Opening Comments by New England Head Coach Bill Belichick: You have the announcement on Hank [Poteat] and Randall [Gay]. It's disappointing for Randall. I know he is too. He's worked hard. He's a good kid. It's unfortunate that he's been held back two years in a row here. Unfortunately that's the way it is. Just moving onto Cincinnati. This is a really good football team. We've spent a lot of time watching them in the offseason. They were one of our early opponents here. They had a great year and last year. They did a lot of things extremely well as a team in all three phases of the game. They're very explosive team and they can score a lot of points in a hurry as we saw out there couple of years ago.
The scoring differential that they have this year in the second quarter and things like that are just outstanding. They get a lot of turnovers. They get a lot of good field position. They're a big play team offensively. Lightning can strike in a hurry with them from a number of guys, running backs, receivers, the quarterback is outstanding. They have a good offensive line. They're good in the kicking game. They cover well. They have a good kicker. They have good coverage people and they have some explosive returners.
[Tab] Perry is outstanding. [Kenny] Watson has done a good job for them. He made a big play last week on the blocked field goal and another one on the recovered punt. They got some turnovers defensively in the red area, and then down there in good field position to set up kind of their winning touchdown. I think that Pittsburgh game was a good example of how Cincinnati wins. They turned the ball over. They make the plays. They take advantage of their opportunities in the kicking game. That's why they are 3-0. We have our work cut out for us.
Last year and certainly the way this year has started I think you really have to take your hat off to Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown and the job they've done out there. They've steadily built that team stronger and stronger each year. Again they had a terrific year last year and they're off to a really good start this year as well, beating Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. We all know how tough that can be. Pittsburgh is another good football team. We're going to have to play our best. We need a good week of practice here and we're looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge. Cincinnati is good. They're good.
**Q: How much more difficult is it to blitz Cincinnati knowing that they can go down the field and hit the big one on you?
Yeah, that's the downside of blitzing. If you have a lot of guys committed and if they get somebody behind you, you can give up big plays. They make big plays on everything though. They make big plays on blitzes. They get big plays on zone coverage, man coverage, just like last week where they tossed it up there against [Deshea] Townsend on T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] and he goes up and kind of takes the ball away from him. We've seen Chad [Johnson] do that. [Chris] Henry. Kelley Washington. They're all good at that. And sometimes even if you're in a zone coverage and it's one-on-one back there, those guys do a great job of going up. They have good timing. They have good hands. They get good position. Carson Palmer is an excellent quarterback. He really gives those guys a chance to get the ball. He puts it in a tight spot where only they can get it. He makes a number of those plays too. Blitzing is a problem. Covering is a problem. Playing the run is a problem. They can attack really from every inch of the field.
**Q: Is there a way to explain that second quarter scoring differential?
Again, that's Cincinnati. They were, whatever it was, 31-3 at halftime. Something like that. Then they had a punt return called back in the third quarter. They can get a lot of points in a hurry. Get a turnover, get good field position and get it in the end zone, hit a long play, get good field position on a return, really it doesn't take much. Not with them anyway. They don't fool around.
**Q: When a defense isn't forcing turnovers what are some of the reasons that might be?
I don't know. A lot of it is just to each specific play. It's not like all of the turnovers happen in one way. Part of it is getting the ball out. Part of it is taking advantage of the ball when it does come out. It's like in the Buffalo game, a guy fumbles, the ball bounces off his face mask, it's rolling around out there, well they get it, we don't. Those are the kind of plays that are there. It's an opportunity. We weren't able to capitalize on it. There are other games where guys, they don't fumble the ball. They hang onto it and it's harder to get the ball out and those opportunities are less frequent. So I think it's a combination of doing the best you can to create them, but then when they're there, take advantage of them and capitalize on them.
**Q: What about interceptions?
Same thing. We've had our hands on some balls. There were other balls that we weren't getting get our hands on because the quarterback threw them away in a spot where we can't get them. We've had some balls tipped. Look, when you're a defensive player, you shouldn't expect any easy interceptions. The quarterback is not throwing to you. He's throwing to somebody else. You're going to have to make some good plays on the ball in order to catch it most of the time. I know sometimes you get them tipped and the ball comes right to you. Usually on defense, they're trying to throw it to somebody else. Most of those passes don't hit you right in the perfect spot. You have to make a good play on them and that's part of it too. Sometimes you make them, sometimes you don't.
