Belichick News Conference

PATRIOTS COACH BILL BELICHICK NEWS CONFERENCE FROM WEDNESDAY IN FOXBORO, Mass.

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BB:** We added Ricky Bryant to the practice squad roster at receiver. That's the only roster move here. We've had a chance to see quite a bit of Cincinnati lately with these three AFC North teams in a row, Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati. They've all kind of been up against each other recently. I think we're starting to get a pretty good familiarity with all three of those teams, because as you watch one you can't help but notice the other ones. Just watching Cincinnati against those other teams and then being able to really study them this week, you just see how explosive they are. On the offensive side to the ball, these receivers are really big play receivers. [Chad] Johnson is leading the AFC. [Carson] Palmer has a tremendous arm and is very athletic back there in the pocket. He buys a lot of time. Those guys make a ton of big plays along with a complementary running game. Rudi [Johnson] is running well. The offensive line has been consistent all year. It's a very explosive offensive football team. Defensively, they're driven by turnovers. They've caused 31 fumbles, which is an alarming number from our standpoint. They're right up there in interceptions. [Tory] James leads the league in interceptions. They're right up there at the top of the league in terms of team interceptions. They turn the ball over a lot and they convert a lot of those into points [by] either scooping them up and running them in or offensively getting out there and converting it into points after they get the ball. Based on the last time we played them, we saw how explosive they were in that game, 31 points in the first half and [with] what they have done recently in the last five games, how well they've played. It seems like right now their season is split in half where they started off 0-4 and then beat Denver, lost to Tennessee, but then have won four of their last five and have played very good football in the last month. It seems to be a team that is really coming on. Based where they were in preseason, it's kind of scary to think about them coming on more than when they bombed us out there in the first game. We'll need to be a lot better, to make it a lot more competitive this week. [They are] a good football team. They had a big win against Baltimore. They scored 24 points in the fourth quarter to come back and beat the Ravens in Baltimore. That was pretty impressive. They're an explosive team and they can score a lot in a hurry. They've done that all through the year.

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Q:** You mentioned the 31 fumbles. I imagine ball security will be a focal point for you guys this week. What do you do to prepare for that?

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BB:** You keep harping on it, emphasizing it and working on it to make sure that the ball, every time we handle it in practice, which we handle it a lot, [is taken care of]. We emphasize taking care of it. We had it stripped in the preseason game. They get it out every game. 31 fumbles, they didn't all come in one game, believe me. They do a really good job of it. The first Cleveland game, [Kim] Herring went in there and raked one out and recovered that one for a touchdown. They got [Duce] Staley. They got everybody. They really do a good job, the second guy, the third guy coming in at the tackle, you can really see them pulling at it and ripping the ball out. A lot of times the ball just doesn't land on the ground. They pull it out and it flies 10, 15 yards away from the runner. They are very aware of it and they do a good job. Like I said, 31 fumbles, that's a lot of fumbles.

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Q:** Do you see a lot of similarities between what Marvin Lewis is trying to do now with his defense in Cincinnati as opposed to what he did in Baltimore and Pittsburgh?

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BB:** I think it has evolved a little bit. There are certainly some elements of that, no question, elements of the Baltimore system. But, I think it has evolved a little bit to the Cincinnati system. There is still a decent amount of blitz zoning, but again, I think just schematically they've added some things and developed it to so that it's Cincinnati's system now. It's different than Baltimore.

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Q:** Would you characterize their defense as an aggressive defense?

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BB:** Well, it's almost all 4-3, until you get to some sub situations. They have a good mixture of coverages and they do a decent amount of zone blitzing and they probably blitz their safeties more than I'd say probably any team that we've seen this year. There are a lot of safety blitzes. So, from that standpoint, that adds an element kind of like Philadelphia does. They get them involved in a pretty decent percentage. Then, of course, there are a lot of other times where they walk up there and threaten and don't blitz, but you have to respect it because they bring them so many times that you have to account for them. That's basically what they do. They bring their linebackers. They bring their safeties and occasionally bring their corners. They do it primarily off of a 4-3 base front.

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Q:** Have you seen two wide receivers have as much production as [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh and [Chad] Johnson did last week?

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BB:** These guys make big plays in every game. It's no one game wonder. [Kelley] Washington, you need to throw him right in there too, because he makes a lot of plays. He's a big guy and when they get them out there, that's a lot of firepower. As you look at the plays, as I showed some of the plays to the team today, it's not like the coverage isn't good. The coverage, at times, looks really good. In fact you might even say, 'I'm not sure he should throw that ball.' The receivers just go up and take it away from them. They just go up and rebound it. The catches that Johnson had last week, against Cleveland, against Pittsburgh, they just go up and get the ball. The guy is right there and they just go up and take it away from them and come down in the endzone with it. They're very aggressive going for the ball. Palmer throws it up there high and the receivers go up high and get it and they come down with it and they're tough after the catch too. I think four or five of their receivers have all carried the ball on reverse plays. They run reverses pretty much every game. It's a standard part of their offense. So, a lot of their sure plays are catch and run plays or they hand it to them on reverses and try to get them the ball that way. So, it's not all long passes. It's also a lot of short and intermediate plays that turn into long plays if you don't tackle them or if you lose leverage on them and let them down the sideline.

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Q:** Your team is at a point, maturity-wise, where it is used to winning on Sunday. Cincinnati is still trying to build its program. The fact that they probably won their most telling game against Baltimore last week, can that win propel them more than it would another team?

