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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 12/14

BB: Alright well, it's always impressive when you watch the Broncos play. As usual, they have a very good football team; well-coached. I think that Coach [Gary] Kubiak and his staff do an excellent job as they always do, offensively, defensively, special teams. They have very experienced coordinators. Their schemes and their systems are well-established and have a great history of production and successful plays with them. That continues to be the case. Obviously, a lot of great players in all three phases of the game; very good defensively. This is a great defense, a lot of outstanding players at all three levels. They do a good job of taking the ball away. Turnovers - they've capitalized on those turnovers and turned them into more points than anybody else in the league, so ball security and decision making will be really important for us there. Offensively they always have a good game plan attack. Coach Kubiak does a good job of keeping the defense off-balance with his attack, running game, play-actions, drop backs, empty formations, things like that. They do a good job of creating mismatches on personnel. You really have to handle their good players but also mentally do a good job of being in the right place and having the assignments right. They're very aggressive in the kicking game. They're fast, cover well, they're a good rush team. They beat New Orleans obviously on the blocked PAT, but they put a lot of pressure on the specialists and the protection units for the kickers and the punters. Again, a very fast coverage team that does a good job creating field positon. [Brandon] McManus - a strong leg. The rookie punter [Riley Dixon] has done a good job for them. It's good. [They're] a good football team from top to bottom, well-coached, good players, great environment out there. It'll be an intense atmosphere I'm sure. It'll be a big challenge for us this week. We've got to do a good job preparing and being ready to go and being able to handle their speed and their aggressiveness on the road. That's what we're working on.

Q: How relevant is last year's AFC Championship game to your preparation for this game this week?

BB: Yeah, we'll definitely watch it. Same coaches, I'd say probably some similar X's and O's. There's a few moving parts in terms of personnel that are different. There's a lot that are the same, but yeah, it's definitely been a reference point.

Q: How have you seen Trevor Siemian run that Denver offense and what about his skill set allows him to have success in it?

BB: Yeah, well of course he's been there so he's got some experience for it. It's his first opportunity to play a lot in it other than preseason last year, but he's athletic. He's got a good arm. He's thrown the ball well the last four or five weeks. He's been over 300 yards every week. He's got two great receivers, but a lot of other guys that - [Bennie] Fowler and [Jordan] Norwood - they do a good job of spreading the ball around besides [Emmanuel] Sanders and [Demaryius] Thomas. Those are the two guys that you obviously have to stop but they have other explosive players. He does a good job of getting the ball down the field, drop back, play-action, quarterback movement plays. He's shown effectiveness on all of them.

Q: When you are going up against two great receivers like Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas how do you determine which one to give more attention to defensively on a particular play?

BB: You've got to have some kind of plan for it. You've got to figure out how you want to handle it. It's a lot easier when you only have to worry about one guy, but when you have two guys like that it definitely puts a lot of stress on the defense. You have to take all of those things into consideration - how much you want to give up the rush to cover, how much you want to give up the coverage to rush. If you balance it, how much you can balance it, how light are you somewhere else, so you've still got to stop the running game. There's a lot of other things you have to stop. Not every pass goes to one of them but if they hit a big one that could be the end of the drive, too. So yeah, they're tough to defend.

Q: How have you seen them use A.J. Derby since he was traded there?

BB: They use him as a part of their rotation at that position. 

Q: What makes playing in Denver so difficult?

BB: I mean, we play on the road. Half of our games are on the road. They're a good team. You can put a good team anywhere. They're a good team.

Q: How much development have you seen from the interior of your offensive line, in particular the younger players at those positions?

BB: Well, for Shaq [Mason] and David [Andrews] the second year is always, usually always, a year of growth. Just having that year under their belt on every aspect of football, training, preparing, knowing what they expect from the other team, knowing what we do a little bit better, just really all of it. Then in Joe [Thuney]'s case, just getting familiar with our offense. He's played with obviously Nate [Solder] and David in his second year but he's got a couple of experienced players I know that he's working with as well. I think just the overall coordination of the group and function of the group together, just working together, communicating together, seeing things, just reacting, that split-second reaction can make all of the difference in the world. The better we are at that, the better those guys are at doing it together, those are all positives.

