You mentioned consistency, is there anything you can put your finger on? Was it stuff they were doing?
Belichick: "Oh, well, I think there was a number of close plays. We missed a couple third-down conversions. We didn’t run the ball as well in the second half, after we had that long drive in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we didn’t run the ball as well. We missed a couple tackles on defense that gave up some yardage, as well as in the kicking game on our coverage teams, kickoff coverage play at the end of the half. Just plays that -- had they been a little bit better -- would have put us in a better position than what we were in. It wouldn’t have taken a whole lot. There were a couple throws down the field that we just missed on. Knock a couple balls out there on the punt returns, couldn’t get them."
In the past, you guys have spread the ball around to a bunch of different guys. In this game, only two other guys besides Randy Moss and Wes Welker caught balls. Would you like more guys to be involved?
Belichick: "We threw them to Kevin [Faulk]. We threw them to Sam [Aiken]. Julian [Edelman], we had some chances to get him the ball. Chris [Baker], Benjamin Watson. Chris, on the goal line there the ball got knocked down, so we were throwing to other guys. It just didn’t always work out there, but it wasn’t like we didn’t throw to them. We didn’t hit a lot of passes, period. It didn’t matter who were throwing to. When you’re under 50 percent completion that’s not where you want to be."
When you have playmakers like Randy and Wes, is there a balance between trying to get the ball in their hands and then just running your offense the way the defense dictates it?
Belichick: "Yeah, well, that’s what we try to do. We try to run our offense the way … I mean, certain plays some guys might have a better chance to get the ball than others, based on what you expect the defense to do. But they change, too, so you don’t always get the exact look that you think you’re going to get. You might think, ‘alright, if we get this defense, here’s what will happen on this play,’ but you don’t always get that. You have to read it out. Again, we threw the ball down the field to Sam a couple times, so again, when the defense takes one thing away, then hopefully we have options somewhere else. It’s not like we’re just standing there looking for one guy."
Is there a benefit to showing the defense that you’re going to go downfield, even if you don’t complete the pass? Maybe that affects the way the defense plays you a little bit even if you don’t hit it.
Belichick: "If that’s your best option on the play or you have a chance. Just because you have two guys on somebody doesn’t necessarily mean that player’s covered. It should, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. We certainly experience that on defense ourselves. Times when we think we have a guy covered, put an extra guy on him and they still catch it. You still have to cover him. Is that the best option? It could be, but not always. We certainly don’t want to throw it into double coverage if the receiver’s covered, we’d like to find somebody that’s open. If they are doubling the guy, then they’re probably going to respect his ability or respect him on those routes anyway. I don’t think we need to throw it in there to make sure they do it, but if he’s open, sometimes there is. You can double guys in and out and give up deep patterns like what happened in the Miami game or sometimes you can double guys short and deep and give up underneath crossing patterns like what happened yesterday with Randy a couple times, where they had help over the top and he was on a shallow route. Just because they double a guy doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s covered. If he is covered, then we want to throw the ball to somebody else."
There were a couple underneath routes to Randy where it almost looked like they were clearing out for him to come. Were those designed to go to Randy?
Belichick: "It depends on the coverage. It depends on what they’re in."
What was the biggest improvement, in your mind, on the run defense?
Belichick: "I think after the first drive we kind of saw what they were doing, how they were attacking us. They had a couple schemes for our 3-4 defense, which is not unexpected. We see that every week anyway. We just talked about our technique a little bit. We talked about how we wanted to play the plays and I think we defended them better. We mixed in some calls. Dean [Pees], Pepper [Johnson] and Matt [Patricia] talked about making some adjustments in the front from a call standpoint that would change where our players were placed a little bit and I think that might have helped us there. In the end, it comes down to they have seven or eight guys, you have seven or eight guys, either you block them, or you get blocked or you don’t. So ultimately it comes down to the technique and the ability of the players and tackling the runner, which those two runners were very tough guys to tackle. There were a number of times where we actually had pretty decent position on the play and they ended up gaining yards, so finishing the play and making the tackles is certainly important and especially against guys like that. Last week, it was [DeAngelo] Williams and [Jonathan] Stewart. Next week, it’s [Maurice] Jones-Drew. We’ve seen a lot of good runners — and the week before it was Ricky Williams — you see a lot of good runners in this league and being able to make the tackles, that’s a big part of it, too."
