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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 1/24

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

BB: Well, obviously, watching the Rams, this is a really good football team. I'm just impressed with so many things they do. It's easy to see why they're here. They're very well-coached. I would say, offensively, they're creative but they're very fundamentally sound and they execute extremely well; the least penalties in the league offensively. They don't make many mistakes. They really do a great job of attacking defenses. Defensively, a lot of outstanding players and they've got some good players at every level of the defense. Wade [Phillips] does a tremendous job with his scheme and the experience that he has. They turn the ball over very well with their fumbles and interceptions. They're very in-tune to getting the ball off of the offense in a number of different ways, and really every kicking play is an explosive play potentially for the Rams. The kickers have big legs. Obviously, [Greg] Zuerlein's field goals were the difference in the championship game. [Johnny] Hekker's a tremendous player, a great athlete. He's a weapon. They block kicks, they return kicks and they have a fast coverage team that can change field position. Offensively, there's a lot of backed up situations based on their kicking game where they put you on a long field. Really, just across the board, a healthy team, a team that's been - especially offensively - they've started the same line all year, same thing as last year. They have a lot of continuity in what they do and with the guys that are doing it. A very consistent team that kind of, I think everybody looked at them in the beginning of the year and weren't surprised that they're where they are nor should they be. They do a really good job.

Q: How unique is Johnny Hekker given everything they ask him to do as a punter?

BB: Yeah, again, he's a weapon on the field. He can change field position and he's a good situational punter and obviously he's very athletic. You have to respect his ability to handle the ball. I think the main thing when you sent your punt return team out there is you want to make sure you get the ball at the end of the play. That's not always that difficult but with these guys it's pretty challenging. As I said, they're all weapons. Zuerlein's a weapon, Hekker's a weapon. They do a good job in the return game.

Q: After the win last Sunday, we saw so many guys embracing and hugging and telling each other that they love each other. Where do those bonds get forged and how important is it for players to have that connection and trust moving forward and trying to keep this run going?

BB: Yeah, I think when you go through a whole year with other people trying to experience the same thing, which we are, we're all trying to win games and contribute and help the team. You form a bond with individuals and collectively as a group. We achieved a very successful moment the other night. I think everybody felt it.

Q: Is it a credit to the Rams offensive line that they've brought in C.J. Anderson late in the year and he has had success running the ball for them?

BB: Well, I'd say just overall they, collectively as a group, because everything is so integrated with them, again, you can't make yards with one guy blocking. You need them all to block. You need them all to - you need the backs to read the blocks properly. You need the line to sell the play-action to create the opportunities in the play-action game. I'd just say overall they execute extremely well as a unit on a very, very consistent basis. They do a lot of things to give the defense problems - misdirection and complementary plays so they all kind of look the same but it could be one of two or three things. I'd just say the overall level of execution. They have a good offensive line. They've been together. They don't make many mistakes, but nobody makes many mistakes on those offense. Again, they execute extremely well and that's a credit to the players and certainly the coaching staff.

Q: What attributes do you think are most important to a defensive play-caller? Are there certain qualities that you value most in that role?

BB: Yeah, I mean, look, play-calling is a difficult job. You only have a couple of seconds to really make decisions. You have to get it in and the players have to get it and they have to execute it. There's a lot of preparation that goes into play-calling, but then there's certainly a feel and I'd say an evolution of every game that is different from every other game. It's a combination of all of those things.

Q: How much does the success of your offense late in games have to do with the conditioning of your offensive line, and how has the process of conditioning that position changed over your years in the NFL?

BB: Yeah, well, there's a lot of different ways to do it. I can't really speak to how everybody else does it. Everybody has the same opportunity and they have to deal with the same 60-minute game. But I think, just in general, what we try to do is work very closely with Moses [Cabrera] and his staff and the assistant coaches to try and prepare our practices, plan our practices and prepare our team for the physical exertion - what the average is, what we have to expect and then in some cases we have to be ready to go beyond that, individually or collectively as a unit. If we're playing a lot on one side of the ball or the other or an individual load might change. We try and monitor those things. I really lean heavily on Moses and his staff on that part of it, on the training part of it, the conditioning, the volume that we do, the intensity that we do and he's very good at that. I really rely on him there, but it's every position. But I think our offensive line is a pretty, overall, pretty athletic group. They work hard. They train hard. They all run well. When we do conditioning drills, I would say it's always good, but it's always a little bit surprising to me how well they run as a group relative to other groups. They're not that far behind other players, in some cases skill players that you think of as faster but actually, those guys, they run pretty well.

