Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, October 7, 2009.
BB: Well, like we've been talking about already this week, watching the Broncos has been very impressive these first four games. They are doing everything well, really. [They're] very good on special teams, have a lot of good special teams players. We saw a good special teams group last week in Baltimore, and I think these guys are every bit as good as that. They are fast. They are aggressive. The kickers are both big leg guys. [They have a] real good returner - [Eddie] Royal - probably as good as anybody we'll see, so they create a lot of positive field position in that phase of the game. Defensively, they are way ahead of everybody else in the league. They are doing everything well. Offensively, they have a good balance of running [and] throwing. They get the ball to a lot of different guys, mix up the offense, as we know how it runs. They've been very efficient. [They] don't turn the ball over much. [They] get a bunch of turnovers on defense, a lot of sacks, negative plays in the running game. [They] get teams in long yardage and they go to work. That's a situation we need to definitely stay out of. We know what the environment will be like this week, so we're going to have to do a good job with that, communication offensively, in the kicking game, crowd noise and all that. Those are some of the things we need to work on this week and we need to do a good job. Like I said, they are playing as well as anybody in the league. I'm sure they're playing with a lot of confidence, like they should be, so we're going to have to do a good job in every phase of the game.
Q: Elvis Dumervil leads the league in sacks, how are they using him?
BB: He plays 3-4 outside linebacker for them and they flip him - he plays on both sides. Then, when they go to their sub packages, he generally plays outside, but they have a bunch of different sub looks. They have a 2-4, 1-4, 1-5, 3-3, so they have a lot of different looks there where they bring [Robert] Ayers in the game and spin the dial there. He's kind of all over the place, but he's good. Generally, in the 3-4, [Dumervil] and [Mario] Haggan are the two outside guys. Sometimes it's one of them, sometimes it's both of them.
Q: Have you seen backs try to block him?
BB: At times he gets matched-up on backs, yes. I think that happened in the Dallas game, at least once where he pretty much ran over [Deon] Anderson for the sack.
Q: Is it unusual to see to a guy at that position, I think he's listed at 5-11?
BB: Yeah, and Haggan is not a real big guy either. But they're powerful. [They are] similar but different than [James] Harrison, that type of guy - shorter, more explosive player with good edge speed and quickness.
Q: I'm sure you've seen the highlights of Brandon Marshall's catch last week. What do you see from him and what problems does he present?
BB: [He is a] very talented player. We saw him last year, here. [That was the] first time I've seen him in person. He looks like a tight end. He's enormous. He's big. He's fast, quick, very hard to tackle, dangerous after the catch. So that play he made last week didn't surprise me at all. He's a tough guy to get on the ground. He's got to be 230, 6-4. He's a big guy. He's a mismatch for the defensive backs and his speed and athleticism is a mismatch on the safeties, so he's a hard guy to match up to, but he has all the tools.
Q: Is the reason why you brought in Leigh Bodden for guys like that? He is generally more physical.
BB: We see a lot of different receivers over the course of the season and we see them in camp from our team. We have bigger players like Randy [Moss] and Sam [Aiken], and we have quicker, faster players, guys that aren't as tall, [like] Joey [Galloway], Julian [Edelman], Wes [Welker], and those type of players. In the end, whatever you are as a player, whatever your characteristics are you have to find a way to match up against all the other players, and all the other match-ups you face over the course of the year, whether that's an offensive lineman blocking a quicker defensive lineman or bigger ones or vice versa. That's part of matchup game that we see every week and the different match-ups for the players even though you can talk about; you know this scheme, you know that scheme and they know your scheme and all that, but the players and match-ups are all different.
Q: Dean Pees was talking about the number of passes defensed that you've have this year. Do you see that as a function of recognition, is it play-making? What in your estimation is involved in that?
BB: I'd say it was a combination of things. It's certainly recognition and play-making, but it's the athleticism and ability to run and cover receivers and be close to them. If you're not close enough to the receiver, then you are not going to break up many passes. Again, some of that is anticipation, reaction and recognition. Some of it is closing speed, quickness, change of direction, transition and ball skills. I think all those, they're all interrelated.
