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Transcript of Tom Brady on D&C: ‘You don’t question decisions’ by Bill Belichick

10.31.11 at 11:50 am ET

The Patriots came off the bye week and put up a stinker in Pittsburgh, struggling on both sides of the ball and dropping a 25-17 decision to the Steelers. In his weekly Monday morning interview with Dennis & Callahan, Tom Brady dissected the loss.

“We never could really play from ahead,” Brady said. “We never played with the balance that we needed. When you play the Steelers, you’ve got to be somewhat balanced. You’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently. And then when you throw it, you’ve got to throw it on your terms. We were throwing it on their terms all day.

“They’ve got a good defense,” Brady added. “They have a great scheme. They have one of the best defensive coordinators of all-time [Dick LeBeau] and some incredible players on defense. Like I said, we’ve got to try to learn from it and go out there and play better this week.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Should we assume that what the Steelers defense did yesterday was at least to some degree unexpected by you and the offense — that is man-to-man coverage, press at the line of scrimmage and follow your receivers everywhere they went?

They do that. That’s part of their scheme. They probably did it a little more yesterday than they’ve done in the past. But there weren’t many looks out there that we didn’t prepare for or that we didn’t think they could do. It just really came down to our execution. We didn’t do enough on third down to stay on the field. We squandered some opportunities there. And when you play on the road against good teams, you don’t have much margin for error. We certainly made too many errors that allowed them to really control the tempo of the game, to control exactly how they wanted to play us. We never could really play on our terms.

It seemed the Patriot offense looked skittish, rushed, out of sync, generally uncomfortable. Did it feel that way to you?

We were never in a rhythm. But that takes running good plays. If we don’t convert on third down — we had three plays in the first quarter of the game. You’re not going to do anything running three plays. That’s our fault for not converting a third down. We had an opportunity to complement our defense and match a score by them, and we didn’t do it.

The second drive of the game we were moving the ball decently. And then we squandered away a decent opportunity on the plus side of the field and didn’t get anything out of that. Then we got the touchdown. They we had a two-minute drive where we kicked a field goal.

We were just not playing our style of football. We played against a team that is a very physical team, that’s a tough team that plays well at home. We didn’t do enough to really counter their strengths. We kind of played into their strengths.

Looking at the game summary from 11 months ago, you smoked them. What was so different this year?

Like I said, I think our execution wasn’t what it needed to be. That’s the difference. Eleven months ago really has no bearing on anything that we’re doing now. What the game came down to yesterday was them really playing at a higher level than we played. We’ve got to give them credit for that and we’ve got to understand that we can’t go out there this week and play the same type of way. We have to be balanced. We have to be able run the ball. We have to be able to complete third-down plays. We were 3-of-10 on third down.

I don’t think it was lack of preparation. Look, we fought ’til the end. We played with mental toughness. We didn’t match their level of execution. When they do that at home, they’ve got the momentum. They had it pretty much the whole game. We could never establish our own presence as an offense against a defense that wanted to get up and play physical against us. When they do that, you’ve got to make them pay. And we never made them pay. So, they stayed up there all day and we just couldn’t really counter what they were doing.

Is it unusual to go in with a game plan of controlling the ball through the air? They controlled the ball while throwing it. threw 32 times in the first half and kept you off the field. Do you ever going into a game saying we’re going to control the ball, control the clock through the air?

Yeah, you definitely do that at times. It depends on the team that you’re playing. You’re always trying to figure out where your best matchups are and the things that you can take advantage of. We’ve done that plenty of times. We played them in 2002 and threw the ball 23 straight times or something like that. There’s times where that’s part of the game plan, there’s other times where you don’t want to do that, where you need to be 50-50 run and pass. It all depends on what you think and how your matchups and what you think scheme-wise you’re able to match up against their scheme.

They played well on offense. They converted a lot of third downs. Ben Roethlisberger‘s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. They were the AFC representative in the Super Bowl last year. So, it was no slouch team that we played yesterday, by any stretch. We played a very good team that plays very well at home, that starts fast at home. Like I said, you don’t have much margin for error. We just never made enough plays to stem the tide. Hopefully we learn from that and we come out of it a bit stronger than we went into it.

The Patriots won the toss and deferred. But would you prefer as the quarterback to warm up pregame and get the football first?

It sucks sitting over there. But they’re executing well on offense. That happens. It happens where they have a long drive to start and the offense has to come out there and do something with the ball. And we didn’t do it. So, that’s the frustrating part. You talk all week long about getting off to a good start and getting your best plays early. We hit a first-down pass. We ran on second down, they made a play to stop us. Then we didn’t convert on third down. Had we made a first down there, you may take control of the game, play on your tempo, do the things that we talked about going into the game that we needed to do in order to keep control of the game.

