HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
January 16, 2019
BB: It’s always an honor to play in this game and compete for an AFC Championship. I’m really proud of what our staff and team have done to get to this point. Obviously, it’s a very strenuous competition. So, to be here and to be one of the final four teams playing this weekend is a great privilege. We embrace it and we’re willing to jump in here with our best competitive effort, week of preparation and be ready to go against a great football team. Andy [Reid], who I have tremendous respect and admiration for, has as usual done a great job with his football team. It’s a well-balanced team. They’ve pretty much led from wire to wire in the AFC, had a great year, great record, outstanding team, do a lot of things well, obviously, and so it will be a big challenge for us and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete, and we’ll see what happens on Sunday night.
Q: The forecast for Sunday is for temperatures in the single digits and wind chill below zero. How does that impact preparations for the game?
BB: Yeah, we’re going to get ready for the Chiefs. Whatever it is, it is.
Q: Do you mind playing in severe cold?
BB: Love to play in a championship game. Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.
Q: Does it change the play calling? Does it make it harder to throw?
BB: I don’t know. It’s Wednesday. We’ll see what happens Sunday night. Right now, we’re getting ready for the Chiefs.
Q: Obviously, you’re facing a quarterback with a great skillset, but it’s his first full season as a starter. Do you think Patrick Mahomes’ relative inexperience can play into your hands?
BB: I think he’s a great player on a great team that’s very well-coached. They have a great scheme and a great system. He’s got a ton of weapons, so he’ll be tough to handle, as will their entire offense, as will their entire team. We’ll need our best game, we’ll need our best effort, and that’s what we’re preparing to give.
Q: Patrick Mahomes’ ability to extend plays is obviously notable. What is the key for your defense for how to react in those situations?
BB: Well, it would depend on the play and what the situation was and so forth. Yeah, he has great ability to throw and he can keep plays alive, but that can come in a lot of different situations. So, whatever they are, we’ll try to follow our rules, like we always do, and defend it the best we can.
Q: Is there any difference at all in preparing for a team that you already faced in the regular season compared to a team that you haven’t seen recently?
BB: Yeah, look, we’re going to do the best we can to get ready for this game. Last week, we did the best we could to get ready for the Chargers. That’s the way it is every week. So, we’ll take whatever our resources are, whatever the opportunities are and do the best we can to be as well-prepared and ready to go as we’ll need to be in Kansas City. So, it doesn’t really matter what else something else could be. It’s what this is.
Q: Compared to that game in October, the weather and location will be vastly different. Are the teams also vastly different from what they were then?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that game was quite a while ago. I know we’ve gone through a lot, had a lot of experiences, learned a lot. I think we’re better than we were. I’m sure they’re better than they were. We’ll see what happens Sunday night.
Q: The Chiefs were 3-for-4 on fourth down last week and 12-for-15 for the year. How does their ability to not only go for it but succeed so frequently on fourth down maybe change the way you guys will approach the game, or does it at all?
BB: They’re pretty good on every down, in every situation. So, first, second, third, fourth down, they’re good at all of it. So, we’re going to have to be at our best in all situations.
Q: The Chiefs have different players at safety and Justin Houston is back. Last week, the Colts, who were the best third-down offense during the regular season, went 0-for-9 on third down. What are the differences that you see in Kansas City’s defense, particularly that situation from when you first faced them?
BB: Well, they’re pretty much of a game-plan defense, so it shifts a little bit from week to week. It depends on who they’re playing and what they’re trying to do. So, we’ll see what they give us. I don’t know. We’ll have to be ready for the variety of things that they do – and, obviously, the three outstanding players on the front that are hard to deal with. So, we’ll have to handle everybody, but certainly those three guys.
Q: One of those guys up front, Chris Jones, has had a really good year. It seems like one of the things he’s able to do relatively consistently is bat down passes. Is that something that you guys have to try to call plays around, or is that more on Tom Brady to kind of realize where he is and have a feel for what might work when he’s in front there trying to get his hands up?