Q: In the case with Brandon Meriweather are those things you've seen gradually improve here?
BB: Well, I think he had a lot of those skills from Miami. We took him in the first round. I think he possessed a lot of those, but like any player - after a couple years - you see improvement and the techniques, skills and the recognition of different offensive systems or different quarterbacks, receivers, anticipating the things that they do from a week to week standpoint, absolutely and Brandon has done that. He studies hard. He works hard and he knows the team that we're playing and the individual players. Sometimes that half of step is the difference between getting there and not getting there.
Q: What have you seen out of LaMont Jordan and Jabar Gaffney? Are they doing the same things this year as they did last year?
BB: Yes. They're basically in the roles as they were here.
Q: A guy like Mike Wright wasn't a first-round draft pick, but can you talk about his progression?
BB: I think Mike's similar to some of the other players that would fall into that category. Players like Gary Guyton and guys like that who weren't high picks that came in at a pretty early point - Pierre Woods, [Brian] Hoyer -came in and showed that they belonged, both physically and athletically from a football standpoint, recognizing things, reacting, kind of knowing what to do. But Mike's improved every year and his versatility has grown every year. We've used him and he's a player that I think has value on all four downs since he's played in the kicking game for us. He can run. He's got good quickness. He's strong. He's an explosive guy. He uses his hands well. He can play the run. He can rush the passer. He's good in pursuit. He can run games, can stunt, can play the point of attack, so he's got a good skill set, works hard, tough kid. He's out there, there's days when I'm sure he doesn't feel the greatest, but he's out there on a consistent basis and works through a lot of stuff. He's a tough kid.
Q: Wright's been in the system for a couple of years now. Does he continue to surprise you?
BB: I think we've pretty much seen ... I think his consistency's improved, which is great. But I think we've seen a lot of the plays he's made. We've seen those along the line somewhere or in a lot of cases multiple times. But I think Mike continues to improve and again, the versatility that he has for us, playing inside, playing outside, playing in different down and distance situations, different defensive packages that is something that he didn't do a couple years ago and he's really grown into that. He's comfortable with playing at end, playing tackle, playing the nose, playing in sub situations, all those things.
Q: Defensively, the last couple of weeks you gave up more points, but did you feel like the defense improved?
BB: Well, every week's different; each week, you matchup against a different team, so if we give up less points than they get, then that's good, and if we don't, then we have to do it better. There's always room for improvement. I don't care what game we've played. There's never been one where you feel like, defensively, you've done everything you wanted to do. But in the end it comes down to keeping them out of the end zone, so that's ultimately big plays, red area, third-down, goal-line, those defensive situations provided you don't give it all to them on one play. That's a combination of those things. We gave up 14 points last week and, generally, that'd be enough to win, but there are still a lot of things we could have done better: third-down, or tackling. Obviously, [we] gave up a big play in the running game, so there are a lot of things that we need to continue to work on, but the match-ups this week are different. So, whatever plays Baltimore ran, or the Jets ran, or Atlanta ran, we see some element of those plays again because we were hurt with them, but at the same time, it's different runners, different blockers, and there'll be something different about them; that makes each game unique and each opponent.
Q: Are you happy overall though with the end of the game, you stopped them in the red area. Are you overall happy with your red area defense?
BB: I'm happy when we win. I'm happy when we win, that's what we work all week for is to come out of it with a win. Again, are there things we could do better? Sure, absolutely.
Q: You say you have to get better at tackling, but how is that something you can practice - you don't want to get your players too beat up?
BB: You work on tackling drills without tackling them. You know, a lot of tackling is just getting in good position, keeping good leverage on the runner, using your help, knowing where your other teammates are, where the sideline [is] - whatever the case might be - keeping your head up, bending your knees and being a good fundamental position. When that's the case, then there are not a lot of tackles missed. The biggest part of the tackling problem comes when a player's really not in a good position to make the tackle and then you're reaching or you're lunging, or you don't have the kind of leverage that you want and you give the runner too much of an escape area somewhere else. Definitely, all those things can be improved. I'm not just talking about the tackling, the actual grabbing the guy and tackling him, I'm talking about the whole getting in position to minimize the play and then finish them.
