New England Patriots head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady held press conferences Wednesday to talk about next Monday night's game against the Bengals. The following is a transcript of each press conference.
We've had a few days here to brush up on the Bengals. Once again, this is a very talented and explosive team. Offensively, I think we know who all of the playmakers are. Certainly [Carson] Palmer and T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] and Chad [Johnson] and Rudi [Johnson], they're a very explosive group. They have kind of an interesting situation on the offensive line. They really play with eight linemen. They have a rotation with them very similar to what a lot of teams do defensively with their defensive linemen; you just don't see it too much on the offensive side of the ball. They're all pretty good.
They move the ball with whoever is in there. It's just a little bit unusual to see that many guys playing on the offensive line, but they play them all and they're all pretty good. Defensively, this is a turnover driven team. Cincinnati has been at the top of the league in turnovers the last few years. They're up there again. They're very conscious of getting the ball out one way or another, whether it be by scheme or by technique or by the style of play that their players use.
They have good players in the kicking game as well. Obviously [Shayne] Graham is about as good as it gets on field goals. They do a good job on plus-50 punting. Skyler Green is a quick guy on the returns, on the punts. They run hard on those kickoffs regardless of who is back there. They've had big returns on the kickoffs consistently through the years and that's shown up again already this year. Again, a very talented team, a team that is explosive that can score in a hurry whether it be on offense, on defense like they did against Baltimore with the strip sack and ran it in for a touchdown, and make plays in the kicking game.
They have a field goal kicker that's very, very accurate. We have a lot to get ready for this week. Today is going to be kind of a regular Wednesday for us. We're going to go through our normal preparations today and see if we can start gaining some ground on the final product that we're headed toward on Monday.
Q: When cornerbacks are working against players like Wes Welker and Randy Moss, can it help elevate their game?BB:
I think cornerbacks work against a lot of different types of players. Receivers have different skills sets, so as a corner you learn how to defend all of those different skill sets whether it be speed, quickness, technique, individual route running type of skills or combinations of, and that of course transcends into the actual routes and schemes that a particular offense or a particular team uses. On an individual basis, I think every receiver kind of has his own way of getting open, even though it's kind of the same route maybe. Everybody runs a comeback route. Everybody runs an in-cut. Everybody runs a slant, but the specifics of how each individual player runs that based on his body frame, his quickness, his speed, sometimes his catching technique and things like that, it's a little bit different for each guy.
I think that corners have to understand that and deal with it. It's no different than offensive linemen having to block a 350-pound defensive lineman, having to block an athletic 260-pound linebacker, having to block a real quick 205, 210-pound defensive back who comes in on a safety or a defensive back perimeter blitz in sub, that type of thing. You have to learn how to deal with different players and their skills and their skill sets in a one-on-one matchup. That's true for everybody. That's what eventually it comes down to and you have to block or tackle or defend or get open against guys who use different techniques and different skill sets.
Q: So practicing against a guy like Moss can help you?
It helps you playing against a guy like Moss, right. Covering a player like Welker is hard. He's different than Moss. Covering a player like [Donté] Stallworth is hard. He's different than Welker. Covering [Jabar] Gaffney is hard. He's different than Stallworth. Kelley Washington is different than them. Bam Childress and Troy Brown are different than Wes Welker. Each guy has his own style and technique and that type of thing. It's not all the same, but I think it's good experience for all of them. There's a general category - bigger receivers, quicker receivers, speed guys and that kind of thing, but each guy kind of has his own way of doing things. That's a challenge for the defensive back.
Q: With Cincinnati, have you seen any inconsistencies in their running game? There has been talk that it hasn't been up to some people's expectations.
Well, it's been so productive for them that I guess anything less than six yards per carry and 130 a game might be less than what they're used to. But, no, I think they've run the ball well. Rudi looks like Rudi. As I said, they've mixed in some different combinations on the offensive line, but I think that all of those players have been...a couple of them had an injury situations. Levi [Jones] missed some time. [Eric] Ghiaciuc missed the last couple of games. He got hurt against Baltimore, but no matter who has been in there, they've done a good job and I think they're still a good running football team, absolutely.
