PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
November 27, 2019 *
BB: We’ve been grinding away here on the Texans. Again, this is another really impressive team. [They’ve] done a good job in all areas down there – really productive on offense, defense, special teams – obviously well-coached, a lot of good players. A lot of good players on special teams – lead the league in punt coverage, kickoff coverage, do a great job with field position. Defensively, Romeo [Crennel] is one of the best and they always are sound, great technique team, good tackling team, don’t beat themselves, make you earn all of it. And offensively, they’ve got a lot of explosive players and do a lot of things well. They’re really at the top of the league in just about everything offensively, wherever you want to look – certainly big plays, first down production – they’re just good at a lot. Another big challenge for us this week to get ready to go down here and face a team that we haven’t faced in a while. Certainly, a lot of changes since the last time we played them, so it’s a little different than when we opened with them last year we had seen them more recently. There’s a little more space between these games and I’d say quite a few personnel changes from the last time. It is what it is.
Q: What are your thoughts on Deshaun Watson, specifically the challenge of him being able to keep the play alive with his deep passes?
BB: Very good in deep passes. They lead the league in long balls, deep passes. They all have a lot of production there, especially [Will] Fuller and [Kenny] Stills. He gets them down there, but he gets the ball to all his receivers, backs, tight ends. They all have a lot of production. Yeah, he can extend plays, he can run, he can extend the throw, accurate at all three levels. He’s a tough guy to handle, hard guy to tackle. He makes plays on his own. Sometimes there’s some plays that are designed for him to handle the ball, carry the ball, but sometimes not. He makes good decisions.
Q: Do you see any similarities between Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson who you faced recently?
BB: We played [Dak] Prescott last week. He’s leading the league in passing.
Q: I was thinking in terms of plays he types up for himself.
BB: Yeah, all three of them.
Q: What are your thoughts on DeAndre Hopkins, in particular his hand strength?
BB: As good as there is. He’s got tremendous ball skills, he’s long, great judgment, great timing to go up and get the ball. Makes some extended catches that I don’t know how many guys other than him could make them. He’s got good hands, good timing, strong hands, as you said. He creates separation with his quickness, his physical size, his length. He’s really never covered because there’s always some place you can put the ball where he can catch it and he has the hands to catch it. So, very hard guy to stop. They move him around, you’ve got to find him first to even cover him, then after that it’s a big challenge to handle him. He’s clearly one of the top guys in the league – gets a lot of coverage and still has an enormous amount of production.
Q: How does the addition of Kenny Stills and the return of Will Fuller complicate things defensively, in particular when plays are extended with Deshaun Watson and you have to cover those guys for longer periods of time?
BB: They’ve gotten a lot of explosive plays. Stills is one of the most explosive players in the league in terms of big plays, last three of four years. Fuller is – last year against Atlanta he had over 200 yards. These guys can turn a 5-yard pass into a 50-yard touchdown with a – what you said is exactly what happened in the Atlanta game. It was a little out-route, Watson scrambled, Fuller turned it up, 50-yard touchdown. They can score in a hurry, they run a lot of deep routes, a lot of intermediate routes, they also run a lot of short routes. They get catch-and-run plays, separate the defense with those deep routes and that opens up space for [Darren] Fells and [Duke] Johnson and Watson to scramble. They create a lot of problems.
Q: Is Deshaun Watson as effective scrambling left as right?
BB: Any time he gets out in a space it’s a problem. He can run, he can throw on the run. Usually when he scrambles, he has space to pull up and throw. He’s not scrambling into traffic – he rarely does that. Once he gets out on the move, he has plenty of time to survey the field and make a good decision and throw it in there.
Q: Given all of their changes on defense, have you seen them change their scheme at all?
BB: Well, Romeo is a game-plan coach so he’ll do whatever he needs to do based on the team he’s playing and who he has available and what he can do with his players. We’ve got to be ready for multiple things but it’s never – Romeo is very sound, and what they do, they’ll do well and they’ll make it hard on us or whoever they play, they’ll make it hard on them. They have a very good group of linebackers. Certainly, [Benardrick] McKinney and [Zach] Cunningham are two outstanding players inside and [Whitney] Mercilus, [Brennan] Scarlett on the edge, those two guys are – both do a really good job of playing the run, rushing the passer, pursue plays, chase plays. That’s one of the best groups in the league.
Q: From the matchups you had against DeAndre Hopkins in 2017 and 2018, do you see the same player? If not, what are some of the differences you see in him this season?
BB: He was great then, he’s great now. I’d say they move him around a lot more now than they did before. He’s in the slot, he’s in motion, he’s not always on the weak side. He’s there some but they put him in different spots and they do a good job of making it tough for you to cover him.
Q: We’ve heard you say that what makes a good receiver is getting open and catching the ball. Is DeAndre Hopkins one of the guys that renders that first part of those two points?
BB: I think he defines an NFL receiver. If you open “NFL receiver” in the dictionary, put his picture next to it. He gets open, he catches the ball. Doesn’t matter what the route is, doesn’t matter what the coverage is, doesn’t matter where the ball’s thrown or what the situation – first-and-10, fourth-and-goal – he’s very, very productive. And he has such a variety of skills and routes, he can really do it all.
Q: Are there guys that don’t need to get open because they’re really good at contested situations?
