Belichick: Practice made perfect (almost)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick linked the quality of practices last week to the quality of the Patriots’ play on Sunday, but wouldn’t reveal any strategy about what he might do against the Texans on Sunday during a press conference Monday in Foxborough. Click the full entry button to read more of his comments, provided by the team’s media relations staff.

Belichick opening statement: “I’m doing good, doing real good. It was a good day for us yesterday, good to come in and re-watch that game this morning. As I think some of our players said — I know we talked about it all week — I thought we had one of our best weeks of practice, certainly by the end of the week. Our Thursday and Friday practices were real good and I think there’s some correlation there between that and the game, so we’ll try to hopefully stay on that track – good preparation, good practice and play well. We had a lot of guys that did a good job yesterday and there were some big plays in the game and a lot of different people involved in them, so it’s hard to single anybody out from that game. From a team standpoint, it was a real good performance by the players.”

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When you say you have a good week in practice, what happens that is so good?
Belichick:
“The recognition, you can run the other team’s plays and how quickly you react to those, do the right things, make the right adjustments. [It’s] the spacing in the passing game, the blocking against different pressures or running game, defending the play properly, defensively or in the kicking game having everybody in the right spot. You don’t know where the runner is going to go or [where] the returner is going to go, but everybody kind of having the right position, the right leverage on blocking scheme and things like that. Going out there and doing all the fundamentals well – throwing, catching, being in good football position, kicking, snapping, just being sharp.”

The first year Wes Welker had an incredible year. Are you continuously amazed that into his third year he still has 10-12 catches a game?
Belichick:
“He’s a hard player to cover and so is Randy [Moss]. We have a good quarterback and a good running game, so it’s hard to [cover us]. Defensively, there’re different things to think about. Sometimes some things are more productive than others, but the bottom line is we just hope – as a team, as a unit – we are productive.

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Has Wes exceeded your expectations?
Belichick:
“I thought he was pretty good and he is pretty good. Wes does a lot for us. He doesn’t just catch passes, he returns punts; he blocks; he really does a good job blocking; and he runs a lot of different types of routes. He’s pretty good, but we thought he was pretty good. We couldn’t cover him down there [in Miami]. Even when we doubled him we couldn’t cover him. It doesn’t surprise me that other people have trouble covering him.”

Now that you are in the playoffs, you could shift your focus in terms of preparing for possible opponents and there are quite a few of them. I am curious of how you’re attacking that at this time?
Belichick:
“I’d say right now it’s something we probably need to sort out a little bit. The guys on our staff that do a lot of that advance preparation work in our pro scouting department and also our assistant coaches on each side of the ball, there is one of them assigned to that. Normally, you know who your next opponent will be, but in this case we really don’t. We’ll have to figure out how we want to do that. Some of the teams that are possibilities in the playoffs we are pretty familiar with, and others not as familiar, or some are more recent than others. We’ll kind of have to figure all that out here in the next couple of days. Right now, our [focus] this morning was to come in and watch the Jacksonville game, make some corrections on that, talk about the things that we need to do and then get ready for Houston. We’ll get those other guys started on whatever we think is the best way to go on that, I’m not even sure what that is right now.”

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Have you come to any conclusions on how you are going to play the next game? Whether you want to rest guys or not?
Belichick:
“Like I said, right now, we just got done watching the Jacksonville game.”

Do you have a philosophy about that after you clinch what you want to do next?
Belichick:
“Yeah, absolutely. I do what’s best for our football team. That’s my philosophy.”

Can you say that can vary from year to year depending on…
Belichick:
“I think it can vary from day to day. I think whatever’s best for our football team that’s what I’m for, whatever that is.”


