Bill Belichick: Super second-half history has ‘no bearing’ on this week
|11.28.12 at 3:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Fresh from his 200th win as an NFL head coach, Bill Belichick was in rare form Wednesday. That is to say, he wanted nothing to do with talking about how great his team has been or will be.
Dating back to Jan. 3, 2010, the Patriots are 19-0 in regular season games played in the second half of the season.
They are 3-0 this season and he was asked how significant that past history is in developing confidence in his team.
“I don’t think what our record was two years ago has anything to do with this week’s game,” Belichick said without missing a beat or batting an eye. “We’re just trying to focus on what we can do to play well this week.
“I don’t really concern myself too much with what happened in the past or what didn’t happen in the past. Right now we’re just worried about Miam [and] about doing a good job in going down there and playing well Sunday.”
The numbers are pretty overwhelming.
Belichick’s Patriots have posted a perfect second half in four seasons (2003, ’07, ’10, ’11) and have posted a “pedestrian” 7-1 in two more seasons. Both times they went 7-1 in the second half (’01 and ’04), they won the Super Bowl. Three of the four times they’ve gone 8-0, they’ve made it to the Super Bowl, winning once.
“We can look back at other years and talk about them,” Belichick said without even cracking a smile. “I don’t know whether that’s true this year or not. We’ll see.”
Belichick’s Patriots are on a five-game winning streak, and at 8-3, can clinch their 10th AFC East title in 12 years with a win on Sunday in South Florida. They lead the NFL in scoring with 407 points, turnover differential (+24) and total yards per game (435.8). Everything is pointing in the right direction.
“I think we’ve done some things well in the last couple of games,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that really has any bearing on this game. Different team, different match ups, different schemes. It’s all different. Whether we did or didn’t last week, or some other week, or some other year, I don’t think, any of it really matters.”
All that matters to Belichick is shortening the season while his team gets better and better.
“We all know the fewer games there are, the more important they become,” Belichick said. “With each game, we play one less and each one becomes bigger. That’s obvious. Sixteen games is sixteen games, but now there’s five left so it’s a five game season.
“We know it’s a big game, Miami knows it’s a big game. There’s not many left. We’ve got two games left against a division rival. This is the first one down there and we know we’ve got to go there and play our best football this year. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Here is the rest of Belichick’s Q and A with reporters on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium:
BB: We’re right in the middle of Miami week here. We’ve really had several days now to study up on these guys. I think the Dolphins are doing a lot of things well; they’re an impressive team. I think they’re well coached, they’re really sound. I’ve been real impressed with the kicking game ‘ [Marcus] Thigpen has done a good job for them returning. They have a lot of physical coverage guys. Guys like [Jason] Trusnik and [Olivier] Vernon, [Austin] Spitler, [Jimmy] Wilson, [Marlon] Moore, real good group there; a good group of specialists. Defensively I think they’re led by that front. Very explosive front with [Cameron] Wake and [Koa] Misi, Vernon outside and inside [Randy] Starks, [Paul] Soliai, [Jared] Odrick is playing well. I think a lot of those guys are having as good years as they’ve had. [It’s an] experienced linebacker group and a lot of good players in the secondary. They put a lot of pressure on you with a lot of different blitz packages. [They] have a lot of good players up there ‘ tough to run against, good on third down, good in the red area. Like I said, they’re well coached. They give you a lot of different problems. Offensively, I think that their offensive group continues to play well, get better each week. Some young players there that are gaining some experience, but they’re certainly a talented group. A couple good running backs, a solid offensive line ‘ [Jake] Long, [Mike] Pouncey, [Richie] Incognito ‘ a real solid left side they have there. [Anthony] Fasano has always done a good job for them, continues to play well. [Brian] Hartline is having a career year, a really explosive player. [Davone] Bess, we always know what kind of problem he’s been for us. [Ryan] Tannehill’s done a good job, given them some spark. He’s really a smart guy. You can certainly see that by the way he runs the offensive team: their audibles, the way he controls the line of scrimmage, gets them in and out of plays based on different defensive looks, things like that. They give him a lot of responsibility there and I don’t think he has any problem handling it. They’re a solid team all the way around. They can run the ball, stop the run, throw the ball, pretty good pass defensive team, very good in the kicking game. It will be a big challenge down there for us this week. We need to go down there and play well in all three phases of the game; hopefully we can do that.
