HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What did you see from the run game both before and after LeGarrette Blount was injured?
BB: Well, we tried to stick with it, make them play it. We had our moments. There were times when we were able to punch out some plays and some important plays. The touchdown run on third-and-two – that was a big play for us. We had a third-down conversion on [Brandon] Bolden’s sweep there on a third-and-four, third-and-five – that was another big third-down conversion. So there were some plays like that were kind of timely plays. Houston is a tough team to run against. They’ve got a lot of very disruptive players. Vince [Wilfork] is a big guy in the middle, obviously, but between [Jadeveon] Clowney and [J.J.] Watt on both edges plus [Whitney] Mercilus, they’re really athletic and explosive and powerful out there, so it’s a tough matchup. The got us from behind a couple times when we had decent blocking, actually good blocking on a couple plays, and they just got us from behind. I’m not sure there are too many other players in the league that could have made the plays that Watt or Clowney made on a couple of those running plays. You’ve got to give them some credit, but I thought we competed in the running game. I thought we blocked better and Josh [McDaniels] and the offensive staff had a couple scheme plays where we were able to create some yardage with a little easier access, but they’re a tough group to block. Then we had a couple good runs where backs really didn’t have a lot – LG, Brandon there at the end of the game, they made some plays on their own with good vision or a good cut or broken tackle or whatever it was and did a good job there. I’d say a combination of all those things, but they were hard-fought yards, I’ll say that. There wasn’t a lot of easy yardage against the Texans in the running game.
Q: Is that the most complete game you guys have played defensively?
BB: We had some good things, did some good things on defense. The big plays weren’t as damaging as they could have been because we had great field position on defense due to the offense and the kicking game, so they were playing on a long field. Even when they hit a 50-yarder they’re still 25 yards away from the goal line, things like that. The three big plays were obviously not good, but the third down and fourth down defense combined and the red-area defense, they saved us. That put the offense back on the field and it helped us with time of possession and kept field position for us, so that was big. We had a lot of good plays in the running game. We had good pressure on the quarterback. We had the ball out. We could have turned it over a little bit more than we did, but we were attacking the ball. There were a lot of good things on defense. There are still things we can improve on and need to be a little bit more coordinated with, but there were plenty of good things, too. Any time you can hold a team to six points, especially playing on the road against a quality team like Houston that’s well coached, that has a good offensive attack, you’ve got to feel good about coming out of there with six points and turnovers and things like that, negative plays, not many first downs and good in the red area. That was good.
Q: I don’t know if it’s too early to tell, but you had four players that didn’t finish the game …
BB: Yeah, I’d say it’s too early to tell.
Q: On the catch on the sideline by James White in the third quarter, how do you decide when it’s a good idea to rush to the line to pressure them to either challenge or not challenge?
BB: I think we’ve kind of talked about that a little bit through the years of the whole process and the challenges and so forth, and to me there are certain plays that are probably going to get challenged pretty much regardless just based on the importance of the play, what happened on the play and kind of how important the play is to the game at that particular point in time. At times we’ve run up to the line and run a quick play and then it’s second-and-10, and that’s not really the answer. And a lot of times if they’re going to challenge a play, they’re going to challenge it anyways if it’s an important enough play. In that case, first of all, I think Bill [O’Brien] would have challenged both those plays regardless. They were both very close plays and when we saw them up on the screen I think our feeling was that they were close enough that they looked like they were catches. I don’t know how you felt looking at the play, as soon as you saw it you knew was going to be overturned. If that’s the way you saw it, maybe the right thing to do would have been to hurry up and run a play, but if you don’t feel that way about the play then I don’t know why you would want to rush up there and do it. Even after looking at the play, both of them are really, really close. If you know how it’s going to turn out then it’s always easy to make the decision. If you don’t know how it’s going to turn out then you just go on what you see, but just running up there and snapping the ball and running a bad play, I don’t know if that’s the answer.
Q: Those were both close. I was 0-2 myself on which way both of those were going.
BB: I think you look up there and see, ‘OK I don’t think we have this,’ then yeah, it’s probably worth the gamble – not the gamble – but it’s probably worth it to go up there and snap it quickly and hope they don’t challenge it if you think you probably aren’t going to win the challenge. That would absolutely be the right thing to do if that’s the way you feel. Let them challenge it. Let them waste the timeout. If you feel like you’re OK with the play, I don’t necessarily think it’s the right strategy. I think in particular the White play it goes back to the whole issue of the angle of the camera and was his heel actually on the white or was his toe on the ground and his heel above the white, how close it was. And I think I just would say what I’ve said many times before that I think because of the plays on the sideline, on the goal line and on the end line that the league ought to have cameras there. I don’t think we should be worried about how much it’s going to cost. If we need to raise money, we should raise money and get those set so that on those kinds of plays we have an absolute down-the-line angle of the play and not I would say the angles that I saw shown up on the screen, which none of them were down the line. They were all coming from either behind or from the field or from kind of the sideline. I think that leads to the … If 100 people saw that play, it might be 55-45, I don’t know. There is some that we can all look at and say, ‘Yeah it’s this,’ or, ‘Yeah it’s that,’ but those ones that are just kind of a really close call and a toss-up, it’s one thing when it’s very close, it’s another thing when you don’t have a really good angle to see it and then therefore you can’t make a good decision. I would still like to see a sideline camera on that so that we get the call right, whatever it is. Whether it was in bounds or out of bounds, let’s just get an angle on those plays. If they happen out in the middle of the field, we all understand that, that’s the way it goes. Whatever angle you see, you see. But on the sideline, to not have a down-the-line angle on plays like that or on a goal-line play or on an end-line play, scoring plays, I think we should have those in place.
