With the Red Sox coming off a huge victory over the Houston Astros to advance to the World Series, Bill Belichick had a few questions about the local baseball team to open his Friday press conference. Belichick's close friend, Tony LaRussa, is a member of the Red Sox organization so it should come as no surprise that the Patriots boss was aware of what has made the local nine so effective this postseason.
"I don't think they need any," Belichick said when asked if he any words of encouragement. "Whatever they need to do, they can do. Hit, pitch, run, play defense, take pitches. They're good."
The same could be said of his team, but unlike the baseball counterparts – who are an impressive 5-0 on the road this postseason – New England is still searching for it first win away from Gillette Stadium. They'll get a chance to rectify that on Sunday in Chicago.
The key, says Belichick, is avoiding the slow starts that plagued the team in Jacksonville and Detroit.
"We just try to put ourselves in the best position we can to play well," Belichick said when asked about getting off to a better start.
"Play well early, play well for 60 minutes. That's what we try to do every week. That's what we'll try to do this week. That's what we tried to do in those other games, too. Hopefully we can do a better job of it against Chicago."
Belichick had plenty of praise for the Bears, who currently reside atop the NFC North with a 3-2 record. Here are some highlights from Friday's press conference.
No one-man show – Much has been made of Khalil Mack's presence up front for the Bears and with good reason. He's been dominant since arriving in Chicago via trade with Oakland just before the start of the season. But with Mack's status for Sunday in doubt due to an ankle injury, Belichick understands there's more to the Bears defense than just one guy.
"Mack's a great player. He's having a great year. He's had a lot of production on everything – running game, passing game, pass rush, interceptions, batted balls, hurries, sacks, strip-sacks. He's caused fumbles. You name it. He's around the ball a lot. He's a very disruptive guy.
"It'll take a good team offensive effort to handle all of those guys – Mack, [Eddie] Goldman, [Akiem] Hicks, [Leonard] Floyd, [Bilal] Nichols, the whole crew. They're a very disruptive group. We'll have to find a way to deal with all of them."
He was later asked about the Bears ability to create pressure and once again credited Mack while quickly turning his attention to the rest of the group.
"Mack's a good player. They've got plenty of them. Hicks is very disruptive. Like I said, Goldman, Nichols. They blitz enough where they've gotten pressure from some of the perimeter players – [Bryce] Callahan, [Roquan] Smith, [Danny] Trevathan. They've had pressure, too.
"Look, he knows people are looking at Mack and he lets you go to Mack and then they bring guys somewhere else where you're light. He does a good job mixing that up and keeping you off balance. It's one of the advantages of not moving him around. They don't move him around very much. He's always in the same spot so they can always count on if you're going to help, that's where you want to help."
Coordinated effort – The "he" Belichick reference above was defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who has Chicago playing at a high level on that side of the ball. Belichick was asked to identify the characteristics of a Fangio defense.
"Multiple. Plenty of different looks. A mix of coverages, pressure, man, mostly zone, but multiple types of zone with some man and pressure mixed in there," he said. "He's not just sitting in the same thing all day. You can be sure of that. He'll mix the fronts up. They have two or three different fronts that they use. They complement each other. Vic's a very experienced coach. He definitely knows what he's doing. He's defended everything. He's got multiple ways to take care of it. It's hard to just count on one thing."
Multiple weapons – On the flip side, Belichick also was effusive in his praise of the Bears offense – specifically young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and his wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.
"[Trubisky's] done a good job for them. Athletic kid, big, strong, good arm, can throw the ball, make all the throws, tough, can stand in there, a hard guy to tackle," Belichick said. "Some of the running plays he's involved in. He seems to be probably more comfortable with the offense each week. They do a little more.
"They hit a lot of big plays. They've been hitting them all year though. It's not like it just happened last week. They do it every week. They get the ball down the field. All of the receivers, tight ends, backs – he gets the ball to a lot of different people. They have a multiple offense. He does an excellent job of running it.
"Robinson's a big target. He's got great hands. He's really never covered because of his size and his hands. He can get any ball. Gabriel's an explosive player. He covers a lot of ground. He's a good route-runner. He's fast, he's quick. He's made a couple of great catches, too. The catch he made last week against Miami is as good a catch as you can make really, down the sideline, laid out for the ball. Yeah, they're different but they're both very good and they're both a problem."