Q: Have you given any consideration to going inside and turning on the heat to prepare for Sunday? It’s supposed to be around 80 on Sunday.
BB: I don’t know if we could get it 80 in there. We’ll be outside on the grass. That’s the best setup for us right now.
Q: What are some of the things that Davone Bess does that are unique to his skill set?
BB: He’s quick, he’s got good speed, he’s got good hands, smart route runner, he’s got explosive one-step quickness, hard guy to tackle, he’s strong, he has good balance, he’s a hard guy to match up on one-on-one and he’s tough after the catch. He’s obviously smart; he does a lot of different things, different positions or putting him in motion, timing him up on different releases, crossing routes, pick patterns, option routes, things like that. He’s a good player.
Q: Is slot receiver almost a position itself, different from wide receiver?
BB: Yes. As is the slot corner that plays that position on the other side of the ball. It’s definitely different.
Q: It seems like it’s easy to just plug another player in there and replicate what the other guy does. Is that inaccurate?
BB: I think it’s a little bit of a different world in there. There are a lot more people involved ‘ you have linebackers, you have safeties, you have corners, sometimes defensive linemen coming out and blitzing on those. You have different combinations of coverage and it’s really important that that receiver and the quarterback see things exactly the same ‘ when to keep going, when to slow up, when to stop, any kind of option routes, which way to break, when to come out of it. It definitely takes some work. The visual communication between those two players is, I think, more difficult. I’m not saying it’s easier outside; there’re just more variables inside. Again, especially when you get into option routes and decision making, you’re just going to run five yards and run across the field and that’s fairly straight forward although there is some, ‘Do you go over? Do you go under? Do you slow down? Do you speed up? Do you stop? Do you throttle? What are your rules? What tells you to do what?’ Most importantly, it has to be exactly what the quarterback thinks you’re going to do so you don’t go behind the linebacker when he thinks you’re going in front of him and it’s a bad interception, that kind of thing. I think there’s a lot to that, yeah. I think it takes a lot to play that position.
Q: Can you talk about Reggie Bush and the challenges he presents as a dual threat?
BB: Absolutely, he’s a dynamic player. I think you have to know wherever he is when he’s on the field. He could be in the backfield, they could hand him the ball, they could throw him the ball and he can get it in a lot of different ways. He has good strength for his size. I’m not saying he’s a fullback, but he runs with good power for his size. He has great quickness. He’s got great speed. He can run through tackles, he can run around people. It’s similar to [C.J.] Spiller, that type of player: very hard to match up with in coverage. He’s a tough guy to defend. You have to know where he is. There’s no question, you can’t line up out there and not know whether he’s in the backfield or offset or out of the backfield. You have to have an awareness of him. He can take the ball on any ball and be a check-down or a handoff or a screen or anything and go 60, 70 yards. You make a mistake on him, he’ll make you pay for it.
Q: What makes an inside linebacker effective at blitzing? Is it timing? Is it instincts?
BB: It could be a combination of all those things. Players come in all different skill sets that can all be effective. Timing, size, quickness, technique, I think any of those or some combination of them.
Q: Have you liked what you’ve seen from Brandon Spikes in that blitzing role?
BB: I think he’s a productive blitzer.
Q: Which of those elements does he possess?
BB: I think he’s instinctive. He definitely has a good feel for either the play or the way that he’s going to be blocked, sometimes both. He’s tall [and] he’s long, which can be an advantage relative to backs that are picking up, shorter backs; the length can be an advantage. He’s a powerful guy. He has several things working for him there.
