Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach
12/21 Conference call with NY Media
(On Brooks Bollinger)
I think he played very well against Miami last week. I think he made passes to a lot of different receivers. I thought he really made some good plays in the opening game too as far as scrambling for first downs. I think he showed a lot of poise in there, and I think that overall, this team has improved quite a bit offensively since we seen them, which was a very short time ago. They run the ball well, they ran it well against Oakland, they had over 180 yards rushing and I think Brooks did a very good job managing the team, moving the ball, both throwing it and getting some keepers down on scrambles. I believe they have confidence in his running ability when they're designing plays like quarterback draws, shovel passes and those types of plays. You don't mind your quarterback running. I think that he's shown he can play, and play well.
(On the Patriots making a Super Bowl run)
Right now we're just trying to get ready for the Jets. I don't know about a run anywhere. I hope we can run the ball. That would be a change if we could. We're just trying to get ready for the Jets. It's a Monday night game. Herm always does a great job in getting his team ready to go. They play with a lot of emotion, a high energy level; they certainly have the last couple weeks. I think we've made some improvement over the last couple weeks in our play, but we're still lacking consistency in some areas. Hopefully, we can do a better job of that. We're looking forward to playing the Jets down there at home where they usually play well. Herm does a great job of getting the team ready to go. I'm sure they'll be at their best Monday night.
(On keeping the game plan normal going into the playoffs)
We're trying to improve our football team. I think we need to be playing our best football. That's what we're trying to get to. I think we've made some improvement in the last couple weeks in different areas, but there's still a long way to go. That's what we're going to keep working on.
(On Tom Brady's shoulder)
He'll probably be probable this week. He's slightly less than 100 percent. We're just following the rules the League lays out for us on injury reporting.
(On playoff games being significantly different from regular-season games)
I think there is an intensity level that's a little higher just because of what's at stake at the game. You know, single illumination, one mistake, one loss and that's it, you go home. I think there's a jump in the intensity level in a game from preseason to regular season and I think there is a jump when the post-season starts. Not to lessen the quality of the games in those other times, but just because it's potentially the last one. It's just a one-game season at that point, there are no second chances.
(On specific elements in a playoff game that you may not need in a regular-season game)
I don't know. I think the only thing I would say is at the end of a playoff game, I think you don't want to have the feeling that you lost because you were doing something that you're not very good at. In other words, if they beat you because you've gone with your best stuff and you've done the things you've been successful with all year, that's one thing. If you try to do something you're not very good at and that ends up costly and you end up not winning, you'd probably look back and say, "I wonder if we just went with what we've been successful with all year if that would've been good enough?" That's a tough one to walk away from. It doesn't mean that you don't want to do anything different or change up anything, but I think you want to give your players and your team a chance to be successful doing what, at least a certain percentage of what has gotten you to that point.
(On their injuries)
Well, you'd like to have all your players out there every week. Realistically, hardly anybody in the League is in that situation. We have confidence in all 53 players, the ones we take to the game. We feel we can win with them. That's why they are there. They need to step up and perform their role and do their job whatever that happens to be. That's the way we look at it and we don't try to concern ourselves too much with things we can't control. If a player is out, he's out. Somebody else has to step in and perform at that level.
(On Ellis Hobbs)
I think Ellis has improved a lot during the season. He came in and has a good level of talent, but some of the coverages we do are probably a little different than the way he was used to doing them. But he's worked hard; he's been very competitive and I think he's gotten better each week. He has a good level of confidence and his confidence level has probably been growing as he's been able to have success on the field. He's a hard working kid that wants to do better. He puts a lot into it and I respect his approach to the game. I think he's an improving young player.
(On the NE defense showing improvement)
To be honest with you, I think defensively we've made some improvements at about the bye week. It just didn't always show up necessarily in the end result. Instead of having three or four things wrong on a play, sometimes it was only one or two. Sometimes those things show up and sometimes they don't. The play just goes somewhere else and it doesn't become that noticeable. When you're doing a lot of things wrong on every play, then pretty much whatever they run you're out of position. I think, overall our consistency level has improved over the last few weeks and hopefully we can continue to keep it in that direction. I don't think it was one game, or one play, or anything that specific. I just think it's been a lot of little things adding up to the bigger result of being more competitive than a couple months ago. I think it's a matter of playing better and coaching better, for that matter. I think there was some bad coaching going on there as well, starting with me. I think it's a combination of playing better and doing a better job of coaching and giving the players a chance to play better. Those things are at an improvement from what they were.
