Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussed the Panthers, player discipline (sort of) and the Patriots' offense, among other things in his press conference in Foxborough on Wednesday. Click the full entry button to see the entire transcript, provided by the Patriots' media relations staff:
Opening comments: "OK, well we’re obviously on to Carolina here. [There’re] a lot of good football players on this team. I think John [Fox] has done a good job, as he always has, of coaching. Jeff, Ron [Meeks] and the coordinators and all that, they do a real good job. It’s a well-coached team. They’re fundamentally sound. They run the ball well. They’ve got a great group of backs, big offensive line, good receivers. I thought [Matt] Moore did a good job in there last year at quarterback. [He’s] a real athletic guy, good arm, accurate. I thought he was impressive, as he has been, in his other opportunities, even going back to the games in ’07 that he started. Defensively, this is a pretty talented group – real good defensive line. They have some outstanding players: [Julius] Peppers, [Jon] Beason, [Chris] Gamble – as good as anybody in the league. There are some young guys in the secondary, young, but good players that have some experience playing the last few years. I think they did a good job against Tampa on Sunday. They’ve been in a lot of close games; some have gone their way [and] some haven’t, but they’ve been competitive in just about every game, really, other than the first one against Philadelphia. They’re a physical football team, especially on both lines and their backs are probably as good a group of backs that we’ll see, and we’ve seen some good ones."
There’s report out that four players were sent home this morning for being late to the 8 a.m. meeting. Can you confirm that?
Belichick: "Anything that happens with discipline on the team stays between me and the players on the team."
Will they participate in practice?
Belichick: "Whatever it is will be between me and the players on the team, just like everything else is."
With Tom Brady and that finger injury that came up late last week, how much did you have to change anything in terms of dealing with that?
Belichick: "We didn’t change much. You saw the first drive of that game. The plays we had, we ran. There weren’t really any changes."
Are Matt Moore and Jake Delhomme different in any major ways?
Belichick: "There is a big experience difference; Jake has played a lot of football. Moore reminds me of [Matt] Cassel, very talented player, good arm, can make all the throws. Even going back and watching him in 2007, he makes some very, very good throws. In tight coverage he can really stick it in there. [He’s] an athletic guy, can run around, definitely faster than Jake. Both guys are competent; both guys have been productive. [They have] a little different playing styles. I think the offense is basically the same, but the guy with the ball – they have a little bit different skills. But I think they’re both good and they both can throw and they both make good decisions, make good reads."
It seems it is tough to gauge tight end production. How have you gauged the tight end production?
Belichick: "I think the first thing is the play, and number two is what happens on the play. Some players – sometimes the tight ends are blocking, sometimes they’re part of the pattern, so that depends on what the play is that’s called. When you’re running play action passes and sometimes they get out less because you’re trying to make it look like a run. Part of that is blocking there at either in line or at the end of the line of scrimmage to get the secondary to come up and force, and then try to throw it in behind him. We have a number of plays like that. In the passing game, it just depends on what the coverage is and how the route is designed and where the ball is going to go based on that, and of course who’s open. All of those are factors. Each play, each coverage, each matchup a little bit different. Sometimes there are two or three options on the play and the quarterback will take the option that he feels is the best decision at that particular time, whether it’s down and distance or the coverage matchup or personnel matchup – whatever it is."
How are those guys?
Belichick: "Good. They’ve gotten a lot of playing time and at times we’ve been in multiple receiver sets and they’ve been on the field less, obviously, [when we have] more receivers. And there are other times we have two tight ends on the field and sometimes two backs and one tight end. That tends to give us a little bit of a look defensively from our opponents, so our attack sometimes is a little bit different there, too. It’s been good, but like everything else, it could be better. It’s true of every position. It’s true of every person on the team, player, coach, you name the position [and] we’ll say that about everybody. I think offensively we’ve been able to move the ball and we’ve been pretty consistent doing that, we’ve just got to do a better job in all three phases."
What’s made it difficult the past couple of weeks to get Randy Moss the ball?
Belichick: "We threw him a 50-something-yard touchdown pass, right? Look, we can come in and talk about that every week. There are only so many plays, so, if this guy catches a lot of passes then how come somebody else didn’t catch them? Or, if this guy caught a lot of passes then how come somebody else didn’t carry the ball? Or, if this guy carried the ball then how come somebody else didn’t catch a lot of passes? We can talk about that every week. You can pick out the guys that did it, but then there’s always going to be some guys that didn’t do it, and that’s the way it’s going to be every week. You can do that with every team. There are only so many plays, there are only so many opportunities. Everybody can’t catch a pass and run the ball all in the same play. It’s impossible. What we try to do offensively is move the ball and score points. We move the ball and would like to do better in the red area and get more points out of it, but I think we’re moving the ball pretty well. Could it be better? Of course."
Your record at home is great and your record on the road isn’t so great. Is there a common thread?
Belichick: "I think the games we’ve won we played well enough to win. The games we haven’t, we need to play better and we didn’t play well enough. Our opponents played better than we did, coached better than we did, they did a better job as a team than we did. I think that’s what’s common about it. For us to win more we need to coach and play better."
What characteristics do you look for when drafting a 3-4 linebacker?
