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Bill Belichick on playoff scenarios: ‘Not even on my radar’

12.27.13 at 1:43 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is very aware of the fact that a first-round bye is just a win away.

Therefore, he doesn’t need the distraction of watching the scoreboard or watching the games on TV before his team takes the field for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff vs. the Bills on Sunday.

The situation is this: Win, and the Patriots will have a weekend to rest their weary bodies and watch the first round on TV for a fourth straight year.

So, to Belichick’s way of thinking, there’s no real need to watch the Bengals-Ravens game at 1 p.m.

“No, I’€™m not planning on it,” Belichick said Friday morning. “I know when we walked onto the field for the Baltimore game last week, I saw the score up on the board and that’€™s really the first time I saw that Buffalo beat Miami. There’€™s nothing we can do about any of those games. Whatever they are, they are. We just have to concentrate on what we’€™re doing. We need to do it for us. We’€™re not really worried about what anybody else is doing.”

The NFL created a little more drama between the Patriots and Broncos for the No. 1 seed in the AFC when they moved the Patriots-Bills to a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff. If the Broncos win at Oakland, they’re locked into the No. 1 seed. If they lose, the Patriots would wind up with the No. 1 seed with a win. If the Bengals beat the Ravens in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots will have even more to play for, as they would need a win over the Bills for a first-round bye.

“I’€™m not even thinking about that,” Belichick said. “It’€™s not even on my radar.”

Last week at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, the video board showed a split screen of the Bills-Dolphins game on one half and the Bengals-Vikings on the other.

“They kind of messed me up with that,” Aqib Talib said. “I tried to keep my eyes off of it. I had too much to worry about with [the Ravens].”

Many of the Patriots players said they saw the games during warmups but were focused on the Ravens. Belichick was asked Friday how aware are the players of the playoff scenarios?

“They know that if we win, we’€™re into the second round of the playoffs,” Belichick added. “If we don’€™t win, we’€™re most likely playing in the first round of the playoffs and that’€™s really all there is to know. Who, what, when ‘€“ none of that, who knows? You have to be a mathematician and have great, great vision to figure that out. We know what we can control. If we can win, we can get into the second round of the playoffs. We know that. I think right now that’€™s probably all we care about.”

Here are the possibilities:
Seed No. 1 – First Round Bye
Patriots beat the Bills, and
Raiders beat the Broncos
Seed No. 2 – First Round Bye
Case 1
Patriots beat the Bills OR
Case 2
Ravens beat the Bengals, and
Jaguars beat the Colts
Seed No. 3 – Home field but no first round bye
Bills beat Patriots and EITHER
Ravens beat the Bengals OR
Jaguars beat the Colts
Seed No. 4 – Home field but no first round bye
Bills beat Patriots AND
Bengals beat Ravens AND
Colts beat Jaguars

Here is the remainder of Belichick’s press conference from Friday:

BB: Well it’€™s coming down to the home stretch here on the regular season. Hopefully we can play our best game on Sunday. It’€™s been a long time since we’€™ve seen Buffalo. I think both teams have made a lot of improvement, I hope we have, and we’€™ll see if we can put our best game out there Sunday afternoon.

Q: You used the word uncertainty to describe the start of the regular season. Is there an opposite feeling now or a renewed sense of uncertainty with the playoffs around the corner?

BB: Certainly we know a lot more now than we knew then. So, 15 regular season games, a lot of practices ‘€“ we know a lot more. I think we have a much better idea of what the strengths and weaknesses of our team are ‘€“ we’€™ve seen those attacked as well by our opponents on a weekly basis. Yeah, I think you’€™re at that time of year now where there’€™s not a whole lot new. They know what you have, you know what they have and you try to go out there and match it up, try to cover up things that you think they’€™re going to try to attack, try to attack points you think they’€™re weak at and vice versa. Yeah, we know a lot more.

Q: In some ways, that Week 1 game with the comeback and last-minute field goal from Steve Gostkowski and Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman play big roles, it seems like a bit of a microcosm of the season.

