PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
November 20, 2019
BB: Alright well, we’re starting to get a good look at the Cowboys. This is a real good football team coming in here this weekend. They really do everything well, create a lot of problems in all three phases of the game, very well coached, great players, great personnel. Good situational football team, very explosive team. They put a lot of pressure on you on every single down. So, this will be a big challenge for us, a team that we don’t have very much experience with. But, we’re getting to know them quickly and they certainly present a lot of problems from a preparation standpoint and, I would say, from a matchup standpoint. Real, real good football team, very talented team. And, you know, the Cowboy organization is obviously one of the premier franchises in all of sports, the National Football League. They’ve done so much for the game, so much for the league since they’ve come in to the league in 1960. Of course, Jerry [Jones], Stephen [Jones], the entire organization down there has had a tremendous amount of success, and a very exemplary organization in terms of running a football team and being competitive through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, now. They string a lot of good years, a lot of championship seasons for together. I have a ton of respect what they’ve done, how consistent they’ve been, the way they do things. Jason [Garrett] does a – you know, he’s been down there nine years, had a long career as a player, a solid career as a coach, has played for a lot of great coaches and coached with some too, like Coach [Nick] Saban. So, they’re very well coached. [Rod] Marinelli on defense – obviously, there’s a lot of experience there. So, a staff with a lot of experience, and they definitely know what they’re doing in playing good situational football. Like I said, big challenge for us on Sunday here.
Q: Dak Prescott has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season and he’s on pace to throw for 5,000 this year. What have you seen change in his game through the years?
BB: Yeah, well we haven’t played him, so this is the first time we’ve played him. But right now, yeah, he’s super impressive. The way he’s going, might be more than that. Might hit six [thousand yards], I don’t know. This guy can throw the ball, he’s very accurate, he’s got great poise in the pocket, stands in there. He can extend plays and run if he has to, but he doesn’t do much of that unless he really needs to. He has great patience and poise, discipline in the pocket, gets his eyes down field. He’s a very good intermediate-to-deep ball-thrower. He’s got good weapons, but he’s been super impressive. Just, great, great quarterback – sideline throws, inside throws, in-cuts, posts, over routes, flag routes, you name it. Possession passes on third down, best third down team in the league, best passing team in the league, most big plays in the league – I mean, I don’t know where you want to start, they do it all. And, he does it all. He runs options, he runs read zones, keeps the ball in critical situations, tough guy to tackle, makes tough yards when he needs them, so he’s really good.
Q: How much of the Cowboys third down success is due to the versatility of receivers they have?
BB: Yeah, they have – everybody’s a problem. They’ve got to be the best short yardage team in the league, too. That’s a problem. And they rip off some big plays in short yardage, too. It’s not like it’s third-and-1 and they gain two yards. They’ve had some – they had a couple 40-yarders in there, too. Short yards is a problem, long yards is a problem, they’re the best long-yardage team in the league. Third-and-10, they don’t really care. They pick that up, third-and-5. I mean, they’re over 50 percent on third down. They execute very well. They’ve got, again, a good scheme, they’re well coached, good quarterback, good skill players, good offensive line. They’re not in a lot of long-yardage situations, but when they are, they pick those up, as we just talked about. It’s really – everything’s a problem.
Q: What does Ezekiel Elliott bring to the backfield tandem?
BB: Zeke, [Tony] Pollard, they’re both great backs. Zeke’s a tough back, downhill guy. He’s had a lot of big runs since he’s come in this league, way more than anybody else. He’s a hard guy to tackle. He’s got good vision, good power. Pollard is an explosive player. He can do it all too – quick, illusive, good strength, good running skills, good vision, catches the ball well, good returner. Sometimes they play together. Usually it’s just one of them, though, but occasionally both guys are on the field. They’re both outstanding playmakers. Doesn’t matter which guys is out there, it’s a problem.
Q: Did you guys get to know Dak Prescott in the 2016 draft process?
BB: Yeah, we do some work on everybody. We usually hit those Mississippi State guys pretty good; we have a lot of connections down there. But, you know, he had a great college career and he’s certainly having a great pro career. He’s having a great year this year. Hard to see anybody playing much better than him. This guy’s tough.
Q: Is there a common denominator in their big plays?
