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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 9/27

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday September 27, 2017

BB: Carolina is really an impressive team. I have a lot of respect for this organization. I have a lot of respect for Coach [Ron] Rivera and the job that he's done there through the years. They have been remarkably consistent - consistently good at doing so many things - and that's kind of where we are this year. They have a lot of good players. They have a good blend of youth and experience. They're very sound fundamentally. They make you earn everything. They're a tough, physical team - run the ball, stop the run, play defense, play tough in the kicking game, block kicks. They make you work for everything and have a lot of really good players. Defensively, [they are] as good a front seven as we've seen and we will see, and we've seen some good ones. Their linebackers are extremely fast. [Luke] Kuechly has got to be in the conversation of top player in the league every single year. Their front is very disruptive. They play guys, they all play, they all are active, they turn the ball over, get a lot of interceptions, get a lot of strip-fumbles. They don't turn it over much on the other side of the ball, so they're very good there. They have a good running game, good passing game. Mike Shula does a good job of having a well-balanced offense with a lot of explosive plays in the offense, both with the quarterback and the other skill players. They give you enough different looks to keep you off-balance, but at the same time, they run a very sound scheme, so not a lot of negative plays, not a lot of turnovers, very good on third down and just don't turn the ball over. Really solid team. In the kicking game, [Graham] Gano's got a strong leg. It's all touchbacks. [He is] a top kickoff guy in the league. Explosive returners, again, whether it was [Ted] Ginn before or [Christian] McCaffrey now, [Curtis] Samuel on kickoffs. They've got guys that can hit the home run ball with a big, physical special teams core group of guys - linebackers and tight ends, backs. They do a good job - [Colin] Jones, [David] Mayo - those guys are really good special teams players. Really solid team all the way through. They don't overcomplicate the game, but they're very good at everything they do and they do enough to be balanced and keep you off balance. We've played them quite a few times in preseason, so got a decent look at them and saw them last year. But, it's kind of the same every time you see them. You're talking about the same things and all of them in a complimentary way because they do so many things well and do them very consistently. So, this will be a big challenge for us this week to handle all of that they come at you with. I think every play is a problem. There's no real plays off. 

Q: Has anything changed in Shula's scheme with the addition of McCaffrey and Samuel?

BB: Well, I think that's part of their game is the plays that get the ball to those type of guys in space. I think they've always used those, but maybe a little bit more now with a guy like McCaffrey. But, you know, we've seen wildcat before, we've seen empty, we've seen unbalanced line. That's kind of part of their offense - not a huge part of it, but again, just enough to keep you off-balance, enough to make you work on it. You know, reverses, misdirection plays, bootlegs, things like that. They still do those. Now, they just put McCaffrey into the equation somewhere, and you just have to deal with him as par to that, but I think those are all things that are kind of within their wheelhouse and have been, along with all the basic core things that they do that are very sound and, again, well-balanced. So, if you're stopping one thing, you're not in position to stop something else. But, yeah, McCaffrey's added that. It's a dimension that is giving them some explosive plays. Mike does a good job of that, though. I mean, again, they're good on third down, they don't turn the ball over, they control the clock, they control the game, they make explosive plays in a variety of ways and the quarterback is a wildcard. He makes plays that you don't think are going to happen and end up happening because he makes them happen. So, that's always an element that you have to deal with.

Q: How difficult of a matchup is a receiving running back like McCaffrey and others that you've seen?

BB: Well, it depends on what matchup you have with them. So, I think you have to be careful of it. You know, we saw that with [Tyler] Ervin and [Alvin] Kamara and the way Kansas City used [De'Anthony] Thomas and [Tyreek] Hill as backs. They weren't backs, but they kind of used them as backs. So, yeah, all those players you're talking about are kind of semi-receivers or maybe more than that. Yeah, it's something you've got to watch out for because, if you get the wrong matchup, they can get a lot of yards in a hurry. No doubt. Yeah, it's a problem. It's a problem. But, you're right, we've seen it pretty much every week.

