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Belichick: ‘Need to play better than we’ve played’

10.27.10 at 2:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — What’s up with the Patriots’ offense of late? What does Bill Belichick think of the return of Randy Moss and does either side have an advantage in the first meeting since the Oct. 6 trade that sent him to Minnesota? What does Belichick think of the sign-stealing allegations from Brad Childress? How much fun is Belichick having being a “hands-on” coach with the defense this season? Those questions and more were posed Wednesday. Who is Belichick preparing to see at quarterback for Minnesota, the injured Brett Favre or back-up Tavares Jackson?

Here, thanks to the always stellar work of Patriots P.R., were his answers:

BB: The last couple days here watching the Vikings on film – they are definitely an impressive football team. They are very good in all three phases of the game. They’ve got a lot of talent and make a lot of big plays. [They’re] real physical on special teams. [Percy] Harvin is a tremendous returner. [They have] a lot of weapons on offense and a good offensive line and skill players. They’re fast on defense, explosive. They’re tough to block. They’ve lost a couple close games. They were right there on every last position, right there every time. So I have a lot of respect for them, a lot of respect this team. We’re going to have our hands full on Sunday. We’re going to need to play better than we’ve played. [We’ll] probably need our best game yet. Hopefully we can have a good week of preparation and be ready to go Sunday.

Q: Can you really get something out of seeing Randy Moss in practice the last few years that will actually help you contain him against Minnesota?

BB: I mean, he’s still the same player. We’ve worked against him and obviously have a good knowledge of him, but he knows a lot more…We know one guy. He knows all of us, so I don’t know if there is a big advantage there. Practicing against somebody – I don’t think there’s any better preparation than that, than actually going up against them.

Q: Brett Favre comes into the game with his consecutive win streak on the line. Tom Brady said you guys prepare for everybody, whether it’s Favre or Tarvaris Jackson. So which one do you prepare for this week?

BB: Yeah, both of them – everybody that is potentially an active player, just like last week with [Seyi] Ajirotutu being [activated] on Saturday and then he played in the game against San Diego. We’ve got to be ready for all those guys, whether they are the guy listed first on the depth chart or not; if they’re on the 45-man roster, or even if they’re on the practice squad, they can easily be elevated up to the roster and play against you. So you better know who they are. Sergio Brown – there’s another guy that wasn’t even on the roster on Friday and played in the game on Sunday and had an effect on the game. We’ve got to be ready for every player.

Q: Sergio Brown seemed like a guy who had a good camp and could have had an immediate effect this season. What did you see since camp that led you to make that move?

BB: He kept working harder. He kept working harder and got better. We talked to him at the end of training camp about things that he needed to work on and improve on – things on special teams and things on defense – and he’s done that. We recognize our practice players of the week – guys that had the best week of practice – and he’s shown up there, too. He’s continued to work hard and improve and we had a need at the position, based on the injury to [Jarrad] Page. He had an opportunity to play and he took advantage of it and did some good things. It wasn’t perfect; there are a lot of things that he can do better and learn from, but he definitely helped us.

Q: You’ve used a lot of different defensive line combinations and groupings. How have those guys handled that?

BB: They’ve been really good. It’s a very flexible group. Those guys have a lot of versatility. They’ve played different positions in training camp. I think part of it is by playing another position they understand how that affects their position and what responsibilities the position next to them has and that probably helps them a little bit. But they’ve been really good about that and in practice they have moved around and taken reps at different spots. It gives us depth and gives us some flexibility in terms of where we want to deploy those guys on different packages or different calls.

Q: How much of an advantage does that give you that opposing offensive lines might not know who will be where week-to-week?

BB: I don’t know. I think it’s pretty common for an offensive lineman to have to block several different guys in a game. A lot of teams rotate kind of a first group and a second group, or they take their outside guys and move them inside and sub and bring somebody else in. Like Minnesota does: take Pat Williams out and bring in another defensive lineman. So that’s fairly common to have to block three or four different guys over the course of a game.

Q: Obviously Brady’s 159 passing yards was not ideal against San Diego. What did you see on film that could have been better?

BB: They are a good defense. They did a better job than we did on a lot of those plays: protection, routes, passes, you name it. Sometimes we had guys open and didn’t have enough time to through; other times we had enough time to throw and we didn’t have guys open. Sometimes we had plays called that weren’t great plays against what they happened to have called on that particular down. It was a combination of things that we all really need to do a better job of; we need to coach better, need to play better, need to block better. We just need to execute better and need to maybe have a couple different options than we had on a couple of the plays that we just probably didn’t have a real good pattern against what they were in on that particular down.

Q: Is there a particular example that stands out?

BB: I don’t think it’s too hard to find one. It was only 100 and some yards passing, so obviously it happened more than once.

Q: Related to the defensive linemen groupings, can you talk about Vince Wilfork’s versatility and how he has handled that?

BB: Vince is a very versatile player. I think he has handled it well. He’s a smart guy. He’s a good technique player. He can do a lot of things on the front. Again, like a lot of players, though, in college that play the one-technique and the three-technique, the three-technique is pretty close to the inside shoulder of the tackle and the one-technique is a shade on the center. So in a 3-4, that’s pretty close to those two positions. A lot of teams play that on their over and under defensive sets anyway. I don’t think it’s that major of a deal, but Vince is a really versatile guy. He’s smart. He line stunts and understands protections and pass rushes, and reads plays very quickly – blocking schemes. He’s excellent at all of that and provides great leadership for the other guys on the line. He not only plays his position, but helps the other guys play better. I think that’s really the mark of an outstanding player: a guy that can elevate the play of the players around him, either with what he’s doing or in doing things that help other guys and give them better opportunities. He’s very unselfish about that. There are a lot of plays that get made that he is a big factor in causing the play, even though he’s not the final guy that makes the tackle and gets the credit for it.

