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Belichick on The Big Show, 11/16

11.16.09 at 5:38 pm ET
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Bill Belichick stopped in with The Big Show crew Monday afternoon to talk about last night’s loss to the Colts. He was asked whether the decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 28-yard-line in the fourth quarter while the Pats led, 34-28, was the right one in that situation. Belichick did not hesistate.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, check out The Big Show audio on demand page.

On the fourth-and-2 play:

Basically it came down to if we had made that play we would have been able to run out all or most of the clock. We didn’t need very much, we felt good about the play. I’ve been on the other side of that one, that’s basically where we were in the AFC championship game. Done it both ways. We tried to win the game on that play, it didn’t work out.

How much do you take into consideration of playing out the rest of the game [by punting]?

I don’t know. That is the situation. It’s fourth-and-2, if you make that play then you can end the game, vs. giving them the ball back with time and timeouts, and kind of letting them have control of the game. So, that’s what we elected to do.

How much was it the fatigue of the defense?

More of a question of making one play to win vs. giving them the ball in the two-minute situation and being on the other end of it.

Can you take us through as much of the sideline conversation before the fourth down as you can? Was it deciding on a play?

We had the play, and that’s what we wanted to do in that situation. We were spread out, it gave us some options. Tom [Brady] went to Kevin [Faulk], one of our best receivers, two of our best players, and it was just a couple of inches short.

Was [Randy] Moss supposed to bump the receiver?

No, it was a crossing route. Moss came inside, Faulk went outside.

They really jumped on that. Did you anticipate that type of coverage?

We figured it would be tight coverage, sure, third-and-short, fourth-and-short, sure.

They brought the house on that. How many did they blitz?

Well, we were in an empty backfield, so they brought six and they covered our five with their five. That wasn’t really an issue. The ball was going to come out quick. We knew we weren’t going to holding the ball on fourth-and-2.

How much did the fact that you had no timeouts play into it?

It didn’t really have anything to do with it. At that point we were ahead in the game. We weren’t really thinking about saving our timeouts. We were trying to get a first down and basically run out the clock. We were a lot more concerned with our execution, and making sure that we had things as right as we could have them at that point in time. When you have a lead with two minutes to go, you’re not really thinking about, ‘Let’s keep all of our timeouts.’ That wasn’t a big priority.

[After turning over the ball], did you ever think about the possibility of allowing them to score at that point, to give them the lead?

No, not really, I think you make them earn the winning touchdown. We were up there a few years ago and held them on the 1-yeard line at the end of the game. So, no, I think you make them earn that.

Do you punt that ball against a lesser quarterback and a lesser offense?

I don’t know, you get one chance on those in the game, and that was the game yesterday, and that’s what we did. If it was a different situation against a different team, a different score, I don’t know.

The fact that it was Peyton Manning and he just ripped off a couple of quick drives, that had to play into your thinking some?

Like I said, I think the main thing was, we had fourth-and-2, we’re playing well offensively, we’ve got a lot of good options on the play, we’ve got a good quarterback, we’ve got good receivers, we protected him pretty well, and we thought we could pick it up.

Was that the first option, Faulk?

In that coverage, yeah.

Would you have made the same call if the AFC title was on the line?

Again, the only thing I can answer is what happened yesterday. That was the situation, and that’s what we did.

After the Colts got the ball on downs at the 29, did you think about blitzing more or applying more pressure?

We tried to play our best calls. They hit Clark on the first play. That one hurt us. That got them close.
Then they ran the ball and it was inside the five. We certainly could have done a little better job defensively than what we did. But we didn’t.

Were you using double coverage on Dallas Clark throughout the game?

We had over the top coverage on Clark and Wayne just about the whole game, or a good part of the game, I should say.

You also went for it on fourth down late in the third quarter against Atlanta from your own 24. If there any place on the field where you say you simply can’t go for it on fourth down if you think you can close out a game?

I don’t know. Each situation is different.

I’d have to evaluate the situation, the game, the play, the defense. Everything is different.

There’s not a generic answer to that question. I’d just say that whatever the decisions are, whatever decision I make, is what I feel is best for our football team and gives us the best chance to win. That’s based on a whole number of things. I don’t even know what they all are. They all could change from game to game, situation to situation.

