Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.
BB: Well, this is one of these situations - with the Ravens - where the more film you watch on them, the better they look. They're really a good football team. They do everything well. They have a lot of good players. They're well-coached. They do the fundamental things well. They have some good scheme things, very creative. They play hard. They really dominated two games and had a great effort in San Diego where they played outstanding football in the red area, keeping San Diego out of the end zone in the red area, and being 3-for-4 themselves with their opportunities. And that was really the difference in the game. I think it starts at the top with Ozzie [Newsome] and [John] Harbaugh, the way they put the team together and what they've done offensively. Cam's [Cameron] done a great job with that offense, expanding it this year with Joe Flacco, in his second year at quarterback. They have a lot of variety in what they do. They get the ball down the field. They run it. They throw it. They make big plays. They convert third downs. They get the ball in the end zone in the red area, so everything's pretty good there. They have a real good offensive line, strong group of players. Defensively, Coach [Greg] Mattison is a guy I've known for a long time. He's had a great college football coaching career [at] places like Michigan, Notre Dame and National Championships with Florida. He's taken that defense and molded it a little bit differently than what it was last year, of course, with all the same outstanding players. [There are] still the same guys you've got to block there - [Haloti] Ngata, [Dwan] Edwards, [Trevor] Pryce, [Jarrett] Johnson, Ray Lewis, [Terrell] Suggs and all those guys. They have an outstanding secondary, of course led by Ed Reed, who I still think is the best safety in football [and] probably one of the best players in football for also what he can do in the kicking game, when they chose to utilize him there. They've gotten good play out of their corners with [Chris] Carr in the slot, and [Domonique] Foxworth, and Fabian Washington outside. I think [Dawan] Landry is very underrated as a safety; of course, playing next to Ed Reed, that's a pretty high standard. But Landry is a very good player in his own right. [They're] outstanding on defense, offense, special teams. Carr gives them a good, strong returner. They do a good job on the plus-50 punting. They do a great job on their coverage teams, they've got a lot of good players there - their linebackers, their backs, their defensive backs. They cover very well. They're very consistent. They make you earn everything and it's tough sledding. A real good team, I can see why they're undefeated. They had a real big win last week against Cleveland, and I'm sure they're playing with a lot of confidence, and they should be because they're pretty good.
Q: In a radio interview a couple years ago you mentioned Steve Bisciotti called you about John Harbaugh when he was going to the Ravens. You spoke highly of John Harbaugh and you called him one of the better coaches. What has made you so impressed with him?
BB: I've known John for quite awhile. He did a great job with the Eagles as special teams coach and then when he moved over and coached defensive backs in '07. He's done a great job there and I think we can all see what an outstanding job he's done with the Ravens. John's smart. He works hard, very hard. [He is] very well-prepared. I think he has a great intuition and instincts for the game, how to handle situations, how to handle his team. I think everybody I've ever talked to that's worked with him or played for him has had a lot of good things to say about him, and that's been my experience, too. Steve asked me about it, I think that decision was probably already made, but I do think a lot of John.
Q: Can you talk about Ed Reed and the mind games he plays?
BB: I don't think there's anybody any better in the game, or I've seen anybody any better than Ed Reed in terms of disguise, ability to read the quarterback. [He can] anticipate plays, sometimes it's route, sometimes it's formations, sometimes it's what the quarterback's doing. And on top of all that, he's got a tremendous burst and acceleration to the football, great hands, timing and ball skills. When you put it all together, he gets around a lot of balls. I think the quarterback has to know every time that ball leaves his hand where Ed Reed is because that guys makes ... He can play sideline to sideline. Usually, you feel better in two-deep defenses than one-deep, but really with Ed Reed back there, I think you almost feel better in one-deep because he can cover the whole field by himself, and you don't have to worry about the other guy covering half of it. He really can handle the whole thing back there. When I was in Hawaii with him for a week at the Pro Bowl and got a chance to work with him - I mean, I know it was the Pro Bowl, but work with him on a daily basis in practice, and really watch him up close, and tell him what to do, and watch him do it, and that type of thing - that was even more impressive. He's a rare, rare player at that position, as good as any I've ever seen. I know there are a lot of guys that have had a lot of interceptions there, the Paul Krause's and the Darren Sharper's, guys that I'm not taking anything away from them. But this guy, he can do it all back there. He can play corner if they want him to play corner. He blocks kicks. He returns kicks. He returns interceptions for touchdowns. He scoops up interceptions for touchdowns. He's always around the ball and that's usually bad for the offense when he is. He's a great football player.
