Bill Belichick Press Conference
Bill Belichick: Obviously, we're back to work here on the Colts. It's an exciting opportunity for our football team. At the start of the season, and I'm going all the way back to January, February, March of the offseason program and so forth, it's every team's goal to be in this game. Right now, we're down to four teams. It's an honor for us to be one of them playing in the AFC Championship game against a team that we have the utmost respect for in the Indianapolis Colts. They were in our division for a while. We played them twice a year. It seems like they're still in our division in the way we're playing them twice a year and on a number of occasions since then. It's a team that we know well. They know us well and we have the utmost respect for them from the top of the organization, Jimmy [Irsay] to Bill Polian, Tony Dungy and his staff and the team. We know them very well. They're a very good football team from top to bottom. They're well coached. They're well organized. They have a lot of great players. They play well in every phase of the game. They certainly have a very potent offense. They can run the ball. Can throw it. Their offensive line can pass protect. We all know about their skill players. Defensively, they're very quick and active on their front seven. They're good in the secondary. They don't give up a lot of plays. They make you work for it. They can rush the passer. They can stop the run and they turn the ball over, which they certainly did a good job of against us. With Adam [Vinatieri] and [Terrence] Wilkins, they have good players on special teams. They're dangerous there. They're a poised team, an experienced team, and a very talented team. Our goal is to play our best football this week, have a good week of preparation and do everything we possibly can and put our best effort out there Sunday afternoon. That's all we're focused on. Nothing else. We know we've had a great history with this team, and it's gone in different cycles as to who has had the upper hand and how the games have gone and so forth and so on, but to me, I don't think really any of that makes any difference. It doesn't matter what happened this year, last year in some other game or in some other situation. What it comes down to is what's going to happen Sunday afternoon --these two teams and this group of players and coaches and how it all matches up on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. I don't really care too much about what happened in the past -- good, bad or indifferent. I'm a lot more focused on what we can do this week and how it's going to play itself out. That's kind of our outlook on the game. Like I said, we're excited to be here. We are excited to be in this game. We know it's up against a great team. The Colts have been tremendous this year in the playoffs against Kansas City. That was a dominant performance and to go in to Baltimore and win in Baltimore, obviously it's a great performance by their football team. They certainly deserve to be there. We won our wild card game, we won our divisional game on the road like they did, so I think both teams have earned their spot here, earned it with some good football and we're looking forward to playing in the championship game.
Q: [Bob] Sanders seems to have had a huge impact on their defense.
BB: Sanders is a good player. There's no question about that. Bob Sanders is a good football player, but that's no one-man band over there, by any stretch of the imagination. It's a good defensive football team. They have a good front. They're active. They're quick. Those two ends put a lot of pressure on the passer. [Cato] June, [Gary] Brackett, [Anthony] McFarland, that's a good front seven and they turn the ball over in the secondary. [Antoine] Bethea has given them good, quality play in the secondary. The corners, [Jason] David or [Marlin] Jackson, which they use both of them and use them in nickel as well. [Nick] Harper. Those guys have played well and they certainly have played well against us. It's no one-man band over there on defense. I'll tell you that. Bob Sanders is a good football player, I'm not taking anything away from him, but they have a lot more than that.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about their success against the run the last couple of weeks against both Larry Johnson and Jamal Lewis?
BB: You can talk about the run all you want. Talking about the run, it's been great. Their defense has been great. Those two teams were 3-for-22 on third down against them. They're a good defensive football team. They can play the run. They can rush the passer. They turn the ball over. They play good in the red area. They've done a good job in every phase of the game. They're strong across the board on defense. That's the bottom line. It's not just one thing or one guy or anything like that. They do a good job as a team. They play good team defense. They're sound. They don't give up many big plays, throughout the course of the season I'm talking about, they've given up very few. That's been a big part of their success as well.
Q: Can you talk about [Joseph] Addai and what you saw from him mid-year to now?