Really, they played us in a lot of man defense. They played us with a lot of defensive backs on the field. We threw the ball a lot, we didn’t run it much. We only had 20 minutes time of possession. That’s the offense’s fault for not being out there on the field. We’ve got to do a better job of staying out there, of playing a more precise game with a higher level of execution.

The tone also seemed to be set in the third quarter. You go three-and-out again. And not only how you went three-and-out, but the way Ryan Clark just kind of crushed [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] on the first play of the quarter kind of set the tone for them and got the crowd into it as well.

We ran on first down and gained a couple of yards. And then we had an incompletion on second down. Then I think it was third-and-8 and we gained 7 1/2. Those are the type of things that win or lose games — a half-yard here, a half-yard there. We end up punting.

Like I said, we never could really play from ahead. We never played with the balance that we needed. When you play the Steelers, you’ve got to be somewhat balanced. You’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently. And then when you throw it, you’ve got to throw it on your terms. We were throwing it on their terms all day.

They’ve got a good defense. They have a great scheme. They have one of the best defensive coordinators of all-time and some incredible players on defense. Like I said, we’ve got to try to learn from it and go out there and play better this week.

Who’s involved when, for instance, they decide to go for an onside kick? Do you have any input in that whatsoever? How are those decisions made, who makes them, and are you a part of any of that?

I don’t think there’s many people involved. The head coach is the one who makes the decisions for the team. The players, we play for the best head coach in the history of the NFL, so you don’t question decisions, you go out there and try to do your job. We’ve got to do a better job of doing our own job. And whatever the coach decides he wants to do — our coach decides what he wants to do, that’s what we go out and try to do as best we can. We certainly didn’t do that yesterday.

There’s not a big team meeting of whether we want to kick onside kicks or take the toss or go for it on fourth-and-1. We listen to our coach. He makes the decision and we’re expected to go out there and execute it. We didn’t go out there and execute very well.

Two days before the game, you find out a veteran teammate, Leigh Bodden, is released. Are you surprised by that?

I’m not surprised at anything in the NFL. I’ve grown up over the years to see that players come and go, and coaches come and go. The most important thing I need to do is to be the best quarterback that I can be. I have my own job to worry about. I’m trying to go out there and play a great game. Whatever decision coach makes, that’s kind of what we go with. We don’t sit here and question his decisions, because we’ve got a game. He always says he’s going to do what’s in the best interests of the team.

Leigh’s a friend of mine. I’ve always enjoyed playing with Leigh. We all wish him the best of luck. We went out and played a game and lost a game. I’m more worried about us losing games than what coach’s decision is.

As far as level of surprise goes, does anything come close to Lawyer Milloy, or is that the bar that was set real high and nothing is ever going to be quite as earth-shattering as that one?

Yeah, for me that was. That was my third year in the league and he was one of my best friends on the team. We lived right next to one another. He was a captain. After that happens, you just realize anything happens in the NFL. There’s tough decisions that are made.  It’s not like these are easy decisions. You’ve got certain players that come off PUP. There’s roster decisions to make every week. You see a guy like Ross Ventrone, he’s on the roster one week, then he’s on the practice squad, then he’s on the active roster, then he’s on the street, then he’s back.

You’ve only got 53 players on the team, and everyone’s expected to contribute. So, whatever your role may be, you’ve got to go out there and do it as well as you possibly can, and not make excuses for why you didn’t perform to the level that you’re expected to. You’ve got to go out there and worry about yourself. And collectively, if everyone is concerned about themselves, then we do our own job. That’s how we’re going to play the best that we possibly can. When you play to the level of your capabilities and everybody does that on a weekly basis, you become a very consistent, dependable football team. You may get beat, but it’s going to take a lot to beat you.

There’s other weeks where when you don’t play up to our coach’s expectation level, then you’re relatively easy to beat. The way we played yesterday with being poor on third down, with situationally not really being aware of the things that we needed to do to win, we ended up being relatively easy to beat. So, we’ve got to learn from that and certainly make it a lot more difficult on teams than we made it yesterday.

On the non-challenge of [Rob Gronkowski’s] touchdown, was the thinking, ‘Let’s just punch it in in a couple of seconds, move on and keep playing’ as opposed to maybe throwing the red flag out there? I assumed you didn’t expect it would take 1:31 more to score that touchdown.

No I don’t think we did. I thought he was in. When I threw it, he crossed the goal line. There were several of those that I would have thought differently about. But that’s the way they call them. We still got the ball in the end zone. We still had an opportunity with the onside kick, and there was time left on the clock.

