On Tuesday, the Patriots started the process of putting the Texans in the rearview mirror and moving on to the Niners. New England coach Bill Belichick  said Tuesday that on a short week, the Niners give you a lot to be concerned about, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
“Yeah [they’re], really impressive,” Belichick said of the San Francisco defense. “They have a lot of good players everywhere: up front, linebackers, corners, safeties, a lot of disruptive players. They’re a real physical defense. They’re hard to run against, they’re hard to block, period. They do a good job in man-to-man coverage. They do a good job in zone coverage.
“Obviously, long yardage is not where you want to be against this team with their pass rush and multiples of zone, man, blitz, zone pressure, man pressure. They give you a lot of different things to work on. They have a lot of good players. They’re a strong, physical, tough football team that does a good job of tackling. They make you earn all your yards. They’re really solid in everything.”
Two guys who stand out above the rest are edge rusher Aldon Smith, who leads the NFL with 19.5 sacks in his second season out of Mizzou, and Justin Smith, who doesn’t have the same gaudy numbers but is considered one of the better young defenders in the league.
“They play very good team defense — a combination of their rush and their coverage,’ Belichick said. “They certainly do a great job of rushing the passer; there’s no question about that. At the same time, when there’s nobody open then that’s a problem too and that gives those guys a little extra time to get there. They’re very good at running games.
“Both Aldon and Justin do a good job of doing that, of running those games, along with [Ahmad] Brooks. They can run over you, they can run around you and they can rush twists and games and force the communication and the offensive line to block in different combinations, to handle very good rushers and they have those multiples as well, along with some blitzes,” he added. “Those two guys obviously are very dynamic rushers. Like I said, they both have an element of power, they have an element of speed, quickness, length. Both are 6-4ish and they’re long. They have a good reach to be able to get to the blocker’s pads and turn him and that type of thing and they can run by them. It’s a good group.”
Here are a few other highlights of his Tuesday Q&A with the media.
What did you think of the performance that Aqib Talib  had before he went down? What went into the decision to have him shadow Andre Johnson ? Can you think of any other guys you’ve used to shadow a receiver? Usually you like to keep players on one side?
“I thought Aqib did a good job. I think he’s done a good job for us. He works hard. I really like him; I like the way he prepares. I like the way he competes. He really did a good job for us on punt return too. We singled him up out there and he did a nice job on that. As far as the matchups go, we’ve done that from time to time. It depends on what the matchups are, what the game plan is. We can do it or we can not do it; I don’t think it’s that big of a thing.”
Were you pleased with the performance of the offensive line? Tom Brady  got hit a couple times but only one sack. I’d imagine that’s a nice for the coaches to see, especially given their defensive line.
“Yeah, I thought the offensive line ‘ really in the passing game it was a combination of several things; the offensive line did a good job, but also the receivers got open and Tom [Brady] didn’t have to hold the ball. The receivers, the tight ends, the backs, but overall in the passing game, we faced a lot of man coverage last night and did a good job of getting open, getting open quickly so that we didn’t have to hold the ball. The linemen did a good job of handling that front. It’s a very disruptive group ‘ they’re fast, they’re quick, they’re athletic and they brought a decent amount of five-man pressure, a little bit of six-man pressure. When they bring four, those four guys are’¦they’re a pretty disruptive group. They have a lot of speed and quickness and they mix in games and they can counter and all that. It was good: good job by the line but a good job overall offensively by everybody and especially the receivers, because the worst thing for the quarterback is when nobody is open, there’s nobody to throw to. I don’t care who you have blocking or who they have rushing, it just isn’t going to last for too long. It was good teamwork, good offensive execution on a number of those plays.”
The phrase ‘statement game’ came up this week. Do you believe there are statement games and do you think that when you beat the team with the best record in the NFL, you’re making a statement?