BB: I think they have good depth in the backfield. I think that Addai and [Dominic] Rhodes both are quality backs. They're quick. They're strong. They break tackles. They have good run vision. They run a lot of zone blocking schemes and those holes can come in different spots. It could be outside. It could be inside. It could cut back if everybody on the defense is at the point of attack, because the ball could hit anywhere, and those guys do a good job with their run vision of finding the seams and getting into the holes. I would say both Rhodes and Addai are very good in the passing game as well, both as receivers and in protection. They're good, all around quality backs. Whichever guy is in there, I think they can do whatever they want to do. I don't think they're worried about it. I wouldn't be worried about it either.
Q: Is there a reason why across-the-board they're better at home?
BB: They're a good football team. Ask Baltimore what they thought of them on the road. Go down there and see what the Ravens thought.
Q: Is there a reason why?
BB: They're good. They're good at home. We got beat up the last two times we played them at home. You go talk to somebody who doesn't think they're any good, but it's not going to come from here.
Q: What makes it so challenging to get [Peyton] Manning off the spot?
BB: They're good. They're good. They run the ball. They're a good pass protection team. They're good in blitz pickup. They run good routes. They get rid of the ball quickly. They do everything well. It's hard to beat the blockers. It's hard to cover the receivers and they're a good timing team in the passing game.
Q: How important is it to get him off the spot?
BB: It's important to disrupt the passing game however you can disrupt it. It's hard to do, but it's important.
Q: How have your safeties played? You've been missing [Eugene] Wilson and [Rodney] Harrison for most of the year. How would you assess the year?
BB: I think Artrell [Hawkins] and James [Sanders], and Chad [Scott] when he's been in there, that those guys have done a good job. You're right, there have been some moving parts and communication is a big part of that position. It's a big part of the defense as it relates to that position. Those guys work hard. They've certainly improved and as they've worked together, their communication and the coordination back there in the secondary, and particularly at those positions, has gotten better.
Q: How has your kicker handled replacing Adam?
BB: Our kicker has come in and kicked well all year.
Q: How tough is it to prepare for the noise in the dome?
BB: It's always hard offensively to deal with that. You can't hear the snap count, so you have to find another way to do it. We've been on the road quite a bit this year, just like everybody else has. There's a lot of stadiums that are loud and I'm sure it will be loud in Indianapolis. It will be a challenge for us, like it always is, but we're going to have to deal with that just like we've had to deal with it other weeks on the road.
Q: Does it give their pass rushers an advantage maybe with the silent counts and everything because they get off the ball so quick?
BB: Look, they get off the ball quick no matter where you do it. When the ball moves, they move. I think it comes down to, offensively, having good execution and making sure that you do a good job with however you organize the cadence. There's a couple of different ways you can do it, but however you do it, to be able to move when the ball is snapped offensively. That's normally an advantage an offense has over the defense, is knowing when the ball is going to be snapped and you have to somehow use that to gain what minimal advantage you have before the ball is snapped, that little fraction of a second anticipation of the count that the defense hopefully doesn't have. Not that they can't anticipate it, but if they truly go on the ball, there is just a split second fraction there that the offense has an edge on them. The challenge is to maintain that. But is it hard? Yes. Sure.
Q: If you can't maintain it, is the threat of what might happen heightened with [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis coming off the edge?
BB: Freeney. Mathis. [Raheem] Brock. McFarland. All of them.
Q: What makes Marvin Harrison so difficult to defend?
BB: He's great at everything. He's fast. He's quick. He's an excellent route runner. He has great hands. He's a good decision maker. He finds the open area. Sets up routes. He has good patience. There's really no weakness to his game.
Q: Does Rodney [Harrison] have a shot this week?
BB: We'll release the injury report after practice same as we do every Wednesday.
Q: Their run defense in the regular season wasn't very good. What has changed in the playoffs?
BB: I think they basically do the same things that they've done all year.
Q: Is there any procedure after the game that you want the players to follow?
BB: I'd say we try to handle those situations as we always have.
Q: Has Peyton Manning shown a greater willingness to check down?
BB: I think their offense has always been built around taking what the defense gives you. I think that Peyton is outstanding at doing that. If they need to run the ball, they run it. If they need to throw it to the backs, they throw it to the backs. The tight ends. The receivers. Whatever they need to do, I think they're willing to do, they're willing to take it 80 yards in 16 plays. They're willing to take it 80 yards in three plays, or two, or one. If that's what the defense gives them, if that's where the opportunities are, that's where they're going. I think you have to play good team defense and be sound across-the-board. I don't think there's anything that they can't do, or aren't willing to do, if the defense wants to give it to them, I think they're more than happy to take it.
