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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 11/30

BB: So this is obviously a Ram team that we don't know very well, so we've spent a lot of time here the last couple of days here trying to get familiar with their players, their schemes and so forth. I'd start with saying a very talented team. They have a lot of very good players, a lot of explosive players in all three phases of the game. Let's start with the kicking game; I mean [Johnny] Hekker is a tremendous weapon. This guy looks like as good a player as I've ever seen at that position. He's a tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fakes, can throw, can run, very athletic. They have great coverage players on both punts and kickoffs. They have speed guys. They have size guys, linebackers, running backs, receivers, [defensive backs], so they really cover it across the board. Obviously, two very explosive returners in [Benny] Cunningham and [Tavon] Austin so the kicking game is going to be a tough matchup for any team against them and they do a lot. They have a lot of scheme. They have a lot of plays that you have to work on so they put a lot of pressure on you there. They have very good players. They're very explosive in that phase of the game. Offensively up front [they're] long, big, long offensive linemen. They use a lot of misdirection scheme. Great skill players, great backs, [Todd] Gurley, Cunningham. [Lance] Kendricks - a very good tight end, very productive, a good guy for them in the red-area, third-down, clutch situations. He's made a lot of big plays. He's had a great career there. It looks like he's going to break a lot of Ram records before it's over. Then of course very good players at the skill positions. [Kenny] Britt and [Brian] Quick are tough. They make a lot of big plays. Britt's had a great year, strong, good hands, run after the catch. Austin of course is a dynamic player, so they really have a lot of threats offensively with a big, long offensive line. [Jared] Goff I thought did a lot of good things last week, really the last couple of weeks. In the New Orleans game, first drive, two-minute drive - he handled that with a lot of poise. [He] played well in the red-area so he's obviously a very talented player as well. Defensively it starts up front. A very good defensive line; [Aaron] Donald, [Robert] Quinn - a very disruptive group. They have a lot of negative plays. They make more negative plays than anybody so that'll be a big challenge for us. They're fast at linebacker with [Mark] Barron. They're real big at safety. Those guys are big players, big hitters. [T.J.] McDonald is a very aggressive guy, long. Outside with Trumaine Johnson and so just overall I'd say a very talented group at every position. A lot of potentially explosive plays or explosive players that if you don't handle them they could do a lot of damage in a hurry. A young team that's fast, that's aggressive, that's played hard. They obviously didn't have a great day in New Orleans like they did in the opener against San Francisco, but I'd say other than that they've been in a lot of tough games. They've won some of those, have won some of them, but they've been right there pretty much every week. An impressive win over the Jets, Arizona, Tampa, Seattle, so they're a good football team. They're well-coached. They have a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball with Gregg [Williams] and Dave McGinnis, Chuck Cecil, Jeff [Fisher] of course. So they have a lot of experience over there and again, a very tough matchup for anybody. A tough matchup for us this week in the kicking game. That will be big.

Q: How much has Jared Goff improved since the preseason or is his performance during that time not relevant to your preparation?

BB: Well, as we know in preseason there's not a lot of scheme going on. It's just teams running their plays trying to get good at fundamentals and just trying to run their basic stuff. It's a whole different ball game than the regular season. But he's very talented. He made a great throw to [Tavon] Austin on the touchdown, had a good two-minute drive there at the end of the half. Just took them right down the field. They got the turnover, put it in on the next play on the under-route to [Kenny] Britt. But I think he's athletic. There were times where New Orleans had guys, a couple of times I remember guys coming free. He was able to just escape them in the pocket and get outside and buy extra time on the play. So he's athletic, has a good arm, can make the throws. He threw a post down there that he just missed on but it was a good throw; 50, I don't know, 55 yards. I don't think talents the issue here. I'm sure he's going to get better each week like most young players do.

Q: Is the way the Saints offense attacked the Rams defense an indication of some of their shortcomings defensively?

BB: You know, you can look at all of the games and there's that game and then there's really the other games. I mean, five teams couldn't score over 14 points so that's really more of what you see. They've had a couple of games here this year where they haven't given up a touchdown. They don't give up a lot of points. New Orleans did a good job. It wasn't the Rams best day, that's obvious. But I certainly wouldn't count on that.

Q: How much of a weapon is Johnny Hekker not only as a punter but as an overall playmaker for their team?

BB: Yeah, he's dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, he's like a quarterback. He can throw, he can run. You've got to defend him like you'd defend one of those guys.

Q: What type of development have you seen from Marcus Cannon over the past few years?

BB: Yeah, Marcus [Cannon] is having a good season. He's been a good player for us. He's had to fill in when Sebastian [Vollmer] and Nate [Solder] [missed time] in previous years. We've felt like we have three good tackles and usually two of the three of them ended up playing, however it went. It's varied from year to year over the last few years, but Marcus has always done a solid job for us whenever he's played. I'm glad we have him going forward. He works hard. A quiet kid but he's very dependable, team oriented. He's done a good job for us in the running game and the passing game. He's been a good player.

