PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Alright, we obviously watched the Dallas game and really impressive performance by the Titans. This is really a good, well-balanced football team. Mike's [Vrabel] done a great job. Certainly, the bye week, they came out and played about as good of a game as you could play and doing a good job, as I said, in all three areas. They lead the league in defense. Offensively, they run the ball. Special teams, have a couple explosive returners and do a good job of not beating themselves. They don't make many mistakes, least penalized team in the league, very good fundamental technique team, won a lot of close games in the last two, three years, have excellent specialists. So, we know it's going to be tough down there and have a lot of respect for the people down there - the coaches, the staff, the way that they play. [Jurrell] Casey's one of the top defensive linemen in the league; he's outstanding. [Kevin] Byard's another really good football player, had a great year last year and been on top of it this year, too. So, [Corey] Davis has sort of broken out now and Dion's [Lewis] having a good season. Again, special teams is a real strength for them - great specialists - so, we'll have to go out there and play a good football game for four quarters, for 60 minutes, in all three areas just to be competitive.
Q: You have some familiar defensive faces there in Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. What have you seen from them this season?
BB: Yeah, well, they lead the league in defense. So, yeah, they're good, don't give up big plays.
Q: With Dean Pees, is the scheme similar to what you would see from when he was here with you? Or do you see a big difference what he's running now?
BB: No, I'd say it's the Texans' defense.
Q: Is there any carryover to what they did schematically against you guys in the divisional playoff game last year?
BB: It's different - [Matt] LaFleur, Vrabel, Pees. Yeah, it's a little bit of carryover in the kicking game. But, I mean, it's some of the same players, but it's different.
Q: Did you see anything from Vrabel when he was here that made you think he'd one day be a good coach?
BB: Yeah, Mike's got a lot of great qualities - great player, tough mentally and physically, smart, had a real passion for the game, was in great condition, could go all day, loved to play, loved to practice, great leadership. So, I think all those things transferred when he went to coach at Ohio State and then down to Houston and now Nashville. So, I have a ton of respect for Mike and I think he's been a great coach. I think he'll be a great head coach.
Q: Among the characteristics he's shown as a head coach are confidence in his guys and aggressiveness. He has gone for it a couple of times in key spots, including two-point conversions. Does that factor into preparation and game management, knowing a coach is willing to take those kinds of chances?
BB: I mean, we're certainly aware of it, yeah. I mean, he played aggressively, he coaches aggressively. He coached that way with the Texans when we worked against them when he was the linebacker coach and then the defensive coordinator down there last year. Yeah, that doesn't surprise me.
Q: You said on WEEI that he told you when he was a player that he wanted to be a coach. Is that right?
BB: I mean, we talked about, yeah. I mean, I can't remember if there was a specific conversation or not. There might have been.
Q: That was going to be my next question - whether you remember that conversation and if it stood out to you?
BB: Yeah, well, at that point, Mike was playing, I was coaching, we were trying to win games. In passing and in some of the banter back and forth - that there was always plenty from Mike - we talked about coaching and playing.
Q: Was Obi Melifonwu a player that you considered in the 2017 draft?
BB: Again, we do all players in the draft. He was drafted early, so.
Q: What did you like about him coming out of the draft?
BB: Well, he has a good skillset, he's smart. We'll see how it goes.
Q: What traits does Albert McClellan have that drew you to him?
BB: He has some experience, he's playing in the kicking game, he's played defensively. So, we'll see how it goes.
Q: How does Tennessee go about using Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, and how do they play off of each other?
BB: Yeah, they both play. I'd say Dion's in there mostly on third down, but they both play. Again, I would say similar to the Atlanta rotation on [Devonta] Freeman and [Tevin] Coleman, if you will.
Q: With LaFleur's history with Atlanta, does this Titans offense show some similarities to that offense?
BB: Yeah, it sure does.
Q: How does Marcus Mariota execute some of the stuff they ask him to do? How does his mobility play into some of the stuff they ask him to do?
BB: Yeah, he's great at that. No issues. This guy can run, he's very athletic, 80 percent conversions against Dallas last week, so can run, can throw, he's very smart, handles a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. So, it's a big challenge for us to handle him and the rest of the offense.
Q: Statistically, Malcolm Butler has struggled a little bit. He's allowing a great volume of catches. One scouting service says most by a cornerback in the NFL...
BB: That means a lot to me.
Q: OK. But is he doing anything differently this year?
BB: I mean, look, they lead the league in defense, OK? So, that's our challenge as an offense is we're playing 11 guys, we're playing their coaching staff and the schemes they put up against us. And, right now, they're playing better defense than anybody in the league. So, we'll see how we do. I don't know. It will be tough, I know that.
Q: How has Harold Landry contributed to their defense from what you've seen from him?
BB: He's gotten a little bit more play time the last couple weeks with [Derrick] Morgan out. Basically, all four of those guys play - [Kamalei] Correa, Morgan, [Brian] Orakpo and Landry.
Q: One of the reasons they are pretty good is they stop a lot of teams on first down...