Q: Can you talk about the evolution of [Jabar] Gaffney?
BB: Well, Jabar came in early in the season, about a quarter of the way through this season. He's worked hard. He's done a good job of learning our system, which he had a little bit of background in from Houston, terminology wise, stuff like that. I think he's a hard-working kid. He has some talent and he's had some opportunities to be productive and he's taken advantage of those.
Q: Has this been a harder year for Tom [Brady] dealing with the different receivers and trying to get everybody on the same page?
BB: I think every year has its own challenges. You can ask Tom about that. 14-4, there's certainly been other years that have come up short of that.
Q: I talked to Ted Marchibroda and told me to ask you how your defensive breakdowns are coming along. Do you ever give any thought to that, back in '75?
BB: Sure. I sure do. I worked in the closet right outside of Earl Weaver's office. I wrote down all of the films, every play was on one card, punch out the holes, but an ice pick in, drop the cards out, do the breakdowns, do probably 15 to 20 breakdowns a day for Maxie Baughan and the defensive coaches in the old Baltimore Memorial Stadium. I sure do. I remember that. I learned probably more football in that room, it was a cinderblock closet really is what it was, but I probably learned more football in that room than anyplace else I've ever been. It was like a graduate course in football.
Q: He said you wouldn't say much. You just came in and did your work.
BB: That's because I didn't know anything. It was awesome. It was an awesome year in football. With the Colts that year, we started off at Goucher College. Then we went to McDonough, and then we went to the stadium, but we didn't even practice at the stadium because the Orioles were in the World Series and we were practicing across the street at Eastern high school, pushing the don't walk button and all of that, going across the street, just like the eighth-grade team would do. But then Ted and I lived together with two other coaches, Whitey Dovell and George Boutselis, in a motel by the old Friendship Airport before it was BWI. Obviously I was the youngest and so I drove. Ted, George and Whitey talked gameplan, practice schedules and so forth. So, from when I got up in the morning at, whatever time that was, six-thirty - seven o'clock, until we finished, midnight or whatever it was, and drove back, it was football for 18 hours straight. It was great just being able to ride in the car and sit and listen to Ted and Whitey and George talk about the different aspects of the game, of the team, of all of the things that they were dealing with and to be able to absorb all of that from, I would say, dawn to dusk, but it was a lot longer than that, it was tremendous. It was a tremendous experience. I'm deeply indebted to Ted for giving me that opportunity. There was no financial reward to it, but there was a personal and professional reward that I could never repay him for.
Q: 25 dollars per week right?
BB: Before taxes.
Q: Free room and board, and he paid for breakfast everyday, but 25 dollars a week?
BB: Free room and board, that's right. Ted bought breakfast every single day. Ted bought breakfast every day.
Q: What was your reaction to LaDainian Tomlinson's comments after the game?
BB: I have all the respect in the world for LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers. They're an outstanding football team. Right now, our focus in on the Indianapolis Colts.
Q: Were you surprised by the comments?
BB: Our focus is on the Colts.
Q: After the game Sunday, Tom [Brady] sort of eluded to the fact that he put so much emotional energy into that game. How much are you monitoring that this week as your team gets ready?
BB: I think that's something that I've talked to the team about the last couple of days. Now it's Wednesday and I think that's over with. We've made the adjustment coming back from the West Coast and so forth and we're onto the Colts and we're full speed ahead. Certainly they present a tremendous challenge for us and we have all we can do to get ready for them. I think everybody is in that same mindset. We came in here today and we're ready to go.
Q: Can you talk about Adam Vinatieri and how ironic it is to be facing him in this game?
BB: I have all of the respect in the world for Adam. He's a tremendous player. He's had a great year for the Colts this year. We certainly know what he's capable of doing. He's an outstanding player. They're good on special teams all the way across the board -- their kicking, their coverage units and their return units.
Q: Your defense ranked fourth in history as far as points allowed. How does it compare to some of the other defenses you may have been a part of?
