PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
November 22, 2022
BB: Alright, good morning here. Alright well, we're scrambling away here. Short week. Really good team to get ready for here. Minnesota's a very well coached team in all three phases. They have a lot of explosive players, really good in all three phases of the game. So, it'll be a big test for us out there. You know offensively they have a great back, great receiver, great quarterback. Added [T.J.] Hockenson, so they've got a lot of fire power there on offense, and defensively they're good at all three levels. Their front's really good, and they've got two really good edge rushers. Big guys inside, two good linebackers, and obviously [Patrick] Peterson and Harrison Smith are two outstanding defensive backs. The punter's got a big leg back to their field goal kicker, explosive returners, good solid schemes in all areas. Kevin [O'Connell] does great work with the offense. They've moved the ball very consistently. They've moved it well. Defensively, Coach [Ed] Donatell's system's have been very productive for a long time. They give you a lot of tough looks and they've got a lot of good players. So, a lot to get ready for here in a couple days, but we'll push through it and try to have a good day today and close things up tomorrow and head out to Minnesota.
Q: How important is today for just trying to get everything in, it seems like a long day for you guys both on and off the field?
BB: That's the biggest day of the week for us. Yesterday was an introduction. Today's the majority of what we're doing, and tomorrow's situational clean up things and review on Thursday. So, big day today.
Q: When you study up in the offseason about your upcoming NFC opponents obviously you haven't seen them in a long time and you play them this late in the year, how much of that study is useful in your preparation now or you just have to go off the games obviously they've played?
BB: Both. Things proceed. You can't picture exactly what Minnesota is going to be in the offseason without seeing them. You have an idea but how they've actually evolved is something you wouldn't know in May or June. But now that you've seen it, some things get confirmed. Some things, well they aren't doing as much of this as we thought they would be doing. Or as they did in the past at wherever the coordinator was, or who the play callers were there before. So, how you project it to go, it's a little bit of both especially this late in the year. We did more work on these guys probably in the bye week just knowing that this is going to be a short week after the Jet game to get a little bit ahead on this one before we dug into the Jets. So, that was more valuable for us I'd say than the offseason.
Q: What do you remember about Kevin O'Connell as a young player when you drafted him?
BB: Yeah, a big kid, good arm, productive in college, smart guy. He was great to have.
Q: Did you see him maybe as a potential future coach? Did you see the signs?
BB: He was only here a year and a half. But as far as being smart, understanding what we're doing and all that. He picked things up quickly, that wasn't an issue.
Q: Did you guys do any work or meet with Justin Jefferson at all prior to that draft? Just how eye opening has his performance over the past three years been?
BB: He's been phenomenal. Of course, we haven't seen him in the NFC, but watching him a little bit in the offseason then looking at him now, yeah he was no secret. Been hard to envision the amount of success he's had in three years. His numbers are historic. So, he's a great player.
Q: Is that another example of sort of just how I guess hit or miss the draft can be at times? You know a guy like that goes to 22 and I'm sure if anybody knew what he would do we're not talking about a guy falling that far. Just it's interesting, the entire process.
BB: [Rob] Gronkowski would've been a top ten pick, too, if you knew what his production was going to be. We're talking about Hall Of Fame-type guys that are not in the top ten. He should've been in the top ten. [Tom] Brady you know. So, it's not obviously an exact science. But he's really – he's a good player, he does a lot of things well. Obviously, the deep ball, tracks it, very good at getting open, separation, good with the ball in his hands, he's a hard guy to tackle and makes a lot of plays. After the catch, makes a lot of yards after the catch. Obviously, he's got a great quarterback and Kirk [Cousins] does a good job of throwing to him at the right time, giving him a chance, putting the ball in the right spot. Jefferson does a great job at catching it, tracking it and all that. So, they're a very, very explosive dynamic group.
Q: What has the addition of Hockenson done for them?
BB: It's just another weapon. It's another good player on the field with [Dalvin] Cook and Jefferson. I mean, those are like two of the top players in the league and you add a guy like Hockenson. Obviously [Adam] Thielen, [K.J.] Osborn, they've got a lot of good players. You know Irv [Smith Jr.] getting hurt but Hockenson in there, he's kind of taken what Irv did, some of it.
