Bill Belichick says ‘certainly a lot of common threads’ from Rob Ryan to Rex Ryan
|10.15.13 at 2:49 pm ET|
For the second straight week, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be facing a Ryan family defense.
Usually, that means preparing for various schemes and personnel combinations depending on the team they’re playing. Take the Jets and the Saints for example.
The Jets, like the Saints, change their defensive look from game-to-game based on the personnel they’re facing. In Week 2 against the Jets, Geno Smith was driving the Jets early in the fourth quarter. He had a chance to beat the Patriots before throwing across his body deep in Patriots territory and getting intercepted by Aqib Talib as New England held on, 13-10.
Tom Brady and company were limited to just one touchdown and a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals. That night, Brady was held to 19-of-39 passing for just 195 yards and no points in the second half at home in the rain. Head coach Rex Ryan didn’t dial up as much pressure as his brother Rob. Ryan’s Jets only got to Brady for one sack and one quarterback hit.
In fact, Rex Ryan’s best day against the Patriots came in the 2010 playoffs when he brought few blitzes and frequently changed the look of linebackers dropping into coverage as the Jets prevailed, 28-21.
Last week, before the game-winning drive, Brady looked hurried and out of rhythm for most of the game as Rob Ryan brought pressure up the middle and got to Brady for five sacks and seven quarterback hits.
On his conference call Tuesday, Belichick spoke of going up against a Rex Ryan defense after playing a Rob Ryan defense.
“I think there are certainly a lot of common threads,” Belichick said. “I would say the biggest thing that is the same is that they’re both game plan coaches. Again, meaning that what they decide to do in one game could be dramatically different from what they do in another game. I would say that’s the common thread. So based on the personnel that they have and how they feel like they match up with the opponent, they’ll take their basic defense, which I think there are some similarities in their basic defenses, they’ll take those and modify them to try to maximize the use of their personnel and address the threats that they feel like they’re facing offensively and attack the weaknesses of their opponent. I would say that’s the common thing.
“So what that is could be very different or could be similar depending on how closely they feel like they match up with the same team. Obviously I’m sure that they’ll talk this week, have talked this week and that type of thing. I’m sure that they’ll exchange whatever information, but again, I think these two teams know each other pretty well: the players, the coaching staffs. We just played each other a month ago so how the Jets and the Patriots match up is a little different than how we match up with another team or they match up with another team.”
Here is the remainder of Belichick’s conference call from Tuesday:
“Obviously we just played the Jets a little while ago but we still have to start our preparations all over again and really get back and focus on them because we’ve had so many other teams to work on in between. It will be a big challenge for us this week to go back and really be as thorough as we need to be and should be and not make any assumptions about what things were like a month ago because I think they definitely have changed. As usual, the Jets are really good defensively. They have an excellent front. They’re pretty good on everything, really good against the running game, good against the passing game. They hit the quarterback, they cover the receivers. They just do a solid job and always dangerous in the kicking game, as Atlanta saw on the first punt. Offensively, we’ve seen the development of [Geno] Smith and the entire offense. They get a lot of people involved there, they use a lot of different personnel groups – backs, tight ends and receivers – a lot of different personnel combinations. They do things like Wildcat and a normal running game but also the option running game, quarterback keep, things like that, similar to what we saw from Philadelphia. A lot to get ready for and they have a lot of scheme plays in all three phases of the game. They’re very much a game plan team so what you see one week, you may or may not see the following week, so we’re going to have to prepare for a lot of different things.”
Q: Does the familiarity in division games level the playing field and take away the element of surprise? Is that why division games often seem to be extremely competitive regardless of how teams are playing?
