Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, September 28, 2009.
BB: After what I said after the game - about it being a physical and a hard-fought game - it was definitely true on film. The Falcons are a physical team and I just thought that our guys stood up, they went toe-to-toe with them. We had a lot of guys play well. It certainly wasn't perfect there by any stretch. A lot of guys did a lot of good things and it was across the board. I think that was the biggest reason why we came out on the better end of things yesterday. I'm proud of the way the team played and performed and I thought that we finished the fourth quarter strong and that was certainly good. That's the way you want to finish a game. [We] turn the page here and move on to Baltimore, but we're going to watch the film this afternoon, make some corrections, go over some of the things we need to talk about and get on to Baltimore.
Q: What was it about Atlanta's receivers that you would start Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden?
BB: The main reason is because they were the only ones active for the game.
Q: Was there something that you thought their skill set was better suited?
BB: They were the only corners active for the game, besides Terrence Wheatley, who hadn't played for a month, since the Washington game.
Q: Defensively, how much improvement have you seen since Week One?
BB: I think some things are better. Again, we've seen some different styles. We saw Buffalo - for the most part - stay in the one personnel grouping, or two really and didn't have a lot of different formationing. They kind of lined up, read the defense, had an outstanding group of skilled receivers. The Jets were much more of a controlled game and more personnel substitutions. Atlanta was an excellent running game with some big-play receivers and a very good quarterback. They used a lot of stack and bunch formations and some multiple receivers and multiple tight ends, so they had a very different type of attack. I don't know so much if we're better than one or the other, but it's a different challenge every week .So you try to make progress all the way along the line, but when you're seeing a different thing sometimes you don't really even know how it will go until the next time you see it, which could be a week, a month down the road. Fundamentally, we want to keep making improvement in our techniques and fundamentals. From a scheme standpoint, we want to make sure we do the right thing in the right situation. Those are the kind of things we are going through at this time of year and again, in all honesty, in preseason we didn't see a lot of the things that we're seeing now, which that's pretty common in preseason. It's much more vanilla and you are getting more of the standard stuff. Now, you get things that are game-planned specifically for you to try to attack your weaknesses, and you have to figure out how you're going to defend them, and do a good job with it.
Q: I don't know if it was intended or not, but when you make the fourth-and-one call on your 24-yard line, the players seem to get confidence from that and get energized. Was whatever message that call sent part of the thinking going in?
BB: Well, I think we had confidence. At that point, we had confidence in the play and confidence that we were going to be able to do what we need to do there to stay on the field. I really wasn't trying to send a message to anybody as much as I was trying to get a first down.
Q: When you make a call like that in your head does any part of you think this is not going to be good if this doesn't work or are you just focused?
BB: I think you know it's going to be bad when you're on your 24-yard line. I mean the question there is whether you feel you can pick up a foot or you want to give the ball back to Matt Ryan, [Michael] Turner, [Roddy] White, and [Tony] Gonzalez and their offensive line. Those are your two choices. It's probably not something we want to do on a weekly basis.
Q: Was there something that gave you the confidence that you would be successful in that situation? You mentioned last night that the offensive line was getting off the ball better.
BB: Yeah, I just think we had confidence in the play and the players that were really involved in the point of attack on that play.
Q: Were you happy with your corners? They did a great job on Gonzalez who only had one catch and Roddy White had four catches for 24 yards. Were you happy with how Shawn Springs played and the job you did against Roddy White?
BB: I think Leigh [Bodden] and Shawn [Springs] both did a good job. I sure did. I think they did a good job and [Michael] Jenkins is a good receiver, too. They're tough. We can't help on everybody and somebody's got to hold up in man-to-man, single coverage at times. They caught a few, but I thought we competed well and overall did a pretty good job against them. The catch that Jenkins made down the sideline on that fade pattern was a heck of a play. I thought Leigh defended it well. It was a great throw. It was a great catch - one-handed right on the sideline. Sometimes you have great coverage and these teams make great plays against you, but you'd rather force them to do that then have the guys running wide open and give up plays that I could throw. That's not what you want.
Q: How good was it to see Chris Baker get involved in that deep ball late in the game?
BB: It was kind of an improvised play. That wasn't the designed route, but Tom [Brady] had to pull the ball down there. Chris had the presence out on the flat to turn it up and kind of got a step there on [Mike] Peterson. Tom laid it out there, protection was great. It's not often you have that much time against a good pass-rushing front like Atlanta with [John] Abraham, [Kroy] Biermann, [Jonathan] Babineaux, but Tom had a lot of confidence in it. He let the play develop and laid it out there perfectly for Chris. We're all happy to see that one. When we called the play, we would have been happy with nine yards and a first down. We had our shots down the field yesterday and that really wasn't one of them, but it turned out to be. We had some other ones where we were running on the safeties or the corners and had a chance to hit the home run strikes and we just couldn't connect on them. Sometimes when you least expect it, you get it, and when you think you've got it, foul ball.
