HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Thursday, December 19, 2019
BB: Well, we're winding down here on the preparation. It's been a quick week, but tough team to prepare for. Got a lot of work to do, but we're kind of closing in on it here. Get to a Friday-type schedule today and get through our preparations and be ready to go here. So, looking forward to it. Good challenge, great opportunity. Buffalo's a good football team, and we know we'll need to play our best to win, so that's what we're going to try to do.
Q: Is practicing in the stadium today more about practicing where you're going to play, or more about field conditions?
BB: Yeah, probably the latter.
Q: As you're looking for players to add to your team, does how they may perform in the New England weather conditions become a factor?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I don't know that we've – I wouldn't say it's a priority, but look, it's a factor. You've got to deal with it at the end of the year. Sometimes it's good if they've had experience in it, but we've had plenty that haven't – the Jerod Mayo's of the world and all – and they've played a lot of great football for us.
Q: What have you noticed from the way Brian Daboll has used tight ends throughout the season and in the Pittsburgh game in particular?
BB: Well, earlier in the year they didn't have [Tyler] Kroft, so it was [Lee] Smith then [Dawson] Knox, a little bit of [Tommy] Sweeney. Then kind of as Knox started to, I would say, come on a little bit, there were several weeks there where Smith didn't play much. They all played, but the playing time went from Smith to Knox. They were in a lot of 11 personnel, bunch of no-huddle for several games – three-or-four games there. And then, as you mentioned, the Pittsburgh game swung a little bit more back to what they did in some earlier games. So, I think with Buffalo you've just got to be ready for all the different personnel groups. They have them all – which ones they're going to use against you and at what level of frequency – we'll just have to see. Some of that's probably game plan-related, other part of it might be game-related. So, we'll just have to see, but they've all played. When Kroft came back, he played more in the first two-or-three games, whatever it was, when he got back. And then kind of Knox seems like he's taken back some of that playing time, and as you said, Smith played more last week. So, you have to ask Brian how he's going to use them. And Sweeney's kind of dropped out, where he played more earlier – some earlier – he's kind of dropped out, but he's still on the roster. So, we'll see.
Q: Tom Brady's completion percentage is at 60.1 percent, which is the lowest it's been in his career. What's gone into that this year?
BB: Yeah, I think right now we're really focused on the Buffalo game, and trying to get ready and play our best in this game. So, going back and analyzing stuff from other games, and a year and all that, it's really not where we're at.
Q: Is there maybe an emphasis to try and bring that number up, or is it what it is this year?
BB: No. We call passes to complete them, we call runs to gain yardage, we call defenses to stop our opponents, we call returns to gain yardage on the return. So, that's why we call those plays. So, we want to make all of them as good as we can, be as productive as we can. We try to make every play productive.
Q: Julian Edelman's been on the injury report for a lot of the season. Given how important he is to the offense and how important this game is, how do you balance his work in practice and how you use him in a game when he's clearly dealing with something?
BB: Right. Well first of all, the injury report is what it is. We follow the injury report rules as we're required to do, and that's what we do. So, whatever that is, it is. Now, there's a lot of variation in what that can be based on what the rules are, but for each individual player, as you said, nobody's 100 percent. Everybody's played a lot of football, practiced a lot of football, and it's been basically week-after-week other than the one bye week. So, that's a cumulative thing and we do the best we can each week to manage all the things that you just talked about. Each individual player's situation, what the team needs, what type of practice schedule, or what type of preparation we're on, and how to get the most out of the team and the players, and to be ready to go on Sunday. So, it's really an individual, daily answer to that question. What's the player's situation; what are we working on; what's his role; what do we need him for; can he do it? I mean, if he can't do it, then that answers that. If he can do some things but not others, then how important is it for him to do those things? Can we get him the next day, can we not get him the next day, so forth. So, we just take that on a day-by-day basis, and that's really what the position coaches – one of the main things that they do is manage the players at their position. So, between Jakobi [Meyers] and N'Keal [Harry] and Julian and [Mohamed] Sanu, Phil [Dorsett] – and Joe [Judge] manages those guys based on all the things I just talked about. Or, Ivan [Fears] does it with the running backs, or Nick [Caley] does it with the tight ends, or Dante [Scarnecchia] does it with the line, and sometimes they add up, and sometimes they're kind of independently – you know, you have to do what's best for your group.
Q: Does timing play a role at all? I know you're focused on this week, but knowing what's ahead at any given point in the season?
BB: Sure, yeah. Sure, it could be. Definitely. Again, at this point, you're kind of in a lot of one-game-seasons. But, there's a game after this and we're fortunate we have at least one more game after that. But, as they're getting fewer and fewer, then I'd say there's fewer options and again, you have to try to figure out what's best for that player, what's best for the team and so forth. But, it's a normal problem with every position, it's not one player – this year, it was just this player – every year it's multiple players throughout the entire course of the year, and every team goes through it – that I know of. So, you just do the best you can to manage it, and you stay in constant communication with the player, the people who are training him and working on him, and again the coaches that are involved in his utilization. Whether it's on offense, defense, special teams, whatever those combinations are. Do the best you can.
Q: Have you seen any evolution from the Bills defense since the last time you saw them?