BB: True.

Q: Do you think that first win of the season laid the foundation? Did that spin the wheels and teach you something about winning games late and coming from behind?

BB: Well it certainly, I think, it was forerunner for many other games that were similar to that. I think it gave our team a lot of confidence. That game and then even the next week against the Jets, which was similar but different, in that we were more in the defensive side of it ‘€“ we had a couple defensive stops but I think those games gave the team a lot of confidence that in the time we spend in situational football and end-of-the-game type plays and situations, it produced some good results. I think that certainly stimulated a confidence and a belief in the things that we were doing to prepare for those situations. That was probably good. Obviously when you look back at the end of the season and you see a game like that, you see how much that game means in the big picture. Had that one gone differently then things would be a lot different now. Or the way it went, however you want to look at it. When you’€™re only playing 16 games, each one of those has an impact. That was a big game for us there. They’€™re a good football team. They were then and they are now.

Q: With so many scenarios, will you pay attention to any of the early games before you take the field?

BB: No, I’€™m not planning on it. I know when we walked onto the field for the Baltimore game last week, I saw the score up on the board and that’€™s really the first time I saw that Buffalo beat Miami. There’€™s nothing we can do about any of those games. Whatever they are, they are. We just have to concentrate on what we’€™re doing. We need to do it for us. We’€™re not really worried about what anybody else is doing.

Q: Last year, you ran the ball well against Buffalo. There’€™s a new coordinator and new personnel, but it seems like they’€™re playing a lot of dime this year. Have you seen that?

BB: Yeah, I think it’€™s a little more situational though. I think it’€™s more situational ‘€“ third down, two-minute, that kind of thing. But they don’€™t get into a lot of dime until you’€™re in a true passing situation. Overall in the running game they’€™ve been pretty good. Some of that is a little bit of a function of the fact that they’€™ve been behind in a few games so that’€™s added to a few runs and a few yards that had the game been a little bit different, they might not have ‘€“ and they’€™ve given up a couple big plays. Like the Tampa game, they gave up an 80-yard run and so that really skews your average and your production. But overall, they’€™re very good in running situations, like short-yardage, they’€™re one of the better short-yardage defenses in the league; good around the goal line. I think they can definitely stop the run and play good run defense. Like all of us, they’€™ve had breakdowns like we all have but I’€™d say overall their run defense is pretty solid.

Q: Is there one difference that sticks out from when you played them the first time to now?

BB: I would say that they’€™ve established ‘€“ similar to what we thought going into the opener. Two of their best players play the same position ‘€“ running back. They use both guys. They get a lot of production out of both guys. They don’€™t change their offense when [Fred] Jackson or [C.J.] Spiller is in there but those two players add a different dimension to the running game because of their skills. They’€™re both very effective. They’€™ve gotten big plays from their fast receivers down the field and they’€™ve gotten a lot of consistency from [Stevie] Johnson and [Scott] Chandler, as they always have or they have in recent years. No matter who has played quarterback, they’€™ve had an element of mobility at that position to run bootlegs and scramble a little bit. Not that those guys are carrying the ball 20 times a game, but you have to be aware of their mobility and their quickness in the pocket. Defensively, we knew their front was good. Their front is still good. I think the biggest difference from the first game is just with [Stephon] Gilmore and [Jairus] Byrd back there. They’€™ve gotten a lot of production out of those guys. They have 22 interceptions this year, they’€™re a ball-hawking secondary. Gilmore and Byrd have certainly had their share. [Jim] Leonhard, when he’€™s played, which he played early and now he’€™s playing late, he played less in the middle but he’€™s shown up there too on the ball, with interceptions and knockdowns in key situations ‘€“ Jacksonville and last week against Miami he had a couple fourth quarter, last drive kind of plays. I’€™d say probably that’€™s the biggest difference, they don’€™t have Justin Rogers in there. They’€™ve kind of changed their secondary around a little bit. [Nickell] Robey, even though he played in preseason I think him starting in the nickel spot was a little bit of a surprise maybe, that it would end up being him, but he’€™s held that spot down all year. I’€™m sure they feel better about their secondary now than they did earlier in the season. I’€™d say the rest of it’€™s pretty much ‘€“ getting [Doug] Legursky back on the offensive line has definitely helped them. He’€™s done a good job for them. There have been a few minor things. Obviously they’€™ve had a lot of transition with the kickers. I’€™m sure that that’€™s not what they’€™re looking for but those are two ‘€“ [Dan] Carpenter and [Brian] Moorman are two experienced guys that have played well through the years. It didn’€™t look like what they were trying to go with but it looks like that’€™s probably worked out OK for them.

