PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK PRESS CONFERENCE
Q: What are your thoughts on the Colts in terms of the challenges they present?
BB: Good. Obviously, they won their last three games, two without [Andrew] Luck. Good run defense, good specialists, explosive offense, so we've got a lot to get ready for.
Q: Has their run defense improved significantly since last season?
BB: Well, I mean, they're leading the league in negative plays against the run. They've done a good job.
Q: What have their rookies on the defensive front, David Parry and Henry Anderson, done to help their overall defense?
BB: Parry plays primarily on the nose, and Anderson primarily plays three-technique, also plays some on the tackle. Anderson is really long – I think six-five – good playing strength, tough guy. Parry is the nose tackle, is really stout inside and has good playing strength.
Q: Have those guys changed what they do defensively or is it a similar scheme to what you saw last year?
BB: I wouldn't say there have been a lot of changes in their scheme.
Q: Do you expect the Colts to adapt more of the Matt Hasselbeck style of offense moving forward, regardless of who is playing quarterback, to protect whoever is in there?
BB: Yeah, well, we don't have any control over that. We just have to defend whatever they do, so we'll prepare for the things that they have done, what we think they will do, and whatever they decide to do, they decide to do.
Q: How has their game plan changed with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback as opposed to Andrew Luck?
BB: Well, I'd say they're a little bit of a game plan team anyways. They don't always do the same thing every week. It depends on what the defense does or where they feel their matchups are. Some of that changes a little bit from game to game, so I'm sure they'll have whatever they think is best against us, I'm sure that's what they'll do against us.
Q: I know you can't concern yourself with the mentality of Patriots fans, but has anyone pulled you aside at the grocery store and urged you to kick Indy's butt?
BB: I haven't been to the grocery store in a couple years.
Q: Are you hearing from friends, family, neighbors?
BB: Have I heard from my family and friends? Yeah, sure.
Q: I think you know what I mean.
BB: I mean, look, it's the same questions every week. We're getting ready to play a game on Sunday. We're going to do the best we can to prepare for it and be ready to go and perform well on Sunday night. That's what we do.
Q: How has Frank Gore revitalized their running game?
BB: He's done a good job. He runs hard. He's got good vision, obviously good playing strength, hard guy to tackle. It seems like they've got their offensive line more intact now than they were earlier in the year with [Hugh] Thornton and [Jack] Mewhort in there at guards. So, they've got a good inside. They've gotten good blocking on the inside as well as the tackle, and of course tight end with [Dwayne] Allen. He does a real good job out there, with [Jack] Doyle and [Coby] Fleener, too. You need more than one guy to run the ball, but they've got a good back, they've got a good line, they've got good tight ends, and they scheme it up differently from week to week depending on what they think they can do best against your team, so we've got to be ready for all those things.
Q: Are they more of a ball control team this year?
BB:I don't know. They led the league in time of possession last year. I don't think they're up there quite that high this year, but they're going to run it, they're going to throw it, they're balanced – they do a good job in all phases of the game. They're explosive offensively and they can grind it out.
Q: Are you a little surprised at their slow start coming out of the gates?
BB:We're really not worried about anything except this game.
Q: How have you seen Malcom Brown improve since the spring and especially after the bye week?
BB:Malcom works hard and he's a smart guy. He understands what we want him to do. It's just a big learning curve like it is for every rookie coming into the National Football League, playing against players that are more comparable athletically than what there was in college and seeing the different schemes and dealing with experienced players that when you're an inexperienced player, that's an adjustment. But he's done well with that and I think the last couple weeks have been good. Hopefully he can continue to move in that direction. I thought he played probably his best game against Dallas. I think there is a lot more than that, but we're headed in the right direction if he keeps working hard and applying himself on the practice field and in film study. He can continue to improve.
Q: What is it about T.Y. Hilton's game that makes him a challenge to defend?
BB:He hits you at all three levels of the defense. He's a deep threat, he runs great intermediate routes and he's very dynamic with the ball in his hand, so underneath routes, catch-and-run plays. That's really true of all those guys though – [Donte] Moncrief, [Phillip] Dorsett, [Andre] Johnson – they're all very explosive. Fleener is another guy who can attack all three levels of the field, so it's overall a hard group to defend. But Hilton is definitely a problem, no matter what he does. It's not just one thing you've got to stop with him. He's just as dangerous on the deep balls as he is on the comebacks, in cuts, crossing routes, over routes, as he is on slip screens and slants that he can break a tackle and take those out of there, too. They move him around. Sometimes he's in the slot. Usually he's outside, but they do play him in the slot, so it's a little bit of a challenge to find him. You don't know exactly where he's going to be. They do that with all those guys, but again that's part of the game plan element that they have in their offense.