Until there’s no time left on the clock, as what happened in the Dallas game, I think we have a chance. We had chances all the way up to the end. We just didn’t get the job done when we needed to get it done. I wish we would have gotten that call. There’s a few others I wish we would have gotten, but we didn’t. We’ve got to be mentally tough to move past a decision by a referee or a bad bounce. You’ve got to overcome those things and put them aside and just do your job better.

Did Gronk tell you he thought he was in?

Yeah, he thought he was in, but we were going fast, too. So, coach [Bill] Belichick, there’s time running down, we’re already on the half-yard line. He’s probably thinking — I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m sure he’ll be asked about it. Like I said, we still got the ball in the end zone. They made it tough on us. But, that’s just, they make it tough on you, every half-yard was tough yesterday. There were no easy yards out there.

Because CBS didn’t want to miss your snap, you almost kind of hurt yourself by not getting a second look at it in the coaches booth.

Yeah, that could be it as well. I’m not sure goes into all the decision-making of challenges and so forth. We as players, we don’t sit here and wait for the coach to challenge it unless it’s an out-of-bounds play or the clock stops. For the most part, we’re just moving on and trying to run the next play and execute it well.

Would you say Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach ever if you didn’t play for him? I’m sure when you were younger, you thought Bill Walsh was up there, right?

Yeah, he was, but having the opportunity to play for coach Belichick, we’re as well prepared as any team could possibly be. There’s not one situation that we don’t cover. We never come out of the games surprised by what a defense was going to do. We talk every week about the things that we need to do to win. He’s seen it all. When we do the things that he says we need to do, we win. And when we don’t, we lose. So, we have a lot of confidence in him. The entire team has 100 percent confidence in him, that the decisions that he makes are what’s best for the team, the things that we need to do to win.

I’ll tell you, to show up every day and to have to worry about your own job, that’s all a player can expect to do. We all individually accept when we don’t do things that we need to do on a consistent basis. And with the things that we need to do better, because we certainly need to do a lot of things better.

The thing that we take from it is it’s the seventh game of the year. We have nine important games to go. By no means are we peaking at this point. We’ve got a lot of football to play. Hopefully we learn from this, and it makes us a better football team. This was an important game for us. We lost. We can sit here and worry about it and blame each other and listen to all the crap that’s said about us, how much we suck and how much every player sucks, and then let that affect us next week. But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to say, ‘OK, they played us well. They did things that they needed to do to win. We didn’t.’ But we have an important game this week and we have to be able to turn it around. That’s the attitude that we take. It has served us well over the years. We’re going to try to go out there and do a better job this week.

What kind of candy are you giving out tonight?

I don’t think anybody comes by my house. I haven’t had anybody knock on my door in a few years.

That’s because you shut all the lights off and hide under the bed.

No, unfortunately, I don’t think the people in Foxboro are going to be doing much trick-or-treating with the power outage.

Given the respect and the admiration you’ve talked about for Bill Belichick, can that co-exist with Bill Belichick being challenged within the system, by assistant coaches, other members of the staff, or even a select few players? Or is it just simply Bill’s way or the highway down there?

No, everybody gives input to him. The captains give him input every week. I certainly have a lot of communication with him over the course of the week. The assistant coaches are always communicating with him. He’s always listening. He’s very flexible in decision-making. But ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s one person that makes the decision. He gathers all the input, and he makes the best decision he can for the team. That’s all you can expect from a head coach. That’s what we expect, and that’s what we get. And like I said, that’s why we have confidence in him. Because when he makes the decision, he’s usually right.

What was your most memorable Halloween costume?

You know what I always wanted to be? I always wanted to be like a ninja. And instead of going out and getting a costume, I would always end up doing some cheap version, like a white sheet. My buddy who lived next door, he had the full-on ninja outfit with the nunchucks and the star, and I had little cardboard nunchucks. Mine was pretty crappy, putting it together.

The best part of Halloween was pouring all the candy out on your floor and seeing what you got and then making trades with your friends. Always a great holiday.

Like throwing out the apple in that little baggie full of popcorn. Did you ever get one of those?

Yeah. Those are the worst. I loved the people who would leave just the bowl out on the front doorstep when they were gone and, ‘Please take one.’ Well I never took just one. I promise you that.

Are the Brady boys going to be allowed to eat unlimited candy?

Their mom usually limits that. That’s what happens. If it were up to me, they would. But I don’t fight it too much. She wants them to eat healthy, so they usually do. I’m sure they’ll get a few little pieces, though.

These 4:15 games are starting to feel normal, aren’t they?

We’ve had a bunch. I prefer the Sunday at 1. But 4:15, it’s a home game, we’ve got to get back on a winning track. We have to get back to playing our brand of football and come out here this week with a lot of intensity and emotion and try to get a win against a damn good team.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady



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