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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri May 14 - 12:00 AM | Sun May 16 - 11:58 PM

Bill Belichick Press Transcript - 12/23

BB: We kind of gave the run down yesterday on Buffalo and we went through the scouting report and today we are going to start working on them. We crammed three days into two this week with the holiday coming up on Thursday. That is where we are here. So, fire away. Not literally.

**Q: [Laughter] Coach, Can you talk a little bit about Antowain Smith?

BB:** Antowain is running hard. I think he has run hard all year. He really had a chance in the Jets game. I thought our line did a good job opening up some holes and getting him started there. He is the kind of guy that once he gets his momentum and his power into the line of scrimmage, he can run through some of those arm tackles and either break some tackles or get some extra yards after the first contact, he can really get going. I thought he did a really good job of that. Our line certainly and tight ends included in that and fullbacks, Larry [Centers], the whole group did a good job on several occasions of creating some space for him to get going.

**Q: Now for the last 11 games during the streak it has been the same offensive line starting the game. Is it coincidental?

BB:** Well you always like to have as much continuity as you can. A lot of times you don't have it but it is always good to have is between quarterback and receiver or the linemen or the secondary or whatever it happens to be. That has been good and I am sure it helps us. There is not question about it.

**Q: Do you see a big improvement in the line over the stretch?

BB:** I think it has been okay. Sometimes it has been better than others. Our overall rushing per carry is not as good as we would like it be. Pass protection has been okay. At times it has been good. At other times we have had a little pressure on the quarterback. It certainly could be better but it has been all right. Now, I would say pass protection has been a huge problem for us this year but there are certainly times where we have been under pressure and haven't been able to get it off.

**Q: How much does the lack of production on the yards per carry is attributable to you guys and how much is just, you have played a lot of good defenses?

BB:** You guys, as in what me?

**Q: [Laughter] Your team.

BB:** Well, we have seen some good defenses. No doubt about that. We have another one this week. But I think that is what you have to expect every week. Everybody has good players. Everybody has a different challenge and a different system that you have deal with and different personnel match ups so that is just part of the job, part of doing business. You have to find a way to be effective whether it is running, throwing, or whatever it is, you have to find a way to do it every week against different challenges.

**Q: What was the big difference last week?

BB:** Well the plays were better executed and we probably had a couple of good match ups in terms of the plays we had against what they happen to be doing on those particular calls. With the line, there was some good blocking there, again, whether it was Larry or Dan [Graham] or Christian [Fauria] or whoever the other people were in the running game in addition to the line, got Antowain started and we saw him run hard. He broke some tackles and made some yards on his own.

**Q: You have had different ways of motivating your team during different weeks of the season. Were you able to talk to you team this week given what is at stake and what happened the first time you played Buffalo?

BB:** Well we talk about every game regardless of what the circumstances were. We talk about every game, what is important, what our best game plan and formula for winning it as it relates to our offense, defense and special teams, how they are all tied together. We do that every week regardless of what last week's score was or what month it is or whether we are playing Saturday or Sunday or Monday. That is just part of the weekly procedure to get the team ready, so we will do it this week just like we have done it every other week.

**Q: Has David Givens done even a little bit more than you were expecting him to this season?

BB:** I don't know. We spent a lot of time with David in the offseason. David came in here, he made some contributions as a rookie. He played a position really as a receiver that he didn't have a lot of background in. He played some wingback at Notre Dame. He played a little running back. He was a real good running back in high school. I am not saying he wasn't a receiver but certainly not in a pro offense. He came along pretty quickly last year and showed that he could do some things. He made our team and that probably a lot of people wouldn't have expected him to legitimately make it as he did. Then he improved during the year. But like a lot of players we have seen jump from year one to year two once they understand what they need to do, they get a chance to devote that training to it in the offseason, training both physical and in terms of mental preparation in terms of knowing the routes, knowing the offense, knowing all of those things better and having more confidence doing it the second time around rather than try to come in and learn it as a rookie. We thought that he could have a good year this year and be a good contributor and he has. So, I wouldn't say it was a huge surprise. You never know exactly how anybody is going to turnout from one year to the next. But we expected him to be a good contributor.

**Q: Is he becoming a Troy Brown type of player?

BB:** Well I think it is hard to compare anybody to Troy Brown. Troy is really an especially unique player. That is not saying we don't have other good players but we all know what his style of play is. I think it is kind of unique. Troy does a lot of things really well. At this point, I don't think you can really put anybody and say that they are Troy Brown.