BB: I think that can kind of work both ways. You know, it’s an interesting question. It’s something that when you compete against somebody and you know the competition and you continue to know them better as you study them and compete against them, you can sometimes be more creative because of their tendencies or the matchup that you think you can create than maybe you would with a team you didn’t know as well because you’re not quite as sure how predictably you’d be able to get them into a particular situation that you could take advantage of where you might feel differently about a team that you’re much more familiar with or a player you’re more familiar with and how to attack them. I think it can go both ways a little bit. Because sometimes you feel like you have a little bit more time with your preparations because you don’t need as much time on the scouting report, you don’t need as much time on the personnel, the players have some recall, experience against that team, that you can spend a little bit more time game planning or creating something that’s a little bit different than sometimes you can when you have to expend a lot of time and energy just in trying to get the basics, get everybody to understand the basics and how you’re going to handle the core things. Sometimes that limits, not what you have to do, but sometimes it could limit the amount of creativity you want to put into a game when you feel like you have your hands full just handling the basic things. It’s an interesting question, interesting dynamic. But I think you see it in all the sports. I think basketball is a better example than baseball because you have so many pitchers in baseball but in basketball you have the same guys out on the court pretty much every game, playing back and forth and some games are dramatically different than others, even though it’s the exact same players playing multiple times a year. Something just comes out a little bit differently. I think that’s kind of the intrigue of the division games in the NFL.
Q: Can you talk about Geno Smith and how he’s improved since Week 2?
BB: I thought he played an outstanding game against Atlanta. That was a big drive at the end of the game. Longer, but similar to what he did against Tampa, where they were behind and he was the guy that drove them down the field and put them in position to win the game. I think he shows a lot of poise in there and it looks like he’s getting a little better each week. They seem to be expanding the offensive attack with personnel groups, formations, plays and building on it on a weekly basis for him and obviously the entire offense, but certainly for him in the passing game. I’m sure that they’re gaining confidence in him and they’re just giving him different looks, more expansion in the offense, as I’m sure they feel more comfortable with him doing that. I think those are the big things. You don’t see a dramatic change in his play. His mechanics and his athleticism and all those things have been fairly consistent over the first part of the season. I think you do see a moving of the offense in a wider direction to incorporate some of his skills and the experience that he’s gaining.
Q: Julian Edelman said after the game that you work on the two-minute drill every Thursday. Are there some weeks that you might practice that a little more than just once a week? How often do you do the two-minute drill?
BB: We usually do it once a week. In training camp, we do it usually on a daily basis. But in the regular season, it just gets down to a question of time. How much time can you commit to all the different situations? There have been times where we’ve done the two-minute drill probably twice in the week and there have probably been times when we haven’t done it at all because the emphasis was on something else, whether it was four-minute or red area or blitz pickup or whatever it happened to be. We try to make sure that we get all our bases covered. Usually it’s a once a week drill and we usually do it without timeouts so we can emphasize the hardest situation, which is the continual play and keeping the ball moving and stopping the clock either getting out of bounds or spiking the ball so that we create the type of situation that had in the New Orleans. That’s really as tough as it gets, where you have to go down the field with just over a minute and no timeouts so you don’t have any artificial way to stop it.
Q: In weeks when you go against game plan coaches, do you find yourself more than usual examining your own tendencies and coming up with what you’d do with their personnel to exploit your own weaknesses?
BB: I think you have to certainly have an awareness of that. If there’s something that you’ve had trouble with since we’ve played them. Whatever we’ve had trouble with, plays or a certain type of blitz or whatever it happens to be, a certain type of coverage or a certain type of play that we’ve seen offensively that we look at and we feel like we haven’t defended very well or haven’t handled very well, then you have to get those fixed because you’re going to keep seeing them on a weekly basis. If not this week, it will be next week. You’re certainly going to get those so we try to get those things fixed. That’s one of the big parts of our Monday film session, is win or lose, however the game turns out, is to make sure that the things that came up in the game that we didn’t have handled properly, that we address those so that everybody at least understands this is what we need to do because it’s really a foregone conclusion that it’s going to come up again. The dangerous thing is trying to, when you’re game planning, is defend ghosts: ‘Here’s what we think they’re going to do,’ and ‘They could do this,’ and ‘They could do that.’ You spend time preparing for that and you don’t really know whether they’re going to do it or not so you could waste a lot of time there. As we kind of like to say, ‘What if the offense is nine foot line splits?’ How much time can you spend doing that? You’ve never seen it, they could do it, could be a problem but when’s the last time we’ve seen that in this league? There’s a balance there and sometimes you just get a feeling that, ‘This is the way it’s going to go.’ If certainly you have an indication for whatever reason that you’re going to get some type of new game plan or new element that they haven’t shown or they’ve only shown a little bit that this could be the week that they feature it, then you could shift your preparations to that, no question. But it’s a little bit of a guessing game and kind of dangerous one because you put all your eggs in one basket and if you happen to be wrong, you’ve spent a lot of time preparing for something that you don’t even see. That’s the game within the game. Exactly.