BB: No, not really. I think it's rare, I mean, they virtually have had no injuries. I mean, it's the exact same – it's really the same players. [Ed] Oliver's obviously gained a lot of experience and he's a good player, but it's really pretty much the same group. They've been very healthy, have missed very little time. Their rotations are pretty solid and consistent because they've had all those guys available. So, Sean [McDermott]'s scheme is Sean's scheme. He has a broad scheme, he has a lot of variations and change-ups, but they complement each other. It's not a big – I mean, the volume is not exorbitant, but it's enough to keep the offense off-balance, so that you can do enough different things to change up. Play man, play zone, play blitz-zone, bring two, bring three, or bring one, bring two, drop one. So, you just don't know exactly what you're going to get schematically and they do a very good job of disguising what they do, so that they look the same, but they're not the same, and they combine that with some defensive line movement and obviously some very good players. And so, that's why they're good. They're well-coached, they have good players, they're sound, they don't give up big plays. It's hard to string a lot of good plays together against that defense. You might move the ball a little bit, but if you have to put together a 10, 12-play drive, usually they can make plays along the way before you can finish the drive and they're out of there.
Q: Players seem to move around positions on the scout team quite often. Is that all purely need-based, or do you ever take a look at that as an opportunity for if an emergency comes up?
BB: I would say it's usually need-based. Sometimes it depends on more than that, but yeah, I'd say usually it's need-based. I mean, guys have their primary position and if they can work at that position, then great. And sometimes they don't get much work at their position, or you need them at another position, and so you have to, you know, all-hands-on-deck, and you have to pool all your resources there and try to – everybody has to do a little bit more. In the end, I think it helps those players. I mean, it helps the defensive back to play corner, it helps a quarterback to play wide receiver to see what it's like on the other end of the pass, and offensive linemen to play defensive linemen and vice-versa at times when you're short-handed. So, I don't think those are bad experiences for the individual player. Sometimes the quality, initially, is not that good, but there's a learning curve and then they get better at it. And sometimes with a player like Edelman or Troy Brown, you end up needing to use them even though that's not your first choice. But yeah, I'd say it's more need-based. Unless you had a specific player that, OK, his role is going to be all three phases, and can do a lot of different things and that was the type of player, but there's not many of those.
Q: Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have been playmakers against the Patriots in recent years. What things do you see on their defense that indicate their value to Sean McDermott's system?
BB: Yeah. Again, I think I've said this for several years: they complement each other very well. They do a very good job with their disguise and pre-snap looks. They make it hard on the quarterback. Mostly as a coach or a quarterback, if you look at the safeties, that'll pretty much tell you 80 percent of what's going on defensively, based on their depth, or their rotation – your formation obviously, and then where they go in that formation, and then how deep they are and what kind of angle they're taking. So, I would say those guys do a good job of holding that until the last second. Sometimes they give false keys, and start one way and go another way, so that as a quarterback, or as a coach, even if you're looking at the game and you see something, and you think that's what it is and your eyes go somewhere else, but then it starts one way and then it goes somewhere else, and then you've misread it. So, they do a good job of those things, whether they're blitzing, playing man coverage, playing different zone coverages and different responsibilities in the zones. They're both instinctive players. Sometimes they kind of don't go exactly, probably, where they're supposed to go, but there's a certain key, or indicator, or they recognize they recognize the play and don't really get to where they're supposed to get to because the play has developed quickly. And so, you think they're going to be one place, but they recognize it, and they're quicker than you think they're going to be and are in the way of the play. So, I mean, they do all of those things well, and they do it well with the linebackers. I mean, they tie the disguises in with the linebackers as well, too. Sometimes if the safeties disguise and the linebackers aren't tied in with it, you've got all these guys over here together – somebody's going to have to go somewhere else, so it's, "OK, they're trying to disguise it, we can see they're trying to disguise it". But, these guys, they move one way, the linebackers move the other way. They kind of control their disguises. I mean, they do a good job. And they're fast. [Matt] Milano's fast, [Tremaine] Edmunds is fast. So, even though they're linebackers, they have the speed and, I would say, range to get to things that some of the linebackers can't get to. So, it all ties in together well.
Q: Stephon Gilmore said that this is like a playoff game. Are you sensing the urgency of a playoff game throughout the organization?
BB: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. That's what we're here for. Yep. You work all year to put yourself in a position to play in a game like this where you can win the division. So, you couldn't say that in Week 4, or Week 6, or Week 8 – whatever it was. Well, we're saying that now, so now is the time for us to play and coach our best football. That's what we're all here for.
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Q: Some guys have mentioned that this week has a playoff feel. What does this week feel like to you? Is the sense of urgency there?
TB: It's a big game for both teams, so we're going to go out there and try to play our best. This is a great team that's been playing really well all year. They've got a great defense. It's going to be a tough challenge.
Q: When you face their safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, how concerned are you about false keys? How do you recognize that pre-snap?
TB: Yeah, they do a good job and they've been playing together for a while now. They make it tough on quarterbacks. Absolutely, you've got to just do your best.
Q: Julian Edelman only had two catches for 9 yards last week. How important is it this week to have him be a factor?
TB: When he gets going, it's good for all of us. Got to find ways to get him the ball, and he's been doing a good job for us all year. He'll need to do it this week.
Q: How much do you take from the energy that Edelman brings and his willingness to be out there?
TB: He's a pretty tough guy. He wants to be out there competing and playing, and I think everyone has a lot of respect for him for that. He's a tough guy. Good to have him out there.
Q: It's 20 degrees in mid-to-late December with a division title on the line. How much do you still relish this situation?
TB: Yeah, it's important. I think everybody puts a lot into it and that's for moments like this. Everyone – you work out all offseason, you train to be a part of these games. And this is a big game against a very good team. That's what it's all about. That's why we're here, to play in games like this.