PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
December 19, 2018
BB: It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen Buffalo, but this is a lot different team than we saw up there. Offensively, they’ve got a lot of explosive weapons. We didn’t see [Josh] Allen. He’s been impressive; [Robert] Foster. They have a lot of big plays. The receivers have done a good job. Obviously, [Charles] Clay and the backs, [Chris] Ivory and [LeSean] McCoy. So, a lot of weapons there. Defensively, they’re at the top of the league in a lot of categories. They’re playing very well, don’t give up a lot of points, don’t give up very many big plays, make you earn everything. We’re going to have to have a lot of well-executed plays to move the ball and score points against them. We weren’t able to do a lot of that up there, so hopefully we can improve on that this time. They’re very well-coached and they have a good scheme. They play hard, they play well and they make you earn everything.
Q: How much of what they’re doing with Josh Allen is designed runs or is most of what he’s getting by running the football just done on his own?
BB: They do both.
Q: How does Allen compare to some of the other mobile quarterbacks you guys have seen this year?
BB: I mean, he’s good. He’s had three 100-yard games in a row. He’s the leading rusher. He’s a good player.
Q: Robert Foster has been pretty dangerous up the field but can also be a problem in the short game. How dangerous is he from what you’ve seen?
BB: He’s averaging 25 yards-per-catch. That’s a lot to average. A very explosive player and gets behind the defense, a catch-and-run player. He’s fast; really fast. Allen’s got a great arm and can’t overthrow him. He can’t outrun the quarterback. The quarterback can get the ball down the field to him. He’s been very exciting to watch.
Q: Does it speak to Alabama’s depth that a guy like Foster is producing at this level now despite not having much production during his time in college?
BB: Yeah, you’d have to talk to Alabama about that. I don’t know.
Q: Schematically, are they doing things differently under center with Josh Allen than they did with Derek Anderson?
BB: Well, Allen played at the beginning of the year. They were in a little bit of a transitional period there in the middle of the season. But no, I mean, I think their offense is their offense. It’s a game-plan offense, so you’ll see different things from week to week.
Q: With Sean McDermott having been on a staff with Cam Newton in Carolina, do you see any similarities between what Newton was doing and what Josh Allen is doing for McDermott now?
BB: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, look, they both have a lot of skill but we’re focused on Allen this week. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate. He can stand in the pocket and throw. He can get out. There’s some designed runs. There’s some quarterback scrambles or some scrambles that are runs or he scrambles and extends plays and throws it. I don’t know. He’s a hard guy to defend. I mean, he had almost three quarters of their total offense against the Jets. It’s a lot.
Q: How much improvement have you seen from Stephon Gilmore since he stepped through the door last year and how impressive has he been this season?
BB: Yeah, Steph’s had a good year. I thought he had a good year for us last year. I mean, all players improve as they’ve been in the system longer. He was a good player when he got here. He’s had a good year for us.
Q: He has far more passes defensed this year than last year. What can you attribute that to?
BB: Yeah, I thought he had a good year last year, too. I don’t know about all of the stats and all of that, but I thought he had a good year. He’s having a good year this year.
Q: Are Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer interchangeable at the safety position or do they have defined roles?
BB: Well, Poyer’s really a strong safety. Hyde’s a free safety, but they don’t always rotate to Poyer’s side. Sometimes Hyde comes down, but Poyer is down more than Hyde is. And there’s a decent amount of split-safety too, where they’re both back.
Q: What kind of challenge does their multitude of defensive coverages present?
BB: Yeah, they do a good job of disguising. They’re a heavy zone team, but they do a good job of disguising their zones and their blitz zones, split-safety, post-safety, which way the rotation is going.
Q: What have you noticed from Ryan Lewis in his time at Buffalo?
BB: He missed the last two games with a concussion. I mean, he hasn’t played much. It’s hard to notice him. He hasn’t been active.
Q: Does it help to prepare for them on tape with their last opponent being Detroit, who may do similar things to your team given the familiarity there with Matt Patricia?
BB: Yeah, I don’t know. We watch all of the games.
Q: What’s the most significant difference you’ve seen between this Bills team and the one you saw at the end of October?
BB: I’d say all of the big plays, the big plays they have from the receivers and the quarterback. The quarterback is a big difference. That’s a big difference right there. But the receivers, no [Kelvin] Benjamin. Foster has emerged. They’re much different. The other guys have continued to play well – Zay Jones, [Isaiah] McKenzie, Clay, Ivory, McCoy. [Jason] Croom’s come along. The tight ends have made some plays for them so he seems to get more involved. But again, they’re a game-plan team. They do things differently from week to week, but they’ve gotten production from a lot of different players.
Q: What’s the approach with your defense when they do get close enough to Josh Allen to make a play on him? Is there a different technique you have to use when going against a bigger player like him?
BB: Yeah. Yeah, sure. It’s different, and he’s a strong guy. We’ve seen him stiff-arm some people. He’s definitely fast. He can outrun guys. You have to take good angles and obviously wrap him up and try not to let him get started.
Q: You played a big, strong quarterback last week in Ben Roethlisberger who got outside the pocket late for a key third-down conversion. Is there a coaching point that can carry over to this particular game?
