Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the field before the start of the game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday Bill Belichick and Tom Brady met with the media to talk about this week’s matchup with the Broncos, as well as the talents of one Peyton Manning.
BB: We’ve gotten rolling here on Denver. Obviously they’re a real good football team; playing great, doing everything well – offense, defense, special teams. [They’re] disruptive on defense, scoring a lot of points on offense, controlling field position in the kicking game. [They] have a lot of explosive players; well coached, really doing everything really well. Big challenge for us this week and hopefully we can have a good week of preparation here and be ready to go on Sunday. But Coach [John] Fox and his staff and their players and all have done a real good job. They’re playing very well, obviously. Like I said, it will be a big challenge for us Sunday.
Q: You’ve prepared to face a Peyton Manning offense more than 20 times in your coaching career. Is there one common thread that stands out to you over the years about how those preparations and then the game have unfolded?
BB: I guess Manning.
Q: In terms of the offense itself, the way the games have unfolded.
BB: Each game is its own game. The offense, they’ve done a good job of utilizing their personnel and what those particular players do well in different systems, different teams, kind of similar system. Peyton does a great job of getting the ball to the weakest point of the defense, whatever defense happens to be. He’s great. Obviously he’s a great quarterback – best quarterback I’ve coached against. He does a tremendous job. They have good players and they have a good system. I’d say that’s a common thread: good players and a good system and a good quarterback.
Q: When you say best quarterback that you’ve ever coached against, not that you need anything to get your motivation going, but how much does that stoke the competition of what you do?
BB: The competition is there every week. Every team has great players, great coaches. Every team is hard to beat in this league. There’s no – everybody is tough. It’s been the same, like relative to the [Joe] Montanas and the [Dan] Marinos or [John] Elways or whoever. I’m not taking anything away from any of those guys, but this guy is tough.
Q: What separates him from them?
BB: He’s just good at everything. He’s good at everything. [I] see no weaknesses in his game.
Q: Peyton was a little spicy last week because the scoreboard operator got the fans all riled up. What would you like to see from your fans on Sunday?
BB: I’m sure fans will be enthusiastic about the game. But I’m really more concerned about where our team is. I can’t do anything about anything else. Just try to get our team ready to go and hope that we can coach and play well on Sunday.
Q: What did you see in Jonathan Casillas?
BB: We’ve known and watched Jonathan for a while. Athletic, smart guy. He’s played defense. Four-down player – played defense and the kicking game. He’s been a productive player at New Orleans and Tampa. [We’ve] played against him, practiced against him [and] have a lot of respect for him and his experience and his versatile skills.
Q: When something like that goes down, is that something you’ve been talking about for a while or a last-minute thing? It didn’t seem like yesterday morning there was a lot of trade activity. Did that come at the wire?
BB: I’ve seen trade conversations go on for months and never happen. I’ve seen nothing happen and trades come together in a matter of hours, minutes. There’s no set formula for it.
Q: How often do you put something in one week with designs on influencing the next week’s opponent and giving them something extra to think about?
BB: I’d say what we try to do is deal with the game that we have; try to win the game that we’re playing. Then what you’ve done in previously weeks may affect what you do the following week. But I think that’s more a preseason.
Q: Did last week’s performance signal to you that Rob Gronkowski is past his knee issues?
BB: We’ve listed Rob every week on what his physical situation is. We’ll do the same this week, whatever it is.
Q: You’ve referred to some opposing tight ends as big receivers. Would you classify Julius Thomas that way or does he have traditional tight end duties?
BB: Yeah, both. Yeah, I think he does – sure, he’s definitely used in the running game and protection, but he’s a hard matchup in the passing game. He does a lot of damage there, particularly in the red area, but really anywhere. We’ve seen him make catch-and-run plays. Take a two, three-yard pass out in the flat and go all the way with it. He’s got a big catch radius; big target, good hands, good passing game instincts, does a good job of finding open spaces, creating separation. [He’s] good in the red area – [Jacob] Tamme too, when they’ve used him in that role. So, they’ve gotten a lot of production out of their tight ends. They’ve got good receivers at tight end, but also guys that are good all-around football players. Tamme is a big guy for them in the kicking game. Thomas does really I think whatever they ask him to do. Sometimes it’s pass protect, sometimes it’s run block and sometimes it’s go out on routes. He’s good at all three levels: short, intermediate and deep. He’s a three-level receiver so he’s a tough matchup guy.
Q: What has Emmanuel Sanders brought to their offense and what options has he given Peyton Manning?
BB: I think Peyton uses all of his options. Last year it was [Eric] Decker, this year it’s Sanders. If they’re open, he throws it to them. Sanders has good speed, good route-running ability, good quickness; smart receiver. So, I’d say it’s a little different skill set maybe than Decker had last year, but both guys are productive. Peyton got the ball to both of them.
Q: I know every game counts the same, but as a coach do you feel like you learn more about your team when you beat a team that’s considered one of the elite in the NFL like the Broncos?
BB: Yeah, I don’t know. I think each game is important; [we] try to go out and win each game. [We] don’t really rank them; just try to get ready to play each game.
Q: How much influence does Greg Schiano have when you acquire a former Buccaneer or Rutgers player?
BB: I don’t know.
Q: Do you discuss that player with him?
BB: I talk to Greg about a lot of things over the course of years.
Q: Do they move Von Miller around or do they keep him on one side?