**Q: As a defensive back, how can you overcome the size differential against a taller receiver?
The first thing is position. The second thing is timing. It's not always about the tallest guy, but it's timing and however much your effort to elevate and get to get to the highest point. It's like rebounding a basketball. You get a guy like Charles Barkley that led the league in rebounding. You don't have to be 7-2 to lead the league in rebounding. You have to be able to jump. You have to be able to get position to be able to get the ball. That's true whether you're a receiver or a defensive back. It's not all about height. That can be an advantage, but unless that guy is also the highest jumper and has the best timing and best hands and all of that, that may not necessarily be an advantage. It may just be part of an advantage, not the total picture. Guys like Chad and T.J. those guys, Henry, those guys are great jumpers and they're big and they can jump and they have good hands. They're pretty good.
**Q: Was Hank a pretty logical guy to call on?
Yeah, well he has a lot of familiarity with our system. It was a tough decision at the end of training camp on the 53-man roster. Hank has been very competitive and is very competitive. We just ended up going a little differently. Of course he's not eligible for the practice squad, so we weren't able to keep him that way.
**Q: Is Chad really up there as far as receivers go?
I think he has a little bit off his own style, but it's pretty good. He has a really good quarterback. He caught 90-something passes last year. I don't know how many yards it was. A lot. But he's good after the catch. He's good on intermediate routes. He's very good with the deep ball, and he's good with the run after the catch, so if you play too far off of him and they hit him on those short patterns, he can turn those into big plays. As T.J., and Henry, and Tad Perry, and all of those guys can. Some of those long passes aren't just all 50-yard bombs. Some of them are 10 yard crossing patterns that turn into 50-yard catch and run plays. They can get you both ways.
**Q: What are some of the factors in deciding to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage?
First of all, it depends on what the coverage is that you're playing, what the corner's responsibility is. If it's just man-to-man coverage, then the advantage is to be able to reroute and disrupt the receiver and quarterback timing. The disadvantage is you don't have a lot of leverage on the pattern. If you jam him, you have to get a good jam and create your leverage at the line of scrimmage. Depending on what type of receiver you're playing against, some guys are easier to jam than others. The advantage of playing off is you're able to see the receiver and sometimes read his route and recognize what he's going to do based on the indicators that he gives in running the route. It's hard to do that when you're up there on him. But there's advantages to both. A lot of times it's just a defensive philosophy. It's hard to be good at everything and sometimes you press more or play off more, or you only press in certain coverages because of where your help is so that you're just able to execute it better.
**Q: What can a receiver do to fight that off?
It depends on the receiver's skills. There's a lot of different ways to do it. You can do it with speed and just try to escape the guy. You can do it with strength and try to knock his hands down and power through him. You can do it with technique. Swim moves. Grabbing the guy's jersey. Upper cutting him. Stutter-stepping. Different players have different methods. Guys that usually only have one thing are a lot easier to jam than guys that have two or three different moves who have different ways to get off the line of scrimmage. That makes it tougher to get a piece of those guys. But again, a lot of it is related to what's going on with the rest of the coverage too.
**Q: Who is a guy you would avoid jamming?
It depends on who's covering him. If it's me out there, there's not too many guys I would want to go up and press. If it were somebody else, they might want to go and press them all. Part of it depends on who the defender is. Part of it depends on who the receiver is. Part of it depends on what the coverage you have called is. For example, if you have somebody coming outside into that outside zone, then you really don't want to go up and press the receiver because by your alignment you've kind of taken those patterns away anyway. So now you're dropping a guy into a technique that the corner's playing, where he can't use the help. So you have two guys really covering the same route. You don't want to do that. So if you're going to run a guy outside, then you really want to leverage the receiver, with the corner being off, so he can use that help. Again, some of it is coverage related as well.
**Q: How important is your running game this week?
I think the important thing is to move the ball and score points, however we do that. I think if they put 10 guys up on the line of scrimmage, it would be stupid to try to run the ball every time just to say, 'Well, we ran it,' unless we can effectively run it against fronts that are overloaded. We'll do what we think is best based on what looks they're giving us and what our options are going in, what game plan plays that we have going in and try to match those up the best we can. You'd like to balanced. Sometimes you can be, sometimes you can't. If they want to take something away, I don't know how smart it is to just keep pounding your head against the wall just to say we did it when there are better options out there. We'll just have to wait and see how that goes during the game.
**Q: Have you seen an improvement in Cincinnati's defense from last year?
Well, yes. They're a good, sound defense. They're strong inside. Sam Adams is a good addition. We all know how hard he is to block. They have good speed on the edge, especially with Justin Smith. [John] Thornton is a good player. [Bryan] Robinson. They're good. the secondary is good. They drafted [Johnathan] Joseph. He's been a good addition to their secondary and they have [Keiwan] Ratliff and of course the starters [Deltha] O'Neal and [Tory] James out there. [Madieu] Williams and [Kevin Kaesviharn] has done a good job. Smith has been out, but they have good depth and good quality in the secondary.
