New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, September 24, 2008.
BB: We are combining this week in terms of working on things we need to work on generically getting ready for the next 13 games in the regular season and [getting ready for] San Francisco. Anytime you get a chance to step back and reflect on what you're doing, analyze it [and] at the same time combining that with looking forward to what's in the immediate future and what's all the way down the road - it's beneficial. We'll try to address a lot of different areas and improve as a football team. Certainly, running the ball and defending the run, throwing the ball and defending the pass, particularly in zone coverage's, our third down both sides of the ball red area, [and] plus 50 punting. There are a lot of things that we can do better and need to work on. That's kind of how we will approach this week as well as starting to get a jump on San Francisco. It's really been impressive watching them on film. They're fast on defense. They have an experienced secondary. They can move the ball. They can score points. They've got a good return game with [Allen] Rossum. They have had two big wins and played competitively against Arizona in the opener. It's a good football team and certainly a lot of changes out there from offensively what we saw in the off-season to what Mike Martz has brought to their team. Defensively, Mike's always been a good defensive coach and the 49ers are playing good defense on that side of the ball as well too. That's where we are. I congratulate the Red Sox on their playoff appearance in whatever capacity that ends up being. I wish them well. The winning continues there.
Q: (On if inexperience affects a quarterback's decision making)
BB: When a quarterback goes back to throw he has a primary read on the pattern, whether it's the safeties, the safety's a middle linebacker, if you have a full field pattern, if you have a half field pattern where you are reading three levels from high to intermediate to low, then you either read it from high to low or low to high, whatever the progression is on the pattern. So, that's just a fundamental read. If a quarterback doesn't see that properly than you probably don't have a very good chance on the play. Once that's identified, then you go to a location where you are working with two or three receivers on the play and that's where the decision making comes in, which guy to throw it to and how to make that throw. Sometimes you throw to the receiver. Sometimes you throw away from the defender. Sometimes you throw to a hole, to an opening and the receiver goes to that opening to get the ball. There are different throws on different routes and on every route we always have a spot where we want the ball to be thrown depending on what the route is. Whether it's low, high, in front of the receiver, in his body, away from his body and so forth. All those are part of the quarterbacks decision-making process and then ultimately the accuracy of the throw and the timing of the route. As we all know there are a lot of things that can disrupt that timing and go into that play, but basically that's what it comes down to. Decision-making is decision making, whether it's Brett Favre, Matt Cassel or [Joe] Flacco. When you go back to throw you have the ball in your hands and you have certain things that you're looking at. You have to decide what is the best thing to do. Sometimes that's 'situationally' driven. Third-and-five you might make one decision; first-and-10 on the same pattern you might make a different decision. Sometimes you want to make the safer throw or the situational throw. Other times you have two downs left on the same play, you might want to take a shot down the field, even though it was third-and-five and it might be different. I would say all of those things play into it and that's for every quarterback. Experience is experience, but like everything we do, we all still have to make decisions based on what the information is at hand and what presents itself at that particular point in time - you do it on what you think is the best thing.
Q: After watching the film of the Miami game, was there anything that was particularly eye opening? Anything you need to work on specifically?
BB: Sure. There were plenty of things we didn't do well against Miami. There are corrections from the Kansas City and Jets game too. So, when we look back on a three-week view, which is what this is. Then we identify priorities and prioritize what we want to do. Then we will address that this week, like the things I have mentioned. Certainly the Miami game had elements of those games in it. We're not going to spend everything this week on the Miami game. There were things that came up in the other games, the Jets, Kansas City, and preseason games - the Philadelphia game and Giants game that are relevant to us improving as a football team. So you take all that into consideration.
Q: You have had success on kick-off returns. What has contributed to that success?
BB: Obviously, team work. I think Ellis [Hobbs] has run the ball well and broken some tackles but he's also had some room to run. That's a function of the timing of the front line, the wedge, the returner and the off returner, whoever that may be. So, it's unusual that a kickoff return is clean, opens up in parts like the Red Sea. There're usually a lot of things that have to be adjusted along the way particularly for the wedge, the off returner and the runner. The way we run it out there in practice and the way it hits in the game are usually a little different. It really comes down to the wedge making good decisions as to whose the most dangerous guy to block, blocking him and then the returner seeing those blocks and hitting the best opening. If you do that and don't have any penalties, that's been a big thing for us we haven't had penalties - that keeps you from having a negative play. The decision making between the wedge and the returner gives you a chance to have a positive return. Then, if you break a tackle or if you block it well, you have a chance for some big yardage.