BB: Five different receivers, running backs, Prescott. I mean, I don’t know, they played against Washington and they had to go for 40-something yards too, so yeah, I mean they get them from everywhere. They can throw them long, they can throw them short and catch-and-run, they can throw those intermediate routes, those 20, 25-yarders and tack on another 20 yards after the catch. The receivers are good with the ball in their hands; they’re hard to tackle. Pollard is a big-play guy, Elliott is a big play guy, Prescott – just go right down the line.
Q: Your defense has allowed the second fewest number of big plays in the league, what does that say about that unit? Does that speak to discipline in that group?
BB: A lot of good players, everybody doing – taking care of their responsibility. There’s no one guy that can stop an offense in this league. So, got to put 11 guys out there that can work together, they know their responsibility and be cohesive as a unit.
Q: What has stood out to you from Jason Witten?
BB: Solid player. In his own field a lot, plays about three quarters of the time. Big guy, competitive blocker. [They] go to him in some critical situations.
Q: Does he look similar to what you might have seen in any crossover games or the last time you guys faced him?
BB: Yeah, I mean look, everyone looks good for them. They have so many guys. You can’t lose track of any of them, they’re all problems.
Q: What have you seen from Michael Bennett in the three games he’s played in Dallas?
BB: I’d say he plays mostly on sub-three technique, pass rush situations.
Q: Is it pretty much what you would expect?
BB: I mean, look, they’ve got a lot of good players on their defensive line, so I don’t know how many pressures they have, but I mean, it’s a lot. They get ahead, they get in third down, or really any down. These guys are explosive, they’re very disruptive – negative plays, tackles for loss, linebackers are very active. [Jaylon] Smith, [Leighton] Vander Esch, probably as good as anybody we’ll play against all year. A lot of disruptive guys up front. Put them all together and it’s all a problem. It’s not just one guy, I don’t think.
Q: What kind of stress does Kellen Moore’s constant use of shifts and motions for their offense put on the defense?
BB: I mean, it’s shift and motion from the offense sometimes causes – well, it causes some defensive communication. Depends on what you’re in, depends on what the shift is and so forth. That would all be a variable based on the specifics of that individual alignment shift and so forth, but I’d say for the most part, they use it as indicators, formation indicators for the offense, and there’s a degree of defensive communication that goes with it.
Q: Earlier this week, Jerry Jones shared a story about meeting you by chance at a ski resort in 1996. Do you remember that encounter with him?
BB: Yeah, I was out in Snowmass. I was out there with the family, and Jerry, he’s got on a big white jacket with a blue star, coming off a couple Super Bowl victories out there. But yeah, Jerry and the Jones’ have always been great to me, always had a great relationship with them. When Jimmy [Johnson] was the coach down there, I was at Cleveland – AFC, NFC, it wasn’t really much competition there. So, we were involved in a few trades and, you know, offseason conversations, things like that. Still, from where we are and where they are, there’s not a lot of direct competition. It’s a team that we’ve worked with before. But, yeah, I have all the respect in the world for Jerry. He’s totally committed to winning. That organization’s committed to winning. Stephen does a great job with their organization and personnel, and Jason does a great job on the coaching end. I spend a lot of time talking to those guys at various owners meetings or workouts or, you know, what have you.
Q: Do you remember what you said to him?
BB: Yeah, I saw it, I don’t know if I quite remember it the way Jerry described it. but he’s probably got a better memory than I do. But no, we were out at Snowmass and it was kind of the end of the day and, you know, picking the kids up from ski school and whatever. Can’t beat Snowmass.
Q: How do you see the Cowboys use Dak Prescott’s mobility as a part of their offense?
BB: Well, some of it he – he’s just a good football player, so,he uses it when the opportunity presents itself, if he needs to. And they have a few plays – you know, the read-zone plays, they have some option plays, things like that, couple moving pocket plays. I wouldn’t say it’s an inordinate amount; they mix a few in from time to time. Just another thing to bother the defense, just another thing that you have to worry about and defend. Just another rock on a big pile of rocks.
Q: Antonio Brown issued an apology to Robert Kraft on social media earlier this week. Are you keeping an eye on the NFL’s investigation of him?
BB: You’d have to talk to Robert about that. I mean, every week you guys ask me about a player who’s not on our team and every week it’s going to be the same answer.
Q: How frequently will you see a defense shift gears in terms of scheme or plan just to play the Patriots? How much faith do you have in Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels to be able to adjust on the fly if it happens?