BB: Right, well, we deal with that every week. That’s always an issue. There are guys in front of the quarterback when he throws the ball, so it’s a combination of a lot of things – what the route is, the protection that goes with the route and the location of the defenders when the quarterback releases the ball. So, I’d say they’re all different on every single play. There are variables there, but we try to do the best we can to keep the pocket clean in front of the quarterback. The quarterback’s got to do the best he can to work around whatever the obstacles are, if there are any, and the receivers have to position themselves in locations where we’re able to get the ball to them cleanly. So, we’ll need good team execution on that. But, he’s definitely a problem. I mean, he’s a problem as a rusher and he’s a disruptive player in terms of batting down balls or affecting the throwing lanes, even if the ball’s not batted down. If the quarterback and the receiver have to make adjustments, then that’s a degree of disruption, if you will.
Q: Is containing Mahomes as important as getting pressure on him? How do you balance that in this game?
BB: Yeah, again, we’re going to have to stop the whole offense. It’s not one guy. The quarterback’s good, the backs are good, the tight ends are good, receivers are good, line’s good, coaches are good – I mean, they’re all good. So, we’re going to have to play good team defense, and that includes everything. So, they’re all important.
Q: When you’re going against a team that has multiple elite options in the passing game, like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, can you describe the challenge of figuring out how you want to prioritize your defense and how to take them away?
BB: Yeah, well, that’s what every team’s dealt with all year with them. So, that’s what it comes down to – figuring that out, trying to balance it, between rush and coverage and how you want to cover, and there’s plenty of other good players out there, too. So, you just have to decide how you want to handle it. [Chris] Conley, [Sammy] Watkins – you know, you don’t want to be light on those guys, either. So, they have a great offense, they have a great set of players, and again, Andy does a great job of putting the defense in compromising positions where you have to make choices, and the quarterback makes choices based on that. They’re hard to stop. That’s why they lead the league in points, lead the league in yards, lead the league in scoring, lead the league in everything. They’re really good.
Q: Having coached against Andy Reid for so many years, how much does his willingness to implement new things and incorporate stuff that he’s seen throughout his career play a factor in his success as a coach?
BB: He’s done a great job of that, probably as good as any coach that I’ve seen. He does a great job of taking new ideas, new concepts and utilizing them in a productive and efficient way depending on what he’s working with and how they fit into what he’s doing or his personnel or depending on exactly what we’re talking about here. But I’d say he’s very creative. He’s got a lot of new ideas, takes on new ideas, new concepts and develops them within the framework of his system to just create more problems for the defense and he does a great job of that. You see it every year and he continues to, even over the course of the year, from when we played them in October has come up with more things to create more of a problem. He’s always tough to go against. He does a great job of game planning and he does an excellent job of developing an offensive system that’s very hard to defend and they have great players doing it.
Q: How big of a challenge is this defensive line for your offensive line, and when you have a team that has multiple guys that can rush the passer how important is the communication among the line?
BB: Well, it’s important because the Chiefs do a good job of moving people around in their front. They have different alignments and different looks, different personnel combinations and some game plan pressures, so they could run a blitz that they haven’t run before. That wouldn’t be unusual for them or run a coverage that they maybe haven’t run in a month or two months. There’s an element to game planning from them that’s unique to this game that we don’t know, and I don’t know if they know that. Maybe they’re just putting it together now. I don’t know, but it might be something they’ve done. It might be something that’s a little bit new. So, communication and making sure that we have everything accounted for is going to be important but if they just line up and play straight, that’s a problem too because they have a very disruptive front, a very athletic front. If those guys catch an edge on you or get a step into the gap, they can blow the whole play up. We’ll have to do a good job on all of those guys.