**Q: When you were winning early on, despite the injuries, there was talk about how much better you would be once everybody came back. How much more flexibility do you have now than you did earlier in the season?

BB:** Well I think we do have more flexibility. Both on offense, defense and in the kicking game, in all three areas. As we have said before, on the inactive list, it is a lot harder to decide what to do there than it was earlier in the year. Earlier in the year, we just went with the guys that were healthy and a lot of times we didn't even have 45 of them. Now when we have more than 45 healthy players, we pretty much can look at everybody on that inactive list and say, 'Well if this player were at the game, here is the situation we would play them in.' We just can't get them all to the game. It gives you a little bit more flexibility, it forces some harder decisions and you try to figure out what will be your best grouping or your best match ups for each individual game. It is not always the same every week. We can see that. But those are some of the decisions that you have to make but it does give you some more flexibility where you are not locked in where you come in there on Tuesday and say, 'Well we are not going to be in three receivers this week,' or, 'We are not going to be playing any dime coverage this week,' or, 'We are going to have to play the 3-4 because all of our defensive linemen are hurt.' We are not in that situation.

**Q: Is it safe say that [Deion] Brand and Givens are the two 'starting outside' guys and Brown is the third guy?

BB:** Well, we don't talk about starters. We talk about contributors.

**Q: It depends?

BB:** It does. It depends on what we are trying to do. We are not locked in to all of that. Whoever is in the game, we expect them to contribute and be productive. That is what they are in there for. That is what they want to do. That is what we want them to do. Whenever those opportunities come up, they come up. I think that all of our receivers have been productive at one point or another and if they are in the game we would expect them to be in the future. It is the same thing with the running back, and the same thing at tight end. Do you think I am going to bite on that one?

**Q: Four years ago when you got here you said you wanted to upgrade the whole roster and some people rolled their eyes at that.

BB:** They still do.

**Q: Is that one of the accomplishments that you are sort of the most proud of, that you feel best about in terms of where the team was then versus where it is now?

BB:** Well, I think the depth on your team is important. You never know when you are going to need it. It is kind of like when you buy insurance, you never know if you are going to have to use it or not, but if you have it and you need it, it is a good thing to have. It is the same thing through the course of a football season. 16 regular season games is a long time. That is a lot of snaps. Sooner or later you are going to need more than what it looks like you have in September when the season starts. You don't always know where or what combinations but sooner or later you are going to need them so I think you just try to prepare your team as best you can and then react to the situations as they come. I didn't know the offensive line was going to be intact for 11 weeks in a row. There is no way of knowing that. But you have to prepare for other contingencies and we have gotten hit in some other positions. You just have to try to do the best you can. But that is a tough decision at the beginning of the year because you don't know what you are going to need and you try to cover all of your bases. Sometimes you go a little heavier at one spot than another. To a certain degree you are taking a little bit of a chance there. For whatever the reasons are, sometimes that is what you decide to do.

**Q: When a player is on a roll sometimes they call that being in the zone. Do you feel like coaches can get into that 'zone'? It just seems like every decision you have made, whether people have questioned it or not, it has been pretty much right, the Denver safety.

BB:** Like the reverse pass last week? [Laughter]

**Q: [Laughter] No. It just seems like everything is working. Do you feel like coach's can get in that same kind of zone?

BB:** I never really looked at it that way. I really haven't. I think that each decision is its own decision. Whether you go for it, whether you call a play, whether you take the wind, or whatever those decisions are, you make them based on what the circumstances are at that particular point. That is really what I would base it on. Not on something that had happened previously.

**Q: You mentioned the reverse pass, it seems like you haven't been getting burned by the mistakes either.

BB:** Well, that doesn't make it a good play. I am just saying, some things work out, some things don't. That is the way it is in every game whether you win them or lose them. You are always going to be able to find some positive plays and some negative plays in just about every game. I think that in terms from a play-calling standpoint, I have felt as a play caller that at times, you are almost one step ahead of where you want to be. Conversely, I felt that other feeling of being one step behind where every call you make is one call too late. You wish you would have done it in a little bit different sequence. I can definitely relate to that because I have been in both of those situations and one is very comfortable and the other one is a very disturbing situation when you feel like every single call you are making is just the wrong time to make it. In terms of I think some of the other independent decisions that you are making, because play calling is a flow, you are calling plays based on the previous plays and maybe based on setting up future plays, it is a little bit of a different scenario. Whereas a lot of those one time decisions that I think you are talking about they are more based on the particular circumstances at that point in time, the field position, the conditions, how much you need, and what have you.