“As you know, we don’t really worry too much about records around here. We’re just trying to prepare for each game and go out and do the best we can in it. Houston is a good football team. We needed a good performance to win last night. San Francisco is a good football team. We’ll need a good performance to beat them too. I don’t think we put a whole lot of relevance or spend any time talking about that type of thing. We talk more about what we need to do to win each week and each week there are new and different challenges. We met them last week, but I don’t think that really has anything to do with this game. We need to move on and see if we can figure out some way to beat San Francisco.”
Can you talk about the contribution DontÃ© Stallworth made? He must have hit the ground running when he got here to make the contribution that he did.
“There was a big advantage for him and us that he’d been here through training camp and at least had a good familiarity with our terminology, background, system, kind of the adjustments that we make in the passing game on different routes and things like that. That definitely helped him and he jumped in and we used him in some of our three-receiver personnel groups there. It’s a great play that we had there. Tom [Brady] saw the coverage where they came down and doubled Wes [Welker ] and Stallworth was able to run through and split the defense. Tom saw him and put the ball right there and he broke a tackle with [Brandon] Harris. That was a huge play in the game for us. DontÃ© is always in good shape, works hard, dependable player that got an opportunity, stepped up and made it happen. I think that’s kind of what sometimes football is about, but certainly it’s what football at this time of year is about. It’s getting opportunities and taking advantage of them and making them count. They don’t always come in bunches. Sometimes you get just a couple and you have to make those count and he sure did.”
The scout team is always integral to weekly preparation, but how important is it when you play teams outside the division you don’t see often like the Texans and 49ers ?
“That’s really a great, great question and a great point. Every person on our team has a very important role, whether it’s the starting quarterback or a practice squad player or trainers, video people, everybody, everybody across the board and everybody here has an important job and they’re integral to the overall performance and quality of the team. Certainly practice, of all the things we do ‘ we can watch film, we can have meetings, we can talk about stuff, we can look at diagrams and all that ‘ but of all the things that we do, the most important thing we do is practice. That’s our one chance to really go out there and execute plays as close to what it’s going to be like in the game as we can simulate. Again, we can do a lot of the things that are important in our preparation but that’s the one that comes the closest. So trying to replicate what we think we’re going to get from our opponent or looks or personnel matchups or techniques that they use or whatever they use, it’s critical to our preparation. The guys on the scout team do a great job with that and that includes really pretty much everybody. Because of the size of our roster and sometimes injuries and depth at certain positions, a lot of times guys are running on both sides of the ball. They’re running their plays and then they turn around and we’ll run the other team’s plays. Or a lot of times, we’ll take players and ask them to step in and run a certain route or a use a certain pass rush technique or block the way that another player [would] to simulate one of our opponents that maybe one of our starting players can do or that’s kind of their style better than one of the scout team guys. It’s everybody really being involved in that. We coach those players up on what the other team is doing and how to do it and those guys are very diligent and attentive to try to give their teammates a good look at what our opponent is going to do that week. You’re right, it’s a huge challenge with a team like Houston or San Francisco coming up with things that we really don’t know very well, that we aren’t familiar with like we are with some of the division teams on our schedule. Part of that is talking to the players and telling them and showing them how to do it. Part of it is them actually watching film of our opponents so they can paint that picture for ourselves, but for our team on the scout team. Our coaches that run the scout team really do a good job of trying to make the plays look as close to what they’re going to look like in the games. It’s a big part of what we do; a lot of people are involved in that. It’s very important to the preparation of the overall football team on offense, defense and special teams. It’s something we put a lot of work into and I think the players respond to it very well. As a group, they’re not afraid to jump in there and try to help their teammates out by giving them a great look. Then when it’s their turn to run the plays, the other guys on the other side of the ball do the same thing. It’s one of the good things about this team. They work well together, they work hard and they work on the little things, which that’s not a little thing, it’s a big thing but it’s something that happens kind of behind the scenes during the week. You don’t see it on Sunday or Monday night, but it has a lot to do with what happens on Sunday or Monday night. They do a good job of that and it’s really important.”