Patriots coach Bill Belichick touched on a range of topics in his postgame interview. Here's the full transcript, with his opening statement.
Bill Belichick: That’s a good football team we played today and I’m really proud of our players. We went through a lot of adversity today – you know, four turnovers. Down there at the end of the game we had a great drive and we came through with some big plays in the clutch, so you’ve got to give the players all the credit in the world. They hung in there. It was a hard-fought game. We just, fortunately, made a couple more plays than they did. It’s a good win. It was a tough week of preparation and that’s a good football team.
How does Tom Brady, who was frustrated for 57 minutes, look that good in the last three minutes?
I think we just did a good job all the way around. Tom did a good job. We got good protection. Our receivers caught the ball, broke some tackles, got open. You can’t say enough about the offensive line. They knew we were through. They pressured us at the end and they’ve got some really good pass rushers and we were able to block them long enough to hit some plays. It was a good team effort there at the end in the two-minute or three-minute drive when we got the ball back at 2:40 or 2:30.
Can you talk about your defense as a whole, especially just before that last game-winning drive?
We had our moments. We had our moments. I thought we missed a lot of tackles today. That was the biggest problem. Obviously, they’ve got a lot of good runners – guys that can handle the ball and are tough to tackle. The backs, the receivers, the tight end – they’re all hard [to tackle]. We’ve got to do a better job of tackling, but we were able to play well in the red area and hold them to some field goals. Ultimately, the touchdowns beat the field goals, so we were fortunate there. But sure, that was a big drive getting the ball back, stopping the run. It looked like [Brandon] Spikes got in there on the middle linebacker blitz and kind of fouled up the first play; we got them for a negative play and then the false start penalty at the end. That was a key series for us.
On the play down at the goal line that it looked like Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork kind of disrupted, was that something you had seen? It looked like the defense was ready for it.
Yeah, well, he was actually coming on a blitz on the weak side and when they pulled, it looked like he kind of just got in the back pocket of the puller and they weren’t able to cut him off so he ran it down from the back side. They do a good job down there. They have a lot of deceptive plays. They ran the submarine pass for a touchdown. They ran the roll pass out in the flat to the tailback. They do stuff like that that’s misdirection or plays that are a little bit different down there that you don’t get a chance to work on. Fortunately we were able to make the play on that. Brandon made a good tackle and that was a big stop for us.
It looked like Andre Carter was able to break through for a few sacks. What was he able to do today to be so successful?
He’s been playing very well for us. Andre is very athletic and he’s powerful. He’s a strong guy. He's got a good power rush and he can also rush off the edge. He comes hard every play. He’s got a great motor. Nobody plays with more effort than he does. He T’s it up every time. Sometimes he just outworks those guys
You’ve seen Tom Brady lead those kinds of comebacks many times over the past decade. When you’re watching that, are you nervous or are you confident?
I mean, the series before, we go three-and-out and it’s the same situation and we go three-and-out on the drive. It was a good defense. Dallas is a good football team. They’re hard to move the ball against, especially on longer drives. They can rush the passer. They’re playing a lot of five, six, seven defensive backs in there. There were a lot of them. It wasn’t easy today. You go back out there and you’re – what was it, an 80-yard drive? You’re a long way away from the goal line and you haven’t really moved the ball all that well. We had three turnovers on offense and one in the kicking game, so yeah, it’s tough. But again, we had some guys step up and make some big plays – Wes [Welker] and Aaron [Hernandez] and Woody [Danny Woodhead]. Our line did a great job with protection because they were rushing hard; they were coming after us.
Is it their athleticism or their schemes that make their defense so good?
They’ve got good players. They’re well-coached and they’ve got good players.
You’ve seen some of the best quarterbacks in the game, and Tom Brady clearly belongs in that category –
There’s no quarterback I’d rather have. I’ve said it before. There’s no quarterback I’d rather have. I’m not going to get into the ranking and all that, but I’m glad he’s our quarterback.
Can you talk about Aaron Hernandez fumbling earlier in the game and then being able to come back and make the catch at the end of the game?
He was able to redeem himself today. Luckily, he got that chance. That opportunity doesn’t always come again. We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, period. Two fumbles, two interceptions – you’re not going to win many games with four turnovers. We were fortunate today, but we won’t last doing that.
Your tight ends were again very involved in the passing game. It seemed like Tom Brady was looking for them in the fourth quarter
It’s not so much looking for one guy. It’s taking the pattern and finding the matchups and the guys that are open. We threw to Wes, we threw to Deion [Branch], we threw to the tight ends, we threw to the backs. I think the ball got spread around a little bit and again, some of that is just based on the coverages they were playing and it’s how it worked out on those patterns.
What is it about Joe Montana or Tom Brady or any great athlete in any sport that’s seems to thrive in those high pressure situations? From a coaching perspective, what is it?
You’ve just got to block it out. You’ve got to block all that out and just go out there and execute. Be able to play under pressure, whatever the positions is, and be able to go out there and do your job and get rid of everything else and execute the plays. The situation is part of it, too – knowing when you’re trying to get out of bounds or stop the clock or run time off the clock or whatever. Definitely that’s part of it, but it really comes down to execution, whether it’s sinking free throws or…
It happens to you in coaching, and it almost looks like guys like you and Tom Brady can focus more instead of letting all the emotion overcome you.
Yeah, I mean, you get to a certain point there in the game where there’s only a few plays left and then after a couple of those, there are even fewer left. You only have a few plays; you only have a few options. You have to try to figure out which one is the best one.
What did you learn about your team here tonight?
We need to tackle better. We made some stops in the red area. I mean, we’ve been doing that; over the course of the year, we’ve been fairly good in the red area. Our third-down defense was okay. We played competitively. We’re getting a little better each week. I think [if] we can continue to have good practices, improve our fundamental techniques, and practice well, that we can continue to improve in all three areas of the game, but of course on defense.
Is there anything that changed between that three-and-out and the following winning drive? Brady goes three-and-out and then all of a sudden, he’s unstoppable.
We got about nine yards on the first play. It’s second-and-one and then we get hit for a loss and it’s third-and-six – or seven or five, whatever it was – and we couldn’t make the play.
Given the nature of the injuries you guys have in the secondary, how happy were you with how they looked today?
We had our moments today. We had our moments, but there are some things we definitely need to do better. But I think our guys competed well – Kyle [Arrington] and Devin [McCourty], especially out there. They played a lot of football. They competed hard. It wasn’t perfect. Leigh [Bodden] gave us some snaps in there on nickel defense. James [Ihedigbo] has done a good job for us over the last couple of weeks at safety with the communication and tackling and so forth. So, we’ll just keep working on it and keep trying to improve.
Can you take us through your mindset and your emotions on that final drive? What’s going through your head?
It was 2:40 to go in the game – whenever we got the ball back. We’re on the 20-yard line, so the first thing is to try to get into field goal range and make sure that we have an opportunity to extend the game at a minimum. So we’re playing to get to field goal range first, and then once we got into field goal range, then depending on how much time we have left, then we could try to win it. It’s kind of similar to the Denver game from ’03. We drove down and then hit [David Givens] at the end of the game. So you’re driving into field goal range and then if you get there, then you try to get seven points to win it. But make sure that you are least get yourself in position to get the field goal. We had a couple good plays there, the first one to Aaron [Hernandez] to get out of the hole. We went from the 20 to about the 40 on that one. And then we were able to get the ball up the field with the pass to Wes – a couple passes to Wes. Then we got it down there in the red area and the offensive line did a great job. Tom was able to step up, slide into the pocket and made a great throw to Aaron, and Aaron made a great catch.