How Are The New England Patriots Feeling About The AFC Championship?

1 of 5

Jan 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the New England Patriots met with the media for the first time this week to discuss the upcoming AFC Championship.

Here is the official transcript:

Bill Belichick

BB: I’d like to start off by saying on behalf of the team and the organization it’s a great honor to be in this game, to have the opportunity to compete for the AFC Championship. It’s something that the team’s worked obviously extremely hard and long to get to this point, to have this opportunity. We’re excited about it. We have a tremendous amount of respect for our opponent. I think this is the toughest team that we’ve played all year. The Colts are a very good football team, really done a good job in the kicking game. They’ve got a great kicker, a great punter, added [Josh] Cribbs in the return game. They’re at the top of the league in kickoff coverage, kickoff returns. They do a great job with field position. Defensively, [they’re] a little bit different than the team we saw a couple months ago, but certainly [LaRon] Landry has given them a big lift, Art Jones. They’re very disruptive up front with [Erik] Walden, [Cory] Redding, [Jonathan] Newsome. The front is good with [Josh] Chapman and Redding, Jones, [Ricky Jean] Francois, [Montori] Hughes, all those guys. They do a good job. The linebackers are active, run well. D’Qwell Jackson is probably one of the most instinctive players in the league. [Mike] Adams, the safety, the same thing. They’ve got big corners with [Greg] Toler and [Vontae] Davis, and those guys do a great job for them. I thought they played extremely well in the playoffs, especially last week against the great Denver receivers. [They’re a] very good football team, well coached, good fundamentals, and offensively they’re as explosive as it gets. They’ve got so many big play guys. Of course, it starts with [Andrew] Luck, but he’s got a great receiving corps. They run the ball well, been consistent. They’ve got productive players at tight end, receiver, running back, quarterback, a lot to defend. Again, [they’re] as explosive a team as there is in the league. Both in the regular season and the postseason, they’ve been very consistent making big plays from everywhere by everybody. This will be a big challenge for us this week, all the things that we have to deal with. Again, [they’re] a good football team, a good organization and a team that we’re going to have to play our best game of the year is the way I look at it – play and coach our best game of the year.

Q: When you’re facing a team for the second time in the season, do you find that it simplifies the preparation, or does it complicate it because you have to add new wrinkles?

BB: I think it’s really pretty much the same every week. Whatever the information is that you can access, and that can come from a lot of different perspectives, sometimes it’s too much information, sometimes it’s not enough, sometimes it’s right there in the middle. But whatever it is, you just have to try to sort it all out and make some decisions and figure out what you’re going to go with. The challenges that the Colts bring are different than the next team or another team, but they’re certainly numerous and we’ll have to just sort through all of it. All the points you brought up are all certainly relevant. We’ll just have to filter it out and try to figure out what we think is best.

Q: We always talk about Ben Roethlisberger being the strongest quarterback. Is Andrew Luck harder to bring down or is he on that same level?

BB: Well, Luck is hard to bring down. He runs very well, he’s athletic, [and] he can get outside and make yards with his legs. They also use him on some keep-type plays – the one he scored on for example in the Denver game last week. And he’s strong; he’s strong in the pocket. He’s got good lower body strength. He’s got strong legs. He’s hard to wrap up. A lot of times, he’s got guys draped all over him and he can throw the ball. He’s strong, he’s fast, [and] he’s athletic. He does a good job of throwing on the run. He’s got good vision down the field. So, he can be a sixth receiver in the passing game. [He’s a] really dangerous guy, tough guy to handle, great quarterback.

Q: How has the return of LaRon Landry changed what they do defensively, and does he match up on tight ends?

BB: Absolutely, yeah, he’s matched up on tight ends. It’s certainly one of the matchups I think that they like. They did last week against Denver and [against Jason] Witten and some other good tight ends that they’ve faced. He’s a physical guy, runs well. I mean, he’s 220 pounds, whatever he is. He runs a 4.4, he’s big, fast, tough, good blitzer, so he definitely adds a physical element to that defense, which already has a lot of it. He only played seven or eight plays against us in the first game. That’s a guy that we didn’t see a lot of, but he’s definitely a force.

Q: How much growth have you seen from Josh Kline since he’s been here, and how do you think he did filling in on Saturday?

BB: Josh has come a long way. He’s an undrafted player, spent time on the practice squad, spent time on the roster, hasn’t had a lot of playing time, but I think he’s a really, tough competitive guy. He’s smart, he learns well. He’s been a multi-position player for us in his roles. He’s tough and he’s a battler, and when he’s had to play he’s played very competitively for us.

Q: In multiple games this year, your team has had some unfortunate execution at the end of the first half. How bothersome is that for you?

BB: Every situation is critical, and we’ve got to do a great job in every situation – beginning of the game, end of the game, end of the half, third down, red area, short yardage, goal line, four minute, two minute, special teams. You name it, they’re all important. They’re critical, and we can’t afford mistakes in any of them.

Q: How long did it take you to realize the kind of versatility that Julian Edelman can provide the team?

BB: We drafted him because we thought he had potential in some different areas. He’s a player who had a lot of things to develop because he just lacked experience playing the positions that he ended up playing for us or that I think he would play in the NFL for any team for that matter. Nobody works harder than Julian. He’s tough. He’s a grinder – in-season, offseason – all those things. He’s developed a lot of those skills, which there were certainly signs of that he had, but he’s worked hard to develop them.