Q: Bill, when you get a young assistant coach, like I don't know, maybe the guy you're facing this week, and you see maybe he's got some talent, and could be a head coach. Do you ever sit him down and say let me show you how to get to here, here's a plan or take him by the hand and help?
BB: Well, I don't think it really works that way. The process of hiring in the National Football League, or even head coaching jobs in general, is pretty unique. It's not really that straightforward. You don't know what another team, or owner, or college, or whoever it is, who they're going to hire or what they want. I've coached with a lot of coaches that I think would be great head coaches that haven't been or have never gotten that opportunity. But I wasn't making the decision, so somebody else must have thought differently and vice versa. Other people get hired as head coaches and that wouldn't have been my choice but it's not my decision, so I don't really worry about that. But I think if somebody is in that situation, then I try to help them in whatever way I can because the fact of the matter is that position isn't open here, so if it's not available here, then I understand that. I've been in that situation before and if I can help in somewhere else, then I'll try to do that and I don't know what they ask for or what the circumstances are, what the situation is. Then I deal with it on an individual case-by-case basis, but that first happened with Nick Saban in Cleveland, and Rod Dowhower when he went to Vanderbilt, and then it's happened multiple times since then. I've dealt with it a number of times, and I can just tell you each one is a little bit different. Whether it was Charlie [Weis] to Notre Dame, Romeo [Crennel] to Cleveland or whatever happened, each one was different.
Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Josh [McDaniels], and what you think of his success so far?
BB: I think he's done a great job. Josh did a great job for us. I have a great deal of respect for Josh, not just what he did last year and the last couple of years, but since he came with us shortly after I got here. They're doing a great job in Denver, and they're playing very well, and that doesn't surprise me. I mean that's a good veteran football team now. You can go right down the line and name off 20 to 25 real good football players out there, so they have a talented team and they're playing well.
Q: Bill what kind of changes has Mike Nolan brought to their defense if they're only allowing 6.5 points a game?
BB: Yeah I think Mike's doing what Mike does. What Mike ran at the Giants, what he ran in San Francisco, is similar to what he's running now. It's a little more 3-4 now, but they run 3-4, 4-3, I think all that's overrated but the elements of it and the fundamentals, the basics of that system are certainly evident and you can tell it's Mike's defense and he does what he always does. He's a good game plan coach, comes up with different things week-to-week that hurt the opposing offense that he's facing. They play aggressively. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They hit hard, they strip the ball, they turn it over, they get you in long yardage, and they make you pay. So, you don't want to be in that situation.
Q: The Broncos have moved Elvis Dumervil to an outside linebacker, to a 3-4. What goes into that decision? How do you know if a guy who is on the line might be better suited standing?
BB: Well, again, I think that whole 4-3, 3-4 thing is way overrated and way overhyped. Essentially, players that play in the position that Dumervil plays, or that our outside linebackers play, there are a lot of similarities to a 4-3 defensive end, whether the guy's hands up or hands down. I'm not saying that doesn't make any difference, but we've all seen that. We've seen Jason Taylor play on the edge in a 4-3, we've seen him play in a 3-4, we've seen him be Defensive Player of the Year in a 3-4. You decide when you're coaching that position and coaching that scheme how your players fit, where you want to play them. But somebody's got to play on end of the line. Basically, if a player plays on the end of the line, then that's probably where he's going to play. He's probably going to play on the end of the line.
Q: This week is there any of level of communication with Josh [McDaniels] or is it sort of understood in the coaching ranks...
BB: Right now, the communication is between all the people that are involved in this team trying to get ready to play our opponent. That's the way it is every week.
Q: I was just thinking that after you win the game against Baltimore is there any, 'Hey good luck but we have our jobs to do ... '
BB: No, whatever conversations go on between Josh and I or any other coach, I think, are really personal. I don't think that it's a public forum on that. I think we all have those personal relationships, and that's the way I think they should be, and that's the way they're going to stay.
Q: I think you acknowledged on the radio that there was a distinct possibility of Junior Seau coming here. Do you have any news to report on that? Is he coming? And what kind of impact...