Q: What are the biggest differences between kick offs and returning punts?
BB: I would say there are two big differences. One is ball handling. When the ball tumbles and comes end over end, it's a lot easier to catch and handle than it is when it spirals or doesn't spiral coming off the punters foot. The punts a much tougher ball to handle. On kick offs you catch the ball and are able to build speed usually for 10, 15, or 20 yards and hit the return running full speed, where as sometimes that happens on punts, but more often than not you are in a ball handling situation where you have to catch it and dodge somebody. If you double the gunners, which most teams do, than you only have six players left to block, eight not counting the punter inside. So, at least two of those guys are going to be on block and that's if you get the six that you are trying to get. If you try to have somebody force the punt now you are down to five blockers against eight coverage players. It is just a numbers game. There's going to be free guys and the returner has to avoid them or out run them and deal with them. Of course there is a lot more decision making on the punt returns when you get into plus 50 punting and direction punting. There's a lot of different decisions that have to be made, not that kick off returner doesn't have to make them but the fair catch, whether to let the ball go over his head, etc. are not as much a part of the kick off return as they are the punt return, so the punts much more of a situational play.
Q: Is losing a regular season game a wake up call?
BB: I guess it could, I don't know. I would like to think we approach every game the same way. Which is, last week's game is over with, next week's game is next week's game. That's where we are this week, but that's where we were last week and the week before. We've been here for a while. That's not the first game we have lost in the regular season. We've tried to approach them all about the same way. Make the corrections after every game. There are always things that you can do better and improve on - win or lose. Usually there are always some good things you can build on that are positives - win or lose. Once you have identified those, talked about them, walked through them and shown them on film then you put that in the background, you're moving forward and looking at the road ahead. That's where we are today.
Q: Does it change what you are trying to accomplish in the Bye Week having it be so early in the season?
BB: Well, I think it's different. When you have it at the end of the season you have a lot more data and a lot more things to work with from 10 games versus three. Sometimes the emphasis points are a little different. For example, last year going into November and December, anticipating the weather and the conditions different than some of the games we had early in September and October and in the dome. There were things like that, that were different. Fundamentally it's the same. At least if you do it in Week Ten you are a lot more concerned with what's happening the last four or five weeks than you were in week one or two - a lot of that has corrected itself or adjusted itself in one way or another. You are more concerned with what the most recent games, events, and personnel are. From that standpoint we've had three games and we will use this time like we would at the end of the year. It is just a different placement that's all.
Q: Are there any advantages to having an early Bye Week?
BB: I think it's always an advantage to have a little rest and a little more time to absorb things. Not only what the other team is doing, sometimes you get so caught up in scout reports, game plans and preparation for the next team and you don't focus as much on what you're doing and how you're doing it. Even though you talk about it on Monday after the game, sometimes that gets lost in the preparation of the coming week. This is a chance to spend a little more time on ourselves, what we are doing and how to do our things better, but at the same time get a jump on San Francisco. They are a team that we don't know very well. We haven't played them in four years and there have been a lot of changes since the last time we did play them. That's good too.
Q: What did you like about Maurice Price?
BB: He's a bigger guy. Most of his production came offensively at Kansas City in preseason - we got a good look at him. Then he didn't play in the last preseason game or against us but we saw quite a bit of him in their first preseason games. [He's] a big kid catches the ball well and was productive this year in preseason. So, we worked him out here yesterday and signed him to the roster today.
Q: Can you talk about the play of your offensive line?
BB: I can say the same thing about them that I can say about our entire offense, at times we've played well, we've functioned well and been efficient. There are other times where it's not as good as we would like it to be or each individual would like it to be. I think we've had our moments on the offensive line. Then there have been other times that we've had breakdowns that we want to try to eliminate. I think that the Giants week was really the first week where we were able to work everybody in there together. I think from that standpoint its been a little bit of a positive that we've been able to keep the group out there consistently for the last three, four weeks including the Giants game. With movement at tight end, running back - it obviously could be better and that's what we are going to try to do. I think those guys are working hard and I think they have a lot of good plays to work on. There are a lot of positives there. We could use a little more consistency at every point on offense not just the offensive line