Q: With Jefferson, I imagine just given his production he gets a lot of attention. Is he somebody that you've seen even beat double coverage when teams have decided to do that?
BB: Yeah, I mean some of the catches he's made you couldn't cover him much better than he's being covered, and he comes down with the ball. But they move him around. Doubling him sounds a lot easier than it really is. You've got to find him, got to get the right guys on him and then there's some other guys to worry about, too. It's not like he's all they've got. You don't pay attention to Cook and he has an 80 yard touchdown, whatever it was against Buffalo. So, he can kill you in a hurry, too.
Q: How difficult is he to bring down, Cook?
BB: Good, he's fast. He's got good balance, really good contact balance. Does a good job at making yards after contact. Good vision. He's good in the passing game. So, it's not just handing him the ball. They can throw it to him and he can get open. Once he gets out in space, he's a tough guy to handle. Good player, really good player.
Q: When you think about some of the best red zone offenses that you've seen over your time, what are some of the best characteristics that those teams have that are able to punch the ball into the end zone with a tight space?
Q: Balance in the red zone?
BB: Yeah, run it, throw it. Different guys to throw it to.
Q: Looking at their defense, just what are some of the foundational elements of Coach Donatell's scheme to you?
BB: Yeah, all the things he talks about. Shell coverage disguise, setting the edge, tackling, linebackers, fast linebackers. Exactly what they say they are, that's what they are.
Q: You said it's mostly a zone defense in coverage or do they mix it up for you?
BB: Mix it one and two, a lot of quarters or some variation of quarters. Four man front for the most part.
Q: What have you seen from Patrick Peterson when you watch him on tape with Minnesota?
BB: Yeah, plays on the perimeter. Haven't played him inside much, if at all. Long, fast, anticipates well. He's a smart guy out there, you've got to be careful with him. He'll make you pay. Big guy, good size, runs well, good tackler but he's just a really instinctive guy. He's seen it all. He's seen all the routes out there, combinations. You combine that with a good pass rush, which they have, and the quarterback doesn't have much time to look off. A lot of times they're getting pressure from [Danielle] Hunter and [Za'Darius] Smith or the inside guys. So, he does a good job of knowing when to sit on routes and when the ball's coming out, that kind of thing. Good player. Harrison Smith, same thing. He's one of the top safeties in the league. So, got two really good players back there. Two really good linebackers. Two really good edge rushers. They have other good players, too. I'm not saying that but those guys, we're talking about some of the best players we're going to see all year.
Q: How's Brian Hoyer doing? Do you expect him back this year?
BB: Yeah, we'll see. Definitely doing better.
Q: With Harrison Smith, how frequently do you see him kind of playing games with opposing quarterbacks, just in terms of where he shows before snap and where he ends up?
BB: Well, that's the whole defense. Yeah, he's really good at it. He does a good job of disguising what they do in his alignment. Very experienced, smart player. Does all the things that a smart player does at that position.
Q: Did you say that was the old defense, that he did more of that before? Did I hear you right there?
BB: Well, yeah we haven't played them in four years so saying this defense. Again, they mix their coverages and he does a good job at disguising. You don't really know for sure what they're in until the ball snaps, so you better make sure you see where those guys are going. You miss one, they'll make you pay. But he's a physical player, obviously a good tackler, strong physical guy, big kid. So, he adds a physical presence to the defense in the secondary, as does Peterson.
Q: Thoughts on Thielen? Is he a good reciever, good competitor?
BB: Yeah, he's another guy, they move him around a lot too because they move Jefferson. Osborn is mainly in the slot but not always. So, yeah a big kid, big target. Certainly, Jefferson attracts a lot of coverage and that opens things up for Thielen, Osborn, Hockenson, Cook, their running game, you name it. So, they're a well-balanced offense and Thielen makes a lot of good competitive tough catches. Strong kid.
Q: Fiery guy?