**Q: What makes Palmer so good at running the no-huddle?
He's just a good quarterback. He does everything well. He can make all of the throws. He's a strong guy in the pocket. He reads coverages well. Very accurate. He's a good quarterback.
Q: How are [Johnathan] Joseph and [Leon] Hall coming along for them?
Again, they're a very talented group. Joseph has been slowed down a little bit and Hall has replaced him some at corner, but when Joseph has been in there, then Hall has played the nickel back and has played in the slot. Hall is instinctive. He's quick. They're both good tacklers. They're both strong players, physical guys that get up and bang the receivers around a little bit. They both have good hands and good ball skills. Madieu [Williams] is a very athletic guy at safety. Dexter [Jackson] is a kind of a ballhawk back there. He has great feel and read on the quarterback and gets his hands on a lot of balls.
[Deltha] O'Neal has had a lot of good games against us. He's another very athletic guy with great hands and good ball skills. They're all ball hawks back there. It's the same thing with [Keiwan] Ratliff when he's played. They do a good job of jumping the quarterback and getting their hands on the ball and breaking on it and turning it over.
**Q: Obviously you studied their game against Cleveland. Was that just an aberration with the score and Cleveland putting up 51 points against them?
As I said before, I think early in the season you get some games and some matchups and some situations that are not really what they are. They'll play each other again and I doubt that the game will go the way this first one did. We've seen those games before. One week it's 51-50. The next week it's 7-3.
**Q: You talked about Kyle Brady being an example of someone who came in and was able to pick up the offense fairly quickly and be productive for you. Is it fair to put Sammy Morris in that category as well?
Sure. Sammy has done a great job for us. Sammy has been a player that has contributed on all four downs for us. He's played in the kicking game. He's played on third down. He's played on first and second down. He gets asked to do a lot of different things and he does them and he does them right. He's versatile, smart, a tough kid, plays strong, has some speed and quickness to be able to play in the kicking game, play on third down, be a receiver. He's been out of the backfield some. He's a good player. He's worked hard at it. He's been here the whole offseason. He hasn't missed any time. He's been on top of his job and his assignments and he's performed them well, in the preseason games, practices and so far in the regular season. He's a good guy to work with and he's really a dependable guy. No question.
Q: How important has he been to helping Laurence Maroney in the running game and helping carry some of the load?
I think we've had production from all of our backs. I think it's a good group. They work well together. They help each other out. They're all smart, tough, work hard, unselfish. I think it's a good group to work with.
Q: Is this the best and most explosive offense you will face this season?
They're pretty explosive. They score a lot of points. They've been right at the top of the league in points every year. What are they now? 30 a game? Something like that, or close to it. They can score from anywhere and they can score in a hurry. They're productive in the running game. They have a great quarterback. They have great receivers. The tight ends are good. They have a good blocking fullback, a good offensive line. It seems no matter who they put out there, they score. They use a lot of different people in their receiver combinations. Rudi missed most of the second half last week against Seattle. [Kenny] Watson ran the ball well. He was very productive. It almost doesn't seem to matter who is out there. If that ball is moving down the field, it's usually moving pretty fast.
Q: Do you see T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson as the same type of receiver or are they a little bit different from one another?
I think that there are a lot of similarities. They use them in different spots. T.J. plays mainly in the slot, not exclusively, but mainly. Chad plays mainly outside, but not exclusively. I think that if they wanted to switch them they probably could, but I think they have them where they think they're most productive. There's a balance there. They're usually on opposite sides, so it's hard to get them both. It's hard to get either one of them, but it's unusual to see them together. They do it a little bit, but not a whole lot. I think they don't want you to be able to go and load up over on that side.
Different but kind of similar to the Indianapolis program where [Marvin] Harrison and [Reggie] Wayne usually aren't together. They're on opposite sides and that makes it harder to get both of them. But they're both quick. They're both fast. They're both good after the catch; real good hands. They're good route runners. The interesting thing about those guys a lot of times when they catch the ball, there's nobody within five yards of them, 10 yards of them sometimes. They spin them around. It's not like they're open diving for the ball trying to make a circus catch.