Q: In the playoffs, your pass protection has been effective against two pair of elite edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and then Dee Ford and Justin Houston. What adjustments did you make for them and how do you adjust to this Rams team where so much of their pressure comes from up the middle?

BB: Right. Well, again, every game's different. Every rusher is different so the matchups are all different. We'll see how it goes this week. But certainly the Rams have a very talented group. I would say so did the other teams. Not just those two guys, but they've had other guys as well, and you're also challenged at times by the scheme with the games they run or the blitzes and the matchups they create and so forth. Again, it's not always cookie cutter, just five on four and you know where everybody is. There's some of that but then there's a lot of other variations that come in that you have to be ready to deal with schematically. Coach [Dante] Scarnecchia and certainly Coach [Josh] McDaniels do a great job of preparing our players for the situations that we'll face and sometimes we get new things in the game that we have to adjust to. We have a pretty experienced group there. Those guys have played a lot of football together. A lot of times they see things and anticipate things based on their experience and that's certainly helpful.

Q: Is it fair to say their offense is a branch off of the Mike and Kyle Shanahan tree? What has Sean McVay done fundamentally to kind of put his own imprint on it and what kind of twists are different from other offenses that fall into that same group?

BB: He's got four or five things that I would say are pretty specific to their offense, the Rams offense, that I won't say we've never seen them before but I think the way they do them, they blend well together. They sort of merge into each other and create problems for the defense. Those are the things that I think are the toughest for the defense. They do a lot of things out of one personnel group and that's an issue, so you kind of have to deal with everything from everything. Sean's done a really good job of doing what they do but they blend it together in a way that it's different, but it's the same but it's different. It's hard for the defense to really differentiate or get in the right spot easily. You have to really work at it. They don't make it easy for you.

Q: Are tighter splits on offense one of those things that are a staple to his offense?

BB: Oh, definitely. That's a key component to the offense. Yeah, the spacing is - absolutely. That's, I'd say, one of the trademarks of what they do and the misdirection, so they're in there close and there's a lot of misdirection that comes with it. So, you definitely have to deal with those. Yeah, no question. But again, it's not all - it's part of what they do and it's a significant part of what they do but there's a lot of other things too. So again, it all kind of blends together nicely.

Q: What has Patrick Chung's leadership meant to the Patriots this year? You drafted him in 2009 and this is his first year being a captain. How has he grown on and off the field?

BB: Well, we have a lot of players on our team, and Pat's certainly in that group, that give us great leadership that aren't necessarily captains. Pat's done that for years. This year, he was selected as a captain and very deserving. He's done a great job. But, he's given us great leadership year-in and year-out for a number of years. So, his experience, his confidence, certainly his versatility - he works with everybody, so he works with the corners, the safeties, the linebackers. He even gets involved with the defensive linemen because of his proximity to the line of scrimmage on a lot of plays. He's involved in the kicking game. Really, he's played in every phase of the kicking game for us - punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return. He's a very dependable player. So, works hard in practice, runs scout team plays, things like that. He's in tremendous condition, he can go all day, loves to play football. I mean, he's a great influence and role model for all of us, for everybody on the team - just his passion for football. But, he's very competitive and I think his unselfishness and his effort gives him the opportunity to have great leadership because everybody respects that and they know he's going to do what's best for the team. He's going to give us his best in every situation, and he has for a number of years. He's very durable, dependable and he's tough. 

Q: Do you think last year's Super Bowl loss makes the Patriots extra hungry to win this year?

BB: Well, I think right now, this football team is this football team. It's not any other one, and we're going to do the best we can to perform as well as we can against the Rams. That's going to be a huge challenge, but it's really just about us right now - there's nothing in the past that does or doesn't help us. We're going to bond together and coach and play as well as we can next Sunday night.

Q: When you watch Aqib Talib on tape, how much is similar to what you saw when he was here?

