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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Lions game ‘about as tough as it gets’

11.22.10 at 4:14 pm ET
By
Bill Belichick (AP)

Bill Belichick (AP)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined The Big Show to discuss his team’s 31-28 victory over the Colts on Sunday as well as the upcoming challenge his team faces in traveling to Detroit for a Thursday game against the Lions. The reduced preparation time that the Pats will face by virtue of the Thanksgiving game creates a host of challenges.

“About as tough as it gets. This is about as tough a week of preparation as it gets,” Belichick said of the Lions game. “We don’t know the team. We don’t know the players. [Since] last time we played them, it’s a new staff. They’ve had a lot of turnover, a lot of young players, a lot of very good players. But we just don’t have great background on them. We did some work on them in the offseason. But 10 games have passed. … Some of the players there now weren’t there last year, like [Ndamukong] Suh and [Jahvid] Best, guys like that. They’ve added and changed the dimension of their team a little bit. So it’s hard.

“When you play out of conference on a short week like that, it’s tough. It’s the same challenge they face, though. But it’s definitely hard on our players and coaches to get the compact and precise and definitive information that we feel like we normally get on a team in such a short amount of time on a team that’s played 10 games, and try to consolidate it for the players, what they’re going to do in certain situations. Sometimes we struggle to put it all together on all the situations: third-down, goal-line, short-yardage, two-minute and so forth.”

Belichick also broke down the victory over the Colts, the impact of offensive lineman Logan Mankins, the inconsistency of the defensive unit, the diminutive stature of the Patriots receiving corps as well as his homage to former coaching great and football innovator Paul Brown.

To listen to the interview, visit the audio on demand page of The Big Show. Here is a transcript of the conversation:

On Sunday’s win over the Colts:

It seems like it’s always like that with the Colts. It’s a dogfight, comes down to the last possession or play. You can never count them out. They’re a good football team.

Did you have to remind guys at halftime to be prepared for second-half push, or do they know that?

I’m sure they do, but we still talk about it and reinforce it. You know it’s going to be 60 minutes against the Colts. They can score in a hurry. Their defense, they get strip stacks, tipped balls. Their ability to get turnovers is as good as anybody in the league. They’re really dangerous, no matter how much time is left on the clock.

How much did the defense change between the first three quarters and the last 10 minutes?

I’d say probably just the overall execution. There weren’t any new calls. Just tried to disguise what we did, mix it up. They beat us on a couple things. In the end, we were able to make the play. We were able to make some plays early in the game. I think it was just one of those games where you don’t want to let them know what you’re trying to do. You disguise it. Just want to keep trying to mix it up.

Did you go to a prevent defense with a 17-point lead?

No. We played the way we played the whole game. … We missed some tackles. He made a great throw there on the middle read for the last touchdown. They had a good play on the pop pass where he faked the run and hit the slot over the middle. They had some good plays. We had some good plays. Luckily, we just had a couple more than they did.

When playing zone, are you concerned that teams are burning you over middle?

I think defensively you’ve got to be able to hold up everywhere. Some plays inside, some plays outside. A lot of it depends on the coverage you’re in. If you’ve got guys in the middle, you’re more vulnerable on the outside. If you have guys on the perimeter of the field you’re more vulnerable inside. That’s basic defense.

Could you tell if [Jermaine] Cunningham hit [Peyton] Manning’s hand on the interception?

Couldn’t tell from the coach’s copy. I think watching the TV replay on it, it’s really close. He might have. It’s really a close play. It doesn’t look like he gets him real hard, but it looks like he might just get him a little.

Manning quickened the pace early to avoid the pass rush. Did he try to unload early on that game-sealing pick?

I’m not sure, but he definitely feels the rush. He knows when it’s getting close. I think that’s why he’s just a hard guy to sack. He knows when those guys are getting in the area. He gets rid of it one way or the other. He either throws it away or gets it to whatever his best option is at that point. He makes very quick decisions and has a very quick release. He knows when there isn’t much time left in the pocket.

Have you played anyone who reads and reacts to the defense as fast as Manning?

I don’t think we’ve played against anyone who can fit into that category. He’s really exceptional. When you do pressure, there were a couple times we even had some guys who had gotten free and were unblocked and they were two steps away from him when he got rid of the ball. … There was still really no chance to get him.

Manning said he saw some unfamiliar things. Did you do anything different against him?

We just set up some things last night that we felt complemented each other. We had however many defenses it was, and tried to make them all look the same, or made these look like those where there was a compatibility to the calls so that it wasn’t so obvious what we were doing. That’s really what we tried to do. Maybe that worked to some degree. I don’t know. But that’s what we were trying to do.

It’s not just to make it easy for [Manning] and the receivers. I think a couple times they might have had a problem where the quarterback and receivers misread it. They both didn’t see the same thing. I don’t know who was right and who was wrong, but disguise was part of what we were trying to do there, make them work a little harder to get on the same page on their route adjustments.

You had a lot of early success running the ball. Did they stack the line later?

Sure, they were up there. We hit the run to BenJarvus [Green-Ellis]. That split through for a dozen yards. Then the other plays weren’t as good. We felt like we had a good opportunity to make good positive yards. We just didn’t make as many as we hoped we would. Then we ended up in third-and-5, third-and-6, third-and-4, and we just couldn’t convert on third down. We hoped those runs would have gone a little bit better and we would have picked up the yards on the third-down play. But on those last two drives, neither one of those happened.

