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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 11/16

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 16, 2016.

BB: Alright, well we're playing a team this week that we don't know particularly well, so we have to really have a great week of preparation and get ready to know the 49ers, particularly form a personnel standpoint. I think last year's game against the Eagles, Coach [Chip] Kelly, I think everybody knows how much respect I have for him. Coach Kelly came down here with the Eagles and really they handled us pretty good, so we're going to have to do a lot better job against their scheme and their attack on offense and special teams than we did in that game. We know that defensively they kind of have some similarities to the Rex Ryan-type of defense so we saw that a couple of weeks ago. Scheme-wise that will be a challenge for us, as it always is. I think the big thing for us is getting to know their players. They have a very talented team, a lot of explosive guys on offense and in the kicking game. Defensively they have a lot of young players upfront or some young players upfront, so a good level of experience with guys like [Glen] Dorsey, and [Quinton] Dial, [Gerald] Hodges and guys like that. And a pretty good level of experience in the secondary, particularly at the safety position, so a lot of work to do. As I said, we didn't do very well at all against the Eagles scheme last year, so we're going to have to improve dramatically on that to be competitive. It'll be a big week for us, but hopefully we get off to a good start here today and be able to stay on track.

Q: The line between wins and losses in this league is very thin. What have you seen from San Francisco in their eight straight losses that you think you may be able to exploit against them?

BB: Yeah, I think they're getting better. You see them getting better every week. The last two weeks they've created a lot of explosive plays on offense, more than they have. Of course they've had some issues with their run defense but last week they went down to Arizona and shut down David Johnson to, whatever it is, under 3 yards-per-carry. He had 55 yards. I thought they tackled well. I'm sure getting [Glen] Dorsey and [Mike] Purcell back helped as well, but that was a very competitive game in Arizona, the same kind of game we played with the Cardinals right down to the last possession. I know a lot of people were talking about the same thing last year when the Eagles had lost a couple of games by four touchdowns and coming in here with a poor record and then they come in here and hammered us. So I don't really put too much credence into that. The way they played last week against Arizona is very indicative of their talent level and their ability to do things right against a good team.

Q: What have you seen on tape from Colin Kaepernick and how relevant is the game you played against him four years ago in 2012?

BB: I mean we saw him first-hand, so that was good. The offense is different but he's a very athletic player. He's fast, led the team in rushing three of the last four weeks so he's very dangerous out of the pocket but he's a good, accurate passer as well. They've run the ball a lot. They run the ball as much as any team in the league so that sets up their play-action and some of the quarterback movement plays that he's good at, as well as their third-down package. He has a good group of skill players to work with. The receivers are good, the tight ends are good, the backs are very good. They can move the ball.

Q: Is trying to defend him similar to trying to defend Russell Wilson?

BB: Yeah, [Tyrod] Taylor, [Russell] Wilson, [Colin] Kaepernick – I mean they're all different but certainly there are some common denominators there. Yes, no question.

Q: Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick both seem to throw the ball with a lot of velocity. Is that something you need to reiterate to your guys this week about how the quarterback has the ability to fit the ball into tight windows on the outside?

BB: Yeah, I think the passing game from Seattle and San Francisco are quite different. That's just my personal opinion.

Q: But what about that particular skill, the arm strength, is that a factor at all?

BB: Yeah, he's got a good arm, so does [Tyrod] Taylor. I mean they all do. But I'd say the passing game that San Francisco employs is unique because their running game is unique. It all ties in together. They're really not a, like some teams are, they're not as much of a first, second, third-down team. A lot of their third-down plays they run on first-down. A lot of their first-down plays they run on third-down. They're a fast-tempo team. Honestly it's not the easiest thing in the world to keep track of down and distance when you're out there just going to the line, trying to get the call, get lined up. Sometimes defensively you kind of lose track as to whether its first-and-10 or second-and-eight. You're just trying to get the call, trying to play the play. I'd say that's a little bit of what they do. They certainly have a third-down package; I'm not saying that. But again, a lot of their third-down plays are early down plays. I'd just say they're unique. They're quite a bit different from Seattle just in what you have to defend.

Q: When you were on the goal line against Seattle the defensive line seemed to shift and it ended up drawing an offside penalty. What kind of advantage does a shift like that bring to a goal line defense?

BB: If you shift the defense sometimes it changes the blocking pattern. We shift defenses all of the time.

Q: In his seven years with you now what have you learned about Rob Gronkowski's toughness both mentally and physically?

BB: It's good; very good.

Q: If Rob Gronkowski is not available this week how much does the past experience of not having him available help your team?

BB: Yeah, I don't know.

Q: What have you learned about working with Martellus Bennett now that he has been in your program on a day-to-day basis?