Q: With Marcus Cannon, how difficult is it to play both tackle and guard?
BB:Again, that's something that's different for different people. Some people can play multiple positions. It doesn't really faze them very much, they're very adaptable. Other people, if you move them out of one position, it's like trying to learn a new foreign language. It's just hard. Each player is different. Each situation is different. Marcus has been very adaptable, playing on both sides, paying inside, outside, also played some at jumbo tight end. I think he's just a flexible guy that really just wants to play and whatever you ask him to do he goes out there and does the best he can. He doesn't overanalyze it or get overly caught up in a million things to do. He just tries to go out there and do it. It doesn't really seem to affect him too much.
Q: What did you think of Marcus Cannon's performance against Dallas?
BB:Marcus has always played well for us. Two years ago when he was in for [Sebastian] Vollmer, last year the opportunities that he had early in the year, particularly at tackle, and then this year he's played in every game, played a number of snaps in all of our games, so he's always done a good job for us when he's been in there. I'm glad we have him.
Q: From your experience in the NFL, have you noticed any standard progression for quarterbacks?
BB:That's a tough one. Everybody is different. Quarterbacks, there is only one that can play, so that's different, too. It's not like another position where you can build playing time. It's kind of all or nothing usually. I don't know. I mean, you go back to a guy like Phil Simms, who was one of the best quarterbacks I've ever been around. I've been fortunate to be around some good ones, but Phil Simms was a great, great player. But after a couple of years, three years in New York, whatever it was – '79, '80 – two, two and a half years in New York, everybody was ready to get rid of him, all of the things that are wrong with Phil Simms. He had been hurt a couple times and all that. Yet, he was a tremendous player. We would never have won two championships without him, I'll tell you that. With all due respect to [Jeff] Hostetler, what he did coming in the '90 season, we were 10-0 with Simms before that. I'm just saying, you go with a guy like that, they're ready to give up on a guy, and he's one of the greatest players who ever played for the Giants. I don't know. Some guys start fast, fade out. Some guys take a little longer to get going. Other guys are more on a straight line progression.
Q: When the injury report comes out today, are you going to land on it with an illness?
BB:I don't think we have to list the coaches. Day-to-day.
Q: How important is it to for the secondary to be able to tackle and support the run, and how has your group done in that regard? Is that something that you can notice coming right out of the college ranks, or is it a skill you can practice and improve?
BB:For me, I learned a long time ago – my dad told me this and Coach [Bill] Parcells told me this – that the most important thing on defense is to get 11 guys out there that can tackle. I mean look, defensively, your job is to get the guy with the ball on the ground. In the end, that's your job. All the other stuff is great, but if you can't do that, then what do you really have? Now, that's not to minimize coverage skills. There is certainly a place for that, don't get me wrong. But in the end, somebody has got to get the guy on the ground. I think that is a critical component for me, for us, for any player on the defensive side of the ball, regardless of what position they play, but particularly in the secondary, where you're right, you can be higher on coverage skills, but if you're willing to give up poor tackling for coverage skills, eventually there is going to be a problem there. You might be able to live with it, but eventually it's going to be a problem. I put a high priority on it. We put a high priority on it in the organization. On our defense, we practice it every single day. I don't think there has been a day we haven't worked on tackling this year or any other year. It's the most fundamental, important thing for a defensive player to do well. That and defeat blocks. Everybody is going to get blocked at some point, so defeating blocks and tackling, those are the two most critical fundamentals that any defensive player needs. So, yeah, there is not really much that goes above tackling for me.
Q: Can you teach that?
BB:Tackling? Every day.
Q: Does a guy either have it or not?
BB:No. Well, it's like anything else. You're never going to make me fast. But we can all improve. Whatever the skills are, they are, but you can certainly improve technique, you can improve leverage, you can improve the fundamentals of tackling, just like you can improve the fundamentals of running. I mean, look, those are the most fundamental skills in the game, so to not work on those on a daily basis, to not work on them and try to improve them continually I think would be a mistake. I think it'd be irresponsible of me as a coach to not teach blocking, tackling, running on a daily basis.
Q: Who is the best tackler you've ever coached?
BB:They come in different shapes and sizes, but not many guys got away from [Lawrence] Taylor, I'll say that. But probably one of the biggest tackles that I've ever been a part of was by a guy who had a reputation of not being a great tackler and that was Everson Walls. But he brought down Thurman Thomas in the open field to keep it from getting closer in Super Bowl XXV. That was a huge, huge play that if you would have said Everson Walls tackled Thurman Thomas, I don't know which one of those you would have bet on. It depends on maybe who you were pulling for. But that was a great tackle. We've always had good tacklers. Terry Kinard was a great tackler. Devin McCourty is an outstanding tackler. [Patrick] Chung is one of the best tacklers that I've had at safety. Look, everybody is going to miss, just like every receiver is going to drop a pass, just like every quarterback is going to throw an interception, just like every running back at some point is going to drop the ball. But the guys that don't miss many tackles, you want them on your team. And it shows up in the kicking game, too. The kicking game is the same as the defense – you've still got to get the guy with the ball.