Q: Your offense couldn't be more different than it was last week - no huddle to two tight ends and two backs on the line. How do you get the team to make that kind of adjustment?
BB: You've seen us all year. We've been in all versions of that from the start of training camp. We've had tight end groupings, receiver groupings and all that. It's more of a game-planning, sometimes personnel matchup, or maybe how you want to attack their defense, or what you think gives you the better chance to be successful. I think we could be in any of those like we were yesterday from time to time and we could be more in one and less in another, depending on the situation or by game plan.
Q: Is that normal to be able to look so different week to week?
BB: I think if you've watched us play, I think you've seen that.
Q: Brandon McGowan is a guy who's getting a lot more action. Is that a function of his skill set matching a particular game plan for that week or is he just playing at such a level that you can't keep him off the line?
BB: Probably a little bit of both, but I think the more he's played, the better he's played. And the more impact he's had on the game, the more you want him in there. And he's done a good job. I thought the hit that he had yesterday, the fumble that he caused, was really a pretty good play. I'm not sure there are a lot of players that would have made that play, [who] would have been able to get the hit that he did with the impact that he had on it. He knocked that ball loose and that was a huge play in the game. He's in on a lot of tackles. He was on [Tony] Gonzalez a lot. He stepped up, met that challenge and gave Tony a very competitive afternoon. I would say it's a combination of some of the situations we've been in, and feeling like he would be able to do the things we needed in that particular situation, and part of it is that he's done a good job, and you kind of want to give him a little bit more.
Q: A lot of players say it's difficult or takes a lot of time to pick up your defensive scheme. Would you say that McGowan's done a pretty good job of picking it up quickly?
BB: Yeah, I think he has. There's still a ways to go and there are some things we do that even came up yesterday, we haven't done a lot. Maybe it's been the first time, maybe we did it one other week in training camp versus a player that's been here, like say [Brandon] Meriweather, to pick a name. There's probably not too many things that we're doing with Brandon [Meriweather] that he hasn't done several other times before in other games, other seasons, or whatever. "Yeah, this is the way we played this against Miami two years ago ... Right, right." There isn't that type of background with Brandon McGowan at this point. But he's done a good job with the things that we've asked him to do and he's also shown up in the kicking game as well. He's had an impact on special teams. He's done a good job for us.
Q: Is Fred Taylor still capable of carrying the load of the feature back or is he past his prime in that regard?
BB: Well, it looked like he carried the mail yesterday.
Q: I mean over the course of a season?
BB: Well, I don't know the answer to that. We've only played three games.
Q: Back to the Chris Baker touchdown, Tom Brady mentioned last night that you called the play in from the sideline and he talked to you a little bit about it. What was the improvisation?
BB: Well, he was going to the flat and - like any good receiver - when you get to the flat unless there's another player ahead of you. Let's say another guy's on a corner pattern, then you wouldn't want to turn and run up into that corner pattern. But because the other pattern was inside, when Chris got to the flat, he just turned it up instead of running out of bounds and because it was third and six, I think Peterson was thinking he wanted to be on him because it's third and six. [He] wanted to be on him tight and then Chris made the adjustment, turned it up and Tom saw him. That really wasn't the route. The route was for him to go to the flat and he ended up turning it up as the play developed.
Q: Do you think Vince's [Wilfork] thing is going to be serious?
BB: We'll let you know in that injury report on Wednesday.
Q: A preview, maybe?
BB: I really can't comment on that today.
Q: Getting back to the running backs, it's kind of been a committee approach the last few years. Are you averse to having a feature back?
BB: Like when Corey Dillon ran for 1,600 yards? Would I be opposed to that? Yeah, I don't think so.
Q: It seemed with double-teaming Gonzalez and not wanting White and Jenkins to be deep, was the one thing you were willing to give up or accept that they could complete some crossing routes and maybe say: "Hey, we can't stop everything?"
BB: Well, I think when you say you can't stop everything, what you're willing to give up are routes closer to the line of scrimmage. I mean, I don't think there are too many defenses you call where you're saying, "We'll only give up 20 yards on this pass." I don't care where they throw, you're just not willing to do that. There're no defenses that are really designed that way. So if you're going to give up something, you want to give up something closer to the line of scrimmage; it's in front of you, as opposed to something more down the field.