That’s the way I felt yesterday. I felt good about what we did. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t work out.

As long as you have confidence in the play, you feel comfortable going for it?

I don’t think you ever want to run a play that you don’t have confidence in in a good situation. If you don’t have a good play, I don’t think you’re going to want to call something like that in a critical situation.

Is the situation secondary to the play?

No, I think they’re tied together.

Was it a factor that you had 450+ yards on offense before going for it?

Well, I would say yeah. The general fact that overall we were having a good offensive day. Our execution was pretty good.

We moved the ball pretty consistently against that defense. We picked up a lot of third downs. We’d thrown it well. We’d protected well.
Sure, that entered into the confidence.

The whole situation, fourth and 2 is a lot different than 4th and 7. We felt like we could complete a pass for two yards there and pretty much end the game.

Faulk had areception for eight yards on first down. At that point, were you planning on going for it in a short-yardage situation?

We’re certainly getting ready at that point. We’re there at third and one and a half, third and two.

We ran what we thought was a good play there on 3rd and two. Wes was open there. He had a little bit of pressure. Powers made a break on that ball on the sidelines.

While that play was going on, we were already talking about fourth down.

Did it look like they’d anticipated the play call, given the tight coverage?

They were just in straight man-to-man coverage.

Did you think Faulk caught the ball and controlled it across the 30?

I just saw the play here for the first time a couple minutes ago. In the coaches’ copy, it’s a high shot. You don’t get a great look at that. It’s obviously pretty close.

Would you have challenged the spot if you still had a timeout?

Of course. You have nothing to lose at that point.

Why was the timeout used on the opening play?

At that point in time, the situation changed a little bit. It’s not like it was the middle of the first quarter.

We wanted to make sure we had everything right in the way we were calling it. That was a part of the play that could have been checked. We took the timeout there to make sure there wasn’t any miscommunication in the execution of it.

Was there confusion early in the second half that led to another burned timeout?

At the start of the third quarter, we had a play called, and the formation was wrong. Wes recognized it, and I think he did the right thing. He knew that what we had called, we weren’t set up properly to run.

Did your offensive approach change when you were up 17 in the fourth quarter?

No, we’re still trying to score.

You didn’t go for more stuff underneath?

No, I don’t think you want to do that against the Colts. You keep running your offense, especially if it’s going good. We had our game plan at that point. We were trying to score, just like we were in the first three quarters.

Did they increase their pass rush in the second half?

Not really. A little bit at the end of the game, which you’d expect. Up until the middle of the fourth quarter, not really.

They blitzed a little more than they did in previous years, but compared to the way they played their other games this year, there was probably the same percentages as pretty much every game.

It seemed like Vollmer controlled Freeney, but Mathis had an impact against Kaczur.

Those are two real good pass-rushing ends. I think Nick and Sebastian both did a real good job on them. Any time you go against those guys for whatever it was, 70 plays, they’re goin to have a couple plays.

I thought that Nick and Sebastian competed well. We had some help from our backs, and at times the tight ends and the guards. But overall, controlling the defensive ends, that was probably as good as we blocked them since we’ve played.

After a hard loss like that, where there were a lot of positives that might be difficult to remember, how do you evaluate the game when looking at film?

I think any time you look at the game, that’s the way you look at it. Win or lose, you look at the positive things and try to build on those. There are things you try to improve on or problems that you have. You try to correct those, whether you win or lose a game, because those things could come up again.

Was the special teams good, especially on the Wes Welker runback almost to the end zone?

That was a big play. We were close on a couple other returns: one punt return, and at least one other kickoff return, we were really close to having a good play on. I thought that aspect of it was pretty good. Again, we only had the one real long return to show for it. But there were plays we were pretty close on. I thought overall our coverage was good. … For the most part, we covered well.

Was the defense tired in the fourth quarter, especially given the depletion with injuries?

I think we hung in there pretty well. Any time you play a full game, you’re a little more tired in the fourth quarter than you are in the first quarter. I’m pretty sure that’s true of their players too. That’s part of the wear of the game. I think we were still competing pretty well and I don’t think conditioning was a big issue.