Q: How much does the mentality of a tough running game begin up front with the offensive line?

BB: Yeah, sure. I mean, they're a part of it, yeah, the line, the backs, the fullback, the tight end, the running back. Yeah, it's not always about pounding your head into a wall. Sometimes it's about creating plays in space, but finding ways to run the ball, get the ball to a good back with some space to work with and good backs can make yards on their own, so however you get to that, whether it's a power play, a toss play, a draw, it could be a lot of different things. Really you're just trying to get the ball in space to a guy that can do something with it.

Q: Josh McDaniels has said that it is important to be able to run the ball when the defense knows you are going to run it. How do you feel your offense has done in that regard?

BB: Yeah, well, look I think that's how you have to win in this league. At some point you're going to have to run it when they know you're going to run it. You're going to have to throw it when they know you're going to throw it. You're going to have to defend the pass when you know they're going to throw it and you're going to have to defend the run when you know they're going to run it. You've got to be able to play in those situations once they declare. If you can't do it at that point then you're probably looking at not a good result. Sure, [it's important] to be able to run the ball when they know you're going to run it, you know you're going to run it and you're able to still run the clock out or get those yards that you need, because at that point it's yards and time more than points most likely. If you're able to get those yards that you need then that's situationally critical to the outcome of the game.

Q: What has stood out to you from LeGarrette Blount's work this year?

BB: I mean number one, ball security. Number two, durability. I'd say just in general his ability to get the yards that you need. A two-yard run isn't a good run unless you need one. A four-yard run is not a good run unless you need three. He's had some explosive plays in there, which always helps shorten the drive, when you can grab 15 yards, 18 yards, whatever it is. You don't necessarily think you're going to gain 15 yards when you hand the ball off. A good run is four or five, maybe six yards. When you end up getting two or three times that, those are kind of bonus yards, if you will, that you're not really counting on. But if you run it enough hopefully you'll get a couple of those. I'd say his ability to make the yards that we need at the time that we need them.

Q: Has their ability to run the ball using the stretch-run plays changed at all this year or is it just a matter of different personnel performing it?

BB: Yeah, it's different personnel running the same plays. It's the same plays in Houston. It was the same plays in Baltimore. It was the same plays in Denver when [Mike] Shanahan was there. It's the same plays now. It's the same plays. It's the same thing when Wade [Phillips] was in Denver, when Wade was in Buffalo, when Wade was in Dallas, when Wade was in Houston, when Wade's back in Denver. It's basically the same defenses. It's the same thing when Joe [DeCamillis] was in Denver, or Joe was in Chicago, or Joe was back in Denver. There's a lot of continuity and consistency with their coaching staffs and the schemes of the coordinators. And they've had a lot of success with them and I wouldn't expect them to change much because they've been productive over a couple of decades really, going back to when Dan [Reeves] left and Wade took over but then when Mike came in the offensive structure changed and it's basically been that or carryover of that to Gary [Kubiak]. You're talking about 20 years now.

Q: What is it that makes Von Miller such a tough guy to block?

BB: Yeah, everything. He's fast, explosive, he's got good anticipation, he's smart. He gets good reads, good anticipation on plays, but not just on the road or at home but on the road, too. Sometimes he can beat the count, get the jump there. [Shane] Ray's done a good job for them. [DeMarcus] Ware's done a good job. I mean, if it's just one outside guy that's one thing. When you've got to deal with two, it's hard to get help in both places. You can help there but then you have no passing game and you run out of guys to throw it to. I'd say the combination of one good rusher with a couple of other good edge rushers. The guys inside do a good job, too - [Derek] Wolfe, [Jared] Crick, [Sylvester Williams] - those guys. They have a well-balanced rush, although Ray and [Von] Miller have I think probably over half the sacks, probably over half the pressures, but again, it's hard to get both guys, again, unless you don't send anybody out, which you could do that. But there's a consequence to doing that.

Q: Is there any advantage for Nate Solder in blocking Von Miller because he has some familiarity doing it in the past?

