Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is headed to the playoffs, yet again, but his squad faces the Texans before the postseason begins.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick answered questions from the Houston media Wednesday, and the following is a transcript of his interview.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
(on if he is starting QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss and WR Wes Welker on Sunday) "(Laughs) Um, I would expect they be there. You got them on your fantasy football team, John (McClain)?"
(on when they got to the end of the 2007 season if he hesitated at all about playing his guys) "You know, John, right now, we're just thinking about getting ready for Houston. Whatever we did, we did what we felt was best for our football team, and that's what we'll always do is what's best for this team. Right now, we're just getting ready to play the Texans, and that's a big challenge for us."
(on if the last game was their best offensively of the season) "You know, I think we did a lot of good things in the game. It wasn't perfect. Certainly, fumbling on the one-yard line going in wasn't what we were looking for, and we had some other things that we could've done a better job of – third down. But overall, it was a solid performance, and we'll take it against a good Jacksonville team, as you know from seeing them, they do a good job. So we're happy with the win, but it doesn't really mean anything. We've got a new challenge this week against a whole different matchup. Houston's a team we're not really very familiar with. We haven't played them in a while, and it's a lot different than what we played them in '06 anyway, so this will have to take on a life of its own here."
(on his thoughts on QB Matt Schaub's development this year) "I think he's had an outstanding year. I mean, leading the league in passing yards, getting the ball to a lot of different receivers, making big plays every week. I think he's very efficient. Mobile, can make some plays with his feet, get out of the pocket and pick up a first down or buy more time to run. He's got a high completion percentage. He's done a great job, and they have a very good offensive system. Gary (Kubiak) does an excellent job with the passing game and the running game, play-action and possession throws, screen game, things like that. And then down the field throws, they make a lot of big plays on posts and over routes and post corners and things like that. So they really give you a lot to defend defensively in the passing game, and Schuab does a great job with it, and then he's got excellent receivers, backs and tight ends that have all been productive. Their pass protection has been good. For the most part, he's played without a lot of pressure back there. So this is an outstanding offense."
(on what he remembers about when Schaub played them with the Atlanta Falcons) "He had a big day. Threw the ball all over the place. We couldn't stop him. Ran, got out of the pocket a couple of times, scrambled. He was poised, accurate and made good decisions. He had an excellent day against us."
(on LB Brian Cushing) "You know, I think he's certainly had a productive year, made some big plays. (He's) got three or four interceptions, whatever it is. They use him in a lot of different ways, rushing the passer in some man coverage situations where he goes up on the line of scrimmage and takes the tight end, blitzes. I think he's strong, he's physical. He's a pretty good tackler. I think he's a good compliment to (DeMeco) Ryans, who's just outstanding. I mean, he's just as good as any middle linebacker we've played against all year, we've seen in a while. He's tremendous. But I think that those two guys complement each other. I think their skills are a little bit different, but they go together well, and I think Coach (Frank) Bush uses them effectively in their defensive scheme."
(on if there's anything in particular he wants to see from his team this week) "The same thing I like to see from them every week. That we have a good week of preparation and we go out and execute to the best level we can."
(on T Sebastian Vollmer's progress) "He's really had a good year for us. He can play both sides for us. Played left tackle when (Matt) Light got hurt, played a number of games there, and then when Matt came back, he played over on the right side. He's played there the last couple of weeks. Nick's been out. Nick Kaczur's been out. But he has really developed well. Good tools, big, long arms, real good size, good feet. It's unusual, as you know, to see tackles that are kind of almost equally adept at playing the right and left side, to be powerful enough on the right side and be athletic enough on the left side to handle those speed rushers. And he's been able to do both for us. Didn't have a great football background, but has picked things up very well. He's really kind of a late bloomer. I thought his senior year was a lot better than his junior year. Even the second half of his senior year at Houston was a lot better than the first half, and he has continued to make that kind of progress for us this season, through the spring and then training camp and now into the regular season. So he's done a good job. Our receiver coach, Chad O'Shea's father, Mike, is the trainer there, and so he certainly gave us some insight into Sebastian's work ethic and toughness and dependability and intelligence and all those things, which are big strong points for him. I'm glad we have him. He's really done a good job for us and he's come a long way. I think he's got a real good future ahead of him."
