Read the full transcript from Bill Belichick's press conference on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.
HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
October 17, 2018
BB: This has been a really impressive team to watch. Obviously, a team we don't know very well and a lot of changes since the last time we saw them, even in practice a couple years ago here. But, changes on the coaching staff, a lot of changes on the players, but playing very well. They're really a good defensive team, take the ball away, powerful up front, a lot of good, smart coverage players. You know, Vic [Fangio] does a real good job with that group. They're sound, they give you a lot of different looks, they're hard to prepare for and they've got a lot of good players. [They are] very explosive in the kicking game, a great returner – you know, right at the top of the league in coverage and already had some big punt returns this year. And, offensively, a very explosive team at every position – quarterback, running backs, tight ends, receivers. So, they can move the ball in a hurry, score points, play defense, strong in the kicking game. They're at the top of the league in a lot of categories. I can see why. It's a really solid team in all three areas across the board. So, know it will be a big challenge for us out there, and we've got a lot of work to do. But, look forward to it. We'll see what we get on Sunday.
Q: As well as getting after the quarterback, how well does Khalil Mack get after the ball?
BB: Yeah, he gets after everybody. He's a very disruptive player, so he turns it over on sacks, strip-sacks, fumbles, tipped balls, interceptions. He's a really strong run player, he's a good pass rusher, he's got speed, he's got power. He's very aware and instinctive. So, yeah, he does more than sack the quarterback – he knocks the ball away from him, but he knocks it off running backs, too. He's tough.
Q: What kind of challenge does it present that they disguise a lot of their coverages on defense and play a lot of different coverages?
BB: Yeah, it's going to be a lot of post-snap reads. They do a good job – [Adrian] Amos and Eddie Jackson. They do a really good job. They're, I don't want to say interchangeable, but they can both play free safety, strong safety-type roles. They're both versatile players, good tacklers. Jackson's a very instinctive player. He gets to a lot of plays that you normally wouldn't think he would get to, but he just anticipates them well. I mean, for a young player, he's a very instinctive player. So, they do a real good job. They've been very durable and dependable. They're out there every snap, so they really never come off the field. They work well together, along with the whole secondary – [Bryce] Callahan, [Kyle] Fuller, [Prince] Amukamara or however that goes over there at corner. But, when he's there, that's a good group.
Q: How disruptive is Akiem Hicks in the run and pass game?
BB: Yeah, similar to Mack except he plays inside. He's strong, physical, very powerful, explosive guy, hard to block – hard to block in the running game, hard to block in the passing game. He's got good power, knocks the pocket back. But, he's quick, he can get to the edge, he can make plays with his quickness, as well as he power and his strength, plays hard, tough – good football player.
Q: How different are the skillsets for being disruptive as a pass rusher versus disruptive as a run defender?
BB: Well, for those two guys, they just kind of take them and toss them out of the way, whoever's in front of them, and get whoever's got the ball – quarterback, running back. I mean, they're hard to block. They're really hard to block.
Q: You've see a lot of good pass rushers in your career starting with Lawrence Taylor. Does Mack rank up there with the better ones you've seen?
BB: Now, wait a minute. We're talking about Lawrence Taylor now. Yeah, I'm not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor's class. So, you can put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we're talking about Lawrence Taylor.
Q: With the turnover that they've had among pass catchers, does it impress you how that passing offense has come together?
BB: Yeah, they're very productive throwing the ball and they've got a lot of weapons. You know, the tight ends are good, backs are good, receivers are good. They move them around, so [Allen] Robinson, [Taylor] Gabriel, [Anthony] Miller, they play in different spots. They play a lot of 12 personnel, 11 personnel, but with different personnel combinations within that using [Tarik] Cohen and [Jordan] Howard, [Dion] Sims and [Trey] Burton, and again, mixing up the receiver combinations and locations and so forth. So, they get the ball to a lot of different guys. It's not just one guy. They get good production from all guys in all different groups, so that makes it hard. And, the quarterback is a very productive guy, too – throwing and running. He's a very athletic guy that can run. He chews up a lot of yards when he scrambles, if he needs to scramble. He can scramble to extend plays, but he can scramble to run. I think he's probably their third-leading rusher. He's got a few yards.