Q: When you shift him outside is he still able to maintain that impact that he has on the interior?

BB: I think he’s a tough matchup for most offensive linemen. There are a lot of guys he has a size and power advantage on. And a lot of the guys that might have a chance to match up with his size and power, then lose on his quickness. Again, he’s a tough matchup. The best thing against a guy like that, really, on the offensive line is when you have two people that can – initially at least – step to him. A center and a guard and then the guard comes off on somebody else or the center comes off on somebody else. But at least you can initially start to control him and then the one guy can hopefully take him over. We see that a lot. Like this week Kevin Williams is a good example of that. You can’t leave two guys on him, where you’re not blocking somebody else, but initially you’re probably going to have a number of plays where two guys step to him to try to control him and then one of those two guys will come off for one of the linebackers at some point.

Q: Is that why it works having him at end? Since you have a linebacker next to him so he can’t be doubled?

BB: You’ve got a guard who’s got a linebacker over him, so that guard can help either on the end or the nose, depending on the play. But eventually he’s got to get to his blocking assignment or you’re going to have an unblocked guy there. Again, to start the play a lot of times, if two guys step at the defensive lineman then that gives one of those guys an opportunity to kind of fit the block and take it over. I wouldn’t call it a true double team. I don’t really see a lot of true double teams. But as far as initially fitting the play, that’s usually how it works.

Q: How have you enjoyed being more hands on with the defense this year?

BB: I feel like I have been hands on with the team since I have been here, whatever it is. I’ve worked with different positions, different players. In practice, sometimes you’re talking about special teams, offense, defense, whatever it is. I enjoy coaching the players at whatever position is, whatever it happens to be, whether it’s quarterbacks one year, something else another year. Not that I’m a position coach, I enjoy that. When you’re the head coach, you have the opportunity to pick who you want to work with. It’s one of the advantages.

Q: So what group will it be next year? Kickers?

BB: Hey, working with the kickers – that’s a fun group, too. They have a specialty; it’s something that’s very unique and different than any other position in football. Of course it has a big impact on the game. Scott [O’Brien] does a great job with it, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve coached kickers, snappers, holders, kickers, returners. Those guys are like golfers; they’ve got to go out there and make a shot, whether it’s a wedge or a driver or chip shot or whatever it is. A lot of it is situational kicking. It’s execution from a three-person standpoint on field goals with the snapper, holder, kicker, the timing and all that and coordinating that with the protection. But at the same time, it’s a very individual, specialized skill that those guys craft. It’s fun to do that, too.

Q: How valuable do you see the long kickoffs and the touchbacks to be? How much of a difference do you think that makes?

BB: It’s great for your coverage. Your goal on kickoff coverage is to get them on the 20-yard line or inside the 20. I think that’s really a big play – putting them over 80 yards from the goal line. If you can touchback it, that’s great. I think a lot of the touchbacks we’ve had here this year have been wind related. We’ve gotten them, but our opponent – the opposing kicker – has also gotten them, the same ones. I think it has kind of evened out. I don’t know what the exact numbers are on that. Stephen has gotten a bunch of them, but we’ve also had several of them against us on kind of those same days.

Q: Is versatility one of the things you look at in a defensive lineman when you’re drafting?

BB: Yeah, I think any time you draft a player that’s something you have to take into consideration. If the player can only play one position, whatever that one position is, then you’re sinking or swimming on that one spot. Whereas if a player can do more than that, there’s probably a pretty good sense that – assuming the level of play is good – that you’ll be able to utilize him somewhere, depending on what else you have. If a guy can only play one position, if he can only play center, well how many centers can you have? How many nose tackles can you have? How many strong safety onlys can you have? You can only have so many of those guys: inside linebackers that can’t play outside or inside linebackers that don’t play in third down or whatever it is. They have a very confined role – and that’s great and those roles are very important. I’m not saying that [they’re not] but a player who can do multiple roles, in the end, has more value to your team, assuming that the level of competency is roughly equivalent. If a guy is really good at one thing…Tom Brady. He’s great at quarterback and that’s great. We need a great quarterback. We don’t need him to play guard. That’s ok, too. If you have players that have versatility then that overall enhances the depth and the versatility of your team. And eventually you’re going to need that. Somebody is going to have to do that somewhere along the line. You can’t play the same team for 16 weeks in a row.

Q: What’s your reaction when you hear an opposing coach talking about games in 2006 and stealing signals?

BB: I’m not really too worried about 2006. I’m worried about this Sunday against Minnesota. I’m not worried about next Sunday, last Sunday, ’06, ’02, ’89. Really, it’s just this Sunday.

Q: What would motivate a coach to do that?

BB: I don’t know. Really, I’m just trying to coach this team and get ready for the Vikings. You’ll have to talk to other coaches. I don’t know.

Q: As a policy for yourself, do you ever go back and talk about past games?

BB: We’ve talked about some other games before, but really, my focus is the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. That’s what I’m here for.

Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Brett Favre, New England Patriots Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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