How do you think Ron Brace did yesterday?
Belichick: "I thought Ron did a pretty solid job in there. It wasn’t perfect. There were some things that I’m sure when he sees, he’ll be able to see how he could have handled those better. But I thought he did a pretty solid job. He was in on a few plays. I thought he moved laterally down the line of scrimmage several times and made some tackles. He’s a strong guy. He did a good job of pushing inside. He didn’t get knocked off the ball, so that’s important."
With Dean Pees in the booth the last few weeks, it looks like Josh Boyer and Matt Patricia are taking on more roles on the sideline. Can you talk about the responsibilities, as far as sending in signals and their role in the communication from the sideline to the players?
Belichick: "Basically, Josh and Dean switched spots a few weeks ago. What Josh was doing upstairs, Dean’s doing now, in addition to calling the defenses, and Josh is handling the secondary adjustments on the field. Matt handles the linebacker adjustments. And Pepper handled the defensive line adjustments on the field. Dean makes the calls from upstairs. That’s basically what it is. We change up how we call the signals. If we call them over the headset than that’s one thing, but if we signal them, which we have done and need to do at some points -- no huddles, two minutes, when the system breaks down, which it seems like it always done at some point, we change up that signaling procedure. So different guys can be involved in that."
Has the communication on defense gotten better as this season has gone on?
Belichick: "Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a defense where the communication is 100 percent. You’d like it to be in the high 90s. There always seems like there’s something, whether it’s the substitution of the offense, the call of the defense, the adjustment, just getting everything right against what they’re doing. Sometimes at a fast pace, sometimes with different personnel or different looks from the offense, when they change formations or give you a new look and getting everyone on the same page. That’s always a challenge. That’s a part of it every week. I think as a defense we had fewer issues yesterday than we’ve had in some other games and there’s still some things that we need to get straightened out. Does that mean it will be that way next week, hopefully but there’s not guarantee of that. It’s back to another week of preparation, another game plan and another team that will give us different adjustments and different looks to try to make it hard on us. That’s what offensive coaches do. We’ll always be challenged by that. It’s an ongoing struggle. We try to give them some looks that they have to adjust to."
You and your players talk about being complimentary, was yesterday a pretty good example of that? Did the secondary’s performance look good on film?
Belichick: "I think yesterday it was better. I’d say better coordination of team defense, team pass defense. We had a number of plays where we only rushed three guys. [There were] times where we jammed the receivers when we were able to keep the ball from throwing quickly, gated the pass rush a little bit, the extra time to get there since we were sending one less guy. There were other times where we pressured more and the coverage was tighter and that was good. We didn’t give up a lot of long plays in the passing game, which is always one of our objectives. We had a couple 20-yarders, but that was about it. It wasn’t a big day for their big receivers. We’ve all seen [Terrell] Owens’ 98-yarders and Evans’ 50-yarders and all that. It was good to not have those and of course, it’s always a function of the pass rush and the coverage. I thought there were a number of times where that was good. I thought the pass rush guys did a good job. Again, we used a lot of different people. We kind of had our defensive linemen in there on early downs and then had all our linebackers in there on the passing downs. They handled those roles pretty well and I think it was a good compliment for the way it worked out this game. I don’t know if that will hold true in other weeks. I doubt it, but it was good yesterday."
You talked about positives in the game. If you were to list them down, what would be at the top of the list? As you reviewed the film today, is there one thing that you came out of this game and said, ‘That was something we did really well?