Q: I know the Jets and Ravens are similar in some respects, but are they similar enough that playing the Jets a couple weeks ago can help your offense in terms of preparation?
BB: Yeah. I think there's some carry over from a scheme standpoint. The biggest difference between the Jets and the Ravens is the players. You're playing against a different set of players: Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed - right down the line - Trevor Pryce, Ngata, all of them. They're different players - and Landry - and they're very good. Not that the Jets don't have good players, but they're different. It's just different, different matchups, different guys. So in the end you need to block them. You've got to block Pryce. You've got to block Lewis. You've got to block Suggs. You've got to block Ngata. I don't care whether they're over or under, whether they blitz or don't blitz, somebody's got to block them, somebody's got to get open, somebody's got to be in coverage. As long as those players are there, that's a big problem. I don't care what they run, it's a problem. If they blitz, they don't blitz, they play quarters, they play man free, they play two deep, they play three deep; they can play whatever they want and it looks pretty good.
Q: It's seems like over the last 10 years whether it's Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan or Greg Mattison and with all the turnover of players, too, they're outstanding on defense. Is there one thing, no matter what the scheme is, or who's in there that ties them together?
BB: I would say the players, and you're right it hasn't been all the same players, but it's all been good players. They've had a lot of ... Back to [Chris] McAlister, Adalius Thomas, Samari Rolle and all the guys that have played there - going back to Rob Burnett and those days. They've had a lot of good football players there - Lewis or Bart Scott. They've had a lot of good football players there.
Q: Not just Reed, but it seems like anytime they get a turnover they turn it into an offensive play. Do you coach your offense in that situation?
BB: We always try to get to the ball. We try to avoid giving them the ball, and then if they do have it, we coach trying to get to it and tackling.
Q: Are they a little more aggressive than most?
Q: You shut down a pretty tough offense last week. This week, there is maybe an even better offense. What do you differently, what do you do the same?
BB: Well, it's a whole different ball game. I mean all new players, new scheme, new play-calling and all that. So we're playing the Ravens. They do what they do and they do it well. They've had outstanding games: huge production against Kansas City, huge production against Cleveland, great production in the red area all year. They're running the ball well, averaging almost eight yards a play on first down. [They] throw it down the field to all their receivers, and their receivers are doing a good job: [Derrick] Mason and Kelley [Washington], and the tight ends, L.J. [Smith] and [Todd] Heap are good. Heap's very good, especially on third down in the red area. But [they have] good backs, [Le'Ron] McClain's a real good fullback. We saw a good fullback last week, we're seeing another one this week. [Ray] Rice, [Willis] McGahee are both outstanding. The quarterback's good. [They have a] big offensive line, they have two good tackles, two young guards, [Chris] Chester and [Ben] Grubbs are outstanding players, a good veteran center [Matt Birk] there. They are strong across the board. They have good players at every position. They're physical. They run the ball well. They throw it well. They run after the catch. They break a lot of tackles. They score a lot of points. It's no one-man band, "Well, let's go in there and stop this guy." There're five other guys you have to worry about.
Q: Can you address the quarterbacks you have faced so far this season and can you assess how this team has faced handling those guys?
BB: Each week you face whatever offense you're up against and each player is a part of that from the right tackle, to the quarterback, to the split end, and you have to defend the entire offense. You have to defend what they do. We've seen good offenses. We've seen good players across the board, good quarterbacks. That's the National Football League, you get good players every week, that's why they're in this week. So everybody's hard to defend, each guy's got his own set of skills, what he does well. If he wasn't talented, he wasn't a good player, then there would be somebody else in there at that position. It's a big challenge this week. It's a big challenge every week. Each of the last three weeks, this week, it will be a big challenge next week. That's the way it is. That's what it's like to coach defense in this league. You're looking at good skill players, good runners, guys that can make plays every single week you play. There's no team that's without them.
Q: Are there similarities between Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan?
BB: They're in different offenses. It's hard to compare them. They're both good. They're both big. They can both throw the ball accurately. They both have strong arms. They're both pretty athletic. I mean, they're in different offenses, so they're asked to do different things. But whatever they're asked to do, they do them well. They manage their team well. Flacco's won a lot of games. He hasn't been playing long, and he's already won a lot of games, and hasn't lost hardly any. I think that says a lot about managing the team, doing what you need to do to win, getting your team into the end zone, getting your team to perform better than the other team you're playing against. They've both done a good job of that.