Q: He seems a bit lighter in weight this year. How much of a factor has that been in his success?

BB: It's definitely helped. Yeah, no question.

Q: Is there a reason why Marcus Cannon wasn't lighter in previous years? Did you guys not want him to drop weight?

BB: I wouldn't say that there was a reason; no.

Q: What has he improved upon since he's been here?

BB: He's been a good player for us. I mean, everybody improves. Hopefully with experience and more time and so forth, but there really hasn't been a point where he's played tackle where he hasn't played pretty well.

Q: What are some of the defining characteristics over the years of Jeff Fisher's teams?

BB: Good defensive line, good against the run, good in the kicking game.

Q: How much has the offensive line group as a whole benefitted from the return of Dante Scarnecchia? How has his energy level been since returning?

BB: Good. Dante [Scarnecchia], as I've said many times, is as good a coach as anybody I've ever been around. I'd put him up there with Scott O'Brien, Nick Saban, guys like that. He does a great job and it's great to have him back. He's done a great job for us. I don't know what more I can say. It's good to have him back and he's very good.

Q: How do you feel that Malcom Brown has done in his second year here? Has he made another leap?

BB: Yeah, definitely. I think he's made progress. He probably started at a little higher point than some guys do, therefore the growth is - I don't want to say limited - but there's just a little less space there than guys that start at a much lower point where there's a lot more space. But I think he's closing that space up. He's definitely improved this year in terms of his recognition, playing blockers, consistency.

Q: Would you find it difficult to play against an offense that decided to throw it 90 percent of the time due to their aggressiveness or would it be a relief due to their predictability?

BB: When you coach defense you don't have any control over what the other team calls. You have to just defend whatever they do. You can't really worry about it. If they want to run it every time, they can run it. If they want to throw it every team, they can throw it. If they want to split it in half, they can split it in half. You don't have any control over that. You just have to defend what the situation [is] and the personnel they have in the game.

Q: What's the latest in a season that you've ever made significant changes to your defensive approach?

BB: Every week.

Q: More specifically, have you ever made significant changes to the personnel used at later points in the season?

BB: Yeah. It depends on who you play, what the situation is. I mean in 1990 when I was with the Giants we played the Bears in the first postseason game. We played them in a 4-3 [defense]. The second game we played the 49ers in a 3-4. We played a post-safety coverage game against the Bears and played a split-safety coverage game against the 49ers, and then against Buffalo in the Super Bowl we played a 2-4 and a 3-3-nickel the entire game. Is that changing your defense? I mean, to me it was doing what we thought was best against the team we were playing. You can call it whatever you want to call it. I don't know. To me, that's just an example. I know that's a long time ago but that's the way we look at the game. We try to do what we think is best every week, whatever that is. I don't know. Who's the next game against? What are they doing? What do we have? What's the situation relative to other factors involved in the game? What do we feel like is the best way to play the game? That's the way we're going to play it.

Q: Do you ever look at your own personnel and think you've got to use them differently?

BB: We always do that. But again, that's a matter of matchups. I mean you can, you know, you can run a play out of your run defense all you want and if the team is a spread attack, misdirection team that's going to put the ball in space all the time then I think that's stupid. Why would you do that? It doesn't fit the team that you're playing, so I personally would never advocate doing that; just doing something to do it. I don't know. What's that accomplish? My feeling is to try and win the game. I don't know. That doesn't really fit into everybody else's agenda but I'm just trying to win the game. So what do we need to do to win? That's what we're going to do to win, period.

Q: Are turnovers a byproduct of good defense? Do you go into a game not trying to create turnovers and they just happen because you're playing good fundamental defense?

BB: We always try to create turnovers. I mean you always try to play good defense, try to stop the run, try to turn the ball over, try to get off the field on third-down, play good red-area defense. I mean it's just like every time you get the ball on offense. You try to score points. If we weren't trying to score points we'd just send the punt team out there and just give it back to them. If we weren't trying to play good defense, if we weren't trying to stop them every time we go out on the field, what's the point of sending them out there? We might as well send the punt return team out there if that's what it's going to be. Yeah, we're trying to do that every single time we go out on the field. Like why else would the defense go out there? They go out there to stop them. Why else would the field goal team go out there? To score points. Why do we send the offense out there? To move the ball and score points. Why else would you put them out there? 

Q: How much has Chris Long's experience and leadership helped this team?

BB: Yeah, Chris [Long] has been great. He works really had. He's very dependable, there every day, kind of first-one-in, last-one-out mentality. He works hard in the weight room. He studies the game plan, really tries to understand how you want him to play a play or how you want him to do a certain thing and he does his very best to do it. So you can't ask for any more than that. The expectations and all of that, I mean when you've never coached a player before, I don't know what the expectations are. I try not to have them because you know what the scouting report is and so forth but I try to evaluate everybody based on what my own personal interaction with them is. I don't go with what somebody else did somewhere else or what they did or didn't say about them. We've all seen that before. I just try to evaluate them based on what they do for us, how they respond to what we ask them to do, and he's responded very positively in every situation, in the weight room, scout teams, defensively, whatever we've asked him to do.