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BB:** I am not sure exactly how to answer the Cincinnati questions. I think you can ask Marvin [Lewis] that. But, I think that they are playing extremely well. I know that we couldn't have more trouble than what we had up there-getting beat 31-0 at the half. So, we have a lot of respect for them in all three phases of the game. They returned a punt for a touchdown that was called back, a 93-yard punt return. So, they hurt us in every phase of the game and they have made big plays every week. [Keiwan] Ratliff ran back a punt 40-some yards a couple weeks ago against Cleveland, so they are explosive in every phase of the game and we totally respect that. Nobody knows better than we do, the way they dominated us last time, what they can do. That is what I am concerned about. How they will respond to whatever happened there, I don't know. I am more worried about how we're going to respond to it.

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Q:** Don Davis at safety, can you run back through the origins of that? Are you more comfortable each week with that?

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BB:** The origins were back in, I would say, at the end of preseason, right at the start of the regular season. We have a lot of linebackers on our roster, so we try to use them in roles to try to spread the production around and spread the opportunity around and create depth on our team because we do have a lot of linebacker players that play on defense and also play for us in the kicking game and Don is one of those core players. He is fast, probably our fastest linebacker, and probably faster than a lot of safeties that are playing in this league, to be honest with you. So, we made that move [and] he has worked back there pretty much all year. He has also worked at linebacker and he gives us some versatility in that area.

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Q:** Can you assess the play of Tom Brady for the last two games?

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BB:** I think that, overall, he has done a pretty good job of managing the team and that is really what his job is, is manage the team and win games. The Baltimore game was a difficult situation in terms of weather, field conditions etcetera. Last week, Cleveland was a little bit of an unusual game the way it started out and just kind of the way it evolved and we ran the ball pretty well and so, that is what his job is, to manage the game. When you win 42-15 or something like that and beat Baltimore 24-3, then I think he is doing a pretty good job of helping to manage it, along with a lot of other people. Some plays are better than others, but you are going to say that every week.

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Q:** His production isn't what some people would like. Is that a concern for you at all?

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BB:** I'm concerned about winning.

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Q:** A lot of people say the magic number for quarterbacks is sixty percent completions. Do you buy that, A, and, B, is that a tough number to get if you play in the northeast?

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BB:** The important number for me is the score at the end of the game. And I think that's the quarterback's job, to manage the team

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Q:** You have said accuracy is important.

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BB:** Yeah, accuracy, turnovers, production, third down conversions - I mean all that - red area, it's all important. And that's all part of his production, and that goes into winning. But you know to just talk about stats, we can talk about quarterback stats all day. And then you talk about wins and sometimes they're correlated, but a lot of times they aren't. You can pick up the paper on Monday and see some of the highest-producing quarterbacks, some of the highest numbers, the most yards, and touchdowns, and all that, and it doesn't always correlate with wins. What we try to emphasize is winning. And it's not stat-related, although a quarterback's production is related to winning.

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Q:** Has he been a little less accurate than in the past, while still winning?

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BB:** There are going to be some plays that are better than others and I think you are going to find that in every game. I'm sure after every game that he's played that there are some plays he would look back on and say, 'I probably could have hit that pass. I wish I had done this or done that.' You are going to say that in every game.

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Q:** Has he faced an adjustment because you are running the ball more and have a more established running attack this year than you have in years past, so his attempts are less? Does that cause him to have to adjust?

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BB:** I think there have been other games like that in the past. Every game brings its own style and is its own entity. We don't go into any games saying, 'We're going to throw the ball fifty times.' We just don't do that. I know that's not what you want to hear, but that is the way it is. We go in with a game plan and then, as the game develops and unfolds, some things get emphasized more than others, depending on their success and reaction to what they are doing on the other side of the ball and the game situations and so forth. If we are throwing it more it is because we think that is the best thing to do. If we are running it more it is because we think that is the best thing to do. If we are balanced it is because we want to stay balanced. We have gone both ways on that. We have thrown it 50 times. We have run it 50 times. And we have been balanced. So, we'll do what we think is best to win. That is what the game is centered around, not individual stats.

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Q:** Would it be safe to say that you are happy with his play?

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BB:** I think that every player on this team, and I've told this to the team, I think every player can play better. I think every group can play better. I think that that's the direction we need to work in, and that includes everybody that's wearing a uniform. Every single guy. We collectively can improve as a team and individually there are things we can do better than the way we are doing them. We are at the point in the season where everybody needs to address that, and that will help us more than anything else. Those are my exact words to the team this morning. That includes everybody.

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Q:** Your cornerback situation-you've won a bunch of games with the guys you have in there. Now in the last month, presumably you may get some starters back, if not this week, then next week or at some point before the end of the regular season. Could that be a challenge, phasing those players back in?

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BB:** We'll do what we think is best for the football team. Whatever those decisions are, it'll be whatever we think is best. Is having more good football players a problem? No. I'll take all that we get and just try to coach them. Having too many players has never been a problem for me. I hope they are all healthy. I hope they all can play and then, collectively as a staff, we will try to find a way so that everybody can contribute. Whatever we can put together to give us the best chance to win, that's what it will be, regardless of who they are or who is available or whatever it is. We try to do that every week.

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Q:** How much do you think Cincinnati has improved since that preseason game you had against them?

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BB:** I think [Carson] Palmer, just watching him play, I think he has really played well in the last four or five games. Again, defensively, they are a turnover-driven team and in our game they knocked several balls out. [They] didn't get them all, but they were loose. There have been other games where they have gotten them and they have turned them over, so I'm pretty concerned about that. We weren't able to move the ball [in that game] and we weren't able to stop them. There have been plenty of games that they have played in the last month, or even all year, where that has also been the case. So, I'm sure they have improved since the beginning of the year. I hope we've improved a little bit. I think every team in the league has improved since the first of August or the middle of August, whatever it was. But, they were pretty good then. They look pretty good now.

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