BB: I'm sure there's something to that. I mean, I don't think there are any linemen in the league that are sitting there saying 'Oh, good. We've got Von Miller this week. This will be a little breather this week.' I mean, nobody's saying that. No matter how many times you play him you've still got to deal with his speed, his quickness, his leverage, his counter-moves, and if they run gains with him it's not always the tackle on him. Sometimes it could be the guard or the center. That's a tough mismatch, too, because those guys aren't usually used to blocking that type of quickness and explosiveness that he has. They're used to blocking 300-pound, whatever, bigger guys, that you get that kind of quickness coming inside on a stunt that can let's say surprise them, but they're just not used to dealing with it like the tackles are. I mean look, he's a great player. He's a great rusher. It's a challenge for whoever's blocking him, and you don't have all day. The receivers don't have all day to get open. They've got to help the protection by creating separation in the route. The quarterback can't hold the ball all day back there. They've got to find somebody and throw it to them. We need to have good team execution. You just can't - even if you block him that doesn't solve the rest of the problem in terms of getting somebody open.

Q: Is playing on the road after a short week a real big challenge?

BB: It's like every other team in the league. We play half of our games at home, half on the road. It is what it is. With every long week is a short week. With every short week is a long week. It is what it is. If we play on Monday, you've got a long week. If you play on Monday you've got a short week after a long week.

Q: As a third-down back, is that position expected to be able to split out wide and have success receiving more or is that something that only certain players in that position can do?

BB: I think it's an acquired skill for most backs. There are not a lot of guys that have done that. You might see a little bit more of it in college now because there is more of a prevalence of empty formations, but even still, the routes they run in college, the two routes that they run really I would say isn't enough to attack a good NFL defense. You need a little bit more than that. I'd say from my experience it's been acquired skills from guys that we've had out there from Tony Galbreath to [Dave] Meggett to [Eric] Metcalf in Clevleand to [Kevin] Faulk to [Shane] Vereen to [James] White. I don't think that's something that they came in with. I think that's something that they learned and acquired and got good at. 

Q: How does James White stack up as far as acquired skill goes?

BB: He's been very productive for us. I mean, we've had a lot of production out of that position from Kevin [Faulk], who was obviously great for us, a Hall of Fame player, to Shane [Vereen] who gave us two good years, two and a half good, whatever it was, and then James [White] has given us two good years here; the last two years, taking over for Shane. So we've had a lot of production out of that position, the sub back, if you will, really since I've been here, so we've been very, very fortunate there. Danny [Woodhead] was a little different, kind of more like Dion [Lewis], not really a sub back but could do some of those things. There was an element of it. But those guys, Kevin to Shane to James White, have been - that role has been pretty clearly defined for them and as I said, Danny and Dion have had some of that, but not quite the full position that the other three did. But that was [Dave] Meggett when I was here in 1996, and then we had him at the Giants. He was really in the sub back role that at times became a little more than that. 

Q: Is Dion Lewis not part of that group of sub backs you just mentioned because of the number of routes that he's comfortable running?

BB: No it's like Danny [Woodhead], I mean those guys are pretty good running the ball, so I'm not saying they couldn't do it, I just think it's a little different type of player. Danny had a lot of carries, Dion [Lewis] has had a lot of carries; they've caught some balls. Kevin [Faulk] to Shane [Vereen] to James [White], and again, going back to guys like Tony Galbreath at the Giants. Those guys had a lot more catches than they had carries, so it's just a little bit of a different usage of the player. Not saying those guys couldn't carry the ball, not saying these other guys couldn't catch the ball, but it's a little bit different. 

Q: How has David Andrews evolved in terms of countering the edger rusher's ability to anticipate when he's going to snap the ball?