Q: After the game, you mentioned that you practiced a lot on fundamentals during the week and the players had a good attitude about it. Why did you think that was noticeable and what did that tell you about your team?
BB: No, I think it was good. I thought they really worked hard in practice. When you put on pads at the end of the season, look nobody is 100 percent at this time of year on our team or on any other team. If you play that much football it takes a toll on everybody. Certainly the more comfortable way is to not have contact during the week, which again we’re forced to do that the majority of the time anyways in terms of padded contact, so not have that during the week and when you do have it, sometimes players can look at it as we’re sore or we’re banged up, I wish we weren’t doing it type of attitude, but I think that our guys went out there and they worked hard in that practice on a Wednesday. We definitely got better. We improved in a lot of the areas that fundamentally we were trying to address and I think that showed up in the game. It certainly wasn’t perfect and I’m certainly not trying to say that, but I thought that a hard week of preparation both on and off the field and with each other, not just each individual preparing separately but preparing in conjunction with his teammates and getting on the same page with communication and adjustments and how to handle certain situations, especially against a team like Houston that defensively has a lot of great players and gives you a lot of different looks, and offensively can play a fast tempo and force a tough communication situation, that our players did a good job of that all week. I told them that before the game, so it wasn’t an after-the-fact thing. I knew we had a good week of practice and I knew we prepared hard and I was just glad to see it show up last night. I think the players really deserved … They got out of what they put into that game, so that was certainly a lot better than what we did last week.
Q: With the players who are suffering more than the usual wear and tear on their bodies, how do you balance getting them rested and ready for the playoffs with also reaching your regular season goals?
BB: First of all, definitely as of yesterday we haven’t qualified for anything and we still haven’t. You’ve got to win games in this league and if you don’t win games, then that’s setting the table for something else. It doesn’t really mean much. You’ve got to continue to play at a high level throughout a 16-game regular season schedule. It’s hard to win them all, everybody has a few slip-ups along the way or something, but you’ve got to play at a good level, so that’s what we try to do every week is play at a high level. I don’t really know any other way to coach the team. I don’t think we want to go out there and just lay an egg every week. I don’t really think that’s a good formula. We try to compete every week at our highest level.
Q: Jonathan Bostic starting at linebacker, was that package-specific? He didn’t play much on defense after that first series. Did Akiem Hicks show a higher level of play last night?
BB: Akiem had a lot of production in this game and when you look at the stat sheet, it’s always easy to take a production game and say it was a great game and take a game with a little less production and say it was a bad game. That’s definitely not the case, that’s an overreaction, but he did have good production yesterday. He’s played solidly for us for a number of weeks, but it’s always nice to see those plays finish with production – a tackle behind the line, quarterback sack and all that. He did a good job, but he’s had some of those plays, and again some of those plays were the result of other players kind of forcing it to him or coverage relayed it and so forth. It’s still team defense, he was just the guy who recorded the final stat on that play. He has a lot of plays that help us that don’t show up the stat sheet so I think it all evens out. He’s done a good job, played well last night. As far as the game plan with Houston, they’ve used more – I think I mentioned this during the week – but they’ve used more personnel groups by far than any other team we’ve faced this year. If there were any stats kept on that, I think they’d have to be close to some kind of record – the number of personnel combinations that they’ve had in the game between extra offensive linemen, receivers, tight ends, backs, quarterbacks, and then on top of that the multiplicity of formations plus the multiplicity of the groupings that are out there, it just becomes exponential. We had certain packages of players to kind of … We grouped some of those together because to try to deal with each one individually would be beyond a nightmare. It would just be impossible, so we tried to group it a little bit so that when they have certain players out there we have certain players out there, and we have to make a lot of adjustments but it’s within a certain package or framework if you will, whereas if you leave the same group out there defensively for all their different groups and all their different formations, then you have one group that has to adjust to every single thing if you know what I mean. The more of you have one group that has to do everything then there are a lot of things that could run together, so by having different defensive personnel groupings for certain offensive groupings and situations in a way it allows you to kind of manage the amount of adjustments and communication adjustments that you are going to have to deal with so that everybody doesn’t have to deal with every single thing that could happen – Wildcat and empty and multiple guys in the backfield, nobody in the backfield, quarterback in the backfield, quarterback out of the backfield, three-by-ones, two-by-twos, three-by-0’s, all the motions, unbalanced line, extra linemen and all that goes with it. Who is out there on the first play in a game like Houston was totally dependent on who they had out there on the first play.