Belichick: "I think there were a number of things we did well. As I said, one of the things we didn’t do well is do them consistently. There are times we ran the ball well. There were times where we converted third downs, scored in the red area offensively; not in the third quarter, but in the first half we did. Defensively, we had a couple stops in the red area, but not in the end of the game. Our short-yardage defense, that could have been better, but overall third-down defense was good. I think individually, along the line, like our vice on the punt return, I thought those guys did a good job. Not that our punt return stats were out of this world, but the vice on the perimeter guys was good. I wouldn’t say either team had a great day punting the ball, backed up. There’s some good plus-50 punts, but it wasn’t a great punting day for either team on the long field. I think some of the positives there weren’t consistent and then there were some good individual performances. Mike Wright had a tremendous game, about as good as a defensive lineman can play really. I mean all the things he did in the running game, passing game, pursued. He played a couple different positions. He played left end. He played nose. He actually had some snaps in sub. So individually there were some great things along the way, too."
You went into the year with five cornerbacks. Do you think you have the best combination now in Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden and Jonathan Wilhite playing?
Belichick: "I think that’s been OK for us the last couple weeks. How that will be going forward, matching up against another team, we’ll just have to take that on a week to week kind of basis. Those guys all have some versatility. They’ve all done some different things. We’ve matched up differently over the course the year and we’ll just have to look at it week to week as to how we feel the best way to do it is. I don’t think a combination has been good for us the last couple weeks. Then there’s always some thought of whether you want to change that versus … Do you want to keep the continuity you have? Or do you want to have a matchup that you think is your best matchup against your particular opponent? That’s always something that you have to think a little bit about, but I think those guys have done a good job, and James [Sanders] as well the last couple weeks. As far as the secondary goes, he’s had a little more playing time and I think he’s done a good job in there, too. And Brandon McGowan played a decent amount of snaps. He had about 20 plays yesterday and I thought he was productive. So as long as everybody’s producing and as long as the defense is playing well as a unit than that’s really the main goal."
You mentioned some of the missed opportunities in the second half. Are you satisfied with how your team is closing out games?
Belichick: "I think last week against Carolina, the last five minutes of the game were probably the best five minutes of the game for us. I wouldn’t say that about yesterday until… There were a lot of good things in the fourth quarter, defensively and the last drive, the last conversion, was good offensively, but then we missed opportunities prior to that and the three possessions before that. Defensively, even with not really good field position we kept them out of the end zone and we played pretty good until the last series where we got stopped on offense and we had a bad punt, a good punt return and gave up the touchdown, but then we were able to get the ball back and run out the clock on the final possession. Again, what’s good was good and what’s good also wasn’t good. There was a little bit of theme to that throughout the whole game. There were things that we did well and there were times that we didn’t do them as well."
Is it fair to say that Chris Baker has been a key to you guys running the ball well?
Belichick: "Yeah, I think the tight ends always play a big part in that, probably an underrated part -- Benjamin [Watson] and Chris. Again, as much as a team like Carolina last week and Buffalo yesterday plays the over fronts, where the defensive linemen are out there on the edge, where it’s not a linebacker and those combination blocks with the tackles or having to block those tight ends, the tight ends having to block those defensive ends on some single blocks. That’s pretty competitive. It’s a big assignment. I think they’ve done a good job and they’ve helped us out there. And we’ve been able to get the ball outside the three or four weeks, better than we had earlier in the season, and those guys are a big part of that, or Sammy [Morris], or whoever those perimeter guys are."
Did you see Chris Baker doing that kind of stuff when he was in New York?
Belichick: "Yeah, you can watch Chris play and see him do all the things that that position does. Even lining up in the backfield, he’s done that some. The inside motioning, the perimeter off-the-line plays, the on-the-line plays. I think he has a pretty good feel for those things — the wham blocks, the flash blocks, where they come all the way back, the point of attack blocks. I think he’s a pretty versatile guy and that helps you in the running game, so you’re not always doing the same thing with that player and it makes the defense have to defend the blocking combinations."
Did you come up with any clever and catchy names for that defense you were in?
Belichick: "No, I wanted to see what you could come up with there. We could do a fan poll on that. See what we could do."
Adalius Thomas called it organized chaos.
Belichick: "That’s kickoff coverage. Yeah, see what you can come up with on that."