BB: Again, I don't think any of that really makes any difference at this point. All of our focus is on what happens this week. That's all we really care about. It doesn't make a difference if we were first or last. Right now, it only matters how we play on Sunday. That's what we're going to try to emphasize.
Q: You've gotten to your fourth AFC title game in six years. There's only 10 guys on your roster here from the first one. How do you maintain a standard of excellence with such turnover as you've faced?
BB: Again, there's turnover on every team. When you look at those other teams that we've played, and the Colts are a good example, there's turnover there too. There's turnover on every team. Each year, each week, you take the players and the coaches, the organization and all of that and put everything you have into it and try to make your team the best that you can for that particular season. That's what we try to do. I think that's what everybody tries to do.
Q: How much of that is Scott [Pioli] and the personnel department doing a really good job of identifying players?
BB: I think Scott, the personnel department and all the people in the organization certainly deserve a lot of credit for the success that we've had. Trainers. Equipment people. Film guys. Everybody contributes. There's a lot of things that, as coaches and as players, that we need to do that we need the support people in the organization to, in some way, provide us with the opportunity to do them. I think it extends beyond the players to all of the other people in organization that contribute and there are a lot of them, too many to name here, but all of which are certainly appreciated by the football team.
Q: I know Scott for a while was on the fence between being a coach and being a personnel guy. Is there something that really lends him to the personnel side of football?
BB: I think that's where his heart is. I think that's what he enjoys. I think that he has a passion for it, for football, but for that part of it. I think that's why he does such a great job of it, because that's where his passion is.
Q: Is this something that he's particularly good at?
BB: Evaluating players.
Q: [Laughter] What areas of [Dan] Koppen's game have you seen evolve this year?
BB: I think that Dan has been a really consistent player for us since his rookie year. He does a lot of things well. I think he's had a solid performance this year. He's strong. He's physical inside. He's able to move people on the line of scrimmage. He's very smart and can direct traffic in there and makes good adjustments. For his size, he has quickness. I think he's a good player that plays at a good, consistent level.
Q: Over the years, you've used different motivational tactics for your football team. How much time do you spent trying to come up with that? How do you decide what you're going to use?
BB: I think things like that are just when you feel it's right and you feel like you have a message and it's appropriate to that particular situation, then that's when I felt most comfortable doing those things. In the end, I think that it's a lot more about the players and their execution on the field. Sometimes there's a different way to say a message instead of me standing up there and saying the same thing day after day, that if you can find another way to deliver it, sometimes it has a little bit more of an impact, or maybe somebody hears it a little bit differently, or looks at it a little bit differently rather than the same monotonous type of message. It's just something, I would say as a coach, I've always just kind of feel when it's the right time to do it, or it's the right thing that's appropriate for a particular situation, that it wouldn't be good or as good. You have in the back of your mind it something that, ‘Boy that really struck a chord with me. Maybe it would strike a chord with somebody else,' but it needs to kind of be done at the right time, not just any old random time. I think it would have less of an impact. That's just the way I look at it.
Q: Have you done anything like that this year?
BB: I think a couple of times.
Q: What was that?
BB: Most of the things that we do, we keep within the team and it's appropriate to the team's situation. I think a lot of times it gets taken out of context externally. We'll just leave it with the team.
Q: When you're playing on the road with the noise, how hard is it for the center to be in line with whatever the quarterback is doing if he's trying to change stuff? It looks hard, but is it as hard as it looks?
BB: I think it's certainly challenging, absolutely. It's definitely challenging between the quarterback, the center and the offensive line, which extends to the tight ends and the backs because a lot of times they're involved in those protections or blocking adjustments. So there's communication, and of course, the receivers, or whoever is extended from the formation, they never have a chance to hear anything, so all of that has to be done somehow visually. Somehow you have to signal, or in some way, communicate with those players so they know what to do. Sometimes they have to communicate with the quarterback if they have a question or they see something that it's a little cloudy, it's not identified as clearly as what it might be on some other looks from the defense, that that needs to be clarified as well. I think all of that is a big part of it. Certainly the center and the quarterback, just like the middle linebacker and the safety on defense, because they're in the middle of the formation, that it all kind of has to go through them and then extend to the perimeter, but each step along the way is important and if one guy misses it then you have a problem. Yes, I would say it's definitely challenging.
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