In the back of your mind right now, do you have a feel for what is best?
Belichick:
“I honestly haven’t given it any thought at all. My thoughts are on Jacksonville. We knew that was a game we needed to win and we put a lot into that game and I’m glad the results came out the way they did. Like I said last week, we’ll deal with next week next week, so we’ll deal with this week this week.”
Jacksonville played a two-deep safety and had a safety focused on Moss, when that happens do you sense that Wes could have a big day?
Belichick:
“Well, first of all, that’s the main coverage they use, period. They are a cover two, two match team, [play] a little bit of quarters and they pressured us some. And they also played some single high safeties. They do mix it up and they play a lot of half field coverage, whether it’s quarters or cover two. So that wasn’t really a big surprise that they would run that because they run that against everybody. They ran that against Reggie Wayne last week or whoever else they played.”
You’ve worked a lot with Laurence Maroney personally and this year he’s made a lot of strides. Is it disappointing to have the fumble problem?
Belichick:
“I think all our backs were productive yesterday and they contributed a lot for us. No player wants to fumble. No player wants to throw interceptions. No receiver wants to drop balls. Nobody feels worse about it when that happens than those players do whenever that occurs. It’s something that nobody wants.”
I know how much you enjoy analyzing other teams. What are your thoughts on the Colts yesterday in terms of the decision they made?
Belichick:
“I really didn’t even see it. The Jets beat them. That’s a good win for the Jets in Indianapolis, but I’m really focused on our team.”
When you were 14-0 or 15-0 in 2007, was there any thought to resting Tom Brady because you had already clinched the number one seed at that time?
Belichick:
“Whatever we did in any other year was whatever we thought was the best thing to do, whatever that was — 2003, 2008, or whatever it was. We do what we thought was best, whether anybody agrees with it or not, but that’s what we did and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Does it bother you at all that the Colts decided to rest some of their starters?
Belichick:
“I think every team in this league does everything that we do. I think they do what’s best for their football team. What other interest do we have? We have an interest in our football team, that’s it. What other interest does any other team have? Their football team. So whatever is best for that team, that organization, that’s what you have the right to do. I think every team has that right. We’re all playing by the same rules.”
Yesterday was another game that you didn’t give up any sacks…
Belichick:
“I thought our protection was really good yesterday. I thought those guys did a good job and there were a number of times where Tom [Brady] had the chance to step up into the pocket and had some clear throwing lanes, particularly in the red area, which always makes those throws a little bit better. I thought our offensive line did a real good job in protection and that certainly helped our overall passing efficiency. I didn’t mean to cut you off there, but I wanted to take that opportunity to compliment them because I really thought they did do a good job.
Stephen Neal came back into the lineup and he’s been productive. Is this the lineup you like?
Belichick:
“Well, you know it’s interesting. I was thinking about that yesterday, we’ve never really had all our linemen healthy at the same time. We had Mark [LeVoir] on PUP at the beginning of the year and Dan Connolly missed the first couple games of the year. And then Matt [Light] was out and Nick [Kaczur] was out and Steve [Neal] was out. We’ve just never had all of them healthy at the same time. I don’t even know what our lineup is because we’ve never had that opportunity. Sebastian [Vollmer] played both tackles and Dan and Steve, and Mark has contributed for us, too, as well. How that all is going to workout we’ll just have to … That’s certainly something that if at whatever point we can actually get them all out there, all 10 of them on the field at the same time, to see them all out there at once would be great. Usually, it’s been nine or eight guys, including [Ryan] Wendell, who was on the team earlier in the year and is now down on the practice squad. But he’s part of that group. What would happen if they were actually all out there at the same time? How they would all work together? We just haven’t been able to do that, but the guys that have played I think really have all played well. I think there’s a lot of competition in that entire group.”
It seems pretty rare that you see rotation at the offensive line position. Correct me if I am wrong here, but most teams have five guys stagnant the whole game.
Belichick:
“And we’ve been in that situation a lot, but not this year really. I mean, Logan [Mankins] and Dan [Koppen], but there has been some degree of movement with the other three positions and part due to injuries.”
When everyone is healthy, ideally do you pick five guys?
Belichick:
“Not necessarily. I think in the end, you do what’s best for your football team and who knows what that is. Whatever it is, if you have a reason for it and you think that doing this is better than doing that then I think you can justify it. In the end, it might be right or it might be wrong, I’m not saying that, but I think you can make a case for that.”
Once you get Steve Neal back, does it give you the ability to put Dan Connolly back there as a short-yardage fullback?
Belichick:
“Yeah, he did a good job there. We’ve had Sammy [Morris] doing some of that, but again it was something that when Dan was playing guard that wasn’t a great option for us and now we have a little more flexibility there. We’ve used Dan in the backfield, we used Mark as the second or third tight end, whatever the case might be. We’ve also used Matt and Sebastian there earlier in the year. I think we have some versatility in that group and some flexibility. We’ll just have to see going forward – either by game plan or from a continuity standpoint – how we want to handle it, but we’re fortunate that those guys are pretty versatile and they can handle different assignments and do different things. I thought Dan did a good job as the lead blocker in the fullback position, I thought he did a real good job.”

