, where you are playing every day. Football, we're playing once a week, so if we don't get better on the practice sessions on a daily basis, just getting better once a week when we play, that wouldn't be good enough. It has to happen in practice. It does and it has to.
Q:Are there benefits to using Matt Light at tight end to give Sebastian Vollmer reps, especially reps in a traditional lineup?
BB:Yeah, I mean that's not why we do it. But, yeah, he gets in the game, he plays and that's good for him whether he plays at tackle or tight end. I think playing time is always good for younger players, no matter how much you play in preseason, or go through practice, or talk about it. Usually getting out there and playing in regular-season games in the NFL, it's different than all those other things, so it's good for him. It's good for any rookie who can get that game experience.
Q:In your film study of the Falcons, what's impressed you about their running game?
BB:Well, our goal in the game is to outscore them. Whatever we can do to score more points than [the other team], that's what I am for and that's what we're going to try to do. Certainly, that will encompass, offensively, running the ball and throwing it, playing good situational football and all of that. As far as Atlanta's running game goes, you pretty much start anywhere you want, they do a great job. Coach [Mike] Mularkey, who we've seen from Buffalo, does a great job with the formationing, change of personnel groups, giving you a lot of different looks. They're a very physical running game, starting with the back [Michael Turner]. He's a load, very hard to tackle, great balance, power, tough, won't run out of bounds. The fullback [Ovie Mughelli] is exceptional, one of the best I have seen. There're not too many guys I would put ahead of him, maybe [Jim] Braxton from Buffalo in the 70s, but there's not a whole lot. I mean this guy's a great finisher. They have a big, physical offensive line. Their tackles are powerful guys - [Tyson] Clabo and [Sam] Baker. The guards are physical, too - [Harvey] Dahl and [Justin] Blalock, and they have a very experienced center [Todd McClure]. They do a good job up front. They're physical with a lot of different schemes, physical backs. You can't just go up and stop the running game with them because you've got [Tony] Gonzalez, Roddy White, [Michael] Jenkins, [Brian] Finneran, [Marty] Booker; they play those receivers. Those guys are good blockers, too. They are big. In the running game, they present a problem to your secondary because of the size and blocking ability of Finneran, Jenkins, Booker and Roddy White. They do their part in it, too. But at the same time they're legitimate big-play guys in the passing game and the quarterback [Matt Ryan is] a big-time thrower. They have a complimentary offense, but the running game is very good, they are very physical. They kind of remind me of Miami, in terms of the team. That's a real physical running team.
Q:What has made Tony Gonzalez so consistent over the years?
BB:Yeah, he can pretty much do it all. He's really a receiver. He's a tight end, but he's not really a tight end; he's a receiver - great ball skills, hands. He's got that ability — like a basketball player — to position the defender out and use his size to box out the defender. I think the quarterbacks, obviously, that he's played with know that and they put the ball in a place where he can only get it and he can pin the defender behind him and he can go up and take the ball. He's got a great patience in the passing game. He sets up routes, runs a lot of double moves. But he's got quickness out of his break. He's got good speed, exceptional hands. He's obviously a smart football player. He knows how to run routes and get open and set them up. Double-covering him is hard because he'll attack one guy or the other, so you're really only ending up with one guy on him and he can defeat that one guy. He's not just going to run in between two guys and get covered. He'll pick out on or the other and attack them. Whatever aspect of the passing game you want from him, red area, third-down, big plays, possession passes, play action, you name it, he's really good at all of it. And having spent a few days out there with him out there in the Pro Bowl after the '06 season, when you are just around him on a day-to-day basis, you really have an appreciation for how skilled he is, how athletic he is, what kind of ball skills … There were times out there I remember where he would come out of a break and the ball was almost on him and he would just turn around and snatch it. He would never see the ball leave the quarterback's hand, it was just on him quick, and 99 percent of the receivers would have dropped it. He makes it look easy. He's really exceptional.
Q:One of the best battles you had against Tony Gonzalez was in 2004 when he matched up against Rodney Harrison.
BB:You are talking about two real competitive guys and I'm sure they both took it as a great personal challenge to play against each other. But we're in different matchups this week. [Tony] Gonzalez is in a different offense and Rodney Harrison won't be playing in this game, so it'll be a different matchup for us.
Q:If you played zone against Tony Gonzalez, can he stretch that, too?
BB:Look, over the course of his career, he's gone up against a lot of zone defenses. He's gone up against a lot of man defenses. He's caught a lot of balls against both of them. There's something to be said about playing zone; you've kind of got him surrounded and you're not in an isolated one-on-one situation. It depends on what route they have called. And there's something to be said being man-to-man on him; at least you are close to him. At least you got a guy that's fairly close to him — maybe he doesn't cover him every inch of the way — but you don't have the space you have in between your zones for him. I think it depends on what the situation is, what type of play you're trying to stop, what kind of play they happened to have called, like it is in a lot of things in football. We run the same play and run it against five or six different defenses and we had five or six different defenses on the play - rattle adjust, ball go to a different person or something like that. That's why you build the route concepts the way that you build them. At the end of the season, you go back and you look at [inaudible]. Here, we're throwing to the Y. Here, we're throwing to the Z. Here, we're throwing to the X. Here, we're throwing to the fullback. Here, we're throwing halfback. Here's the Z making an adjustment on that route. Here's the X making an adjustment on that route. Here's a blitz. Here's an adjustment by the back. Here's an adjustment by the receiver. Here's an adjustment by the tight end, so you run the play 25 to 30 times in the year, and you go back, and look at it at the end of the season, that's why you have everybody doing what they're doing on the route. If this happens, you go to this guy. If that happens, you go to that guy and maybe he changes his route a little bit, depending on the play based on the coverage, or technique he is being defended with. That's what the passing game is. If they're in this, a lot of times the ball will go somewhere else. If they're in that, a lot of times the ball … It's not like high school when you say, "OK, I'm going to run a down and out and I'm going to throw it to you.' That's not the passing game in the NFL, it just doesn't work that way.
Q:Is there a chance that Prescott Burgess will play?
BB:Yeah, I think Prescott's been in a pretty sophisticated system. I'm not saying we're the Ravens; they do a lot of different things. He's played inside. He's played outside. He's played in all the kicking game phases. I think he's working hard with Matt [Patricia] and Scott O'Brien. He'll pick things up. I think he's doing that and if we need him I'm sure he'll do his best to be ready. If not, then I'm sure he'll do his best to be ready next week. We'll make that decision as we make our inactive list for the game.