BB: No, we're still evaluating the bull-riding tapes.
Q: Did you see him get in a three-point stance?
BB: Yeah, we're still going to evaluate those and break them down.
Q: What kind of impact does he have in this locker room. Theoretically, if you two were to come to agreement this week, would he be available this week?
BB: Right, well right now he's not on our football team, so I think it would be inappropriate to even be discussing it.
Q: One thing that you did say on that that was interesting was that you thought this whole notion that he could only play six games might be kind of in play. Can you elaborate on that?
BB: No. Right now, we're just focused on the Broncos. That's really all I'm thinking about is the Denver Broncos. How to try to prepare for the game, how to get ready to go out there, and hopefully get our first win on the road, which we need to do. That's really where my focus is right now; not on guys that aren't on the team, and all that.
Q: Obviously Champ Bailey is a very talented guy they already had in the secondary, but can you talk about the impact that Brian Dawkins has had bringing him forward?
BB: I think Brian's playing very well. He looks really, physically, better than what I remember him in '07, when we played against him. He's fast, he's quick. He's had a lot of big hits. He's had a lot impact plays in the first four games. He's made some long chase plays where he's run guys down two or three times, and he's had a lot of big hits in the running game and the passing game over the middle. He's the quarterback of that secondary. You can see him - and [Renaldo] Hill does a good job, too, don't get me wrong - but I think Dawkins really because he's closer to the line of scrimmage, he helps control a lot of that stuff: the adjustments and the communication with the corners on tight formations and things like that. So it's a very experienced secondary, and of course they brought in [Andre'] Goodman on the other corner and he's done a good job for them, so there's a lot of experience back there with Hill, and Dawkins, and Bailey, and Goodman. That's got to be 40 years of playing experience. I don't know what it is; it's got to be a lot. Those guys, it seems like we've played against Hill and Goodman the last three or four years and Dawkins has been playing forever - 13, 14 years, whatever it is. Champ Bailey, it seems like he's been there forever, too. So that's a very experienced group and the only new spot is their nickel corner whether that's Alfonso Smith or [Jack] Williams, they play both of them in there. Their basic, four main guys that play on all downs, that's a very experienced group.
Q: Do you enjoy games like this where you get to see a lot of players that you previously coached?
BB: We go through that every week. There are players on practically every team. Last week, it was Kelley Washington, or Matt Stover in other years that we've played Baltimore and so forth. I mean, you can go right down the line. Really it's pretty common every week that there's a coach or a player or somebody on the team we play or some kind of relationship there. So that's not really ... We all understand what that is, it's not about that; it's about our team competing against their team for that one time, and that's what we're all there for. Every week's a challenge. I enjoy every week. It's a lot of work, it's tough. There're other great coaches and great players out there, and it's a tough league to compete in. There's a lot of equality, a lot of tough people to prepare for and defend, to try to win against. But it's fun, it's a good challenge, and I enjoy every single week.
Q: How would you assess where the run defense is?
BB: Statistically, over four games, it's OK. It could be better; we're working to improve it. [It] could be worse. [It] really doesn't matter, right now, it doesn't matter, whether it could be first or last. What matters is how it is this week against Denver, and how we do against their running game, so that's what we have to work on right now and it's very challenging. They've got two outstanding blockers in [Daniel] Graham and [Ryan] Clady, a real good offensive line, excellent back. They're a very experienced line - this is a group that's been together for a little while now with [Ryan] Harris, and certainly Clady in there, he's going to be one of the top - if he isn't already - best tackles in the league, and inside with [Ben] Hamilton and [Casey] Wiegmann, [Chris] Kuper - that's a good group. [The] tight ends are good, Graham's good. And the backs are good and again, that's a very experienced team that we're talking about. All those guys, [Tony] Scheffler, Graham, those guys have played a lot of football. That offensive line, they know what they're doing. [The] backs are good. [The] receivers are a very experienced group. Even though it's [Eddie] Royal's second year, I think he and Clady have already shown that those guys are at a very high level of play, regardless of how long they've been in the league. But they're no rookies now, they know what they're doing, so it's a tough group to get ready for.