New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, September 19, 2008.
BB: One of the things we normally do on Friday is work on the red area, in the goal line, on those scoring plays [and] also, some general situational football. We have all seen here, in the first two weeks, a lot of the highlight plays that have come up on that. San Diego has had two end of the game plays - the Carolina game and last week against Denver with the touchdown and the two-point play. So plays like that where the whole 59 minutes and 58 seconds comes down to one play. Those are the kinds of things that we will do on Friday and talk about some of the other things that are going on in the league. Certainly, Miami has defensively done an excellent job on the goal line. They turn the ball over against Jacksonville and knocked another one loose against Arizona. They play good goal line and red area defense on film through the six games that we have seen them on. Offensively, they have a good running game. They've run the ball in on a number of occasions and they've gotten the ball to their tight ends on a number of occasions. They are good down there on those scoring areas. That's always a key part of the game anytime points are involved. This being a typical Friday, that's where we are. I would also like to congratulate Robert and the Kraft Family for opening up the Hall [at Patriot Place]. That is something all of us who are Patriots can be proud of. Not just what we've done but as it goes back to the history of the franchise. All the great players and coaches that have worn this uniform in one-way or another. Bryan Morry for the outstanding job he did. I know it has been a huge project. I have worked with him on a couple of the aspects. I know that he and his staff have worked extremely hard. We are all proud of that opening up this weekend. Some of the great players in this franchises history are coming back and being re-recognized for their contributions to the Patriots. With all that being said, it is a source of pride for all of us involved with the team and the organization - around all of the activities that are going on this weekend. Of course, our main focus is the game but I think it is certainly worth noting the achievements of the people in the Hall and what the history of this franchise means to all of us. It just didn't start when we got here.
Q: Can you talk about Jerod Mayo and the way he has played so far this year?
BB: Jerod has played pretty much the same in all six games, including the preseason. He's been very consistent. He's learning something every time he walks out onto the field both in practice and in the games. I think he's shown, in both of the regular season games against Kansas City and the Jets, his speed, his range, toughness and his playmaking ability. He's made big plays in both of those games, open field tackling and things like that. There are things that Jerod [Mayo] hasn't, that every rookie hasn't, seen before. Things that are a little bit different than the situation in practice. [Things] that we went through in practice, he learns from those, improves on them the next time and they're usually not problems. I think he's gaining a little more experience and reacting a little bit quicker each time he goes out on the field. He works awfully hard at it. He is a very attentive and detailed young man.
Q: Is it more mental than physical for him [Jerod Mayo] at this point?
BB: It's a big physical adjustment for any player coming to the NFL from college. Most of the college players when they get drafted or come out of college are the biggest, fastest, most skilled players at their school and probably on the field in the games that they play in. Depending on the position that guy plays, they usually don't' go up against guys that have more physical skill than they do. By the time they come out of college they're usually some of the most experienced players too. Whether it's three or four years of playing college football then they get here and they're no longer the biggest, strongest, fastest guys anymore. Especially strength wise they are usually behind the older more developed veterans. Speed might be an advantage for them but experience and anticipation tends to equalize speed and quickness on the football field because so much of the game is reaction and anticipation. They go from being at the top of that level down to somewhere lower than that, whether that's in the middle or near the bottom or whatever. Then gradually as they gain experience in the league they start to catch back up just like a freshman in college and a senior. It's a little bit of that same thing. I would say it's a combination of physical and mental. It's going from being one of the best players on the field and one of the most experienced players on the field to being one of the least experienced and no longer at the top of that group, generally.
Q: How impressive is it, with that learning curve, that he's been able to step in and have an impact on the defense?
BB: He's done a good job. I'm not taking anything away from him. He's done a good job. As [Richard] Seymour did as Logan Mankins did. We've had other guys that have come in and done that too. I don't think it's unprecedented, but it's good and I'm happy he's doing it. At the same time we've had other players come in and do that too as rookies, [Laurence] Maroney - there have been several of them.
Q: On facing young left tackles...
BB: I think you try to take advantage of every player you go up against no matter what year he is. You look at what he does on film. We really did have an opportunity to do much of that with [Branden] Albert in the opener because we were just watching college film. In most of that he was actually playing guard so we didn't really get a lot of good preparation on him relative to [Jake] Long. You take a look at the players strengths and weaknesses and you try to attack him with the guys that you're going to have rushing him. Different players have different skill sets as pass rushers too. So, things that Jarvis Green does might be a little different than things that Richard [Seymour], or Adalius [Thomas], or Pierre Woods does. Part of it is attacking the blocker and part of it is using the skills that those players have at their disposal but Jake [Long] is a good football player. I think he's come in and done a real good job. Even in his first game against Tampa when he went up against Gaines Adams and all the way through the preseason. Jacksonville, Kansas City, the Jets last week. He's done a solid job in every game and [he is] different but a little bit in the Joe Thomas mold. [He] was another guy we saw at Cleveland, he jumped in there and was pretty good right away and [Jake] Long looks like he's going to fall into that category too. He really hasn't had many problems out there. It's not perfect but he hasn't had too many bad plays out there in six games.
Q: Regarding situational football, are there similarities between executing on third down and in the red area?
BB: There can be. I would say the similarities are tight coverage. On third and 3 to 6, 7 or 8 something like that, offensively you're not expecting a lot of easy throws. It's not like first down where you might be able to complete a 6 or 7-yard pass that's not that heavily contested. Third and 6 you have to work for those. You either have to run a real good route or you have to design a play that gets a guy open in the defense. The defense isn't trying to give that up, coverage is tight on third down in those situations for the most part and it's tight in the red area because you don't have much field to work with. For a quarterback and a receiver, you've got to get open. The quarterback has to make a quick decision. He has to get the ball into tight coverage and a lot of times it's a lot harder than on first and second down where the defense is thinking about the run, maybe they have more run defenders on the field. You start putting 5 or 6 defensive backs out there and a good coverage linebacker like [Channing] Crowder - then they do some different things with their pass rushers and have a lot of different combinations of coverages they can run with all those defensive backs and linebackers on the field. It's hard to throw against even though you have your better receiving players out there. You have to see it quickly. You have to react and the ball has to be accurately thrown a lot of times for those plays to be successful. I'd say that's similar.
Q: How have Terrence Wheatley and Shawn Crable handled the learning curve?
BB: I think this is a good rookie class. I think they all work hard. They're all attentive, they've been out there on a consistent basis and they're getting better. Terrence [Wheatley] and Shawn [Crable] are both smart guys that work hard. I think they're picking things up at a good pace.