Belichick: The only way to sack him is …

Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about Sunday’s game vs. the Colts, defensive strategy and more in his news conference today. Click the “full entry” button to see the complete transcript:

Bill Belichick: “I feel like we’re back in the division again [with our] annual game with the Colts. It’s kind of interesting looking at Indianapolis this year. In a lot of ways they look very much the same, a lot of familiar faces – Reggie Wayne, [Peyton] Manning, [Dallas] Clark, [Dwight] Freeney, [Robert] Mathis. And then in many ways they look different. They have some new receivers. They’ve had some changes on the offensive line, changes in the secondary, changes on the defensive line, punter, kickoff guy. They’ve integrated some new people into their system and at the same time changed their defensive scheme and special teams scheme just a little bit, although again, there’s a lot of similarities to what we’ve seen in the past. Of course, it will be a little different looking across the sideline not seeing Tony [Dungy]. [They’re] 8-0, leading the league in defense in points allowed. We know what kind of offensive team they have, of course leading the league in third down [conversions] and leading the league in numbers in passing, of course. They’re a team offensively that can pretty much do whatever they want to do or need to do. I don’t think they are limited in anyway. They never have been and they certainly don’t look like it now. Defensively, they continue to make plays, turn the ball over, make teams earn it, [make the offense] drive long field and a lot of times they get them stopped. They do a decent job in the red area. The big thing is they turn the ball over. We know it’ll be a big challenge for us this week. The environment out there, being focused, being able to stay on course and going up against an undefeated football team. They’ve earned it. They’ve done it a lot of different ways in their eight wins this year and that speaks to the all-around solid team that they have in all three phases of the game. It will be a big challenge for us this week. We need a good week of practice and hopefully we’ll be ready to go Sunday night.”

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How much more blitz pressure have you seen with defensive coordinator Larry Coyer there?
Belichick: “A little bit. I would say a little bit. I wouldn’t classify them as a blitzing team, but you can’t go to sleep on it or they will pressure you. Most of the time they get a lot of pressure from those front four and they use all of them. It’s not just Freeney and Mathis, although it’s certainly them, but it’s [Raheem] Brock, [Keyunta] Dawson, [Daniel] Muir – all those guys – [Antonio] Johnson, but they have them extend some pressure probably a little more than they have in the past and they’ve gotten some plays out of it.”


