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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - 11/04/02

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BB: Well, first of all I would like to thank and compliment the support and the fans that we had at the game yesterday. It was pretty impressive when you go on the road and have that vocal of backing behind you. I know a lot of the players and the assistant coaches commented on that after the game. It was kind of unusual for it to be that loud when you are on the road. I just wanted to give a compliment to the fans that make the trip there that were supportive. Injury wise, I don't think we really have much that looks that significant. Deion (Branch) got a cut during the game. We had a couple of guys get their ankles re-taped and that type of thing but nothing that appears to be that serious. I think Otis (Smith) did a good job of being able to come back and play through his arm injury last week. It was a good performance. I just think overall in the game it was one of those situations where, obviously things went well for us. I am sure that Buffalo will look at the game and see that they had some missed opportunities and feel like they could have been close. I think that is the way we felt a couple of times this year, that we're not that far away but when you look at the score, it seems that way. I don't think that this game really reflected the difference between the two teams. We were able to put some plays together at the right time and just overall do enough to win and that was good. I think maybe each player, they just improved just a little bit. And when you put it all together, you can see more cumulative results as a team, and that's a little bit of what we saw yesterday. I am happy for the players. I thought they played well and hard. I thought the assistant coaches did a good job. They had a good game plan. (They did a) good job getting the team ready. We didn't make a lot of big mistakes in the game and that's always a big help.

Q: How big of a win was yesterday?

BB: Well I think it's a real good win for our team. You know, we lost four in a row. I don't think we lacked confidence but I think that anytime you lose four in a row there has got to be a little bit of doubt in there somewhere and you wonder what it's going to take to turn it around. So I think it is an important game in terms of our football team getting out of that losing streak and winning on the road in the division. I wish it could count more than one win, but it doesn't. It just counts one. We're going to have to line up and do it again and right now it's the Bears. I don't know really know any other way to look at it. It was an important win, but we're 4-4, we're in third place so big deal.

Q: Did you see anything in the players that showed you that they might be losing confidence a little?

BB: No. Nothing that I could put my finger on and I'm not saying that we lost confidence. I'm not saying that. But anytime you lose four in a row, that's not a confidence builder either. No I don't think … in fact in a lot of ways there were players that I thought, and I'm not saying anybody in particular but I'm saying a lot of people in general, are looking to step up (saying) 'hey give me the ball,' you know, 'let me make a play' or ' I can beat this guy, give me chance,' or 'I'm going to get a chance and I'm going to do better this week, I'm going to have more production this week, I'm going to do a better job at this than I did last week or a better job at that.' It's like the kicking game yesterday. I thought that obviously we had trouble with our kickoffs and kickoff coverage, but I thought the other aspect of the kicking game were pretty good, but we didn't have very many chances in them. Who knows what would have happened if there had been more opportunities. I thought those guys played hard and we probably did help ourselves a couple times in the kicking game other than the kickoff side of it.

Q: You talked about not losing confidence. What role do you think Tom (Brady)'s comments, just about 'we need more of a sense of urgency', 'we all have to give a better effort', do you think that played any impact on how well the team performed yesterday?

BB: No.

Q: None at all?

BB: Well I think he clarified the comments later on in the week. I think that Tom is a good leader on this team and I think that the players collectively, and obviously that goes to a lot of individuals, all felt the same way about whatever we were doing, it just wasn't enough. We've got to find a way to do more. I'm not saying we weren't working hard, I'm not saying we weren't practicing hard, but when you are 3-4 you have got to find a way to do more if you want to be 4-4. You have got to find some way to do it and I think that's what every competitor thinks. If you are a real competitor, you just won't accept those results. You try to find a way to somehow improve it. I think that's a feeling that is the undertone on our football team. (With the) coaches, players, everybody.

Q: Can you talk about people wanting the ball, people wanting to step up and relate that to Antowain (Smith) and just working on the offensive line?