Q: How difficult is it for certain role players to come in and execute when they don’t have a chance to get in rhythm, especially in a game as big as this?

BB: We’ve all got a job to do in this game, whatever it is, and every job is important. Each one of us will put everything in to this week of preparation to try to do the best that we can in each of our roles. And nobody can do anybody else’s role. Everybody can just do their own and do it as well as they can. That’s what I expect from everybody, every player and every coach on our team.

Q: This is your ninth AFC Championship Game. Can you appreciate that success, and what have you learned from your experience?

BB: Well, it’s obvious. You need to play well at this time. Every team is good. The Colts are a great team. We’re going to have to play our best game. That’s what I’ve learned. But right now, I don’t really care about any of the other games – last week, last year, 10 years ago, whatever it was. All our focus is on the Colts, and we’ve got to do a good job with our preparation for Indianapolis. We’ve got to execute well and we’ve got to coach well and we’ve got to play well. That’s our challenge.

Q: How drastically has Andrew Luck changed since coming into the league?

BB: He’s pretty good. He was pretty good when he came in, and he’s even better now. He’s a great player. He does everything well. He’s got a lot of strengths, no weaknesses. He’s got a great future in front of him. He’s already produced a lot. He’s already done a lot in the time that he’s been in the league, and I’m sure by the time he gets done he’ll pass a lot of guys by.

Q: The year you guys drafted Nate Solder, Anthony Costanzo was also in that draft class. What did you see from him during the draft process, and what have you seen from him since he’s been in the league?

BB: [He’s a] good player, local guy. He could play [multiple] positions, he’s athletic, [and] he’s got great length. [He’s a] tough guy, durable, dependable. He’s blocked a lot of good players in this league.

Q: Does anything during the draft process stand out?

BB: I mean right now I’m just really thinking about him as our opponent this week. Again, I don’t think like four years ago or whatever it was is that relevant.

Q: What is it about Patrick Chung’s skill set that allows him to be effective covering tight ends?

BB: Pat’s athletic, he’s an athletic kid, runs well, [and] he’s got good quickness. I think athletically he can match up with a lot of guys, play in the slot, been on tight ends, he’s done that. [He’s] played in the nickel position for us various times throughout his career. I think athletically, I’m not saying he’s a corner, but he’s an athletic safety. He’s somewhere between a safety and a corner.

Q: How much did you know about Brandon LaFell’s toughness before you signed him and how much have you learned about him since he’s been here?

BB: I think we definitely saw that from competing against him and following him through his career, but when you have a player every day and you’re with him every day, every week throughout the course of the season, you know him a lot better and can appreciate that. But I would say that Brandon’s been like that. He’s really impressive. He’s a tough kid, competes very well. We’ve seen that since back into last spring, all the way through training camp, all the way through the season. He comes to work every day and he’s tough. He can play through the bumps and bruises. He blocks well, plays in the kicking game. I love his toughness.

Q: How do they use their tight ends to manipulate matchups? When Dwayne Allen went out during the game against you guys in the regular season, how did that change things?

BB: They really replaced him with [Jack] Doyle on most of the things where they had two tight ends in the game, I’d say that’s what happened. If it was one tight end, then it was [Coby] Fleener. If it was Fleener, which it might have been Fleener anyways, and Doyle in Doyle’s role or Doyle taking Allen’s role. They use them all. Sometimes there is one, two or three on the field. With two, it can be a combination of any two of the three guys. They just try to create different matchups. They move them around, but they also have definite roles in their formations and their personnel groupings, so it gives you a lot to defend. They’ve been consistent for them; they’ve been productive. Doyle has the fewest catches and probably has more blocking responsibilities. But Allen is a good blocker and Fleener is obviously a big playmaker for them.

Q: Given Indianapolis’ development of [Donte] Moncrief and [Dan] Herron’s emergence of late, how much has that complicated defending this team? How does it impact how you have to defend the whole field, especially with Herron, who has been such a weapon in the passing game?

BB: All their backs have been productive in the passing game – [Ahmad] Bradshaw when he played, [Trent] Richardson. And then when you include Doyle, I’m sure that those backs have over 100 catches – whatever you want to call Doyle, a back or a tight end – he plays both. But their running back position just by itself between Bradhsaw, Richardson and Herron, there’s got to be 80-some catches in that ballpark there with those guys. So they’ve always been involved in the passing game. And Moncrief is just another weapon for them. Moncrief, [Hakeem] Nicks, [Reggie] Wayne and T.Y. [Hilton], plus Fleener, who’s really part receiver, part tight end, that’s a lot of juice at that position. [They’re] guys that can all make catches down the field, they’ve all made catch and run plays. They’re fast, they’re athletic, they’re big, there are a lot of them, and they’ve got a great quarterback throwing to them. Moncrief is definitely a problem. He took an under route against somebody – I forget who it was, Tennessee or somebody – a two-yard pass ends up being a 50-yard gain. He can run through the defense and take it over the top, too, which they all can. Hilton has done that, I know Fleener’s done it, they’ve all done it. They stretch the field. You’ve got to defend from sideline to sideline and from the line of scrimmage to the goal line. They can take short plays and turn them into long plays and they can throw it over the top and they can throw it in between. Really, it’s a very explosive group.