Is that helping them get Freeney and Mathis to the quarterback more?
Belichick: “Well it does, of course, when you blitz somebody that takes away a potential guy that could chip or double up on one of those edge rushers. The downside of it for the pass rushers is you have a lane that you have to stay in, depending on where the guy’s blitzing from. Everybody’s got to stay in a lane where as a four man rush, the pass rushers have a little bit more freedom, but there’re also potentially more blockers, so it’s a little more of a trade off. They do both and you can’t count on it. You can’t count on them not blitzing, you can’t count on them blitzing. They keep you off balance; they do a good job of that.”
Why doesn’t Peyton Manning get sacked?
Belichick: “Because he gets rid of the ball. He throws it away. The only way to sack him is for somebody to come that he doesn’t expect – the guy’s blocked and he beats a block and Peyton’s not thinking about him or for some reason he just doesn’t see him. If he sees him coming, he’ll get rid of the ball. And he has a quick release anyway, so he’s the kind of guy that…Historically, we’ve seen people blitz him and the blitzer comes clean from the center guard gap or right from the line of scrimmage and he still gets rid of it and sometimes for big plays. Kind of like the Miami game; they tried to come after him there at the end of the game and they tear screened him [and he got a] touchdown. So you have to be careful with him.”
How much of a different team are they look-wise from having Bob Sanders and not having Bob Sanders?
Belichick: “Bob Sanders is a great player, there’s no doubt about that. I would say that [Melvin] Bullitt, who has taken his place, plays a lot like Bob Sanders. He’s very aggressive. He’s fast; He goes 1,000 miles an hour. He’s looking to blow up somebody every chance he gets. I’m not saying he’s Bob Sanders. I don’t think there’s a lot of Bob Sanders’ out there, but he plays that way. It’s a similar style, that same kind of aggressiveness. Bullitt’s got his share of big hits, too. It looks the same, but I’m not saying you replace Bob Sanders.”
You’ve mentioned some of the changes they’ve made defensively up front. In the back, are they as much cover two as they’ve been in the past?
Belichick: “They certainly play their share of it. They probably mix it up a little bit more, but they’re mainly a zone team. They play some man-to-man; they play some blitz-zone. I would say it doesn’t look a lot different, but it’s different. It is subtly different. Techniques of the corners are a little bit different, but they still play their share, too. They also play a couple different variations, too, where they match things a little bit tighter where it’s not pure zone like Tampa is. They play some of that, too.”
Is Dallas Clark really a tight end and what makes him so good with yards after the catch?
Belichick: “I think the biggest thing with the yards after the catch and the Indianapolis offense is the quarterback gets him the ball with the chance to run with it, but he’s very good. He’s fast and he’s got good balance. He’s strong. Tight ends are hard to matchup against. The [defensive backs] don’t have the size and the linebackers usually can’t match their speed and quickness. We see that with a lot of tight ends we face – [Tony] Gonzalezes, [Kellen] Winslows – and all those kind of guys; they are tough matchups. But Clark runs well; he runs like he’s a receiver. He’s got 4.6, 4.65 speed – whatever it is. When he gets down the field he’s a vertical guy, but he has good quickness and can win underneath and he’s strong.”
Does he play more like a wide receiver than other guys do?
Belichick: “There are threats in the passing game and they’re competitive in the running game. They’ll run behind him just like Atlanta will run behind Gonzalez. You see that. I think he’s a competitive blocker, but he’s an outstanding receiver. When they ask him to block he does a good job and when they’re in three receivers then…I think it depends on what their formation is and how they’re playing a particular game. If they play with two tight ends and two receivers, then he’s split out a lot more and he’s really the third receiver. When they play with three receivers and a tight end and a back than he’s much more in the conventional tight end position. Depending on what game you watch or what personnel group they’re in you can see him [playing] either a lot of tight end or a lot in the slot, but over the course of enough games, enough snaps, you see him at both.”
Did Brandon McGowan show you a particular skill set when he was in Chicago that allowed you to see that he would do a good job on players like Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow?
Belichick: “Yeah, I thought Brandon played well at Chicago and he played quite a bit for them other than when he was injured. He did a lot of things, like we’ve seen him do here. He’s done a lot of good things and he did them for the Bears. He runs well, tackles well, he’s physical. He’s a very instinctive player; knows where the ball is – the reasons why we were interested in the offseason and signed him. He’s done a good job for us doing all those: playing the run, playing the pass, blitzing, tackling, playing in the kicking game. He’s been a versatile and productive guy for us.”
Given the number of times you guys have played, Brady and Manning have had some great matchups. When you think back over the history of the game and your time in it, can you think of other quarterback rivalries that you respect?
Belichick: “Well, there’re a lot of games where you have great quarterbacks, certainly [Phil] Simms and [Joe] Montana when I was at the Giants. Those are two outstanding quarterbacks that went head to head. They’re never on the field at the same time together, so it’s two great players in their own right, different offensive systems, different styles, but both great players.”
Can you talk about Manning’s play this year and what he’s done in eight games?
Belichick: “[He] leads the league in passing, leads the league in third down conversions. They are 8-0. I think that’s really the biggest statement. It’s production and he does a great job. He manages their offense and they win games and that’s what a quarterback should do. I don’t think it’s all about stats. I think it’s about performance and production and that’s a quarterback’s job, to manage the game, have more points than the other team to win and he’s done that.”
Is there a way to sum up why Tom Brady is the leader he is?
Belichick: “He’s one of our hardest working players. He’s very smart. He works hard. He’s very well-prepared. I think it all starts with that. When he walks on the field, he knows what he’s doing. He has a lot of confidence, as he should, and everybody has a lot of confidence in him, as they should, because he’s well-prepared and he knows not only what he’s supposed to do, but also what the situations are and how to make things work. And when things are not the way they are supposed to be, whether somebody’s lined up wrong, or a play comes in wrong, or the defense gives us a look that we’re not expecting, or it doesn’t fit well on that particular play or situations, he fixes it somehow [with] whatever his options are. He does a good job of keeping the offense out of bad situations – bad plays – and that’s a big part of quarterbacking, being able to give the offense a chance to execute against something that’s a fair fight, not where they’ve got more guys than you do [and you’re] trying to run a play into something that has very little chance of success. He does a good job of keeping us out of those situations and Peyton does the same thing with Indianapolis. You very rarely see them run plays that you look at the play and say, ‘They just don’t have a chance on that play schematically.’ There’re very, very few of those.”
Brady and Moss have clicked since the beginning of this season. Is that surprising at all given that Tom missed last season? Is there a reason why they immediately got back together?
Belichick: “We had almost 50 practices in preseason [and] that’s not counting all the spring. So you have all the spring, the OTA’s, minicamps, 50 practices in preseason – or whatever it was. Those guys work hard. They are very talented players. I would like to think after that amount of time they would be able to go out there and execute pretty well and they do.”
What do you know about Jim Caldwell and do you see similarities between him and Tony Dungy?
Belichick: “All I know is what I see. Obviously he did a great job in college and he was part of Tony’s system there with the Colts and moved up when Tony retired last year. I think their team has some differences as I’ve stated. They are obviously playing well and he’s got them hitting on all cylinders and playing with a lot of confidence, playing good football. I respect the job that he’s done as a head coach, as an assistant coach and the job he’s doing now with the Colts.”
Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are coming along – and Tom Brady has had some young receivers here too that he’s helped bring along – but how much can a quarterback speed up a young receivers development?
Belichick: “Well, I think a quarterback has a part in that. I think the development of a player is mainly a function of the player and his ability to learn the offense, process the different situations, coverages and adjustments that he has to make, and certainly timing with the quarterback is part of it, just like it is with Wes [Welker], Randy [Moss] or Reggie Wayne, or anybody else. That is still a part of the process with any receiver, any quarterback. Guys that haven’t experienced it as much – It’s a learning situation continually that the quarterback and receiver see the same thing. They see the same technique, the see the same leverage of the defender or the situation that those patterns are being run into and they both anticipate those same adjustments. The quarterback anticipates where the receiver is going, the receiver anticipates where the balls being thrown or the timing that it’s coming out in and there’s no real substitute for doing it, for experiencing that. That’s why we practice and those situations that we learn from on the practice field become realities in the games. You can talk about it, you can draw it up, but it’s different out on the field.”
There was a report that you guys might have shown some interest in Larry Johnson?
Belichick: “Right now, our interest is in the Indianapolis Colts. We put a couple days of hard work into them and we want to go out there and get it on the field today, have a good practice and be ready to go on Sunday. That’s really where our focus is right now.”