PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: With the bye week coming so late in the season, will there be any adjustments to how you handle the bye with only six games left in the regular season? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to the timing of it? What is your general feel on only six games remaining after you return to football?
BB: No, I think you pretty much hit it right there. We have six games left. We have over half the season of opportunity to evaluate the things that we're doing and what we can do better, maybe what we need to do more, need to do less of and how to improve some things and all that. So, it's quite a bit of information. We just need to try to get things, I would say, first of all not directed at a particular opponent because that will come later, but just in general, what would be the things that would help us the most in the last six games. And then specifically looking at our next opponent, how does that apply to the Jets? But, it's a regularly short window - you know, a third of the season to go - and we have to really maximize our opportunity to perform at as high a level as we possibly can in those games.
Q: How much of a coaching reset or discussion is there amongst the coaching staff about the way you communicate to your players and amongst yourselves?
BB: What do you mean communicate?
Q: I'm just talking about game planning or the way you go about delivering a game plan to the team - if there's anything about the way you communicate to the players, the coaching staff and the players?
BB: No, I don't think so. We evaluate everything we're doing in terms of just our efficiency from meetings to practice to walk-throughs, so forth. So, I think that, yeah, certainly this gives us an opportunity to review that, but we haven't had a lot of problems in that area. We don't have any unusual type of trips like we've had in the past - you know, last year we were in Denver or a couple years ago we went from Green Bay to San Diego and that type of thing. So, you know, we're kind of on a normal schedule, if you will, for the next six weeks. And so I think our installation, game plans, practices and our progression through the week is probably going to stay pretty much the same. There are a couple things we've talked about trying to do to fine tune it a little bit based on where we are in the season. And some guys have played, for instance, 600 plays, 700 plays. So, that's a lot different than where we were in September, so we'll take a look at a couple things like that.
Q: In the last two or three games, we've seen a couple plays that leave Tom Brady out in the open field as a target, whether it's blocking or receiving. Given his age and his value, are you concerned at all about an extra risk in those types of play calls? Do you envision still using those as the season goes on?
BB: I don't know. We'll take a look at each of our opponents and see what we end up doing from a game plan standpoint. But, yeah, I think we're certainly aware of that, but there's certain things that I think you have to do sometimes to win the game - and if quarterback sneaks in short-yardage, something like that where the quarterback's going to get hit on a play like that, but it's an important play and he's very good at it. So, yeah, we'll just have to evaluate those things going forward. Not looking to do an excessive amount of them, that's for sure, but if there's a situational play or something that comes up, then I think we'd consider it. But, I mean, look, it's a contact sport out there. Quarterbacks get hit in the pocket and quarterbacks scramble and a lot of people converge on them in a hurry. So, nobody knows that better than Tom does.
Q: I was more curious about the designed ones, like catching a pass or ending up as a lead blocker?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I think if we throw a pass to him, if that happens once a year it's a lot.
Q: You mentioned that you're looking for things during the bye week that will help you guys the most in the last six games. With so much information and so many things that you guys have seen and what you could see moving forward, how challenging is it to choose which elements of your team you want to prioritize during this time?
BB: Well, I think there's a lot of things that are pretty obvious and very frequent, so those are the ones we'll address first. There are some other things that have come up once or twice, and they can be important, too. We don't want to neglect those. But, things that are repeated multiple times in multiple games that it's clear that teams are trying to do things a certain way or not do things a certain way - again, I think those things are pretty evident, and we just need to make sure that everybody understands, including us the coaches, what's happening, what tendencies are being broken consistently by our opponents and probably why they're doing it because of the certain thing that we do or perceived threat that we pose or however you want to look at it, and we just try to put all that together. I don't know that there's a simple answer to all of it, but we certainly need to be aware of it. I think it's always kind of interesting to look back at this point and see, I'd say, kind of statistically some of the things that have happened or shown up. And, a lot of times when you look at it a little more carefully like this, the view is a little different than what you do from week-to-week. We monitor it from week-to-week, too, of course, but when you have a little more time and a little better ability to put a large amount of information together and analyze it, sometimes there's tendencies or trends that show up a little more significantly maybe than what you thought they would.
Q: Have you noticed that teams have done anything differently versus you in terms of how frequently they bring extra defenders to create pressure with blitzes, as opposed to the type of pressure they bring against other opponents?
BB: Yeah, we've definitely noticed some of the things that we're getting on early downs, on third down, in the red area, in two-minute and long-yardage and short-yardage. There's definite trends that we've seen. Some maybe a little bit unexpected based on what the team has done in the past and then they're doing things that they think they want to do against us. Maybe they haven't done them as much or not necessarily new plays, new coverages, but just might be a higher frequency of something that they maybe didn't do as much in that situation and now we're seeing more of it. And then the next week that trend continues and then the next week that trend continues again, so now you're seeing coordinators maybe either copying or getting ideas from previous games, or maybe it's talking to other coordinators who have played us to kind of get their sense. So, I'd say there's some elements of game planning against us that has been more consistent from game-to-game than it has been with the team - our opponent - and what they've done in their previous games, so more specific to us in some cases; not all. Yeah, but again, those are some of the things that we're - I mean, we've known that. It's not like it's a big surprise to us, but I'd say maybe the frequency of it and some things like that. It could be when you actually go and analyze it, it could be a little more, or maybe a little less in some cases, than what you think it is.
Q: With the thought of Tennessee's long opening kickoff return, I'm curious if you feel that any of the rule changes to the kicking game this year perhaps negated some of the advantage that you may have had in the past with consistently strong units in that phase of the game?
BB: I think the rules have had some - they're relevant and they've eliminated some things that you can do on the kickoff team that we've done in the past. I think we've had our moments. At times, we've covered well, but as you point out, we haven't and have probably had more breakdowns in that area than what we are used to having in previous years. It's definitely an issue. It's an area that we've got to continue to work in. I don't think it's a rule thing as much as we've got to coach it better. We've got to play better. The whole operation has to be better. We have six weeks to get it to a high level and hopefully we'll be able to do that.
Q: With the bye week being late in the year, is it more important to maybe get the players a little more rest over the next few days?
BB: Well, I think at this time of year rest is always a good thing. Also, practice timing and I'd say attention to fundamentals and details that sometimes get minimized a little bit when you're doing heavy game planning and trying to handle weekly teams that have very challenging schemes and systems. It's a balance between rest and improved fundamentals, improved execution in the things that we need to do better. I don't think that we're going to get that by just sitting around and resting, but rest is important and the health and energy of the team is important, so we'll try to balance those things and do the best we can with our opportunity to maximize our time efficiency and the way we use it.
Q: How would you rate your team's conditioning and ability to handle adversity late in games at this point in the year?
BB: Yeah, I think our conditioning overall is good. I think it's helped us in a number of games. I think it helped us coming off a short week and playing a quick turnaround game a couple of weeks ago. But that's something that you have to continue to work on and keep up or it can slip away in a hurry. I think we all know how easy it is to get out of condition. I'd say you lose your condition a lot quicker than you gain it. Yeah, again, that's a balance. It's a fine line that you want your team to be in good condition, you want to push them to get them in good condition, but at the same time you don't want to overwork them and leave it on the practice field. So, it's finding the right mix of rest, practice work on fundamentals and execution and conditioning to try to put ourselves in the best possible positon here over the next six regular season games. Yeah, that's a challenge.
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