Bill Belichick says there’s no advantage to playing either San Diego Chargers or Denver Broncos in AFC championship
|01.12.14 at 1:43 pm ET|
It’s the cliche question asked of every player and coach when they advance to a game before the opponent is determined. Who would you rather face?
In the case of Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the question Sunday morning was whether there’s an advantage to playing either San Diego or Denver in next Sunday’s AFC championship.
“I don’t really think we look at it that way,” Belichick said in a conference call. “I certainly understand what the question is, but I really just don’t think we look at it that way. First of all, we don’t have any control over the situation. Second of all, whatever it is for us, it’s the same for the same for them, so the teams that we’ve played have played us and the teams we haven’t played, haven’t played us. I do think this: whoever we play, these are the two best teams in the AFC and in order to play next week, you have to play well this week. Whichever team that is today that plays the best will deserve to play next week. We played well enough last night to be able to play next week.”
There something else Belichick knows for sure, if it’s the Chargers, they don’t have to travel. They’ll get to play the AFC championship at home for the third straight season. If it’s Denver, then it’s a date with Peyton Manning at Invesco Field at Mile High next Sunday.
“So whoever we play, we’re playing the other best team in the AFC,” Belichick added. “We’re going to have to play well. We’re going to have to play better than we played last night. The competition is going to get stiffer. I think we’ve all seen in the playoffs that it’s really about that game, that matchup, that day. Whatever happened during the regular season or some other year or some other time, or whatever reference point you want to take, is really not that significant. What it’s about is how things go on that particular day, just being at our best on the biggest game of the year. All of us players, coaches, making good decisions, good execution, good communication, playing good situational football, playing good down-after-down consistent football ‘ that will be the challenge this week for whoever it us we play.”
How will Belichick and his staff watch and study the Chargers and Broncos?
“We’ve already broken down the Denver and San Diego games to this point, their last sequence of games, the ones we think are most relevant, for our preparations,” Belichick said. “And we’ll start putting then pen to the paper and summarizing what we’ve seen and getting the scouting report ready and maybe putting together some game plan ideas. We’ll definitely watch the game. I’ll watch it. One good thing is that you get to sit there and watch Denver play San Diego and watch both teams go. Those are two good teams right there. Then once it’s over, obviously we’ll put one of them in the file for next year and use the other one, we’ll get back to work on the other one. We’ve done preparations on both teams preliminarily, on a preliminary basis. Now we’ll start to get a little further into it but eventually we’ll whittle it down to one. We’ll work on both teams.”
Here’s the remainder of Belichick’s conference call Sunday morning:
Q: There was a lot of weather talk ahead of last night’s game. Did it end up being a factor in the game?
BB: I thought it was really a minimal factor. We as a staff had talked about the different possibilities: rain like we had last weekend in the Buffalo game, wind maybe more like we had in the Denver game, although in this game it was coming from the other direction, or the combination of both. In the end, we really got neither. The wind, I thought was a minimal factor. We saw the kickers touch back in both ends. The punters hit the ball well ‘ both punters going in both directions, so it wasn’t a big factor there. Even though there was some light rain, it wasn’t the soaking, I guess would be the word I’d use, that we had in the Buffalo game. The field and the players, it wasn’t just soaked out there. So, I thought it was a minimal factor. We’ve certainly played and practiced in a lot worse. Overall I thought it was a pretty clean game relative to the conditions, especially considering the various forecasts we heard during the week. But, I thought our players handled it well. For the most part there was pretty good ball security other than the one punting play. Thought we took care of the ball. They didn’t really have too many chances to turn the ball over and we had a few that we could have reeled in another one or so. The four turnovers, four interceptions, were big turnovers for us. I didn’t really think [weather] was that big of a factor.
Q: When you scored the touchdown to go ahead 27-15 and elected to go for the two-point conversion, was that a result of wanting to go up by two touchdowns or not wanting Tom Brady to hold for an extra point?
BB: The holder was no factor at all. We were perfectly comfortable with Tom [Brady] doing the holding and I thought Tom on the two extra points, it was clean, it was no problem. I don’t think that was a factor at all. It was more just the strategic plan of either being up by 13 or being up by 14. Early in the game, particularly in the first half, I don’t think the point chart is usually that big of a deal. Although depending on how the game ends, you could always go back and say, ‘You could have done this,’ or, ‘You could have done that.’ Once you get into the second half and the possessions are a little more limited, that was one of those that could have gone either way, but we just opted to go for two, just from a strategic standpoint. I don’t think kicking the ball would have really been a bad decision there. It just felt like that was the better of the two, but that was pretty close.
Q: With the benefit of getting to go back and re-watch the game, what would you point to on the offense, maybe in the blocking that contributed to such a strong rushing performance?
BB: I think it was really a combination of all the above. In the running game, it’s hard to single out one person because you need a lot of blocks and you only need one guy to make a tackle. A lot of times you get five or six blocks and one guy gets away from somebody and can only gain a couple yards. So, you really need all of them. I thought our tight ends, backs and receivers, again, did a good job working downfield into the support levels. Obviously we saw a lot of single high safety looks where we had to go in there and get those forced layers out ‘ somebody, it’s usually the receiver. All the way across the board I thought we had good production out of our backs, our linemen, or tight ends, James [Develin] at fullback, the receivers. I thought Tom did a good job as well in the running game of, I don’t know if I would say getting us into a good play, but certainly getting us out of a bad play. There were two or three times when we had a look where we just were short a blocker. All those things contributed. It wasn’t perfect all the way through but we were able to maintain some consistency and eventually hit a couple big plays. I would have like to have seen us convert those few short yardages, but again overall it was a real solid performance from everybody involved in the running game ‘ the players, the coaches and again obviously the runners, but all the guys that were working in front of them too and throwing their support there.