Belichick: "I wouldn’t be cautious at all. Anytime you like a player I’m happy to draft them. When you feel like a player’s a good fit for your system and can do what you need them to do, based on whatever the other options are that you have, I am happy to take them. I don’t care what position the guy plays. I think it would be wrong, and I’ve said this many times before, that it would be wrong to characterize our drafting philosophy as ‘we’re going to take this or no we’re not going to take that’. That’s just not true. You can say that, but that’s just not the way it is. We’re going to take the player we feel is the best for our football team and that’s the guy it’s going to be, whatever position it is or isn’t. But for inside linebackers, outside linebackers, depending on how you want to classify them, those guys need to be able to do the things that their job entails. For a player at any position, really, to be a productive player and to be picked probably in that area you would like for him to be able to play all the time. You’d like for him to be able to play on first down, second down and third down. It’s hard to draft linebackers and players like that – defensive linemen, running backs, tight ends or whatever it is. It’s hard to draft those players that don’t contribute on every down. If they don’t, then they really need to be exceptional in the area that they’re in. You draft a guy in the first round that does one thing really well, but then you’ve got to go get somebody else to do something else, then that’s a high price to pay, especially for that role, if you want to call it that. So that’s kind of the battle you’re fighting there. Find somebody that can play every down, like Jerod Mayo, play as well on first down, second down, third down, fourth down. You want to have him in the game in every situation. If you’re comfortable with that then it’s an easy pick."
Is Jon Beason an example of a new age player?
Belichick: "Jon’s really a good player and that’s the guy we talked about that we looked at hard in the draft. He runs well. I mean, he’s playing very well. He makes a lot of tackles and makes a lot of plays. He’s big. He’s physical. He’s got good speed and quickness. He’s a very good pass defender, along with [Jonathan] Vilma. I would say those are probably the two best defending inside linebackers that we’ve played against in a long time. They cover a lot of ground. Jon can play man. He can play zone. He drops deep, but he’s also a very good run player. He’s a physical tackler. He’s got good instincts. He finds the ball. He sees holes. He knows when to run through. He knows when to play over the top. He protects himself well. He’s really a productive player for them and he’s playing behind a good front, too. Those guys in front of him, [Hollis] Thomas, [Damione] Lewis, [Julius] Peppers, [Landon] Johnson and all those guys – [Everette] Brown, they are very good, too. It’s hard to be putting a lot of guys up on the linebackers and run them past the guys on the defensive line, so sometimes you end up blocking the guys on the front and you don’t quite get to the linebackers and they’re the beneficiary of that, too. That being said, Beason makes a lot of plays on his own, too."
Apparently Tom Brady’s baby was born last night or this morning, is that going to affect his availability at all this week?
After the game Tom had some strong comments about when the team faces adversity sometimes they fight and sometimes they don’t fight very hard. With something like that, is that something you can find this late in the year or is that something that develops over time?
Belichick: "I think every team in the league – every year – every team goes through adversity in different forms. That’s part of competition. Not every play is a touchdown. Not every play is a sack. Not every play is an interception. There’re going to be plays that people get against us. There’re going to be plays that we get against our opponents. You’re going to have to play through those plays and those situations. We’ve got two undefeated teams, but for all the rest of us, we’ve all lost games [and] we’ve all won them. There’s going to be the ups and downs in that, too. Within the game, within the season, when you start playing football in August and play through December, January, whatever it is, not everything is going to go perfect. Every team has to deal with that. Certainly we’re one of those [teams]."
Do you agree with Tom and his idea that the team doesn’t fight very hard?
Belichick: "You’d have to ask Tom about his comments. I’ve told you how I feel about the team."
Do you lean back on your 30 years of experience in regards to this team not playing well on the road?
Belichick: "I’ve always felt, and I don’t think it’s going to change, that if you play well you’re going to win – you’re going to do alright. If you don’t play well, you’re not. Put the game wherever you want to put it. Put it in China. Put it out here in the parking lot. Put it at home. Put it away. Put it at a neutral field. If you play well – maybe the other team might play a little bit better, but for the most part – if you play well, you’re going to win. If you don’t play well, you’re not going to win. If you make plays at the critical times in the game – in close games, which most of the games are in this league, I’d say over half of them – you’re probably going to win those games. If you don’t make them at those times, then you’re probably not. I don’t think that’s any big secret."
How much of Carolina’s running scheme is similar to what you guys do?
Belichick: "They have a good balance. They have their zone scheme. They have their different blocking schemes based on the front and they use a couple tight ends and [Brad] Hoover as a fullback, so different combinations with those players and they create different blocking angles and so forth. But they’re a big, physical offensive line and although they do pull some they don’t pull a lot. They try to get on their guys and block them and give the backs some space. And those guys do a real good job of finding it, breaking tackles and getting yards that are there, but then getting yards on their own. [The] receivers – especially [Muhsin] Muhammad is a good blocker. He’s one of the better blockers we face, so they get some matchups with him on safeties or corners that he can cover up, and that creates some space in the running game, too. They have a good combination of schemes and plays that keep you honest, along with the play action to go with it. So teams that crowd the line of scrimmage, they whip it down there to [Steve] Smith and the tight ends."
On a day like today, was there any thought of practicing outside?
Belichick: "Yeah, but I don’t think we will. I think we’ll be inside. I don’t think that we’ll get this on Sunday. I’m sure it’s not going to be balmy, but I think we need a good day of timing and execution, so we’ll try to get that inside today."