BB: I thought that the offensive line did a good job. I thought the receivers did a real good job. This is the best down field blocking that we've had by far this year and that contributed to some of the longer plays that we got, as it usually does. I think it was a real team effort running the ball and I'm not just talking about the runs but even on the shorter passes, like the screen passes, which are really just an extension of the running game, you still have blockers out in front of the runner, the receivers, the backs, the tight ends, and obviously the offensive linemen did a good job of doing that little bit extra and that resulted in some big plays. I mean Troy Brown's block on (Kevin) Faulk's screen where he picks off two guys and I don't know if we score without that block. That was a big block. Kevin made a great run. (Damien) Woody did a nice job to get him started. That touchdown probably as much to do with Troy's block as it did Kevin's run. And that's not taking anything away from Kevin because he made a great run, Troy helped spring him and that's the kind of teamwork you need. You pick up the blitz so the quarterback can throw the ball down to the receivers. The receiver makes a block so that the runner can gain extra yardage and make a big play and that's what teamwork is about. It works hand in hand. That's how it should be.

Q: You talked about the last few games, the importance of good starts. Can you just talk about how just the difference in not only strategy but attitude and the way the game went. Were you able to control it?

BB: We could see there was a certain point in the game where Buffalo really couldn't run the ball. The score and the time dictated a different style of attack and we were able to maintain balance on our side because we had control of the score in the game. There's no question that getting off to a good start enables you to do that, it's a 60-minute game and teams can always come back and just because you are ahead doesn't guarantee anything. In terms of playing the game more on the terms that you want to play it in, that was a huge help and it's a lot different from where we've been the previous three weeks, there's no question about that. Not that we didn't know it before and not that that was any great revelation that you try to get ahead in the game, but haven't played it that and played it the other way the three previous weeks, I think we all understand how much better it is to try to run the game from that standpoint. With run it, I'm saying, you know, manage it.

Q: One of your players mentioned during the week that what you had planned to do yesterday was have a scripted start, pick about 10 or 15 plays and that was going to be your beginning. Was that indeed the case and will you do it again in the upcoming weeks?

BB: Right. We started with the plays that we were going to open the game with early in the week. Usually we do it on Friday and maybe review it on Saturday. This week we started as early as Wednesday and then thoroughly reviewed it on Thursday and modified it a little bit Friday and Saturday. So there was a little bit more emphasis put on the start both offensively and defensively so that there would be as little opportunity as possible for there to be any confusion about what exactly we were going to do, or what were the possible adjustments that could come up on these plays because we know we were calling these first. And so there was more emphasis on that, yes.

Q: Obviously it was a building process, going back to the Denver game a little bit, you said after that you saw more positive things. Is it more than just this week showing up and the team being back, hopefully is it almost a two week thing where you are seeing more steps back?

BB: Well, I thought that the team improved in the Denver game even though the final score didn't totally reflect that. I thought there was some improvement yesterday. But as I said, I think that we still have more work that needs to be done and again when you look at the tape, those two teams aren't 31 points apart. I can tell you that. They were yesterday, but they are not. Buffalo is a good football team. We got some breaks yesterday, the ball bounced our way. We did some things well. Next time it might not turn out quite that way. There are plenty of things that we still need to fix and work on. There were plenty of things that they hurt us with. Ultimately it just didn't show up in the final score. We need to keep moving forward and that's certainly what I am going to emphasize to the players and I think they see that themselves too.

Q: Can you talk about Daniel Graham's play yesterday?

BB: I thought Dan stepped in and gave us some good plays in the running game in terms of his blocking and he also made some nice runs when he had the ball in his hands. And that was I think just another part of the balance that we had yesterday between the running game, the passing game, with different receivers. Christian (Fauria) contributed. Kevin, Anotwain, David (Patten), Troy, so we had a lot of people involved there and it was good to see him get the ball in his hands and make a couple of positive plays. But he also did a good job blocking. That certainly helped us in the running game too, as did Christian. Not to take anything away from Christian, because he did an excellent job blocking.