Are you focused on eating the clock at that point?

I think the more important thing is trying to get first downs, try to keep the ball moving. You have to go with the plays you feel best about at that point. We were running pretty well, we felt confident in our running game. We knew they would be expecting the run, but we had run it against them earlier.

They just did a little better job than we did on some of those plays. Throughout the game, I’d say we did a little better job than they did. We needed to be a little more consistent to execute for all 60 minutes.

How much different is coaching against Manning when you have a 17-point lead, in terms of the need for first downs?

I think that’s always what you’re trying to do. No matter who the quarterback is, your goal is still the same: To pick up first downs and run out the clock. No matter who the quarterback is, you don’t want to give the ball back. He’s as good as anybody. That team is as good as anybody at being able to strike in a hurry. But you still have the same goal, to make first downs and run some clock out, make them use their timeouts. We just didn’t do a good enough job of that.

Will the pass defense have to live and die by the big play, or is there the basis for improvement over the next six weeks?

I hope our whole team can improve over the next six weeks. We’ve got a lot of practices and a lot of meetings. I hope we get something out of that. The big thing is that we, in every game, have shown the ability to play well at times and do the things we need to do. We just haven’t done it for the whole 60 minutes. That’s been true offensively as well. We’ve had some great opportunities offensively in the first half and sometimes the second half. We just haven’t gotten into the whole 60 minutes in any phase of the game. We’ve got to find a way to keep working to get there. We are. Hopefully it will happen this week.

How much of that is execution vs. second-half adjustments?

I think it’s always a little bit of both. There’s always a flow to the game that you have to be able to adjust to from a scheme standpoint. Especially with the Colts, it wasn’t like they were going to run a lot of new defenses. For that matter, they’re not going to run a lot of new plays on offense. They run what they run. They’re very successful at it. They stay with it. It wasn’t as much an adjustment game yesterday as it was in some other games we’ve played this year.

The weakness of the Colts is running at Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Was that part of the game plan so that they couldn’t get upfield?

As you know, you’ve got to block all of them. Freeney and Mathis are definitely challenging guys to block, but so are the other guys. You can’t let them go or you won’t make any yards. You’ve got to get them all blocked. It comes down to execution of your running game, between your blockers and the timing of the running backs and being able to create some space to run.

They are quick.

They’re more than quick. They’re as quick as anybody in the league, and explosive, too. They may not be the biggest guys in the league, but with their initial explosion, how quickly they get off the ball, that’s a real explosive group.

On the Woodhead TD run, the three smallest guys on the field – [Danny] Woodhead, [Deion] Branch and [Wes] Welker – contributed.

Our receivers did a good job in the game, and they’ve been doing a good job all year of blocking downfield, helping the running game. That also shows up on some play-action passes where they’re going into block, then we go into a pass. … Those look the same. It’s hard for the defense to read. It’s definitely effective when they can make those kinds of blocks on big plays. It makes the defense respect it even more.

Woodhead can move his feet remarkably fast to maintain his balance. Have you seen anyone move his feet that fast?

He’s got real good balance and quickness and runs well. I think a lot of similarities to Kevin Faulk.

Ever have that many small guys on a team?

Sure: Branch. Troy Brown. Kevin Faulk. [David] Patten. At times, we haven’t had a receiver out there over 5-foot-10.

The offensive line did a good job protecting Brady and rushing. Has Logan Mankins had a seamless integration?

He’s done a great job the last two weeks and even the first week in Cleveland. Pittsburgh last week and yesterday, outstanding. He has done a terrific job. He’s been a big addition to our team over the last few weeks. Hopefully that will continue to grow as we get into the season. He adds a lot to our football team. … Logan’s an outstanding player. He’s a very good pass protector. He’s a good run blocker. He’s strong. He’s got good balance, good feet. He can get movement on the line and mirror pressure, stay in front of them, punch them out. He really does everything well. He’s a good technique player. He’s obviously just a very good football player, and our team benefits from having him out there.

Question of the Week: How challenging is the quick turnaround with a non-division foe in the Lions?

About as tough as it gets. This is about as tough a week of preparation as it gets. We don’t know the team. We don’t know the players. [Since] last time we played them, it’s a new staff. They’ve had a lot of turnover, a lot of young players, a lot of very good players. But we just don’t have great background on them. We did some work on them in the offseason. But 10 games have passed. … Some of the players there now weren’t there last year, like Suh and Best, guys like that. They’ve added and changed the dimension of their team a little bit. So it’s hard.

When you play out of conference on a short week like that, it’s tough. It’s the same challenge they face, though. But it’s definitely hard on our players and coaches to get the compact and precise and definitive information that we feel like we normally get on a team in such a short amount of time on a team that’s played 10 games, and try to consolidate it for the players, what they’re going to do in certain situations. Sometimes we struggle to put it all together on all the situations: third-down, goal-line, short-yardage, two-minute and so forth.

You were seen paying honor to Paul Brown with the hat.

It’s really an honor, very flattering, to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Paul Brown. I accept that with great respect and honor for that man. He did more for pro football than probably anyone else.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, dwight freeney
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