HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
September 19, 2022
Q: So obviously you guys are a game plan offense, have been for a long time. Specific to yesterday what made running so much out of 11 personnel in your best interest against the Steelers?
BB: Well that was our main formation group all the way along. So running or passing, that was the primary group. We felt that was the best way for us to match up with them. There was a number of reasons, there's a combination of things. Nearly all the game was in that grouping. There were multiple combinations, but 11 personnel was the main group for sure.
Q: Deatrich [Wise Jr.] plays over 80 percent of your defensive snaps for the second straight week. Obviously it's just two games but how impressive is that for a defensive lineman, particularly with some of these longer drives to play that type of number?
BB: Yeah [Deatrich] Wise's really done a good job for us. Got off to a great start in the game. Made couple of big stops early. Did a good job with a very mobile quarterback, back there with [Mitch] Trubisky. So I think he's given us a lot of high quality snaps. Both run and pass and a higher number of snaps. Works really hard on his conditioning in practice. He does a lot of either extra running or a lot of running during every play, finishing plays, chasing the ball down field, things like that. So he's in good condition and is playing well for us.
Q: Just on the Nelson Agholor catch from a technical stand point what did he do right there that allowed him to have success? Is that something that you can coach or is that just kind of a innate ability there to make that play technically?
BB: Well we talk from a coaching standpoint about going up and getting the ball at the high point. There are going to be some 50-50 balls like that. We had one last week that we lost to Tyreek Hill. Had one this week that we made, there on [Ahkello] Witherspoon. So Nelly [Nelson Agholor] did a great job of going up, and getting his hands on the ball, and then kind of ripping it down and pulling it away. So you give him all the credit in the world on that. That was a tough catch and, as you said, a 50-50 ball and it came down in our favor. But he timed it well and went up and fought for it strong, kept his balance and it went into the end zone. It was a huge play in the game and a great individual effort on his part.
Q: Just in terms of play making on the defensive side of the football, having watched the film, what stood out to you about that group collectively and their ability to make plays, particularly in creating turnovers?
BB: Are you talking about our defense?
Q: Yes, your defense.
BB: Well we had the interception on the play-action kind of pop pass there. Mack [Wilson Sr.] made an outstanding play of dropping to his left, to the outside and then planting and coming back and reacting very quickly to get his hands on the ball to [Jalen] Mills. We had our hands on a couple of other balls. There was a close play where Mills got the ball out on [Diontae] Johnson that [Josh] Uche returned. But he was ruled down. So we'll just keep working to get the ball out as much as we can. We had a couple last week that got the ball out but it was out of bounds. Or we were out of bounds. Or whatever it was right there by the sideline. But we just have to keep emphasizing to get pressure on the ball, and hopefully we'll get some that we'll be able to take advantage of.
Q: So I know you talked yesterday after the game about the two big three-and-outs late. But they started 7-for-9 on third down and finished 1-of-6. Having watched the game back what changed in your mind for you guys defensively where the third downs kind of shifted there in the second half?
BB: Well I want to say three of the third downs were third-and-ones. So they converted those. A couple of them were close. One I think [Najee] Harris had for about 5 yards so that really wasn't close. Then they converted a third-and-10 and a third-and-17 right at the sticks. Both throws were outside, good throws. Obviously the rush and the coverage wasn't tight enough in those situations. And then we gave up the, I believe the touchdown was on third down, too, wasn't it? So that was another third down conversion that we just didn't execute well enough. Again, Pittsburgh, give them credit. They have very good receivers. They have a great back, a good tight end and they've got good skill players, [George] Pickens, [Diontae] Johnson, and [Chase] Claypool, [Pat] Freiermuth, Najee Harris. I mean as a group, that's a pretty good group. We got some, they got some. But the short yardage always skewed with the third down conversions, not always but usually, because those are close to 85 percent conversions league wide, or whatever it is, it's a pretty high number. So a lot of third downs relate to second down and first down. So doing a better job there will help you on third down. But obviously we have to convert on third-and-10 and third-and-17. We just have to do a better job there all the way around. Coaching, playing, awareness and so forth. So that was kind of the third down story.
Q: I wanted to ask about the fumble play you mentioned earlier, or the overturned fumble play, the Jalen Mills punch out. Are you happy with the way that was officiated with the officials letting it play out even though it ultimately got overturned? Have you gotten communication from officials in whether they're letting those sorts of close plays run more just so they don't wipe out a potential returns like that?
BB: Again, I think that's probably a question that would be better directed to the officiating department. But again, my general understanding on that is that they prefer to let those plays play out, knowing that they're going to be reviewed. We had one in preseason. I think it was in the first preseason game against the Giants where the ball was out and we scooped it up and they ruled it down. Then we had to challenge the play for the recovery and all that. So I think generally the philosophy is if the play is going to be reviewed, let it play out and then review it. Whether that's right or wrong, that's not really my call. That's for the other people to decide. But I think that is generally the philosophy, but it doesn't always play out that way. I think that in the end the officials have to call what he sees on the field. But if it's a true 50-50 call I guess that's the way that we go.