Q: What kind of progression have you seen from Logan Ryan?
BB:Logan is one of hardest working players. He continues to get better, and he's played a number of different positions for us – he plays outside, plays inside, matches up from time to time. We've also used him at safety in the past and he does a number of things for us in the kicking game as well. He works really hard at his craft, his technique. He's a smart player, very instinctive, so that means every week, you've got to start all over again, learn the new receivers, learn the new schemes, adapt that to the game plan and how to take the information that we have on our opponents and work it into what we're doing defensively, there are different responsibilities or how we're playing certain plays or routes or receivers, whatever the case might be. He does a real good job with that. He's a very smart and instinctive player. We're fortunate we have a lot of those guys back there. They work well together.
BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL TO INDIANAPOLIS MEDIA
Q: Could you address how your team has adapted this year with all your personnel changes?
BB:It's like that every year. It's like that for every team in the National Football League every year, so there are always new faces and new changes. That's just part of it, so we just try to take what we have, work with it, do the best we can with it, try to figure out the best way for us to win.
Q: Is it true that your offense has been more aggressive this year? Is that related at all to personnel changes?
BB:We really just try to go out each week and do what we feel like is best for us to win that game, whoever we happen to play. We do that same thing every week, so whatever that week brings, it brings, but we just try to go out there and perform well and win, that's all.
Q: How vital is it for you guys to shut down T.Y. Hilton, and can you expect to do that on Sunday?
BB:The Colts have a lot of weapons offensively. There are a lot of guys you've got to worry about – [Andrew] Luck, [Coby] Fleener, [Dwayne] Allen, [Frank] Gore, Hilton, [Phillip] Dorsett, [Donte] Moncrief, [Andre] Johnson. Put them all in there. There's not any one guy you've got to stop. You've got to stop all of them. That's a challenge. If you just take one guy away, there are too many other guys that will kill you. You've got to do a good job all the way across the board.
Q: You've used a lot of offensive line combinations. What's the key to being able to do that and keep the unit cohesive?
BB:Well, all those guys practice together every week, so they've been working together for a couple months now, more than that. So, I guess just practice.
Q: Why do you think you've been able to force Andrew Luck into so many mistakes in past games?
BB:I don't know, but I don't think it really matters. That's all in the past. This game is all about this week and this week's matchup. I don't think it really matters what happened some other year or some other game. All we really care about is getting ready to go this week and finding a way to be competitive and win.
Q: What if anything have you told your team about this week, with so much going on outside of the game itself?
BB:There are always a lot of things on the outside. We just try to focus on what we need to do to coach and play well on Sunday night. That's really what our job is.
Q: Is the situation surrounding the AFC Championship Game something you haven't had to address with your team?
BB:Look, I talk to our team every day, and the things that I talk to the team about I think are team related.
Q: What has Frank Gore added to the team this year from your perspective?
BB:Frank is a great player. He's an excellent runner, really good with the ball in his hands. He attacks the defense on a lot of different levels. He can go outside, inside, breaks a lot of tackles. He's just a good football player. Any time he has the ball he's dangerous. You've got to be aware of him at all times.
Q: Is the Colts defense a lot different this year? The scheme is not different, but there are some different personnel. What stands out to you?
BB:Pretty much what you just said. There are some different people in there. Again, like every team in the league, they've added people to their team. There are guys that are new to the team, and there are guys that were there last year that aren't there this year. That's the way it is with every team in the league. There are some different players on defense. They're playing well, so it will be a big challenge for us to try to move the ball.
Q: Rob Gronkowski is unique in that he's a deep threat at the tight end position. Can you address that aspect of his game and why he's so good at stretching the field?
BB:Well, he's big and he runs well and he catches well. You've got to be able to run well enough to get down the field. You've got to be able to judge those downfield throws and go up for the ball. He's a big target.
Q: What kind of challenge do you think that presents for defenses?
BB:Well, I think you'd have to talk to the teams that have to defend him. We're on the other side of the ball. We're trying to make plays. It's other teams that are trying to cover him, so you'd have to talk to them about what they think about covering him. I don't know.
Q: You and the Colts had some issues following the AFC Championship Game. Is this week's matchup any different than usual given that backdrop?
BB:We're just going to try to do our best to go out there and prepare and play well Sunday night.