Q: They have a corner that hasn’t played a whole lot for them this season in Charvarius Ward, outside of starting the last three games for them. What have you seen from him in the time that he’s played and what do you think has allowed him to catch on and establish a role?
BB: Yeah, he’s really been their third corner in nickel and [Kendall] Fuller moves inside, but they’re in that a lot – nickel and dime, sub defenses. They’re in those a lot so he plays a lot. He’s long. He’s fast. They traded for him from Dallas. He didn’t really play much until later in the year and then got an opportunity to play, played well. He gets his hands on the receivers. He’s broken up a number of passes. He’s probably got four or five pass breakups in a couple of games here, two or three games. He’s been a disruptive guy out there for them that’s stepped in and done a good job for them. Really, the two guys in the secondary that played for them that are no longer playing, or aren’t playing much – one’s off the team now. That’s obviously been a shift for them in the secondary, even the latter part of the season, the last two or three weeks of the year.
Q: How different is the pass-catching aspect for their running backs out of the backfield with Damien Williams as opposed to Kareem Hunt?
BB: Yeah, well again, they have a very I’d say extensive passing game. They do a lot of different things with their passing game so that includes the backs and the tight ends and the receivers. They utilize all of their personnel in a lot of different ways and multiple players in the same spots as well. Some of it is game plan, so some things you might get a new route that you haven’t seen before that you’re not working on because of something that they want to attack you with. The backs are definitely a problem in the passing game. Andy [Reid] and Patrick [Mahomes] do a real good job of utilizing them, as they always have and they’re a problem to cover. They’re a problem to tackle and schematically they give you issues too. We’ll have to deal with all of it.
Q: What did you see from Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber, who you had prior experience with, in evaluating them that led you to believe they could both help on special teams, and how have they helped your coverage units in particular?
BB: Well, both guys are experienced. As you said, Ramon a little bit in our system. That was one training camp, but very experienced in the league between Baltimore and Ramon in New Orleans and Buffalo. They’ve played a lot of football but they’ve had a lot of accountability, dependability, good communicators. Punt team – that’s a tough spot to play. Those guys have done a good job there and then the coverage that they’ve given us on those units. Obviously, McClellan’s given us some big plays on the punt rushes as well. They’ve been really professional in their approach, their attitude, their dependability, their toughness, their consistency. That’s all been really good so I’m glad we have them and they’ve, I think, really solidified those units because they’ve been on all of them. It’s helped us a lot.
Q: Damien Williams came here for a visit back in 2017, I believe. Is there anything that you remember about him during that time that sticks out?
BB: He’s a good football player. Smart, versatile, can do a lot of different things. Run the ball, catch, pass protect. We had a good visit with him. He was a good guy to bring in to visit and get to know. Things didn’t really work out at that time but I’m not surprised to see him doing well at all.
Q: How important has it been for your defense to have Dont’a Hightower out there consistently and has it allowed the defense to build in terms of some things you may have added to it late in the season?
BB: Yeah, no question. Dont’a’s had a real good year for us and his personal versatility is good because of the number of things that we face defensively that we have to adjust to, but it allows us to do other things defensively. He’s a very good communicator, again, at all levels so whether it’s at linebacker, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, if you will. He’s part of the defensive line in pass rush and he’s very good in all of those areas to communicate, identify, recognize things, get us into the right call or the spot that we’re supposed to be in. And he’s a very instinctive player. Again, just kind of knows what to do; where to fit in rushes, how to compensate on coverages on play-action and things like that. He’s a versatile player. Certainly having him out there on a lot of downs, on all three downs including fourth down – really, in some games, he’s contributed for us there. But on all three downs, running game, passing game, pass rush, pass coverage, off the line, on the line. He’s done a lot of things. He’s had a really good year.
Q: Your last visit to Kansas City back in 2014 was not a good memory. Can that game be used for you and Tom Brady as motivation at all?
BB: Yeah, I don’t think that game has anything to do with this one. We’re going to get ready for Sunday.