Q: Hey Bill, speaking of that Giants preseason game, I remember asking about zero play action passes indicated the way the Giants were playing, which was a high blitz game and something you kind of had to adjust to. Play action rate has been low through two games, I know individually, each of them are their own entity, is there a risk, generally speaking, of running more play action against defenses that will blitz a lot more, given obviously that involves the quarterback turning his back to those blitzes?
BB: Well, I mean if a team's blitzing, I don't know how much the play action really affects the defense. The guys that are blitzing are going to blitz and, generally speaking, depending on the exact nature of the play, but generally speaking, backs are still involved in protection so if there's any kind of blitz, there's no fake anyway, the back would just have to go pick up his blitz protection assignment. Otherwise, that guy's going to become free. There's really no fake anyway in a situation like that, and the quarterback knows that. So once the quarterback sees that the back isn't faking, he knows that just fundamentally, that the back has had to lead the fake and go to his blitz assignment. So, the quarterback knows that somebody forced him to do that and there's pressure coming. I think if you're going to get a lot of blitzing, I'm not sure what the effect of the play action really is unless you're trying to bootleg and get outside, something like that. It's a little bit the same in man coverage. How much real effect are you going to get in man coverage? They have their guys anyway, sometimes you can sneak a tight end or another player out against man coverage when they're playing the run. I'm not saying they're bad plays, I'm just saying that's kind of what you're weighing is how much extra pull are you going to get from the fake, versus what are you going to give up in your protection assignments and how aggressive do you want to be with your line, faking the run when you've have guys that are blitzing and penetrating up field that you have to pass block. That's the decision you have to make.
Q: A couple of your players, I think Jakobi, mentioned the way that the Steelers were kind of diving down over the middle to cut some of those deeper crossing routes and you guys made adjustments. Minkah Fitzpatrick talked about playing a lot of two-high, I mean obviously they did a little bit of both, did you see more of one or the other as the game went on?
BB: Well, it started out as a quarters kind of game. More quarters and then they went to some man-to-man coverage and then they kind of went back to the quarters and then at the end, at the last drive, that was basically all man-to-man, when they were trying to get the ball back. Third down, they mixed it up as they usually do on the shorter distances between man and zone and the longer distances. They're zone, longer yardage calls, where they drop the safeties inside. They do a good job mixing it up and they played a couple fronts against us. They had their nickel front, but then they had a different nickel front, a little different personnel group and then in their other nickel, they played [Cameron] Heyward some outside as defensive end, which we hadn't seen that. I think that was after [T.J.] Watt. That was probably an adjustment form after Watt got hurt and then in passing situations. Then they went with the two outside linebackers and just played the two defensive lineman inside which was kind of their, I'd say, higher percentage call with Watt, but without Watt, they kind of went to two different packages on that. That's the way the game played out. Coverage-wise, it was a little more split safety than what they had shown last week against Cincinnati for sure, yes.
Q: Good morning Bill. I'm just wondering how you thought Cole Strange faired in the game, against Cam Heyward and just in general, did you see some improvement in the offensive line?
BB: Well again, [Cam] Heyward played defensive end a decent part of the game. I don't know what the exact numbers were on that, but certainly more than he did in the past and more than he did against Cincinnati, when they were in their three down lineman nickel. He played the defensive end on the tight end side and they flipped 56 [Alex Highsmith] back to the weak side. He did play inside some. There were some match ups in there, certainly a good test for Cole [Strange] to go against a player of that quality. I thought we were competitive. Heyward was disruptive, but certainly seen it worse, so we'll probably take it. Less disruptive than he was against Cincinnati a week ago, that's for sure, so that was a good thing. Generally speaking, our pass protection, again, was pretty good, width of the pocket was good, depth of the pocket was good. We had a couple of plays where we got edge, had a holding penalty, had a couple hits on the quarterback, but overall, I'd say the pocket was pretty clean.
Q: Morning Bill. With Ty [Montgomery II] being out, how do you feel Damien [Harris] and Rhamondre [Stevenson] were able to pickup the slack on third down and some other passing situations, especially in terms of blitz pick up?
BB: Right, well, I think Ty played most all the third downs last week against Miami, except for maybe one or two and the two minute. So, Damien and Rhamondre did a really nice job stepping in, in those situations yesterday. We got a good third down conversion from Rhamondre, I believe it was third-and-seven on sub run. Again, Pittsburgh, they have a couple different looks on that, that they mixed up there, I thought overall those guys handled it well. We miss Ty, but both of those players have some experience in the passing game, they're both good, they can handle the ball. We're able to use them and still maintain all of the protections that we would usually use in those situations. We didn't have to modify anything yesterday. That was good. I thought that when they did come, both backs stepped up and blocked the linebackers competitively, so that was good, too.