Q: What did you and Drew (Bledsoe) say to each other after the game?

BB: We were coming up the tunnel and he kind of grabbed me and just congratulated me and I told him I thought he was playing really well this year and wished each other well the rest of the way, probably not in that December game, but other than that. I have a lot of respect for Drew. Don't worry, we'll hear from him again and Buffalo. They've got a good football team.

Q: Was this the best effort that the team gave this year?

BB: I don't know. It was a good effort but we played well in some other games this year. It doesn't really matter. What's important is, we were able to play better than our opponent yesterday and that's what we need to try to do next week. In terms of ranking them, I don't know.

Q: Coach, you mentioned that balance was a big part of the plan. How important was Antowain Smith going into that game? Did you focus on the fact that he had to get a lot of carries?

BB: Well, no. We don't really go into the game saying 'well it's going to be 'x' number of runs or passes or screens or whatever.' You have a certain thing that you start with and then as the game goes you modify it a little bit but again there have been other games where we've run the ball, haven't run it as successfully but yesterday was a combination of not only running it, but running it with success. There were very few negative plays in the game. You know, we go hit on the reverse. We had a third-and-one that we didn't pick up. But there were a lot of four-, five-, six-yard gains and when you are running the ball like that it's a lot easier to keep calling them than when you're gaining one or gaining two or losing one. It's hard to keep calling runs when you don't gain anything.

Q: Coach, coming up your next eight opponents are all ranked 20th or lower in pass defense, so obviously a pretty good time for Tom to be breaking out now. How important is his turnaround and what he has shown you in terms of the rest of your season and given the fact that all of your opponents are ranked 20th or less on pass defense?

BB: Well, I'm sure that's a great statistic for you to write about and we can play it in the media. But, I thought that Tom played well yesterday. Obviously he made a lot of good reads, had the ball on the money. We play a lot of good teams coming up on our schedule. Chicago defensively has been and is one of the best teams in the league defensively. I don't care what the stats say. They've got good players, they've got a good scheme and it's hard to score points on their defense so that's really all I know about the next eight teams. But that's a good football team. The last time we played them, we couldn't move the ball hardly at all. (We) couldn't move it the length of my arm. I would just disagree about them not being a good football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think they are one of the best.

Q: After watching the film, what is your evaluation of Greg Robinson-Randall and what went into the decision to start him at right tackle?

BB: The decision was just based on the fact that we thought he was a little more ready to start the game based on the week of practice. I thought, again, overall that the line, there were some problems up there but they did a good job overall and that's everybody working together and being cohesive. Sometimes a guy would get beat, but somebody else would be there to help him out and keep him off the runner or the quarterback, as the case would be. It was okay. I don't think that anybody is going to go to the hall of fame based on that performance yesterday. But collectively it was okay. We were able to run the ball. The quarterback didn't get hit too many times. We were able to function fairly efficiently out there and that includes him and any of the four guys.

Q: Coach, could you just talk a little about the defense yesterday? They really played well and stopped one of the more high scoring offenses.

BB: Well, I think the big thing was we were better on third down. That was a significant improvement and we were better in the red area. They got down there into the red zone several times and for the most part we were able to keep them out. So that was probably the strength of our defense overall yesterday. At times, we got some pressure on the quarterback and at times our coverage was okay. But this group of skilled players from Larry Centers, to (Jay) Riemersma to the three receivers, to the quarterback, when you take Bledsoe, (Peerless) Price, (Josh) Reed, (Eric) Moulds, Centers, Riemersma, Travis Henry, it's a lot of skilled players to stop and they certainly made their share of plays yesterday. I thought we competed hard on defense and in the end where we were making our plays on third down and in the red zone, so that you could say 'well, it was a decent performance and we only gave up seven points.' When you don't make those plays in those two particular areas then, it could be the same performance but when they don't come in those situations then it looks like bad defense. So your really walking a fine line there.