BB: Yeah, he's been good to work with. It goes all the way back to training camp. We talked about the same thing in training camp. He's a smart guy, has a good set of skills, he works hard.

Q: Are slot receivers more of an emphasis in Chip Kelly's offense from what you've seen?

BB: Yeah, I mean I think everybody's important. They've got good vertical receivers; [Torrey] Smith, [Quinton] Patton. Outside, those guys can make big plays. I mean nobody's had more big plays than Torrey Smith has over the last couple of years. [Jeremy] Kerley's a dynamic player. He's a dynamic punt returner, very good with the ball in his hands, quick, shifty, very hard to tackle. He's got good vision. He really can see space and set up blocks well and use that open-field blocking, whether it's on a catch-and-run play or whether it's on a return. He does a good job, a real good player.

Q: You said earlier this week that they were a game plan team. But from what you've seen has Chip Kelly been able to institute some sort of system despite it's possible changes week-to-week?

BB: I mean they run their offense; yeah. You know, it depends on how you defend them. They have different ways to attack you, like all teams do. I'm sure that over the three years in Philadelphia and half the year this year he's seen pretty much everything, how teams are going to play them, different fronts, different coverages, different overhangs on the edge, things like that. So depending on what you give him he's got complimentary plays that answer it. They do a good job of attacking every inch of the field. I mean they attack you from sideline to sideline, from the line of scrimmage to the goal line, outside, inside. You have to defend everything against them including the quarterback. All of the skill players run the ball with speed sweeps and some of their passes that come off of running plays are really part of the running plays, so they're look-passes or quick outlet plays to the slot or the perimeter receiver if the team is stacked in there to stop the run. So it makes you defend from sideline to sideline and he makes you defend the outside of the field to the inside of the field to the deep part of the field; over-routes, deep posts, go-routes, and their perimeter receivers are good. But they can throw it underneath and hit catch-and-run plays, too. Yeah, I think whatever he feels like you're giving him then he's going to take and it's hard to stop it all because they attack every area with a lot of good players.

Q: What has allowed Joe Staley to stay around so long and play at such a high level at the offensive tackle position?

BB: Yeah, well he's a good athlete. He runs well. You can see him pull on some of their outside plays. He's athletic to block the edge rushers that he sees over there. Obviously, a smart guy. You can see from his experience he makes a lot of good decisions, little things, just in line play. He's got good strength, good power.

Q: What have you learned about Matt Lengel since he has been here with the team?

BB: Well, we've thrown him in there on a few things. He seems to be picking things up fairly well. He's long. A lot of it has been running the other team's plays and some fundamental work and things like that after practice, but he's making progress. He's good to work with, a good kid, works hard.

Q: Can you go back and take anything from that Philadelphia game last year with Chip Kelly last year that could be of relevance this week?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that's a good game to watch. I mean I'm sure that's the one he's starting with out there. They hurt us doing a lot of different things. I'm sure we'll see some elements of those schemes again. I can't imagine they wouldn't test us out and see whether we can handle it. We didn't handle it very well last year, so yeah, same thing in the kicking game. It's basically their same scheme on special teams that they ran in Philadelphia so I'm sure we'll get tested in those areas as well. I can't imagine we wouldn't.

Q: Tony Romo handled a difficult situation with class yesterday. How did the way Drew Bledsoe handled a similar situation with class and professionalism in 2001 affect and help your team eventually win a Super Bowl that year?

BB: I mean, I appreciate the question, but I really don't care about 15 years ago. I'm just trying to get ready to beat San Francisco. 

Q: In the week after a loss, are there any differences in how you prepare for a game as opposed to when you're coming off a win?

BB: I think each game is its own entity. I don't think what happened last week should have any bearing on this week. I mean, of course you want to correct the mistakes that you had in the game, win or lose, because the team that's looking at that previous game, if they see something where you look vulnerable, you're going to get attacked there again. I think you have to look at that game, or obviously, the Buffalo game. I'm sure that they'll be looking at the defensive side of the ball at what Buffalo did with us; what looked good, what didn't look good relevant to their game planning. I'm sure they'll take that into consideration. The 49ers are still the 49ers, they're not Buffalo, but they run a similar scheme and those coaches are similar with each other so I'm sure they'll be some play in there. But basically, I try to look at every week as an independent week, which it is, which I think is what you see in this league. How we do this week will be based on what we do this week, not what happened last week or some other week, but there are things to be learned from previous games, there's no question about that. 

Q: When there are mistakes in man coverage or zone coverage, is there anything that's easier or more difficult to correct between those two things in practice the following week?

