Bill Belichick spoke with reporters this morning in the wake of the Patriots’ 35-34 loss to the Colts, and naturally, a certain fourth-down play late in the game was the subject of many questions. To read the full transcript of the coach’s press conference, as provided by the Patriots’ media relations department, click “full entry” at the bottom of the post.
Belichick’s opening remarks: “All right, I think after the last 12 hours — or whatever it’s been — it’s pretty much more of the same feelings that we had from last night. There were a lot of good things in the game. Obviously, the Colts are a good football team. I thought we played them well, we played them hard. We had some opportunities and we just collectively weren’t able to do quite as much with them. It’s disappointing to come up short in a game like that and I think we all feel it — as we should [because] we put a lot into it. There were a lot of plays in that game that you think about. Obviously from a coaching standpoint, there’re always a lot of things that could have been done better by me, the players and everybody else. You always feel that way after a tough loss like that. We’ve all got to do a better job starting with me and find a way to win those games.”
Did you get a chance to look at the replay at all to see how close Kevin Faulk was [on the fourth-and-2 play from the Colts 28, a completion that came up short of the marker]?
Belichick: “I’m sure you got a better look at it than I did — I mean, [I got] the coaches’ copy. It was a close play, obviously. There were a lot of those.”
The decision to go for it at the end . . .
Belichick: “The same thing I said after the game: I thought it was our best chance to win. I thought we needed to make that one play and then we could basically run out the clock. We weren’t able to make it.”
The punt team, they began to come out. Tom Brady came over to the side and it looked like he looked at you.
Belichick: “No. We had a little miscommunication on that as to whether we were going to go or punt it, and so then once some of the guys on the punt team started out, then the guys on offense started to come off. That wasn’t cleanly handled. Again, I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Do you leverage on the variables and the thought process behind why that was the best chance?
Belichick: “Because I thought if we got the first down there we’d be able to run out most of the clock.”
Would you do it again?
Belichick: “You only get one chance.”
[On the Colts moving the ball quickly down the field]
Belichick: “We knew that. It didn’t take those drives to figure that out. It’s an explosive offense; we’ve seen them do it in one play. They did it to us two years ago on a 73-yard check down to [Joseph] Addai. It went the whole length of the field. We know how explosive they are. Anytime they have the ball they are capable of scoring. They’re capable of scoring touchdowns. They’re capable of scoring them in a hurry. They’re capable of scoring them in one play. That’s playing the Colts. I don’t think that’s anything that was overly significant in this game and that’s the way it is in every game.”
Are you concerned the defense might feel a lack of confidence in them that you didn’t let them try to stop Manning for 60, 70 yards?
Belichick: “I tell the team . . . and I think they believe that I do what I feel like is best for our football team to win every game. I put the team first and I put those decisions first. I would hope everybody understands that.”
How important will it be for the team to bounce back?
Belichick: “Every week is important. We are playing the Jets here and it’s a huge game, a division game. They beat us down there, so they’ve got a little bit of an edge on us in that part of the competition, and the tie breakers and so forth and all that, so of course it’s an important game. It’s a division game, so it’s important to play well every week.”
If you had converted on that fourth down, today everybody would be saying it was a brilliant decision. Does that come with the territory of being a head coach?
Belichick: “Well, there’re a lot of the decisions in the game that we all have to make – coaches, players. Each play is filled with decisions and you try to do the best you can on those and I think that’s what we all do.”
Are you satisfied with the game management and clock management there with the timeouts on that final drive?
Belichick: “As I said, the substitution [with] the punt team and all that, that definitely could. That wasn’t good.”
Were there a lot of different plays to consider?
Belichick: “No, we felt good about that play. That’s why we called it; we felt good about it.”
Did Kevin Faulk go far enough?
Belichick: “I think he had the first down when the ball hit his hands and where it was finally marked and all was a little bit short. He was across the 30-yard line when the ball touched him.”
Did you disagree with that spot?
Belichick: “It doesn’t really matter.”
The timeout you had to take for the first-down play, was that a communication issue?
Belichick: “It was a situation where it was obviously a critical play, we were heading into a series and we just wanted to make sure that everything was right because of what the Colts had done through the course of the game. And the play we had called — Tom [Brady], Dante [Scarnecchia] and Billy [O’Brien] and I — we wanted to make sure we had it exactly the way we wanted it because there was an option on the play, so rather than run the play we took a timeout there to make sure we had it straight.”