Q: How do you think Stevan Ridley has handled what has seemingly been a challenging year for him?

BB: Stevan’€™s, I think, competed well all year. I think all our backs know and respect the abilities of the other players at their position, that there isn’€™t just going to be one guy in the game all the time, that they’€™re all going to play, they’€™re all going to contribute and they all have. I think they all have. I think it’€™s a good group. I think they’€™ve all handled it well.

Q: Why do you prefer the running back by committee approach?

BB: I prefer scoring and winning. That’€™s my preference.

Q: You talked last week about your process of deciding your game day 46-man roster. In general, would you rather know as soon as possible and game plan with those guys in mind or go down to the wire?

BB: Sure. Yeah, no, sure, of course not. You’€™d rather practice the guys you know are going to play. But this is the NFL, I would say that’€™s not realistic. It could be, I’€™m not saying it can’€™t happen. But realistically, 16 weeks, you’€™re probably 12, 13, 14 of the weeks there’€™s some degree of uncertainly. Even today ‘€“ Friday ‘€“ and a lot of times Saturday or even Sunday ‘€“ we were working guys out on Sunday before the game last week, that decision wasn’€™t made. But yeah, it would be great if everybody was healthy, you knew these were the guys you were going to take to the game. The other guys are behind them, so those are the guys that are going to be inactive this week. Yeah, sure, it would be great.

Q: How much do you value penalties when assessing how well disciplined your team is? You’€™re near the bottom in terms of committing penalties.

BB: We don’€™t coach penalties. There are very few penalties ‘€“ maybe a delay of game, situationally or something like that, sometimes intentional grounding, give the quarterback an opportunity to avoid a sack but if they call it, he would have been sacked anyway. There are some penalties that aren’€™t really bad penalties but the rest of them just give your opponents yards and extra opportunities. So we try to eliminate penalties. That’€™s one of our goals every week, is to play penalty-free in each of the units. It’€™s rare that that happens. It’€™s actually happened several times this year but that’€™s our goal. Our goal is never to give away free yards and extra opportunities. But again, situationally there are times when a penalty is either a strategic play or an acceptable play but we try not to commit them.

Q: The season is probably the longest time of your year in terms of hours, but is it amazing that this is the last press conference of the regular season? Does it seem like it’€™s gone fast?

BB: It sure has. Yeah, it seems like we were just at Thanksgiving and we were just at the bye week and the season was starting and we were answering questions about [Rob] Gronkowski‘€™s health and injury status every week. Really, it doesn’€™t seem that long ago at all. The year has gone by fast.

Q: Does the season seem to go by faster than the offseason?

BB: It goes by a lot faster when you’€™re winning than it does when you’€™re losing. I can tell you that from experience. When you’€™re 3-12 or whatever, you don’€™t get the feeling that it’€™s going by real fast. But fortunately we haven’€™t had too many of those. But yeah, this is it. Really it’€™s a one-game season at this point. You can’€™t look anything past ‘€“ there is nothing past this week. We have no idea what the season holds for us after this week. But this week would give us an opportunity to move into the second round of the playoffs. That’€™s all we can control. Hopefully that’€™s what we’€™re going to try to do.

Q: What went into the decision to release Marquice Cole?

BB: To try to do what we feel is best to beat Buffalo. Anything we do is to try to do the best thing that we can for the football team. Right now we’€™re in a one-game season.

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