A lot of times they beat the defender so bad it looks like he's out to practice early just standing right there by himself. I showed the team a couple [of plays] today where they're standing in the end zone pretty much fair-catching the ball waiting for it to come down where the guy falls down or he's spun around. They're very good route runners, both of them. Very good.
**Q: Is this a game where field position isn't that big of a deal?
I think it's always a big deal. It's always a big deal. I don't think you want to play these guys on a short field. I don't think that's a good idea at all.
Q: After three games, is Asante Samuel back up to last year's level yet?
I think right now our job as a team, and Asante's job, is to get ready for Cincinnati and the challenges this week, which are plenty. That's what we have to do, is take advantage of our opportunities this week in the classroom and on the practice field and film study to get ready and prepare for this outstanding passing game. That's what we're going to do. But ranking something compared to some other year or some other game, or whatever...I don't know.
Q: How would you assess your offensive line's efficiency?
I think the line is doing a good job for us. It's not perfect, but it's been solid. We've had a couple of different guys in there at right guard, but otherwise it's been pretty consistent. It could be better. It's been solid. It's helped our offensive production. We haven't had a lot of penalties. We haven't had a lot of negative plays, so that is good.
Q: What has Maroney done best this year so far?
I think the biggest thing for Laurence is to keep working on his consistency. I think we've all seen him make plays out there and do things well. It's like any other player, just being able to do it consistently, time after time. A lot of plays. A lot of things to do right. Try to get them all done. That's the way it is with most players in this league. Just about everybody can go out there and make plays somewhere along the line. It's just a question of how consistently you can do it and try to keep the bad ones out of there. I think that's true for him too.
Q: As far as mechanics, is this the best you've ever felt in your career?
I think this is the most comfortable I've felt with it. For eight years [I've] put a lot of time and effort into trying to get things the way [I] want them. There's a lot that goes into throwing, the mechanics of it. It's not just coincidence that you complete certain passes that maybe you struggled with in the past. It's probably just better technique. And obviously there are a lot of other great things in the passing game too, like great protection, which allows for good technique, and [the receivers] doing a great job of getting open and catching the ball.
Q: Do you want to make sure the offensive line doesn't go unnoticed in how well they've played?
Should they go unnoticed? They should never go unnoticed. Really, they set the tone for the entire offense. The more that those guys are into it and playing great, the more that we can establish running the football, which opens up play action passes. Anytime you can get ahead and you can run it and throw it, it puts pressure on the defense. We're just going to continue to try to improve in areas where we haven't done so well in the last three weeks. This week is going to present, as we all know, some new challenges.
Q: How much did the running game help you last year in Cincinnati?
We had a bunch of big runs last year. The backs ran great. That was probably Laurence [Maroney's] best game to date. That's key every week, to really keep the defense off balance. When you can break off those long runs like we did, it takes a lot of pressure off the passing game. That was a big point of emphasis going into last year's game. Especially when you play an offense like we're facing, too, that has so many weapons that can really control the tempo and style of the game with the way that they play and the way that their offense can put up points in a hurry. You want to be able to control the clock and control the tempo a bit yourself.
Q: Is there an urgency to convert every time you are in the red zone because of Cincinnati's offense?
Yeah. You don't want to kick a lot of field goals. And that is something that we haven't been doing very well. Getting the ball inside the 5 [yard line] three times and kicking three field goals, once not scoring. And a few other times inside the 10 and not scoring. This isn't the game where you want to just want to get down there and score points. You really need to score touchdowns. The red area is going to be a huge point of emphasis this week.
Q: Is it different this year knowing that you have some of the same weapons to match Cincinnati?
Yeah, and we've had good weapons every year. It's not like this passing game never existed before this season. I mean, we've done some pretty good things. The new guys, Randy [Moss] and Wes [Welker] and Donté [Stallworth] and Kelley [Washington] have done a great job. And there are different ways that you find ways to be successful. Coach pointed out to us this morning that in 2002 we scored, I guess, 115 points over the first three games and went on to lose four straight, and this year I think we've scored 114. So, whatever we've done the past three weeks doesn't make a whole lot of difference going into this week, especially playing a defense that is really a ball-hawking defense, is always up there leading the league in turnovers and this year is really no different for them.