Q: Antwan Harris is the replacement as the outback on the punt return team?

BB: Yes.

Q: And he was in there once?

BB: Well, yeah. We only punted once which was good. He only had one opportunity but he was down there.

Q: The last game he did it was when Larry (Izzo) got hurt?

BB: Right. He finished the game for Larry.

Q: How has been doing in that role?

BB: Well good. He's been working there all year. Of course Larry is our guy there, but when we give reps to somebody else, we give them to Antwan. He's been fine. We had a lot of opportunities and that's one of those positions where, it's like being a pinch hitter in baseball or a relief pitcher. You come in and you get a few shots to take and they need to really count. It's a critical position on the punt team. One mistake there and those are the kind of plays that can turn games around. No matter how it's going for anybody whether it's Antwan or whoever it is, you're always right on the edge in that spot because one mistake could be a critical one. Consistency and being able to do it right every time, not 99 out of 100, but 100 out of 100 is the name of the game in that position when you're the last man for a punt.

Q: And Antwan defensively had a lot of time…

BB: Yeah, he did. He played more this game. We just spot played Otis on some situational stuff but Antwan played more. You know, he's covering good receivers. Sometimes he'd cover them and sometimes they got open. But, again, I thought he competed well and defensively we were able to make enough plays, it's not like we shut them down or stopped them or anything, but we were able to make enough plays to keep them from scoring very many points and we were able to score more.

Q: How much more different of a player is Ted Johnson than at the beginning of the year?

BB: I think Ted has really had a good month and he played well yesterday. He had some really big plays for us. (He) came up big in the short yardage, had pressure up the middle on a couple of blitzes, he made some nice open field plays both in the running game and the passing game. I think Ted has played well the last month. You just really have to give him a lot of credit. We all know what some of the circumstances were earlier in the year. I think he is really playing good, solid football. Ted did a good job for us yesterday. Obviously Willie (McGinest) stepped up and made some big plays all day defensively in the first half and in the second half and was very disruptive out there both in the running game and the passing game. Those guys were, I think, two guys that made a big difference in the game. Obviously Ty (Law) had covered one of the best receivers in the game in Moulds, and competed well against him and had a turnover. Ted, no question played well yesterday and has been playing well.

Q: Could you hit Ty any harder than that?

BB: I was happy to see that turnover. It was good. That is the play we had been talking about all week, on those in-cuts, trying to get underneath the in-cut and they hit one on us earlier on that like third-and-90 and gained 91 one it or whatever it was. We gave up a big play on third down. We talked about trying to get underneath them and he did it and made a nice play on the ball.

Q: What was one of the things that the team was able to do better yesterday, that they haven't been able to do in the previous four games? Do you have any clue why or how they turned it back on?

BB: You are seeing a different game than what I am seeing. You really are. You are seeing a performance maybe this week it's here and last week it was there, I don't think it's as dramatic. You look at the final score and you want to say it was like night and day. It wasn't like night and day. A few little things can make a big difference. Not turning the ball over, playing well on third down, playing well in the red area, those things make a big difference in the game. Instead of kicking field goals, you're scoring touchdowns. Instead of giving up touchdowns you're giving up field goal attempts. Then a guy misses a couple kicks, pretty soon it looks like a world of difference out there. You convert a couple of third downs offensively, you're on the field longer, it looks like you're running the ball more, well it's because you've got more plays. Same thing defensively. If you're off the field on third down, you're not giving up as much rushing yardage, you're not giving up as much passing yardage because you don't have as many plays. They don't have the ball as much. So a few little things in those areas combined with turnovers that really can take the performance and tilt it dramatically one way or the other. And that is football. Now once you throw turnovers in there, that can skew things in a whole different direction as we know.