BB: If the quarterback’s got to thread the needle every time he throws him the ball, it’s hard to do that. This isn’t baseball, it’s pass rush. A lot of good quarterbacks make a lot of good throws, but if you make it hard enough on him, they’re not going to hit all of them, even the best ones. Look, he’s usually open unless he’s double covered, and he beats a lot of double coverage too, so it’s not like if you double him that’s it. He knows how to win the leverage of the double and how to attack double. He’s been doubled his whole life so he knows how to attack it and get open and create separation even when there are combinations on him. But certainly in single coverage, he almost always finds a way to get open.
Q: How’s DeAndre Hopkins different than Amari Cooper?
BB: Two totally different players. They’re both good. They’re two totally different players.
Q: How is Hopkins different?
BB: Different skill set, he’s longer, he’s more physical. He’s got a catch radius and hands that are elite, elite. Cooper is faster, maybe a little more explosive. I don’t know, they play in different offenses, so it’s – I wouldn’t say they’re the same player, though, skill-wise.
Q: Benardrick McKinney is obviously a bigger linebacker. Is he similar to some of the linebackers that you guys have had here through the years?
BB: Yeah, he’s a really good player. He’s played outside, played inside. He plays inside for them, but he can play outside. He played outside at Mississippi State. Signal caller, smart guy, very involved, tough to block in a pass rush, tough to block in the run game, runs well, pursues well, pretty good in coverage. This guy’s a good football player.
Q: Have you seen Deshaun Watson grow as a pocket passer?
BB: He’s good, he does a good job. He reads coverages well, delivers the ball on time.
Q: When you face a team like this where the defensive coordinator and head coach know you so well...
BB: Special teams coordinator, too, Brad Seely. Jack Easterby – you could go right down the line. It’s not like we don’t know each other.
Q: Does that make it easier or tougher to game plan?
BB: I don’t know. Just do the best you can each week.
Q: Do you find yourself out-thinking yourself too much in situations like that?
BB: I don’t know. Just try to take the information you have and put it together the best you can.
Q: You mentioned Jack Easterby. Are there any residual feelings left over from that incident from the summer?
BB: What’s that?
Q: When you guys had to file tampering charges against the Texans.
BB: Didn’t have anything to do with Jack Easterby. Look, all of that’s in the past and I don’t think it has any bearing on this game.
Q: When you look at Ted Karras, how have you seen him adapt to his role and grow with extended playing time this season?
BB: Ted’s been a solid guy for us since he’s been here, one of the most consistent players probably on our team. Comes to work with the same great attitude every day, works hard, whatever you ask him to do – weight room, classroom, walkthroughs, practice, scout team. He always works hard, he’s always ready to go, he always gives his best. Tries hard to improve, has improved. He’s just a very consistent, hard-working, lunch pail kind of guy, and really consistent. Gotten incrementally better through the course of time, but he’s been consistent for four years.
Q: Almost their entire secondary has changed since the last time you played them. How challenging does that make it to get a gauge of what they do and how they do it?
BB: [Justin] Reid was there for sure, although I don’t think he played a lot, but that’s – they’ve done a good job of putting players into their system whether it’s [D.J.] Reader replacing [Vince] Wilfork or whoever, you just go right down the line. But yeah, you’re right, they’ve had some changes in the secondary. [Gareon] Conley has certainly helped them. Drafted [Lonnie] Johnson, Reid’s done a good job for them. I think schematically, they’re similar to what they’ve been and they’re sound. Again, they know their leverage, they know where their help is, they know what they can and need to do on each coverage and they’re pretty consistent at it.
Q: How much of a different dimension do Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde give the Texans with those two together?
BB: Yeah, it seems like they’ve always had good backs down there. Both Duke and Carlos are having a good year for them. Hyde is a strong, powerful runner, hard to tackle, has good quickness, runs with good pad level. He’s had some long runs – 30, 40-yarders where he just runs through a couple arm tackles at the line of scrimmage and they have a hard time getting him down in the secondary. [He] doesn’t play on third down. Johnson plays on third down, but Johnson also plays on all downs so he’s kind of a versatile player, not just a third-down back but again, has plenty of playing time on early downs, as well. Although Hyde gets the majority of carries, but Duke gets plenty of them too. Both those guys have been a good addition for them and I think they complement each other well. They’ve both been very productive.
Q: Now that you’ve had a chance to watch the film, how do you feel about Isaiah Wynn’s performance in his first game back?
BB: It’s good to have him back out there. He’s a good player. He hadn’t played in a little while. I’m sure he’ll – each practice, each game will be a little bit better for him. He did a lot of good things for us. Like I said, I’m glad we had him out there. He works hard to improve. I’m sure he’ll improve on a daily basis like he has for the last, whatever, three weeks he’s been out there practicing. But each challenge is a different challenge, so whatever happened last week is last week. We’re not playing the players or the scheme we played last week. These guys play a lot differently than Dallas does. We’ll see how he can do against them.
Q: What are you thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving tomorrow?
BB: The opportunity to coach the team, and the players and the staff that we have here. The players work hard. We have a good group. The coaching staff is good – they make my job a lot easier. Just the opportunity to be a head coach in the National Football League for the New England Patriots.
Q: Pie of choice?
BB: Oh man, whatever’s on the table. I’ll take them all.