**Q: You talked about team defense. When you say team defense what do you mean more guys flying around the ball?

BB:** No, I think it means everybody taking care of their responsibility. A defensive tackle can't cover receivers and the corners can't stop the wham play and those kind of things. Everybody has a responsibility to take care and defensively, once you show vulnerability in one area, then a lot of times that leads to problems across the board because you try to plug that up and then you end up softening yourself in other spots and pretty soon you have holes all over the place. If you can walk off of the field at the end of the series feeling good about your interior run defense, your perimeter run defense, your overall pressure on the quarterback, your overall coverage on the receivers regardless of what the specific – whether it was man, zone or whatever it was, and feel pretty good about all of those elements, then you are on to the next series and you feel okay. If you come off of the field and you have a problem with a certain aspect of that, then depending on what you do to get it fixed, that could present some residual problems somewhere else. When I say team defense, it is that confidence both by the players and the coaching staff of knowing that pretty much everything is under control. I am not saying every play is a five-yard loss but every play is relatively under control that you are not just holding on by your fingernails.

**Q: How much different or how much the same is this Buffalo team not than the one you faced?

BB:** Well, I think like any team after 16 weeks you undergo some changes. They have had some personnel changes on both sides of the ball like every team has. But I think that a lot of the elements, certainly a lot of the players are in place and the systems haven't changed too much there. They are very good on defense; they have a lot of the same players there other than the free safety. Offensively a couple of adjustments on the offensive line, but again most of the skill players are the same. I think a lot of it, as with any team, after 16 weeks there are going to be a few differences.

**Q: One of the things that was pointed out from the game was Antowain gaining 100 yards and he was the first 100 yard rusher this season for your team. That never seems to matter to you how many yards the backs gain, why not?

BB:** Because it is a team sport. When you add all of the backs up, I don't know, what did we gain? 1, 400 yards. 1,300 yards, whatever it is. If one back had gained those 1,300 yards then everything would be okay? I don't really understand that mentality.

**Q: Because you guys had not had one before and they say that your running game hadn't been as strong because of that. But you have never abandoned it and I am just wondering if the staff has bought into it.

BB:** I am just saying that my mentality is for the offense and for the team to be productive, whether that is one back getting 100 yards or 2 backs getting 120 yards, I am not that caught up in it as much as maybe the announcers are or having a 1,000 yard rusher or having a 1,000 yard receiver or having whatever it is, a 12-sack defensive lineman. When you look at the production overall of our backs and I am not saying it is great, it certainly could be better, but if it is 1,300 yards or whatever it is, are we saying that if one back had 1,300 yards then we would all be sitting here saying, 'Well everything is great?' What is the difference? It is what the team produces and what you do in the situations to win or lose the game. That is what it really comes down to. One guy have 1,300 yards or two guys have 1,300 yards, the perception is in one case, 'Well you have a great running game, this guy has 1,300 yards,' than the perception in the other case is, 'These guys can't run the ball because they each have half of it.' I just can't buy into that. I respect how everybody else feels and the announcers and the other experts but I just don't buy into it.

**Q: Do you feel like you have reached a point with the backs with Antowain and Kevin like you are not predictable? Like Kevin is in, it's a screen pass, Antowain is in, it's inside?

BB:** I hope so. I don't know, I hope so. We try to be balanced offensively. Certainly some players do some things better than others, so you don't want to lose sight of that. I think if you are ever to the point where you can only run one or two plays with certain players then it is not that hard to defend.

**Q: How hard is it, if at all, to instill that discipline on defense to be focused on your assignment as opposed to doing someone else's job?