Q: Are those types of athletes more prevalent now in today's NFL?

BB: They are in this little string, yeah. 

Q: Against the Texans, there were several third-and-1 plays that made a big difference in the game in terms of them stopping you or you stopping them. What's the specific challenge of that play in particular?

BB: I mean, in the end, it usually comes down to fundamentals. You've got to block them, or you've got to defeat a block and make the play. The numbers are the numbers. I mean, nobody's going to run a play and cut a guy loose in the hole, so the guy that you let go is usually the guy furthest away from the play. It doesn't mean he's out of the play, but it's usually the guy furthest away who has the point of attack. Whoever knocks the line of scrimmage back is probably going to have an edge on the play. The passing game can factor in there, too. Sometimes if you don't need a lot of yardage, you're kind of reluctant to go through putting the ball in the air, protecting, running routes and all that when he can just hand it off for a yard, but you've got to be able to make that yard. We've got to obviously do a better job of coaching it and a better job of executing it and be better in that situation. I mean, that's a key situation. If you can't get a yard in this league, then that's going to eventually catch up to you. It already has, but it will continue to be a problem if we're not able to get that yard offensively. Defensively, percentages are with the offense in that situation, so a stop there is a big stop. But, realistically, you're not going to be 80 percent on defense in that situation. Offensively, that's where you'd like to be.

Q: On short yardage situations, is that more on the players to get the yards needed?

BB: Well, again, it's the coaches' job to put the players in the best situation that they can be in. So, if you put a guy in a bad situation, then it's hard for him to succeed. If you put him in a good situation, then you just have to execute the play and it will be alright. I mean, I think we need to do a better job, they need to do a better job. I mean, we've got to block better, we've got to run better, we've got to coach better. I don't think it's just one thing. We all need to improve on it. It's a key situation.

Q: When you're taking a look at your defense and want improvements to be made, what's the first step?

BB: Identifying the problem and addressing the problem. Something's got to be one, something's got to be two, something's got to be, whatever, 18. I don't know. So, start with the most important things first, always. It's always the case. We're not going to start at 19 and work our way up to 18 and work our way up to 17. I mean, that would be a ridiculous way to approach it. I can't imagine doing that. So, if we have a problem, you take the thing that's most important and try to solve that first. 

Q: If one of the players asked you to write a letter to President Trump, is that something you would ever entertain?

BB: Yeah, right now my thoughts are about getting ready for Carolina.

Q: What are some of the characteristics that make Luke Kuechly such a game changer for the Panthers?

BB: [He is] smart, very instinctive, reads plays very quickly. He's long - 6'3-and-a-half or whatever he is. Very fast, he's got good quickness, he can change directions in space, good tackler. It's hard to fool him. I mean, he doesn't take many false steps, so he's usually headed to where the ball's headed to right away. So, he beats a lot of blocks or gets to his area in coverage very quickly, sometimes before you do as a route runner or as a blocker. But, he runs well, he makes a lot of plays in pursuit, he makes a lot of plays away from his area of responsibility because of his speed and effort to run 20, 30, 40 yards to make the play, where he's not really involved in the play, but he just tracks it down. So, start with those. Look, he leads the interceptions, by far leads the lead in tackles in the last - wherever you want to start counting it from, even though he missed however many games it was last year, six games. I mean, his numbers and production are just off the charts. So, it's not just one thing. You don't get that kind of production by doing one thing. You get that kind of production by doing a lot of things well, and he does, and so do [Thomas] Davis and [Shaq] Thompson. Those guys are fast. Davis - there's another guy who's got a lot of interceptions, got a lot of tackles, is around the ball. That's a very, very impressive group of linebackers they have. 

Q: Do Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson run in similar situations?

BB: Well, I think both guys probably have a few plays that are designed runs, and then there are other plays that are improvised runs. I think when you're talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decision - I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list. Not saying that there aren't a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, I would definitely put him - he's the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he's strong, he's hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in '13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren't a problem, because they are, but he's public enemy No. 1.

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