BB: Pretty similar. 

Q: What has he brought the Rams defense from what you've seen in terms of his play?

BB: Well, he's a very talented player. [Marcus] Peters is on the other side. I mean, they have two great corners that can match up, really, against any receiver - big, fast, quick, savvy. Those guys can cover anybody. They're both very good with their ball skills. As we know, Talib's got great hands, makes some tough catches. If you make a mistake around him, it's not an incompletion. It could be going the other way. So, he's a very instinctive guy, as is Peters, and they recognize routes, combinations, they have a real good feel for the pass rush, they know when the quarterbacks can't hold the ball and they're on their guys. So, they're two great corners and again, guys that they don't just cover their guy. I mean, you've got to worry about them not just intercepting the ball - you've got to worry about them intercepting and running back for a touchdown, too. 

Q: You have spoken about having nerves before games. Do those nerves change at all for the Super Bowl?

BB: Yeah, same answer as last week.

Q: You guys have obviously competed against Wade Phillips for a number of years. When it comes to his defense this year, what are some of the things that they've done that are consistent with what you've seen over the years from Wade?

BB: Well, the scheme's the same. I mean, I don't think he's changed his scheme. Wade does a great job of utilizing his personnel and putting his players in position to be productive and make plays. So, when he had Von Miller, he didn't change what he did, just the volume and the percentages shifted to accentuate a player like that or Aaron Donald or whoever it happens to be. Certainly, there's an element of game planning and how he plays one team or another team varies, but it's within the system that he has. I don't think he's out there drawing up a lot of new defenses. I think he has a menu and he selects the ones that fit best against his opponent and the situations as the situations come up in that game. Now, this year, they've definitely gone from a higher percentage of man coverage to a higher percentage of zone coverage here in the second half of the season, but that's been very effective for them. It's obviously been productive and a good adjustment, but I'm sure they're capable, because I know what they have in their system, they're very capable of doing that or doing something that's also in their system, whether that's split-safety coverages or their quarter-quarter-half or man coverage. I mean, they can easily get to any of those things depending on how they want to play it. 

Q: In the last few years, your defense has tended more towards man coverage, whereas five or ten years ago, it might have trended the other direction. Is it mostly based on your own personnel or the opponents that you're going up against in a given year?

BB: Yeah, I mean, each game is different, so how we approach this year is based on what we think is best for that week. I don't think we necessarily go into the season saying, 'This is what we're going to be or not going to be.' Again, we have a system that has some breadth to it. I mean, we know we're going to have to play man, we know we're going to have to play zone, we know we're going to have to blitz, we know we're going to have to deal with outside runs, inside gap schemes, outside zone schemes, all those things. So, depending on what they do and how we feel like we match up with that particular team could have a lot to do with how that particular game goes. 

Q: Do you see the Rams playing mostly split-safety or post-safety coverages?

BB: They're heavy post-safety, but they do enough split-safety that if you miss it, I mean, they're going to nail you. They do a good job of that, especially with Talib and Peters out there. If you make a mistake on that, it's going the other way. There's plenty of variety in what they do - I'm not saying they do the same thing all the time - I would just say that Wade's system is his system, and then within that system, there's plenty of variety. So, they can get to what they need to get to. Again, I don't think we're going to see like three new fronts and three new coverages in this game that he hasn't run in the last 30 years. I mean, I just don't think that's going to happen. But, if it does, we'll adjust to it. But, they do what they do in their system, they do it well, they have a lot of confidence in it, which they should. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He's been doing it for 30 years in multiple organizations with multiple groups of players against every kind of offense he could see. I remember dealing with him when I was in Cleveland. And to his credit, there's not many of us that have a system that can last that long. I've certainly changed a lot in the last 30 years schematically. Wade really hasn't, he really hasn't. You've got to give him credit for that. But, the system has lasted. I mean, really, this is part of his dad's system that he's developed and adapted and developed there. I mean, I have a ton of respect for what he's done and how he's done it over every different kind of offense you can see - multiple tight ends, run and shoot, 10 personnel, 11 personnel, 12 personnel, 21, 22. He's been able to do the same thing - not the same thing, but his system has been able to handle all that, and I think that's a real credit to what he put together 30 years ago.

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