Q: Well there were clearly things that you weren't happy with …

BB: Look, I'm never happy when we lose. And I'm going to be happy when we win even if we don't do everything perfect; it's hard to win in this league. It's a competitive league; there's a lot of other great players and coaches that we see every week and to be able to win in this league is tough. So when you can do no matter how you do it, you've got to feel good about it. Same thing when you lose. You can play well, you can be competitive, you can do a lot things right you can play maybe almost as well as you can play and come up short. And you're going to be frustrated and discouraged when that happens. That's the competitive nature of this game. it's a bottom line business. Four o'clock Sunday afternoon, there's not moral victories. You are either happy or you are sad and it's strictly a result of the score and everybody knows what it is. No matter what transpires good or bad, the bottom line says it all. I'm not going to sit here, and I've said this all year, and say in those other games that we didn't do anything right. That's just not the case. And when we won, I'm not going to say we did everything right and there weren't any problems because there were. Fortunately, there were more problems on the other side of the ball than there were for us in the games we won, but in the games we lost, we had our share. Not saying that everything is fair, but it wasn't good enough so therefore you can't be happy about it or at least if you are a competitor you can't be happy about it.

Q: As far as the offensive game plan is concerned, the perception is that yesterday's game was drastically different from the previous games. Is that the case?

BB: Well the one big difference was it was working more efficiently. We ran the ball against Miami. We moved the ball against Green Bay. We didn't have any points.

Q: So it's still the same philosophy, you just executed it better?

BB: You can't change your philosophy like you change underwear. You just can't do it. You've got 11 guys out there playing football. You've got other guys coming in roles. 'Okay fellas, one week we're going to run these 30 plays, okay the next week lets start all over and try another 30 plays and next week we'll pick 10 of those, 10 of these and 10 other new ones.' You can't play football like that. You've got no chance to go out there and do anything better, because you are trying to re-learn something everyday you walk on the field. It's impossible. You have a basic system, you practice it in training camp, when you get through the end of training camp, you've had half of the practices that you're going to have for the entire year. Half of your practices for the year are over at the end of training camp. So you basically have three days a week, Wednesday, Thursday, and then a polishing day on Friday to take the foundation of what you have done in training camp and apply that to a particular opponent on a week-to-week basis. You might fine-tune a couple of things here or there, you might try to give them a little different look, which is probably within your overall framework anyway. But to come in and change systems in one week it's impossible. You cannot do it. I mean you can try to do it. But I don't see anybody doing it and I don't see anybody having success doing it. 'Okay we're going to run the single-wing this week, okay, we're going to run the split-T next week, we're going to run a wishbone after that, then we're going to be in the shot gun, then we'll be an option team, then we'll be in the short punt, then we're going to go on balanced line.' I mean that's ridiculous. There's nobody that plays football like that. You cannot do it.

Q: Why was Antowain so effective yesterday?

BB: Good blocking, good running. I though our receivers and tight ends blocks down field were outstanding. I felt it was decent blocking at the point of attack so sometimes you get through the line and instead of it being a six-, seven-yard gain, you get a couple of blocks down field and you can turn that into a double-digit run. I thought Antowain ran hard like he usually does and we created some holes for him at times. Sometimes he made some yards on his own, but we did get some blocks on the secondary, which gave Antowain a little bit more space. Anytime you have the lead, you're able to call more runs and we we're able to keep giving him the ball because we were in control of the score. Just in reverse, Buffalo wasn't in control of the game, they weren't able to keep their running game going. It's hard to do when you're behind in the second half like they were. We've been there before. We know what that is like.

Q: On injuries, Victor Green must have this Jim Brown thing going, because one play he was helped off the field, and it could have been two plays later he was back in there ….

BB: Well, Vic got kicked.

Q: He's done that several times it seemed this year, where he's gotten helped off the field and then he's back in making tackles.

BB: Yeah, he got kicked yesterday and I am sure it was a pretty painful injury. Vic is a tough guy, now. He gets in on a lot of plays and makes a lot of hits and takes some. But he is a tough guy and he doesn't miss much time. He could be out for a play or two here or there, but he took a pretty good kick on that one

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