Q: Can Adalius Thomas help with the preparation or has he been gone too long from there?
BB: Well, we've played them before with him here. At this point, I think they know us pretty well, we know them pretty well. We played them in preseason last year. We pretty much played them every year now - this is the third year in a row at one point or another. Are there things that are different in each game? Of course. Are there a lot of fundamental things that carry over year-to-year or game-to-game? There are a lot and there are a lot of matchups that do. There're definitely things that don't. I'm not saying that, but I don't think when you put on the Ravens film this week, I'm looking at it and saying, 'Whoa, there are 30 things that I've never seen before.' I'm just not seeing that. Have they evolved, and built on things, and have added things? Of course they have, but they're still who they were last year. They had a great year last year. They built from that base and they're off to a great start this year. Why would you change too many things when you're having that kind of success? I don't think you want to get too far away from the things that are winning for you week after week after week.
Q: Are there things that Joe Flacco has improved on this year from last year?
BB: Oh, sure. Of course, I think almost every player improves from their first year to their second year. He's doing everything well: his ball-handling, his play-action passes, his down field throws, getting the ball to the outlet receivers, execution on third down in the red area, decision-making, handling the audibles, and checks at the line of scrimmage. I don't know how much better it is than last year, but it's good. I'm sure it's better. How could it not be after 17 games and however many hundred practices from where we saw him at the first preseason game? It would be almost impossible not to be better and it is better.
Q: Can you talk about how successful Baltimore's been over the years, and how they have maintained linebackers, and how important that is?
BB: Well, I think they've done a good job with their personnel, period. As I said, Ozzie and his staff down there and the coaches who I know are involved have done a great job through the years of building that football team and having good players from the Jonathan Ogden's to the Ray Lewis's, to eventually replacing them with Michael Oher, and guys like that they've brought in, and the quarterback situation and so forth. They've drafted well. They've brought in some key free agents. They've resigned players and they've lost players like every other team in the league has, but through all and all, [when] said and done, they continue to have a strong, fast, physical football team. I think, again, that's a real credit to the entire organization: to the personnel people, to the coach, to the mesh that they have. I think Steve's [Bisciotti] done a good job overseeing the whole thing and keeping it together. I know there was a period of time there a few years ago when I'm not sure if that organization was as closely bound as what they are now. But I know from talking to those people and knowing a lot of people in that organization, that they're really on the same page. They work well together. They have a good chemistry both on and off the field and I think that's evident in their performance.
Q: Baltimore is your native hometown team. Do you feel any interest or affinity when you realize you played a team who is from Baltimore?
BB: Not really. When I grew up, it was the Colts. I still refer to [Baltimore] sometimes as the Colts, or the Colts as Baltimore. So much has changed since then: the uniforms, the stadium. There is nothing there with the Ravens that was there during any part of my growing up in Annapolis. I'm not saying that disrespectfully, I'm just saying that's the facts. The Orioles, they've changed stadiums, but the Orioles are still the Orioles. This is a team that was actually the Cleveland team - if you want to get down to it - and there's nobody left from there; I mean, Ozzie, but all the players are gone.
Q: Are you happier with the pass rush you guys are getting on third down?
BB: Well, I think the most important thing on third down is to get off the field, and convert on third down, and to get them into fourth down. Again, that's a combination of rush, coverage and overall execution at team defense. So if we've done our job, collectively, as an 11-man unit, then we should be off the field. If we haven't, and everything's part of it - it all has to be tied in together - the rush has to force the ball out at a time when the coverage is on the receivers, and then when those two marry up then you usually have problems. From a team defensive standpoint, if we're getting them off the field on third down that's good. If we're not, then as a team we're not getting it done, and that includes as a coaching staff, too. It's not about one thing, it's about the entire team execution on third down or any defensive play for that matter.
Q: Are you surprised how well Kelley Washington has meshed into their regular offense?
BB: He's made some big plays for them. They've got him down the field. He's a strong runner after the catch. I thought he did well here in some of the preseason games, some of the opportunities that he had to play. He's played a lot in the slot. I think we have a pretty good slot receiver and it's one of those deals where you can't keep everybody. He was an outstanding special teams player for us, but he was a good receiver. He just didn't get a lot of opportunities. But the ones he had, he did a pretty good job of.