(on if they tried to sign WR Wes Welker when he came out of Texas Tech) "Well, it's funny. We drafted a player from Texas Tech that year. We drafted the quarterback, Kliff Kingsbury. So obviously, I wasn't smart enough to see Welker's talent coming out. Then, when he went to San Diego and they released him, we talked about him and, you know, we thought about it, and it kind of came back to the same thing of… there was no question about his production and his quickness and all of that, you just worry a little bit about his overall size and that and then you kind of think, 'OK, well another team released him, so he must not have been that great.' And then Miami's got him and we're trying to play against him and we can't cover him and we can't tackle him on punt returns. And we tried to double him and we still really couldn't cover him, so we saw first-hand how difficult it was to play against him. Then during the restricted period, we were able to work out a trade and compensation with Miami to get him for a second-round pick, second and seventh, and we felt like that was a good value to our team. At that point we were losing Troy Brown. That was toward the end of Troy's career. I think he played more year after that. But Wes has stepped into that slot position and been very productive for us. We saw it in college like everybody did, and like everybody that didn't draft him, probably were swayed too much by his size, or lack of it. And certainly he's got enough other attributes like his hands, his quickness, his toughness, instinctiveness and his route running ability, that he's more than overcome that."
(on what has been the most rewarding part of the season) "Knowing that we're going to be in the playoffs."
(on how hard it was not making it last year) "It was tough. When you look at the history of how many teams with that record haven't been in postseason play—it definitely wouldn't have been the case this year. That's football. Last year, we didn't beat the teams that we needed to beat. They beat us and that's why they were in the playoffs instead of us. It wasn't the system or anything; we just didn't do enough to get in there last year. We've been in the playoffs for a few years and then you're not in them, I guess it gives you a little bit more of an appreciation of being in them—not that we didn't appreciate it. It's just harder to not be part of the postseason when you've been in it for several years. We were proud to be able to clinch the AFC East this past week and we know we still have got a lot of work ahead. We're playing a real good football team this week on the road, which hasn't been a great place for us to play this year. It'll be a real good competitive environment and I hope we can go down there and be competitive and play well on Sunday."
(on at what point he saw the same QB Tom Brady as before his knee injury) "Tom has done everything all year for us that everybody else has done. He was in all the offseason/preseason workouts. He was in all the spring camps. He didn't miss any days in training camp or preseason camps. All that, he's done everything everybody else has done and he's kept pace and never fallen behind. We never had to modify or anything or say, 'Well, Tom can't do this,' or 'This is bothering him and he can't do that.' Really ,from day one, he's done everything that every other player on this team has done and everything he's done at his position in the past. There really hasn't been a time where I think we've looked at him and said that he doesn't look like Tom Brady. He did look like Tom Brady from our first practice back in May."
(on if he's sees any similarities between Texans QB Matt Schaub and QB Tom Brady) "One of the big similarities is when they had an opportunity to perform, they played well. My first year in the league, me and Coach used to always talk about how important it is to be prepared, and you never know when an opportunity is going to come—whatever it is. Whether that's a player or an assistant coach becoming a head coach, or a backup quarterback starting at quarterback, or whatever it is—you just never know when that's going to happen. When it does, the most important thing is for you to be prepared. So if you're prepared, and it takes a year, two years, three years, four years for that to happen, you're better off that way than not being prepared and then getting the opportunity and missing the chance. I think the one thing about Tom and Matt that you can say is that those guys worked hard in the roles that they had and when they did have an opportunity to play, whether it be for a few plays or for a season, they did it. I think when you watch Schaub play now and watch the Texans play, we've seen some good passing offenses like Indianapolis and New Orleans, and Houston, that's what you see. You see a quarterback and an offensive system that are efficient and attack you in a lot of different ways. They give you a lot of things to defend and continue to create problems moving the ball up and down the field. It's not just one thing. Part of that is the offensive system and part of that is the quarterback and part of that is the other players around him. Collectively, it is all good and he plays a big part in it."