Q: Every game is important but this week seems to be even more intensified since it’s a divisional game. Does that even have to be addressed this week?
BB: It is what it is, but we all know that the fewer games there are, the more important they become. With each game, we play one less and each one becomes bigger. That’s obvious. 16 games is 16 games, but now there’re five left so it’s a five-game season. This is one of five, so this is 20 percent of what we have left. You couldn’t say that a few weeks ago. I’m sure they’ll get bigger each week as we go. We know it’s a big game. Miami knows it’s a big game. There aren’t many left. We have two games against a division rival here so this is the first one down there, we know it’s important. Hopefully we’ll be able to go down there and play our best football this year. That’s what we’re looking to do.
Q: I know it’s a game by game approach, but do you try to compartmentalize the season into quarters?
BB: Not really. There’s nothing we can do about the first four or the last four or the next four or any other. The only thing we can do anything about is the game we’re playing that week and that’s Miami this week. Next week is next week and last week is in the books. Win or lose, draw, whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. I mean, it matters, but there’s nothing we can do about it so let’s move on and try to improve from week to week with the new challenge and be ready to go against that opponent. That’s really all we can do.
Q: It’s been a little bit of time since Mike Sherman has been in the NFL. Do you see a lot of stuff from his Green Bay days mixed with some of the stuff he picked up on the college level?
BB: I think there’s no doubt that they’re a West Coast based system, that’s clear. But, I’d say that really over the years, that offense has evolved to being unique to whoever is running it, whether it’s Mike Holmgren or Andy Reid or Jon Gruden or [Mike] Shanahan or whoever it happens to be ‘ Mike Sherman or [Mike] McCarthy. They all kind of have their own ‘ they’ve adapted it, especially in the running game. Some of the elements of the passing game are the same but as it’s gone to more of a one-back league, that’s changed some of the passing game that was a lot of two-back passing in the old West Coast Offense. That’s been modified. Certainly there’s carryover from what Mike did at Texas A&M; certainly there’s carryover from what Joe [Philbin] did at Green Bay. How exactly that breaks down, I don’t know. You probably have to talk to them but I would say there are elements of both. There’s a lot more ‘check with me’ or audibling or changing the play or whatever you want to call it. That was really never a part of, like Bill Walsh’s offense. They would maybe audible once a game, maybe, against a blitz look that wasn’t their system. That’s different now. Green Bay does it, these guys do it. Again, it’s evolved. I think each one is a little bit different.
Q: You see some good centers in this division. What do you think of Mike Pouncey?
BB: Very good, strong. He’s a 300-pound guy but he plays stronger than that. He’s got very good playing strength, good hand strength, good punch, athletic. He had a play last week against Seattle ‘ they were in shotgun, they ran a crack sweep, he pulled and he was easily out in front of [Reggie] Bush on the play by four or five yards, blocked the corner. He looked like a fullback running out there, maybe better than some fullbacks. He can run, he’s got good quickness, he’s tough, he does a good job in the pocket of what I would say, cleaning the pocket. Guys who are tied up with rushers or other blockers, he comes up there and knocks them down and gives the quarterback room to step up and throw. He’s athletic enough to get out in space on screens and pulls, get to the second level on linebackers. He’s strong enough to handle the down guys who are on him. He’s seen some big players line up over him [and] he’s quick enough to reach them. He’s a good finisher. His shotgun snaps have improved. He’s one of the best centers in the league. Like you said, [Nick] Mangold, those two guys are probably as good as we face. [Eric] Wood is a good center, they’re all good in this division, but Pouncey has done a good job for them.
Q: You’re so focused on what’s next and what’s coming. Does that make it harder to look back and appreciate what you’ve been able to do?
BB: I don’t know. We can look back at them maybe at the end of the season or some other time, I don’t know. Right now, I don’t really care too much about some other year or some other week or some other week later on this year. Those are pretty insignificant right now. I think we need to try to take care of the business at hand and that’s the Dolphins. So, all the rest of it, there’s a time and place for that some other time.