BB: In their base defense, he’s an outside linebacker – the Sam linebacker in under and the Will in over. So, it depends on what front they have called and what formation you’re in, where he lines up. Third down, he’s usually on the offensive right, but they do move him around some. They use a three-man line where he’s kind of, he could line up wherever they tell him to line up or wherever he wants to line up in some of their third down rush packages. In the regular defense, he lines up based on what the call is and what the offensive formation is. In the sub defense, he lines up normally on the offensive right, but they do have calls where they can put him different spots I guess. It’s probably a better question to ask them how they do it. I don’t know.
Q: Have you seen them move Aqib Talib around?
BB: Depends on what the call is. Depends on what they’re in and what the formation is. [He’s] normally on our right, but not always.
Q: This is from our news department, Mayor Tom Menino’s health, he’s had some challenges there, do you –
BB: I’ll really just stick to the Broncos here. I don’t want to get out of my element. That’s about all I’ve been working on for the last three days. With all due respect to the other news stories that are out there – I’m sure there are a lot of important ones – I don’t think that’s really my field.
Q: How difficult has it been to determine which defensive backs will be inactive on Sundays? That seems like a deep group.
BB: It is. It’s a deep group, it’s a competitive group. At times there have been circumstances that have kind of declared it based on availability for a combination of reasons. Then there has been a game plan or a weekly element to it based on the factors that are in our control, let’s put it that way. There have been situations that I’d say have been out of our control. There have been other situations that are decisions that we have to make. We always try to do what’s best for the football team. But those guys all work hard. They compete hard. They know that their opportunities are based on their performance, just like everybody else.
Q: It seems like your corners have been very good at run force, run stop and tackling. Brandon Browner made a play on Matt Forte one-on-one in the flat that was a big boy tackle.
BB: Yeah, I’d say we’ve had our moments there, yeah. There are some good plays, certainly some good plays we can point to. There are other plays that we can improve on, we can play better. So, that’s what we’ll try to do [is] be as consistent as we can at every position, not just corner but everywhere: tackling, run force, being physical. Always have to keep working on it.
Q: Chris Harris, Jr. was injured last year for the AFC Championship Game. What have you seen from him so far this season?
BB: Good; different. Last year he played a lot in the slot, played inside more. This year he’s played almost exclusively outside, other than some matchup calls. [Bradley] Roby has really been the inside player, so we’ve kind of seen him in a little bit of a different position. But he looks – he’s a good football player. He tackles well. He’s very instinctive; smart guy, reads routes and route combinations, has good awareness. He has good quickness. He’s played well for them. But it’s – he played on the perimeter in their regular defense last year, but in their sub defenses, he moved inside. So, he’s had, I’d say, a little bit of a different role this year. But I think he’s done a good job for them. Really, everybody on their defense is playing well, but he’s done well.
Q: Are he and Talib interchangeable or do they have different responsibilities?
BB: You’d have to ask them that. Again, we’ve seen them in different spots. It depends probably, I think, on what call they’re in, what defense they’re in and then what formation the offense lines up. That, I think, affects where they line up at times. I would say that he and Talib have primarily been the two perimeter corners in almost all situations and Roby has been inside in almost all situations. That’s by far the majority of the way they line up. Defensively it’s not 100 percent. Now, when there’s only two corners on the field then it’s Talib and Harris as the two perimeter guys. Sometimes they go in slot formation, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes Ward is down, sometimes Moore is down. It depends on the call and the adjustment that they have and so forth, but the majority of the time he’s one the perimeter with Talib, regular and sub then Roby comes in as the inside guy.
Q: How important is communication post-snap on defense in defending their route combinations?
BB: Yeah, I’d say on defense it’s almost always an awareness or a visual communication or recognition. You see a player crossing, you anticipate that based on the call maybe somebody else will take that guy. You kind of, sometimes you see it, sometimes you anticipate it. We play in front of a sold out crowd here so the idea of me yelling routes to you and you yelling them to me – that might happen on the practice field, it might sound good, but the reality of it is, you’re not hearing much on Sunday. So, you have to be able to visually communicate it without actually saying anything or in some cases, even doing anything. Just by your teammate’s body language or by the reaction you anticipate and then once you start to see that then you know that it’s happened the way you had practiced it or had talked about it happening then you’re able to adjust to it. There are a lot of different levels of communication. There’s the verbal communication, there’s certainly the signaling before the snap, whether it’s on defense or offense relative to crowd noise and so forth. On the road offensively, at home defensively, so the communication is kind of always an issue. It just depends on which side of the noise you’re on. Then there’s a post-snap communication between a quarterback and a receiver, a quarterback and a tight end [or] running back, running back and an offensive lineman, a pulling guard. Then the same thing defensively, with pass rush games, linebackers, defensive linemen, secondary players, linebackers that when you see something happen the way you’ve anticipated it then that’s kind of a communication if you will that then your assignment corresponds to that. If it doesn’t happen that way then that can sometimes be a little bit of a scramble or a void somewhere along the line somewhere that then you try to adjust and react to. But that whole process is really in the end, that’s the backbone, that’s the spinal cord of football is all that process which can be emphasized differently depending on exactly which part of it you’re talking about or where the noise is coming from, where the communication is coming from. But in the end, when you put it all together, that’s really what connects everything on the football field is communication, understanding, anticipation, reaction, being able to do all that at a high level, at high speed, in a short amount of time. That’s the hard, that’s it. If you can’t do that, it’s going to be a long day. If you can do that, then you have a chance to play at the speed, the game speed that you need to play at to win.
Q: Can you appreciate the rivalry that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have developed over the years?
BB: Yeah, sure.
Q: What are your thoughts on the rivalry over the years?
BB: Right now my thoughts are this week. All the experts write about it; you guys can write about that.