BB: Yeah, there are scramble rules that we go through from pretty much the first day of training camp, offensively and defensively. And then there are obviously a lot of sub bullet points to general rules based on specific situations and so forth. I’m not trying to overcomplicate it, but some things have application at some times and some don’t, then some when you’re in man coverage or zone coverage, what kind of other things could happen in the play. And the same thing offensively, what type of pattern you originally had called, where the quarterback scrambles and kind of general guidelines on what to do, but each play is different. Obviously, each scramble and each situation is a little bit different. The distribution is a little bit different. Within those general guidelines, there’s flexibility and some freedom for players to try and make decisions and do the best thing that they can to try and create space and get open, and for the quarterback to have options so we don’t run together or we don’t run guys into him when we’re trying to separate, and vice versa. They’re trying to separate us and how we try to handle that. Each one is a little bit different.
Q: How many big plays for Buffalo have been of that kind of nature, offensively?
BB: I’d say most of Allen’s long runs have been off scrambles. He’s got some designed plays, quarterback draws and keeps and things like that. I’d say most of the big runs have come – the 30, 40-yarders – have come off scrambles.
Q: They have a deep backfield with Marcus Murphy, LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory and Keith Ford. How does their offense change as they seem to utilize various running backs on a weekly basis?
BB: Right. Well, [Marcus] Murphy’s on IR, so it’s down to the other three. We saw Ivory and McCoy the last time. We’ve seen plenty of those guys throughout the years. They’re both very good. They have different styles. You can put Ford in there. He’s a tough, hardworking kid that runs hard. We can’t control who’s in there. We have to defend our area, defeat our blockers and the tackling part of it is a little bit different from player to player. But again, fundamentally, if you tackle well then that’s the place to start. That’ll be our emphasis.
Q: How do their defensive linemen complement each other? They are obviously pretty stout with guys like Kyle Williams in the middle, but complement it well with some more speed guys on the edge.
BB: Yeah, which is pretty much what they’ve had. They’ve got a couple of big guys inside. Kyle’s active in there. Harrison Phillips is a big, physical player. They’re a little bit in between. I wouldn’t say they’re just in the running game or kind of just sub pass rushers. They can do both. Certainly the outside guys, [Jerry] Hughes is as good an edge rusher as anything else we’ll see. [Trent] Murphy’s done a good job for them. He’s long, a strong kid, plays very physically on the edge. They roll them in there. Everybody plays. They all play hard. They all have a good level of pursuit, some faster than others, but they take good angles and they pursue hard. The linebackers have good speed. It looks like there’s space on some plays but they all converge to it pretty quickly and they don’t give up very many big plays.
Q: Does their experience up front with that group show up on tape?
BB: Yeah, no doubt. They read plays well, screens, misdirection plays, things like that. They do a good job, a very good job across the board. They’re well-coached defensively. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re where they’re supposed to be. They play basically the defense the way it’s designed to be played. They have a lot of variables in it. They give you some different looks, but in the end, the guys end up in the spots that they’re supposed to be in and they force you to execute well. If you don’t then they take the ball away from you or take you out of a drive. They’re one of the top three-and-out teams in the league, so a negative run, which they have plenty of those, or an incomplete pass puts you in long yardage and then they’ve got you off the field. They’re a good three-and-out team and that’s a function of their discipline on defense and the negative plays that they’ve created in the running game.
Q: Why do you think playing at home creates such an advantage in football?
BB: Yeah, I think playing well creates an advantage.
Q: As you develop your weekly game plans, how well do you feel that you know this specific version of your team? Are you still experimenting with things?
BB: We’re trying to do what we think is best to put together the best plan that we can against the Bills. That’s what we’re doing. There’s a lot of variables every week. Whatever they all are, whenever it washes out, that’s what we’re trying to do. Offense, defense, special teams – put together the best plan that we can execute and that’s what this week is. That’s what it’s pretty much always been. It changes from week to week but it’s the same process. I don’t think it’s any different.
Q: Do you marvel at all at Kyle Williams still being as productive as he is at this stage of his career?
BB: Yeah, he’s got a great motor. We had him in the Pro Bowl and kind of got to know him out there one year. He loves football, a tough kid, has got good quickness, good strength. As we talked about earlier, he’s very instinctive. He always seems to be, I won’t say knows what the play is, but reacts very quickly to whatever the play is and is never really out of position. Since he’s right in the middle of the defense you have to block him on every play, so there’s no plays off. You can’t run away from him. He’s right in the middle of the front, so he’s a factor on every run and pass play, even the outside plays. It’s an issue on those, too. He’s got a great motor. A lot of times he will just outwork the linemen or wear them down over the course of 60, 65 plays. He’ll just get some plays that he outhustles or outworks the guy on. Plays that he should be blocked he fights through and makes a play.
Q: Has Sony Michel taken on the role you envisioned for him when you drafted him?
BB: When we bring players in that we don’t know or that we haven’t had before then we just kind of let it run its course and see how it goes. We don’t try to pigeonhole anybody into anything. Sometimes they work into a similar role that they had in a different organization or a different team. Sometimes they don’t. James White would be an example of a player that didn’t. Some players do, some players don’t. We get them in our system and teach them and work with them and see what they can do. Sometimes that path changes. It could change from year to year or it could change for a career based on how a player’s skills fit into what we’re doing or sometimes what else we have at that position, what else we have in that area and how he’s utilized.