BB: When you play a competitive team in this league, which every game is, there are mistakes on every play – there are almost mistakes on every play in every game. Run, pass, offense, defense, special teams, man, zone, play action, drop back, you name it. There are always things that we can work to improve in and there are certain things that are fundamental to a particular play or a particular concept. If we don't execute those right, then we need to understand that and we need to execute them to a higher level the next time it comes up. I think that's what the correcting is about. The chances of you getting the exact same play and everything turning out exactly the same are usually not very high, but you could get a similar play or a similar relationship or situation on a particular aspect of a play that you just need to either defend better, or if it's on the offensive side of the ball, be able to handle it better. 

Q: How much do you have to weigh continuity and what the best matchup is when deciding what cornerbacks you're going to start and which ones you're going to make active or inactive?

BB: Game planning is a complicated process. I don't want to overdo it, but we spend all Tuesday and a good part of Monday going through all of that. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. Your team is probably the number one priority. How you match up against your opponent is part of the equation, and then there are a lot of other factors that can come in as well. I would say there are a lot of different situations within a game. So even though you have a game, you have first down, second down, third down, red area, two minute and so forth, and sometimes those situations vary. What might be best for one situation might not be best for another. Maybe do the same thing in all of them. There are a lot of different options there, so in the end, you just try to put it all together in a pot, make a decision and figure what you feel is best. Maybe it's a combination of something, more than one thing. I don't think there's any textbook answer on that. You look at the issues, you try to decide the best way to handle them, and sometimes you just go in with that approach. Sometimes you go in with this way and then an alternative way. Maybe your alternative is scheme. Maybe it's not personnel. I just think everyone is different. You're trying to do what you think's best; sometimes one is good in one area but not as good in another, or vice versa.  If one thing was good on everything, then it would probably be an easy decision. It would be a pretty short conversation, you'd just do that. But when you're weighing two or three different things; trying to stop this, trying to stop that, this matchup, that matchup, sometimes it's just a little bit of a juggling act. You have to try to decide where you want to put your chips, what number you want to put them on, and go with it. 

Q: Will you give Dion Lewis extra looks in practice this week so you can determine whether he's ready to be activated for Sunday's game or not?

BB: I think any time a player is coming back from missing a significant amount of time, there's a certain buildup process. Sometimes that accelerates, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it just stays on a straight line course. It's hard to predict how that's going to go. There's a big difference between training and playing football. You can run around a track, run up and down a hill, do 10,000 pushups and all of that. I mean, that's great, but that's not being out there with 21 other guys playing football. Football is football. Training is an important part and component of being ready to play football, but playing football is playing football. Especially at this time of year where you're halfway through the season and teams have quite a bit of scheme in, both us and our opponents, we're not just looking at kind of some basic stuff like in the beginning or the year or in preseason, which is what preseason is. It's very basic. We're at a whole different point, so how does that get acclimated, what's the right time, what's the right – it's a little bit of a feel situation. But to answer, your question, we just keep going. We'll see. 

Q: What did you see from the San Francisco last week in stopping David Johnson?

BB: Well, [Glenn] Dorsey helped, [Mike] Purcell helped, their tackling was – they tackled better. I know that's what they said after the game. I would agree with that. I thought they tackled well, and we know [David] Johnson is a hard back to tackle. I mean, all their backs are for that matter. But I thought their tackling was good. They didn't give them much yards after contact or after first contact. I'd say that was a problem for them in some earlier games, where you look at the play and you stop the film, it doesn't look like they're going to gain a lot of yards, but somebody missed a tackle or somebody takes a bad angle and then a five-yard play becomes a 20-yard play. I think when you're – I've certainly been in that situation a number of times and you have to look at it and say, 'Ok, well is it really the defense or is it our fundamentals with leverage and tackling and that kind of thing?'  I think they've identified the problem, and it certainly looked like they took a big step last week in terms of correcting it. I mean, under three yards per carry for Johnson, I think just about any team in the league would take that. 

Q: Chip Kelly said he tailors his system to his quarterback. What are the differences in what they're doing schematically with Colin Kaepernick compared to what Kelly did with Sam Bradford?

BB: I think one of the big differences for us in the running game is just the quarterback. That really wasn't a big factor in the game last year. They still ran the ball with a lot of success against us in multiple formations or multiple types of runs, and then you add that to, now a quarterback, which gives you another dimension in the running game, we're going to have to do a better job on what we saw last year, but in addition to that, just as you pointed out, defend the quarterback runs as well, or the quarterback keeps or bootlegs. They bootlegged with [Sam] Bradford some, but not as much as they do with Colin [Kaepernick]. The whole dynamic that the quarterback brings to the offense is definitely another dimension. It's going to be challenging for us. Like I said, we didn't do very well without that part of it, so we have a lot of work to do there. 

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