BB: Yeah, David [Andrews] does a good job of that. David has a lot of experience at the position. He played center since junior high school or whatever it was. There's of course a lot of crowd noise in the SEC, so dealing with that, our cadences are a little bit - they're unique to us, but the whole concept of it is the same, just trying to keep them off balance and having a way that you can do the same thing, but it could be two or three different things, not every time you do the same thing, the timing is the same. That's really a big thing but nobody ever talks about it. It's an underrated thing but you have to do that in a way so that the other - I mean, you don't want to screw up the other offensive linemen, either. You could gain an advantage yourself as a center but it's at the disadvantage of the other four guys. You're trying to gain the advantage for all five of you against their line, not just you being able to kind of beat the snap as a center, which some centers do that and they kind of put their teammates in a bad spot. David does a great job of doing those kinds of things in such a way that it helps the whole line and he's got a good sense of timing and good awareness of all that. It's not just working with the quarterback on it, although that's important too, but just the whole, the other four guys, so they can all be aggressive. You don't want to be sitting there on the offensive line and then wait to move until you see the ball snapped. I mean, that's like playing defense, now you've given them the advantage. You want to be able to anticipate and get off on the snap count without getting off too early being illegal, but not being late and giving the advantage to the defense. There's definitely a lot to that. There's a lot to that whole center positon and the way it interacts with the other linemen and the timing.

Q: With any defensive linemen you want to get off early, but particularly with a guy like Derek Wolfe who can be so disruptive -

BB: Yeah, I mean really, you want to gain the advantage on everybody, but especially good guys. You should have a little bit of an advantage offensively once you level that, which is obviously what they're hoping for, then the advantage really goes to the defense in terms of being able to get moving in the running game, get leverage in the running game, get leverage in the set in the passing game. It's just that fraction of a second can make a big difference, especially, as you pointed out, against a more elite player. Being able to do that consistently and do it right and do it at a high level, it's challenging, but that's what we have to do. 

Q: It seemed that Shane Vereen and James White took a little while to get as much playing time on offense. Was picking up those routes and developing into that separate, sub back receiving role what delayed them when they first came in?

BB: Well, Shane [Vereen] was injured his first two years, so I wouldn't say that he wasn't good enough to do it. I would say that he missed time his rookie year and then missed time his second year. Once he got in there and started playing, he was pretty productive for us. Then James [White's] rookie year was Shane's fourth year, so James didn't come in here - he wasn't better than Shane when he got here. With all due respect to James, he wasn't ahead of [Shane Vereen] at that point. I don't think we would have taken Shane out to put James in, but if he had got to play, I don't think he necessarily would not have performed well. I'm not saying that, because when he got a chance his second year, the last two years, he's performed very well in a lot of different - not just catching the ball but running after the catch, pass protection, he's had some opportunities to run the ball. But to sit here and say he was better than Shane Vereen three years ago, I think that would be - I don't know. He didn't get a chance to play so we'll never know the answer to that question, but I don't think that anybody on the staff felt that that was the case at that point in time. But they're all smart. James is smart, Shane is smart. I don't think picking it up, learning the protections, learning the nuances of the routes, learning how to read coverages, learning how to read the blitzer. I mean, that's probably the hardest thing they have to do is to figure out whether the guy is blitzing or not. When he comes across, he's trying to come across like he's blitzing so that you'll stay in and take him, but if he really has you in coverage and he's coming across just to hold you in and you get out, then you're out, you don't have to block him and he has to cover you. That's a real cat-and-mouse game there between the back who has pick-up and linebacker who's in man coverage that's trying to keep him in by using a blitz technique. If either guy is wrong on that, it's like playing chicken. If either guy is wrong on that then it's, you're out and he blitzes and you get sacked or you blitz and he knows you're not coming and he's out and you can't cover him. It's a big play in man-to-man coverage. That's a tough spot. That's not an easy thing for a back to do, plus you play against a lot of different linebackers and they all do it a bit differently. Teams try to scheme that up a little bit with different calls and kind of little ways to trick the back and stuff like that. That's probably the hardest part, really, and then there's of course blocking him. That's - just because you know who to block, a back blocking a blitzing linebacker is not a gimme, it depends on who that guy is. There are different ways you might want to block him. But no, I wouldn't say learning was an issue with any of those players. It definitely wasn't an issue with Kevin [Faulk], Shane, James. Not an issue at all. 

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