(On NE having interest in Ben Graham)
I think he's doing a great job. He pinned us on the one-yard line twice and did the same thing to Oakland a couple weeks ago. He's got a good leg and is very good at those plus-50 punts. He gets it up in the air and it's almost like a golfer hitting the ball to the green. He's got control over the ball once it hits the ground, which to me is a hard thing to do. The way it bounces, usually it kicks forward, but his balls seem to land softly or sometimes even almost back-up a little bit kind of like a golf shot would when it hits the green. His control is amazing because if that ball comes down outside the 10 yard line, the returner is going to fair catch it and you might get it on your 10, 12, 14 or wherever it is but if it comes down inside the 10, on in some cases inside the five, there's really nothing the returner can do. He can't catch the ball at that point, that's not a good play, and if you let it go and it doesn't' roll into the end zone, they've got you where they want you. The Jets have done a great job of that all year and in our game, they killed us it. They got Oakland too. It's a good weapon and it's well executed as everything that Mike (Westhoff) does in the kicking game are. He's a good coach and it seems like they're always one of the best special teams units that we face.
(On this Monday night's game being historic because it's the last one on ABC)
Well, I hadn't thought of it from that perspective, but that's a very interesting question that you pose. In 1970 I was still in high school, and the early Monday night games in college and that was a big thing because we'd do anything not to study in college. We needed a good excuse and Monday Night Football was that. (Howard) Cosell and (Don) Meredith and the caller they had in the game were a little more unique than they had in the more standard weekend broadcasts. It seemed like the match-ups were always good, exciting match-ups, or at least they marketed it such that it was not only competitive, but entertaining as well. That was my memory of it. To think now that chapter of the book is closing and that we're a part of that...It's certainly a big chapter of the growth of the National Football League. That certainly puts it into perspective of where the games are. I'm fortunate and honored to be a part of this game in the National Football League with the NE Patriots. It's an honor and a privilege for me to coach this team and to be a part of the franchise that's in the greatest League in professional sports and to work for an owner like Robert Kraft, who has given me the opportunity to do that. I'm very thankful for the situation that I'm in and to have an opportunity to even participate in a game like this. It's certainly been an important step in the history of football, the popularity of the sport, and what it's received during that time frame. Certainly, Monday Night Football on ABC has had an impact on that. It's humbling to be one game in, I don't know how many games that would be, that are a lot of games. I guess it is an honor to be that last one in that legacy of broadcasting.
(On if there is a certain element to have to be successful in the playoffs)
I think that I could give you the stats of it, but I think that turnovers are right at the top of playoff football importance. For the most part, the teams that are in the playoffs are pretty evenly matched and it's only going to take a little bit to decide those games so, ball possession and field position gained when a teams loses the ball on turnovers, that's going to be huge. There are a lot of plays that aren't listed as turnovers, so they kind of fall in that same category. Even though they may not show up in the stat sheet, like a missed FG. If you miss a 40-yard FG, that's the same as fumbling the ball. They have the ball, you have no points and they have that field position from what it would've been if he made the FG. Those kinds of plays just get magnified I think, just because of the closeness in the competitive levels of the teams and what's at stake. It's one play, just one thing that can determine the outcome of the game and the outcome of your season.
(On Tedy Bruschi)
It's great to have Tedy out there. He's a good player. He's a very enthusiastic and energetic player. He's a great leader. He brings a lot of positives to the team and a lot of positives to the field when he's out there, whether it is on defense or the kicking team where he's played a number of plays for us. It's great to have him back. I think that his game and play has improved steadily through the course of the season since he's started playing in the seventh game. He's just gotten better each week. He's always been good, but I think missing all that time in training camp and the first games of the season, you're just not as sharp or see things as quickly. It might just be a split second but I think with each game his timing, reactions and reactive quickness is improving and he's continuing to play better and better. That's great for our football team and I'm obviously happy for him that he's able to achieve and play at that level. He's worked hard and I think he's deserved the success that he's having.