Q: How comparable is the speed of the Chicago team you've seen on tape, with Gabriel and Cohen in particular, to Kansas City?
BB: Gabriel's fast. I mean, Gabriel's real fast. You know, those guys can all run. Miller's fast. I'd say Cohen's fast. Gabriel – he's very fast, but he's good at a lot of things. It's not just speed. He's good after the catch, he's a good route runner, he's quick, very explosive guy. He's made a couple tough catches, too – I'd say balls that are hard in traffic, had to extend for them, really lay out, good hands, catches, get in bounds, those kind of things. He's been impressive. But, Robinson – I mean, that guy, whatever his speed is, it's good. He's always open, he's a big target and he catches the ball well, too. So, he's a hard guy to cover. No matter where you are, there's a place where he can get the ball. I mean, he gets it and goes up and takes the ball away from a lot of defenders.
Q: Does Sony Michel run with a lot of power for a guy his size?
BB: He runs hard.
Q: Is there an element that smaller running backs can run with more power as defenses get a little lighter, as well?
BB: Yeah, well, I mean there's different kinds of strength and then there's leverage. So, I'd say leverage is more important than strength. That equalizes strength. So, if you have strength and leverage, then you've got a lot of power. Less strength, better leverage is maybe better than more strength and less leverage.
Q: How would you say that that comes together with Sony?
BB: He runs hard, he's got good strength. He's got a long way to go. He runs hard, he's tough, so we'll see.
Q: Sony was saying that when he goes back and watches film, he sees certain cuts he should have made, and he feels that gradually he's working through that and making the right decisions. Have you seen the same thing?
BB: Yeah, definitely. I would agree with that, absolutely. Yeah, I agree with that.
Q: Do you think that that's part of missing August? Is that part of the process?
BB: No, I think it's part of playing at a high level of competition against good players with good players. All players get better when they come into this league after two or three years. I don't care how good they are coming in. When you play at a higher level with higher competition, I mean, it forces you to get better. If you work hard, it forces you to get better, and basically they all do.
Q: How much of Stephon Gilmore's consistent week-to-week performance is just a credit to his study habits and work behind the scenes?
BB: Yeah, a lot – his work ethic, his preparation, his mental toughness, just going out there every day, every day in practice, every day, every game. Again, you play that position, it's not like you're going to be involved in 60, 70 plays like you are as a middle linebacker or defensive lineman or something like that. You get your chances and it's a handful of chances and those are, I'd say, potentially game-changing plays. So, that's the nature of the position. It takes a lot of mental toughness, a lot of concentration, a lot of resiliency. Every corner gives up a pass, every receiver drops a ball, every quarterback throws an interception – I mean, those skill players play those kind of positions where there's a lot riding on a handful of plays. And, you know, there's going to be some successes. There's always going to be a couple failures in there. Mentally, you've got to be able to work through that and continue to compete and go get the next one.
Q: How deeply does he dive into film study?
BB: I think all our defensive backs – you know, it's a good group. Those guys study hard. They study individually who they're matched up against, but they have to study together so that we can make the proper adjustments and anticipate things and know how we're going to handle situations at a time, especially a team like this that uses motion, multiple formations, multiple groupings, as well as formations. So, they have the same formation but different guys could be there in those same spots, and that changes things. So, just having that work together, it's important, as is the individual study of your particular matchup.
Q: Chicago lost last week and there's a lot of talk that they're using this game to try to get back on track. Kansas City last week was undefeated and was using the Patriots as a test. What does it mean to you that so many teams consider playing the Patriots as some sort of test?
BB: Yeah, I don't really worry about the other teams. I worry about our team. I want to try to get our team ready to go on Sunday. That's what our goal is this week. I'm sure the Bears will be ready to go. I'm sure they'll play well. We expect them to play their best game. They probably will, and so that's what we're getting ready for.
Q: Is that something you're just used to all the time?
BB: We expect the team to play their best every week. Why would you think anything else? That's what this league is. It's about competition.