How about the timeout at the start of the third quarter, what happened with that one?
Belichick: “Kind of the same thing. We had a formation that we weren’t lined up properly in and the ball was about to be snapped and Wes [Welker] saw that there was something wrong, or he knew there was something wrong, and he took the timeout for that play not to be a potentially bad play. I think that was a good decision on Wes’s part. I was getting ready to do the same thing.”
When you called the third-down play, did you have in mind that if they didn’t get it you would go for it on fourth down?
Belichick: “No, we pretty much made that decision on third down.”
Was sending the punt team out basically to try to get the defense . . .
Belichick: “No, I said it was a miscommunication on our part that a couple guys started out and then the offense reacted to that and the punt team kind of reacted to the offense, and it wasn’t cleanly handled on the substitution.”
Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi had some critical comments, did you listen to that?
Belichick: “No, I haven’t. We got back at 5 [a.m.] this morning and watched the film this morning. I don’t think I am probably up on all the commentary.”
In general, do criticisms like that bother you?
Belichick: “Whether they are yours or they are somebody else’s, you are entitled to your opinion. I am sure you have one.”
Can you talk about your strategy against Dallas Clark?
Belichick: “He had a couple plays there. Those two receivers are outstanding. I mean, I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne. That guy is the best receiver we cover every year and it seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made last night were nothing short of spectacular, with the go route, the two touchdown catches, the third down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He’s a tremendous receiver and he had some production against us. I thought [Jonathan] Wilhite played well and covered him well. There were some great throws and great catches. Clark, his two big catches were plays he was wide open on; We just didn’t do a good enough job on that. Overall, [Brandon] McGowan was on him quite a bit. I thought Brandon challenged him well and played him well. Plays he was open on, both of them, were play-action passes and we just didn’t . . . We kind of got out of position on the play-action a little bit and the coverage that we had on him just wasn’t there. I thought McGowan and Wilhite both, on the matchups, covered those two guys very well. Wayne had some stats and like I said, they were great routes, great catches and a couple great throws to go with it. It would be hard to say much to Wilhite. He did about all he could do on a couple of those plays.”
When you see them next, what is your message to your defense?
Belichick: “When the team comes in Wednesday, we will start getting ready for the Jets. That’s what we do every week: start turning the page and we move on.”
What were your thoughts on Sebastian Vollmer?
Belichick: “I thought we competed well against the Colts across the board. Sebastian competed hard. [Dwight] Freeney got a couple plays on him, but Vollmer certainly held his own and he blocked him a lot of times. Freeney’s the defensive equivalent to Reggie Wayne. You can do everything right and there are still a few plays that those guys are going to make, but I thought Sebastian played hard, played well against him.”
Can you talk about your decision to move Isaiah Stanback up to the active roster and give him a couple opportunities at receiver?
Belichick: “Well, we put Brandon Tate on injured reserve and we needed a receiver to fill his spot. [Julian] Edelman was a game-time decision. We really weren’t sure about that one until, literally, a couple hours before the game. So Isaiah was the fourth receiver for the game and we felt like we needed that with our offense to be able to go into the game and we had Edelman available, too. That’s not something we were sure of. We knew it was a possibility, but we couldn’t count on that until right there at the end.”
You’ve always been supported in the past, do you think it’s unfair to be criticized for the one time the play you called doesn’t work?
Belichick: “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion out there. I respect that.”
Tedy Bruschi said it would have made his blood boil for weeks to not get a shot to stop Peyton Manning in that situation. Do you expect your defense to take that approach?
Belichick: “I don’t know. You would have to ask them [about that]. I told you what my explanation was and that’s what it is. Yeah, you’d have to ask them.”
You had quite a few players banged up and leave the game. Are you still waiting to see how serious those injuries are?
Belichick: “Sure, we had several guys leave the game early that didn’t come back. Like I said, we just got back early this morning. There’s not really a whole lot of new information. We’ll see where everybody is today, tomorrow and then more importantly Wednesday when we go out on the field to practice. At least we’ll have some idea then. If they can practice then that’s good; if they can’t, then we’ll see how long it is before they can get out there and actually start participating. We won’t really know a whole lot here until the next couple of days.”
For you, is this game tougher to leave behind?
Belichick: “Yeah, every loss is hard, so yeah.”