Q: Armond Armstead and Mark Harrison are eligible to begin practicing this week. Are they ready to have that happen and have you made that decision?
BB: We haven’t made it yet, but that’s one of the things that we’ll be talking about later on today. If it doesn’t happen today, then it will be a conversation that we would have next week and so forth. [Those are] some of the things that we do on Tuesdays, in addition to game planning for the Jets, we talk about our roster, find out what the expected practice availability is for the players, how to structure practices, what players may be able to participate on Wednesday, which ones may not, which ones we’re going to have to take out there and take a look at on the field and see. We won’t know until we actually get out there with some guys. Yeah, that’s all part of what we do on Tuesday: figure out how we want to practice during the week, which, similar to the question that [was] just asked about which areas we want to emphasize, whether it’s two-minute drill, red area, blitzes, punt protection. We’re going to do all of it at some point, but there may be one thing that we want to put a little more emphasis on this week than we did last week because of what the Jets do. That’s all part of our Tuesday for the coaches.
Q: Where does Tom Brady’s poise and calm come from? Was he always like that or did it develop through the years as he got experience and familiarity with your offense?
BB: No, I’d say that’s pretty much always been a trademark of Tom. Even going back to the first year, we were in some really tight games throughout the year but particularly at the end of the year: the Oakland game in the snow, obviously the Super Bowl. I think Tom showed a lot of poise and composure in those games which is as big as it gets, his first year as a starting quarterback. But even throughout that year, when he first took over for Drew [Bledsoe] and started to become a regular player. We were in a lot of tight games, some we won, some we lost but I never felt that there was a sense of panic of discomfort or anything with Tom. He was always very poised and always had a real good vision in the game. Even after, it could be a bad play that happened or an interception or a turnover or something, he would come to the sideline and say, ‘OK, let’s talk about what happened on that play.’ He would very clearly say, ‘This is what I saw. This is what happened. This is what this guy did, this is what this guy did, this is what the safeties did, this middle linebacker was here. This is what I saw on the route.’ Then you go back and look at the film and all those things happened. The six, seven, eight, nine things that he described were pretty much the way the play unfolded. I think that’s something that really was one of Tom’s greatest strengths, is his ability to see the field, remain calm, remain poised even though the stadium may be going crazy if we’re on the road or the situation- we may only have couple seconds to work with or whatever the circumstances are. He does a very good job of knowing what the situation but not getting consumed by it and focusing on the execution of that particular play or sequence of plays. I think that’s one of his greatest strengths as a player. Yeah, I think it was evident from the 2001 season and it’s been very, very consistent – same thing in practice too. You see the same thing in practice. You try to throw a new – which we do on a regular basis – we throw something in there that maybe the other team hasn’t done or we haven’t seen in awhile, just to keep us on our teams or run something that a team ran a couple weeks ago and hurt us with it and see if we’re ready for it this time. He’s very, very good about that too. Being alert, being focused. Again, when you ask him what happened or what he saw on the play, he’s usually 99 percent or maybe even higher, right on the money with what he saw is exactly what happened. He processes things very well.
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