Defensively, you’ve had more success the last few weeks of getting to the quarterback.
Belichick:
“Well, that’s always a positive when you’re playing from ahead. You can kind of eliminate the running game based on score and you get them in a more passing situation. That helps the pass rush. And if you can make some plays to get to that, then that’s good, too, but it’s a lot easier to rush the passer when you know they’re throwing.”
Is there any direct correlation between the improved communication and the fact you’re able to get more pressure on the quarterback?
Belichick:
“I think overall defensively we’ve had more consistency in the past three weeks, just from an overall standpoint, not any one thing in particular. But the pass rush, the pass coverage, all being a little more consistent or unified, our run defense, our tackling, our communication, our situational play, red area, third-down, short-yardage, two-minute; I think it’s all gotten marginally better. In this league — like we talk about all the time — if each player and each coach – if we can all just improve by five percent over a couple weeks, when you collectively add all that up that’s a big jump and I kind of think that’s where it was. I don’t think it was terrible. I think it’s gotten better and I think that like the raising tide has lifted all boats, so to speak, and we are just all playing at a higher level and maybe coaching at little bit at a higher level than we were at an earlier point in the season. We tried to address some things that were problems and fix them one way or another. And that’s been a combination of things. Hopefully, we can keep going in that same direction.”
What were your impressions of Fred Taylor’s few carries?
Belichick:
“I thought Fred ran hard again. I thought all our backs were productive. He was running in tough conditions. It was the end of the game, they obviously knew we were running the ball, we were in a lot of closed formations and all that, but I thought he ran hard. He hit the holes, he got what was there and a few yards more at times. I think that first time back for a player, after being out for as long as he has, it’s good to get over that hump for his confidence — not that he didn’t have confidence — but still until you actually go out there and do it competitively. I think I was glad we had the opportunity to do that. I’m glad he got some carries and got hit, got tackled and all that. I think next week it will probably be better than it was this week, just like it was with Sammy. He came back a couple weeks ago and I think it’s progressively gotten better in the last couple weeks. I don’t think that’s uncommon, so we’ll just see how it goes. It’s good to have him back out there. I mean, I hope we have all our players out there.”
Tom said he was happy with the play calling and it was really good offensively. Has that been a little bit of a process after losing Josh McDaniels?
Belichick:
“I think each week’s its own week. Every game is its own game, has its own elements to it and there were some things that happened yesterday that fell in our favor. They could have easily not done that and you don’t have any control over that from game to game. When you call a play, you don’t know what they’re going to be in, or how it’s going to match up against a certain defense, or how it’s going to match up against a certain player. So sometimes those work out and you look back on it and say, ‘that was great the way that worked out,’ even if you didn’t exactly plan it that way. And there are other times you look back on it and say, ‘That’s a tough one there.’ Not that it was something new or something exotic, [but] that was a tougher situation than it would have been if it had just dialed up a little bit differently. I think in the end it came down to real good execution by our players offensively and there were some things that kind of fell in our favor, the way the game went, the way the plays matched up. I don’t think it was anything that was necessarily a great strategy on our part or anything, it just kind of worked out that way.”
How much is that the communication between Tom and Bill O’Brien?
Belichick:
“I don’t think it’s communication on the plays, I think we’re way past that. I think it’s more of an execution thing and just being able to go in and say, ‘OK, here are the plays we’re going to run in this situation. The first series of the game, here’s the way we’re going to start the game, the first third and long, the first third and medium, the short-yardage, here’s what we’re going to do.’ After that series is over, you come off and say, ‘The next time it’s second and long, here’s what we’re going to do and here’s what we’re looking for. Next time it’s third and medium, this is what our call is going to be, here’s what we’re looking for, this is what our call is going to be. If we get this matchup, here’s what we want to do.’ Sometimes that flow in the game goes more smoothly than other, that’s the only way I can put it. I wish I could tell you how it’s going to go this week, but honestly I have no idea. Sometimes you get into the game and you feel like you are one move behind and then other games you get into it and you feel like you are one move ahead, you can anticipate it and it just works out that way. Yesterday was one of those days where things kind of fell right for us, which we’ll take.”
Were you happy with the how the defense played against the run yesterday?
Belichick:
“Yeah, Myron [Pryor] came in somewhere in the first quarter. He played a fair amount there at nose in the 3-4 defense. Ron [Brace] played a little bit early in the game and played last week. I think both those guys have done a good job in there. We bumped Mike [Wright] in there a little bit when we put Ty [Warren] in the game. But I think he only played five or six plays, so it wasn’t a lot. Mike [Reiss], you probably have the play count on that. I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but you usually have it right there. But anyway, we used all those guys in there it wasn’t really a set and then as the game went we really weren’t in that defense very much. In the second half, they were mainly in their three wide receiver personnel and we were in our nickel defenses and we had the ball quite a bit there. The fourth quarter they never got it back until … It was about 12 minutes when we had the ball and basically the game was over by the time they got it back. We just really weren’t in that 3-4 defense a lot after the first quarter and a half.”

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