Q: You've praised punters before like Ray Guy, Thomas Morstead and Dave Jennings. Who else is in that discussion as greatest punters?

BB: Those guys are all in the discussion.

Q: Is there anyone else you'd include in that group?

BB: No, those guys are all in that discussion and they were all great players. I'm not taking anything away from them. [Sean] Landeta - I mean I have a lot of personal interaction with Sean. But I mean this guy, [Johnny Hekker], this guy is a weapon. I mean he's not a good player; he's a weapon.

Q: Since Eric Rowe is relatively new to cornerback is he a guy you still see developing there?

BB: He played corner in college and then they moved him to safety his senior year and then he played corner in Philadelphia.

Q: I was under the impression that it was the opposite, that he played safety originally and then they moved him to cornerback.

BB: Whichever one it was, I thought it was, but you know, you might be right. In any case he played safety at Utah and then he played corner at Utah. I can still see him playing safety against USC so he played both. When we worked him out we saw him as a corner, which I would say when you just look at him he looks kind of like a corner. I'm not saying he can't play safety but he looks kind of like a corner and Philadelphia played him at corner. I don't think they played him at safety at all. He played corner against us last year with Philadelphia. 

Q: Is he a guy you still see significant develop from at that position?

BB: Yeah, well again, you're talking about a guy that's in his second year and now he's already in his second system, too. Actually third system, so what they did in Philadelphia last year with Chip [Kelly], what they did in Philadelphia this year with Jim Schwartz, and what he's doing now with us. I'd say all three of those are different schemes. I'm not sure exactly how the techniques were coached but I'm sure there were differences in the way the techniques were coached and adjustments and things like that. The guys been in three systems in under a year and a half, let's call it. So I think there's still a lot of growth in him at the corner position just getting confident playing in a scheme, getting confident playing with your teammates, where your help is. When you're playing out there at corner it's important to understand where your help is, whether it's in man coverage or in zone coverage and what you have to take away, what somebody else can take away, what they can't take away. You can't cover everything out there so you have to take away something and you're a little light on something else, and if the quarterback makes a good throw and the receiver runs a great route then you're going to be a little light on that. Understanding how all of that works, different situational things from second-down, to third-down, to two-minute, to red-area to all of that. Even though it might be the same call, the technique and the finer points of playing the position in those different situations changes a little bit. Now of course it changes depending on who the receiver is as well. I think all of that is a process that any player would go throw but certainly when you're as reliant as you are at corner on other people on the field and the relationship and how close the help is and where you have it and where you don't and different receiver splits and so forth and so on. I mean there's a lot of moving parts there to really have it down is all I'm saying. Could you go out there and cover the guy? I mean, yeah, but to really get it right and to know all of it, the finer points of the defense and where your teammates are and what they can get to and what they can't and so forth, yeah it takes time.

Q: Is Dave Jennings in that conversation about best punters as well?

BB: [Dave] Jennings? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no absolutely. Yeah, and Dave - Dave could throw. He had very good directional placement on the ball. He was a clutch punter when you needed one. I still remember in the Dallas game being backed up inside our 10-yard line. He hit a 55-yarder out of the end zone that eventually got us into the playoffs, so it's not just average. It's like golf, it's not can you make a putt. It's making them when you've got to make them, so the same thing with kickers. Yeah, I'd definitely put Jennings in there. [Sean] Landeta - no question. But you're talking about an athlete with [Johnny] Hekker now - he's a little more athletic than Landeta, just to pick a name. I would say Ray Guy - Ray kicked for great average but these guys lead the league in punt coverage. They lead the league in gross punting, lead the league in net punting, lead the league in inside-the-20, and lead the league in punt coverage. I mean if you're in front in one of those categories you're pretty good. Last year they led the league in all three. They're right up there this year, plus he's a threat on fakes and stuff like that. He's pretty good.

Q: You must want to see him a lot though this coming Sunday.

BB: Yeah, right. We've just got to make sure we get the ball, that's all. Certainly another part of the problem is just catching the ball. We've seen multiple guys - he kicks it so far and he makes the returner move for it and they run over there and then they mishandle it or it hits the ground and rolls for another 20 yards. It's a tough ball to catch because you're not just shagging fly's out there. He's making you run and he's kicking it over your head. The ball handling is tough for the returners, too. [It's] very tough. The Jets had a lot of trouble with it, Carolina, I'm trying to think of who else. But he's had several punts this year where they can't get to the ball and then it rolls 20 yards, so 50 becomes 70, or 45 becomes 65. It just changes field position in one play. You think you're going to get the ball in good field positon and you're on your 15-yard line. We've got to do a good job there. But yeah, to your point I hope he gets a good workout; yeah.

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