**Q: One thing Matt Hasselbeck said last week in preparing for the Bengals is forget about the points that they've been giving up – a lot of it is special teams. What about their speed on defense? He said that is probably the one thing they had to prepare for the most.
Yeah, they have great speed and I think the entire scheme is set up to force offense into bad plays. They have a bunch of players who take advantage of that - Deltha O'Neal, he has a bunch of picks off of me. Dexter Jackson is very instinctive back there. Madieu Williams is a great athlete playing back there in the secondary. Leon Hall, [a] rookie, had a pick last week. Johnathan Joseph is a very - he's coming along great, so they have some talented guys back there. They put pressure on the quarterback and I think that's why those turnovers are so high, because they're forcing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly because of their pass rush. And if you throw it up to those guys on defense, they don't drop it too often.
**Q: You were getting your arm massaged a little bit at the end of the [Bills] game. Is that a reward for getting 10 touchdowns or is it...?
I'm just trying to stay on top of it. It's feeling good. I'm sure it will be listed somewhere on the injury report.
I'm trying to get off that thing, so it's a little extra treatment.
Q: Can you talk about the accomplishments of Sammy Morris?
Sammy has been a surprise for everybody and I think he's done everything that we've asked him to do. He's been very powerful and explosive, he reads the field very well as a back and he catches the ball very well, so he's a threat in the pass-game, he's a threat running the ball. He's been a great addition and he has a knack for the goal line. There doesn't need to be much room there for him to make yards. He's powerful enough to move the pile, so if he sees anything he kind of [lowers] his head and dives down there and always comes away with positive yards. He's always falling forward, too, so he's been great. He has a great attitude as well.
Q: After three games has Wes Welker been everything you thought he'd be?
Wes is doing great. Wes is doing great. He's fun to have around. He's very excitable. He has great skill. I think when he first got here, for one, you look at his size and think 'How does this guy play football?' But he's as good a football player as I've been around. He reminds me a lot of Troy [Brown]. They have the same style. They get open with their quickness and their awareness, they have great hands, they're very competitive and they play the same position, so they're doing great. I think Wes has learned a lot from Troy, so it's been a great fit.
Q: Has your relationship gotten any closer to Randy Moss off the field?
You know, we're around the same age so we have a lot in common and we know a lot of the same people. We've always had a connection for as long as I've known him. I've always been the most concerned with our relationship on the field and I hope that continues to get better.
**Q: Has anything surprised you about his personality so far?
Not really. Not really. He's fun to be around. I don't psychoanalyze him too much. He's a great teammate.
Q: Does Coach Belichick keep you focused on the game ahead as opposed to what your record is?
Sure. And every team is dangerous. There's no question every team is dangerous, and 1-2, 2-1 - at this point in the year nobody has really identified themselves and what they do. Teams are going to watch us and say, 'Okay, how have these last teams tried to stop the Patriots?' And that's probably more of what we'll see, and we have to find ways to do things better that we haven't been doing, because the teams that we're going to play are trying to attack those weaknesses that they've seen consistently. And we're trying to do the same thing. So, early in the year we need to make improvements each week. You just can't lose ground and no matter who you play you have to have three great days of practice of out here -this week it will be four- so we can get ready to play and continue to get better.
Q: Are there teams that are always on the top and do you pay attention to that?
I watch all the teams and you always know the teams that are well-coached. You play against these guys for so long. Like Pittsburgh, you always know they are going to be good [because of] the history of that organization and the type of players we've competed against. Indy, we all know about them. There are a lot of teams. Cincinnati is a great example of that. Every time we play them it's a high scoring game. We're trying to make plays; they're trying to make plays. Those games are tough. And they know us very well. It seems like we play them every year. I hope this is a game that we go out there and play the best we have played. Even last year, we beat them but we left a lot of plays out on the field. Even these first few weeks, we've left a lot of plays on the field.