BB: They stop them on first down, they stop them on third down, they stop them in the red area. Yeah, they don't give up a lot of big plays, so they stop them more than anybody else in the league stops them. They stop them on every down. I mean, I'd agree, but it's not just first down, it's not just third down, it's not just the red area. It's all of the above. So, good team defense. It's not one guy. I mean, they have some really outstanding players - I mentioned a couple of them - but just as a team, they're very well-coordinated, they play very disciplined, good techniques, good fundamentals, they make you work for every yard, they don't get many penalties. So, if you can't go out there and move the ball against them, then you're not going to move it. If you're waiting for them to screw up and give you an easy play or a bunch of penalty yardage or stuff like that, you could be waiting a long time. That's just not what they do - too well-coaches, they have too much discipline.
Q: You mentioned Jurrell Casey. What have you seen from him this year?
BB: Yeah, great, outstanding, hard to block, running game, passing game. He can play two gap, play with power, he's quick, he stunts well, rushes the passer well, he's a good tackler, he hustles, makes a lot of plays in pursuit, instinctive, hard to fool with screens, traps, misdirections, stuff like that. He eats those up, too. He's a problem.
Q: This will be the first time that you've coached against one of your former players. Will it be odd to see one of your former guys out there?
BB: It will be the Patriots against the Titans. That's what it will be.
Q: Tajae Sharpe has been especially effective on third down and he's had a lot of big plays in those spots. What distinguishes him?
BB: Yeah, they're all big - he's like 10-for-10. Yeah, nobody's stopped him, so that's a problem, too.
Q: You mentioned Vrabel as one of those guys who loves to play and loves to practice. Earlier this year, we were talking about Patrick Chung and you said he's another one of those guys who loves to get out there and practice. Is that something that shows up in the evaluation process, or for some guys, does that show up a little later on when you actually get a chance to see them work?
BB: Probably the latter, yeah. You know, when you're working with somebody every day, you get to see them a little bit differently. But, with players like Pat, Mike, Rodney [Harrison] - they just never want to come off the field. So, if they're out there on defense, they're out there for every play, and then when the scout team's out there, they want to go out there and take scout team plays, too, and jump in there on special teams and be on the scout team, kickoff team or punt team or whatever it is. I mean, they just like to go out there and play football. They're, all three of those players, in great condition - like never got tired. At least, they didn't seem like they ever got tired. You know, go run 50 yards and cover a guy and they're not tapping out, looking for somebody to come in for them. They run back to the huddle and they're ready to go on the next play, whatever it is. So, that's the way Mike was. He loved to play on the scout team defense. He'd be their best pass rusher, he'd play middle linebacker, he'd play free safety, strong safety, [Troy] Polamalu, Ed Reed, [Dwight] Freeney. Whoever we were playing, he would love to be those guys against our offense and then he'd take all the snaps on defense. So, all those guys are kind of like that. They bring a lot of good, positive energy to the team by just what they do and how they do it. So, I mean, you can't put a price on guys like that. They're great.
Q: When you're determining assignments for players defensively, and with Stephon Gilmore in particular, how much trust does it require to give a guy an assignment that you know is going to be difficult? Does he ever lobby you for certain assignments, and do you ever take that kind of thing into account?
BB: Yeah, of course. Yeah, sure. I mean, look, I have a ton of respect for Stephon. He's covered and played against a lot of guys in this league. I mean, he's willing to do whatever you ask him to do. I don't think it's a question of that, but yeah, you talk to those guys when you talk about matching them up - Ty [Law] or [Aqib] Talib or Gilmore, guys like that. You know, 'How do you feel about certain guys?' Because, again, playing against them is one thing, but how a particular player plays against them and what do you feel good about on the matchups or anything you're worried about. You know, and then they tell you and sometimes that helps you how you want to defend them. Do they feel like they need help over the top? Do they feel like they need help underneath? Do they not feel like they need it? Those guys are pretty honest - at least they have been through the years I've coached them. I mean, those are guys like that - Gilmore, Law, Talib. Those guys certainly fell into that category. They'd say, 'Look, I don't need any help on this guy.' Then alright, great.
Q: What is it about Trey Flowers that allows him to have success on the inside?
BB: He's got good length. He's quick, he's very instinctive. Trey has a really good feel for leverage and the weight distribution of the players. So, if the guy's light, he can push him back. If a guy's kind of leaning on him, he can get around him with his quickness. He uses his hands well, he plays on his feet, he has good balance and he runs well. You know, he can run out and track guys down, make plays from the backside. But, he's just got a good feel for the game. He kind of knows how to play. He knows how to play against the guy that's blocking him and he knows how to play against the quarterback or the running back or whoever it is that has the ball - kind of what area he's in and where the guy's trying to go and if he can get there, how long he has to hold his position before he can leave to try to make the play without voiding the area that he's responsible for. Again, those are very split-second, instinctive decisions. I mean, he doesn't have time to think about them, he's just got to react to them. But, he almost always makes the right decision on that, whether he's outside or inside or on the right side or on the left side or whether we're in a four-man line, a five-man line, a three-man line. He just kind of has a good feel for that spacing and kind of how the battle with the guy that he's working against is going, whether he's got the upper hand on the initial part of the play or whether it's even or whatever he has to do and he kind of reacts accordingly. So, he's a very instinctive guy, has a lot of versatility, really can play anywhere across the line. He's played every spot for us. He's played on the center, he's played on the guard, he's played on the tackle, he's played out there on the tight end, he's played on his feet, he's played down. He's played everywhere but off the ball.
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