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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: ‘We have to play by the rules’

10.18.10 at 6:58 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Monday afternoon as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday from Gillette Stadium. Belichick talked about the physical nature of Sunday’s win over the Ravens.

“It’s two physical teams, both teams playing hard, there was a lot at stake,” he said. “The game came right down the wire. It went 13 extra minutes. There were a lot of hard-hitting, tough plays by a lot of tough, hard-hitting football players. That’s the way it is. I think it was a physical game. I know we’ve got a lot of sore guys in our locker room. I’m sure they do today, too. I’m glad we were able to come out with three more points than they had.”

Following are highlights of the conversation, including Belichick’s thoughts on Brandon Meriweather‘s head-to-hit hit on Todd Heap and possible repercussions from the league. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

On the defense’s improvement in Sunday’s game:

I think the biggest thing was third down. We played better on third down in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. … Overall, I thought the players played hard. We made some adjustments.

On if there was any carryover of confidence from the Miami game:

I think it reinforced some things, probably, yeah. It’s a different game, and a whole different set of problems with Baltimore. But I think the  fact that we built on — we’ve kind of gotten a little bit better each week. Regardless of the stats or the score or anything else, I think just watching us play and coaching us, I feel like we’ve gotten better every week.

We’ve prepared a little bit better, we’ve executed a little bit better. We’re more aware of certain situations and things that come up in the game, even though they might only come up one time. And they might not come up at all. But when they do come up, we seem like we”re more on top of it and we anticipate it a little bit better. So, hopefully, we can continue doing that.

It was like the quarterback sneak on third-and-1. The players were on that, they were on that right away. The situation, they were alert for it, then they got the look. They jumped in there. Jermaine Cunningham was playing right end and he was all the way down on the guard on that play. So, there’s sometimes where those things — not that that situation happened in the Miami game, it didn’t — but just the awareness and the confidence to say, “I know what this is, I’m going to kind of not do so much of my responsibility because I know what this play is.” Just kind of play the play sometimes.

On why he eschewed a 61-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation for a Hail Mary pass:

It’s a long kick. It’s a long kick. The wind was blowing from our bench to the Ravens bench. So, just the distance alone is a problem. You put a crosswind in there … You don’t want to get a kick blocked in that situation. I think he’d kind of have to drive the ball to get it there. You don’t want to pop one up from 62 yards. But, distance and accuracy and all that, it would have been a tough kick. We just didn’t feel that was the play in that situation.

On Deion Branch’s first game back with the Patriots:

Deion’s a very smart football player. He’s instinctive. He makes good decisions. If you remember back to the ’04 season, where he got hurt in Arizona, if I remember, and then missed eight or nine games, and then came back. It seemed like he picked up right where he left off.

Deion’s one of those players that, again, is smart, very instinctive, knows what to do. As long as he’s not injured and he’s in good shape, I think he can go out there and pick things up pretty quickly, pick up a game plan, pick up the adjustments, and go out there and perform pretty well. And he’s done that in the past. So, I wasn’t that surprised about it. We have seen that before from him in the past, where he’s missed some time and come back in and had a big game.

On Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco not going after the cornerbacks as much in the second half:

Well, I’d say we played a lot more Cover 2. We played a lot more Cover 2 in the second half than we did in the first half. So, I think that probably had a little to do with it. I think he was looking inside for the tight end or the slot receiver. A couple of times those guys were jammed. They hit [Todd] Heap a couple of times, too. They hit him on the fake screen pass over the middle and so forth. But we played a little more Cover 2 on the corners. He still threw it out there a couple of times, but I think that might have slowed it down.

On the Patriots offense in the second half throwing shorter passes:

It’s hard to get behind that defense. [Tom] Zbikowski, Ed Reed, whoever the free safety is, those guys play — they’re back there pretty far. I think you’ve got to be careful about throwing it up on them. They’re deep and they cover a lot of ground. We felt like as deep as they were, that that would open up some intermediate passes. We hit [Wes] Welker over the middle on a play-action pass, hit Branch on an in-cut.

As deep as those safeties get, then that creates a little more space between the safeties and the linebackers. We try to attack that a little bit. But their linebackers do a good job of getting back, and so sometimes we actually had to dump it off and throw it in front of the backers.

On Brandon Meriweather’s head-to-head hit on Todd Heap:

Those plays are illegal, and you can’t do it. That’s what the rule is. We have to play by the rules. We coach that, and players understand it. You’re right, it’s a split-second decision. It’s no different than hitting the quarterback below the knees or above the shoulders. But again, it’s the responsibility of the defender or the pass rusher to make that contact in a legal manner. So, we have to do it.

On coaching players to avoid making those bad decisions:

Well, I think you have to. Yeah, you can, and you have to. You keep the aggressiveness. It’s technique. It’s technique. You can’t hit him above the shoulders. You can’t lead with your head. You can’t launch. You’ve got to make contact in a legal manner. You can be aggressive, you just have to do it legally.

As a defensive player, I understand there’s split-second decisions. He’s moving, the ball’s in the air, you’re moving, things happen quickly. It’s not like just lining up a tackling dummy and running in there and hitting them. It’s a lot different than that. But those are the decisions we have to make on the field. That’s the way defensive rules are. It’s the same for our defense as it is for Baltimore’s and everyone else’s. We’ve just got to do a good job with it.

On a possible rule change creating suspensions for head-to-head hits.

I just think in general, rules changes, in my opinion, should be made at the end of the season, with a lot of thought and consideration given to everything, all aspects of it. I think making up rules as you go along every week — “Well, we had this, we’re going to change this; we had that, we’re going to change that; we had something else, we’re going to change something else” — and you start changing a lot of things, and then sometimes there are other affects that you don’t really take fully into consideration, ripple effects that are tributaries of that decision that you’ve made.

Generally speaking, I think decisions like that are much better made over time of analysis, study, conversation and trying to make sure you get it right. I just don’t really like the “make it up as you go along” rule. …

Now, if the hit’s flagrant enough, certainly a player can be disciplined. That’s within the rights of the commissioner, and that’s been done before, whether it be fines or whatever it happens to be. So, I don’t really see where that’s changed. But just to have a carte blanche rule that’s different than what it is now, I don’t know, generally speaking I don’t think that’s the way to do it, to change things in midstream.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Jermaine Cunningham,
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