BB: I think if – look, I would say when you game plan in this league, you never really know what the other team’s going to do, alright. I mean, I know there’s a lot of experts out there that have it all figured out. Unfortunately, I’m not in that group. So, you know the team has played four, five, six other teams and they’ve done different things against different teams for different reasons. And then they play you, you haven’t played them, so you don’t really know what they’re going to do. Are they going to treat you the way they treated somebody else? Are they going to treat you differently than the way they treated somebody else? It’s not the same plays, it’s not the same players. So, there’s always an element of, “Alright, well here’s what they did in the last four games,” but that’s not against you. And teams will do different things against your team than they’ve done against other teams, as they should. Might not be a new play – they might just run different percentages of man coverage or zone coverage, or split-zone versus post-safety zone, or blitz-zone versus regular zone, or whatever it is. And so, that’s the way it is every week. This is 45 years; I wish I could tell you a week where it hasn’t been that way, but I wouldn’t be able to. So, you take the information that you have based on – and sometimes the last three or four games don’t mean anything. Maybe the only thing that really means anything to you is the last couple times you’ve played a team. If you look at it that way, you might be right, you might be wrong, but that’s – you know, you have to figure out what you’re going to prepare for. And so you can’t prepare for, you know, eight games. There’s, I don’t know, 500 plays and they’re going to run 60. It’s just ridiculous – you can’t do that. That’s the way it is every week. They may come in and play something in the percentages you thought they would play; they might play something in different percentages. In terms of seeing a totally new defense, that’s pretty infrequent. It happens from time to time or maybe a new defense in a situation – you know, third down or goal-line or something like that. Maybe against a particular formation, you might see something a little bit different that they haven’t shown. But that’s – it’s more of a situational play, I would say, or a situational call. But yeah, look, I don’t think Rod [Marinelli] is going to come up with six new blitzes and four new coverages this week. But, is he going to play us the way he played Detroit? I don’t know, go ask him. Is he going to play us the way he played Philadelphia and the Jets? I don’t know the answer to that question. Not all those games are the same. There’s elements that are the same, there’s things that carry over, but they don’t do the same thing on every play. It’s the same every week. You prepare for what you prepare for and then what you get in the game, just like [Dwight] Eisenhower said, preparation is important for the war. Once a battle starts, you just throw it all out the window. You play a war, you fight the battle. That’s what we do. Once the game starts, we try to figure out how the game’s going, make adjustments, do the best we can at that point in time. Like all the rest of the preparation, doesn’t really – might be relevant, but it might not.
Q: What are your thoughts on Gunner Olszewski’s contributions to the offense in the time he played this season? How has Mohamed Sanu responded to what he’s been asked to do?
BB: Gunner earned his way onto the team and we would love to have him on the roster and be able to use him in that role. Unfortunately, at this point, we’re not able to make that happen. He’s a tough kid, he’s fought through some stuff all year. We are where we are, so we’ll move forward.
Q: And regarding Mohamed?
BB: Yeah, look, Mo has come in and done everything we’ve asked him to do. You can’t catch up to everything in a couple of weeks, but he’s done the very best he could to make up as much ground as possible and he’s made up a lot. There’s still a ways to go but he’ll keep trying. We’ll see where it takes us.
Q: What have you seen from Amari Cooper in Dallas and what makes him so difficult to cover?
BB: Everything. He’s a great player, certainly has a record. And statistically what they’ve done in the passing game since they’ve gotten him, I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but he’s certainly a big part of it. You can start with him. He’s got great speed, he’s a big time vertical threat, run after the catch is very good. He’s a sharp route runner, he can get in and out of cuts. He’s a tough guy to cover, got a great quarterback, good offensive system. He can kill you on short catch-and-run plays. He can run all the intermediate routes, which are hard to cover, and he can certainly kill you down the field in single coverage on the outside or on inside routes if you don’t have a middle-of-the-field defendant. And he’s got a quarterback who can get him the ball in all of those situations very accurately. Prescott does a great job on come backs, deep stop routes, double moves, perimeter go-routes against press coverage where there’s only a couple inches to drop the ball in – he gets it in there. You’ve got a great receiver and you’ve got a great quarterback that both do a lot of things well, so it’s a big problem. He’s done a great job for them, he’s been a great addition and he’s had great production. And he’s helped other guys get more production because of the attention that you have to pay to him.