They have guys that can rush the passer. They have a good front. Like I said, Adams and Thornton, they're hard to block inside. Justin Smith. That guy can come around the edge. He made a big play there on [Ben] Roethlisberger in the game on third down. He sacked him and knocked them out of field goal range. They're a good, solid defense. They're probably not blitzing quite as much as they did in the past, like when we played them here in '04 or in preseason. It looks like they've backed off a little bit on that. They're playing from ahead a lot and that helps the pass rush and it helps the defense. You don't have to defend as many things when you're up by 14 points. That second quarter scoring differential, right there, I don't know how many games they've been ahead at the half, over the last year-and-a-half, or whatever it is, a lot.
**Q: Is their defense often overlooked?
I don't know how you can overlook them. They led the league in turnovers last year. O'Neal had 10 interceptions. I think if you overlook them it's because you don't want to look at them. There's plenty there to look at. Like I said, they can rush, they can cover, they turn the ball over. If you want to see them making plays, all you have to do is turn it on. It's not like you have to go to this game, 'They played good in that game.' They make those plays every week. They made them last week against Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. They were 11-5 last year. They're 3-0 this year. It's not like they're just stumbling around out there and stumbled into a couple of wins and a couple of plays. They make them every week on both sides of the ball. Perry, that guy is a really good returner. [Shayne] Graham. They have good players in the kicking game too. Don't underestimate that group.
**Q: Have you been happy with the special teams unit's performance?
I think it's been competitive. There's always room for improvement.
**Q: When you compare it to this time last year?
Compared to this time last year it's definitely better. It wouldn't take much either. It's been fairly consistent for us. Buffalo ran one back there. [Terrence] McGee got a long one. It's been fairly consistent.
**Q: Is that gratifying to you since you lost quite a few guys early on to injury?
We've faced a couple of good special teams units and we continue to face them. We have another one this week. In this league, I don't think anybody really cares what you did last week anyways. We're going to have to strap it up and do it again this week. Watson did a good job last week. He had a nice return against the Steelers. He took it out there. I don't know what Cincinnati's overall field position is, but it's pretty good. They have to be up there at the top of the league. I don't know, it seems like every time they have the ball they're at the 35 yard line. They're never backed up.
Either they're getting defensive turnovers, or they are getting a good return. They've stopped them and they're getting good field position on the exchange of punts. They get the ball in good field position a lot and take advantage of it. That's obviously a combination of a lot of factors and turnovers are big part of it, but you don't see them on their one-yard line very often. Not that they couldn't score from there either. I don't think that would hold them back. You see them with the good field position.
**Q: With guys like Carson and Rodney Harrison who are both recovering from serious knee injuries sooner than most people would have thought, have you ever thought about how different things would've been back in the 70s and 80s if they had the same medical technology then that they have today?
That's been such an improvement. I remember a lot of guys going in and they say, 'Well, it looks like he has cartilage in his knee,' and then to go in and slice it open on one side and then two months later, he's still hurt. And they go in and slice it open on the other side. One year later it's still bothering him and they still don't know what's wrong. Scope procedures and the experience in sports medicine and the improvements and all of that...even with ACL's. Those used to be 18 months and then it was 15 months and then it was a year. Now you have guys like Palmer coming back in, whatever it was, nine months, maybe even a little less than that depending on when he was ready or wasn't ready there in preseason. I forget exactly when.
But, yes, it's been remarkable. Then you have a lot of guys that are working hard like Carson, and like Rodney, guys like that who put a lot of extra time and effort into their rehabilitation. The body can only heal so fast, but certainly those guys have pushed it and the fact that they're out there as quickly as they have been is a real tribute to their hard work, and the people that are working with them. It's been a remarkable, yes.
**Q: How would you assess Tom Brady's performance so far this year?
I think pretty much the same thing that we've talked about all three games, that everybody on the team, starting from me, and all the coaches, and the players, there's room for improvement. There's some things that are good and there's other things that need to be better. I would say that about every player that has played including him and including everybody else.
**Q: Does he seem more frustrated than normal?
Tom is very competitive. I think that's one of his attributes, one of many. We all want to do better. We all want to improve. No matter what happens out there there's always some way that you can find to do something better and be a better football player and help your team more. I think that's what we're all trying to do. However you want to characterize that. You can put a lot of people in that category.
**Q: What do you think about the new technology in the quarterback's helmet?
I don't care. The league and the competition committee and all of that, they make the rules and whatever they are, I just try to understand them and play by them. Whatever they are, that's what they are. I'm just trying to coach the team and see if we can play a little bit better. That's all I'm worried about.