Did the Colts’ hurry-up offense prevent needed personnel changes in light of the injuries?

Both Rob and Tully would have played probably a decent amount of snaps. I don’t know exactly how that would have worked out.
We didn’t have them. That also rippled down to the kicking game, because both those guys are involved in the kicking game. Other players had to fill in for them there. We were playing with a couple les players in the second half or later on the game than we started with.

Did you use the nickel and dime packages with more frequency because of injuries?

That’s what we were planning on doing anyway. We weren’t really in an irregular defense except down there at the goal line. It was all some version of nickel or dime, mostly five defensive backs. Some six, but mostly five.

What happened with covering Dallas Clark?

They ran a couple play-action passes where we lost him on the fake in and he got up the field a little bit.

That wasn’t a big problem after that. They got us on it. We talked about that. I think the players did a pretty good job on that. I don’t want to say we controlled him. He had two decent catches. We don’t want to see him get those. He really only had two plays.

Manning and the Colts went from six first-half punts to a more efficient offense in the second half. What happened?

I don’t think we changed a lot. We tried to mix things up on him so he couldn’t get into knowing exactly what we were going to do. For the most part, it comes down, like it usually does, to execution. Manning is a great quarterback. And Reggie Wayne is a tremendous receiver. Several of the plays he made last night were just exceptional. I don’t know how many other receivers int eh league would have made those plays a) to get open, b) to make the catch, and c) for the ball to be thrown so accurately, with a perfect pass.

I thought Jonathan Wilhite really did a great job on Reggie. A couple of those plays, it’s hard to say you should have done this differently.
A couple throws, you’ve just got to say it’s a great thorw,a great route and a great catch. Sometimes in the National Football League, you just have those plays. They’re hard to stop.

I don’t think there’s too much you can say to the defenders on that. They play the leverage they should be playing. They have pretty good position on the receiver. The ball gets there in a five- or six-inch space that’s the only place it could be and that’s where it is – it’s tough.

We had other plays and other opportunities that we could have coached or played better in. That would have definitely helped us in all three phases of the game.

Why was Vollmer so effective against Freeney? Size? Footwork?

I think it’s always a combination.

One thing that helps the tackles is length – height, long arms, being able to stretch out and keep the defender away from you and also, as they’re running by upfield, being able to push him that extra few inches beyond the quarterback.

Tom did a good job, too, of stepping up in the pocket and stepping away from those rushes. Sebastian and Nick did a pretty good job of pushing them by.
Length is a big thing. It’s why you don’t see a lot of 6-2, 6-3 tackles in the league. That length kind of catches up with you, whether it’s on a fast guy like Freeney or Mathis, or a tall guy, a 6-5, 6-6 guy that can reach around.

Length, footwork, technique is important.

Playing with good footwork, good technique, being able to play with those ends competitively, it’s a big challenge, especially against a guy like Freeney at home.

Because of Vollmer’s development, can you use Matt Light in different areas on the offensive line when he returns?

We can talk about that when Matt’s back. He’s getting closer. He’s certainly making progress. But right now, Sebastian is playing left tackle. We’ll take a look at that if and when that becomes an option.

Any chance that the defense felt slighted by the decision not to punt?

I would like to think our team knows that my decisions are based on what I think is best for our football team to give us the best chance to win. That goes for everybody – offense, defense, special teams.

We had the ball in the hands of our best player in Brady with good options on the field: Faulk, Welker, Moss. We went to one of them. I don’t feel bad about that. I just wish we would have been able to convert.

Will the veterans on the defense be able to explain to the young guys what you were trying to accomplish?

I’d like to think so.

Any chance you could lose the defense?

I have a hard time with that one.

Were you surprised that Bruschi and Harrison were critical and that Bruschi said that the defense could be riled by the decision not to punt?

Well, I didn’t see Tedi’s comments. I have a lot of respect for those guys. Like everyone else, they’re entitled to their opinions.

I’m still going to coach the team the best I can, and make decisions that I feel are in our best interest and do things on a week to week basis, each and every game, that I feel like give us the best chance to win. That hasn’t changed. That’s not going to change.

Was it the right decision to go for it on fourth-and-2?

Yeah, absolutely.

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