BB:** It can be very challenging. It really can because instinctively a defensive players mentality is to make a play and that is good. You want that mentality. But at the same time when players try to make plays that are outside of their responsibility, sometimes the worst thing that can happen is that they could actually make them. Because then that leads to in the future, taking more chances trying to do those things again and it not working out as well. Again, I would just use the example on the defensive line. 'If all three of us on the line take care of our responsibility, it doesn't really matter where the running back runs, wherever he goes, somebody is going to make the tackle. If I don't make it, you make it. If you don't make it, I will make it or the next guy make it. We don't really care. If I am trying to make the tackle and then I don't make but I leave a vacant gap there and then he hits it, well now we have a problem because that was really my gap. That was my responsibility and even though I am being aggressive and trying to make the play, if I end up not making it on some occasions, which is eventually going to happen, I know that from experience, then there is nobody there to take care of it because he is doing his job, somebody else is doing his job.' Then when you start playing defensively, 'Well I am going to see how the guy in front of me is playing and play off of him so when he is here, I am there and when he is there I am here,' then you don't play very aggressively. Then you are just kind of standing there watching him come at you and it is usually not a good result. I have seen that too many times. The best thing is when everybody takes care of their job and they take care of it. If the back runs inside, then you hope the guys inside make it. If the back runs outside then you hope the guys outside make it. If they want to throw the ball to the 'x' then you have to cover him. If they want to throw the ball to the tight end, then you cover him. I think that is the mentality that you want your defensive players and your defensive team to have, not one guy has to make every play because it just doesn't happen.

**Q: So you have to sort of collect a group of unselfish guys who are no so much worried about stats in order to be successful?

BB:** Well, I understand what you are saying and I think that is true. Some of it is position related. There are hardly any corners that want to lead the league in tackles. That is not really what they are out there for. They don't want passes to be caught on their coverage responsibility. So it is a little bit of a different mentality by position really what is important to them in terms of their performance. But from a team standpoint, again, the bottom line is for everybody to take care of their responsibility and if you are the force player and your job is not to let the ball outside of you, and it gets out there, well there is nobody else that can do that. Everybody is counting on you to turn it back into them. So if that happens and you break down, there is nobody else that can do that. Once other people start thinking, 'Well let me see if he has got it, then I will be inside. If he doesn't have it then I will play a little bit wide.' You can't stop anything playing like that.

**Q: If players don't adhere to that philosophy, is it usually a matter of their own stubbornness or is that just not getting the concept?

BB:** I have seen both. Some players just can't understand it. They just can't buy into it. 'It's okay for me to do my job and for you to make the tackle.' Some players can't understand that. They only feel like they have done their job if they make the tackle and therefore if they try to make it and miss it then they are better off than if they just do their job and let the play go to somebody else. There are other players that have trouble understanding the concept that, 'It's not my job to make every play. It is my job to take care of my responsibility.

**Q: Is that something when you draft a player, do you already have a good bead on if they are going to be that type of guy?

BB:** Sometimes. Sometimes it depends on the player's background and maybe the way he was coached on what his mentality is coming into the league. Sometimes you can change it because you just explain it to them, 'Look this system is a little bit different than the one you were in. Okay, great, no problem.' But there are other players that just don't quite see it that way. Nothing against them, there is just maybe a difference in playing philosophy. There is certainly some groundwork and there is a lot of paving that needs to be done on that road. It just doesn't show up that way. You have to go through the whole process of leveling it, grading it, putting it down, steam rolling it and all of that before a lot of times they fully understand what their responsibility is, not even in the big picture but just conceptually on each individual call. 'Here is what I have to do on this call. If I don't do it, then we are going to have a problem'

**Q: Do you find yourself looking on film a lot this year and maybe seeing a guy like say Bobby Hamilton who maybe he didn't make the tackle but he made the play happen?

BB:** You bet. There are plenty of those plays where you put up the film and say, 'You know, that is a great play.' He doesn't make the tackle, maybe he is not even in on the play, but the fact that he played what he did so well, that made it possible for it to come back to somebody else. There is plenty of that. That is really the reinforcement. But again, the overall reinforcement is team defense. You could go out there and make three or four really good plays and not get any tackles and somebody else gets them and if a guy wants to have a real selfish attitude about that, 'I didn't do anything, I am not getting the recognition and all of that,' then eventually it is going to be a problem. But I think that when you look at any good defensive football team, you are going to find those elements. I don't think that is unique to the New England Patriots. You look at any good college or pro defensive football team, you are going to have a lot of guys doing a lot of things well. Not one guy making every single play. If one guy is making a lot of them, then I would still venture to say you have a lot of good ones around him that enable him to do that.

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