Here’s the latest:
Did Not Participate
LB Shawn Crable (shin)
RB Sammy Morris (knee)
CB Lewis Sanders (hamstring)
CB Ellis Hobbs (shoulder)
LB Eric Alexander (hamstring)
DE Jarvis Green (ankle)
RB LaMont Jordan (calf)
T Nick Kaczur (ankle)
WR Matthew Slater (ankle)
WR Randy Moss (foot)
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month, the league announced today.
- Mayo, a first-round selection (No. 10 overall) from Tennessee, led the team with 24 tackles in the month as the Patriots posted a 3-1 (.750) record in October. The first linebacker selected by the Patriots in the first-round in the NFL Draft under head coach Bill Belichick (2000-present), Mayo has started all seven games at inside linebacker this season. The rookie leads the team with 55 tackles and has also added one fumble recovery. Mayo posted his best performance of the month in his first appearance on Monday Night Football against Denver (10/20), registering 11 tackles.
- Mayo is the first Patriots player to earn Rookie of the Month honors since wide receiver Deion Branch (Offense) in September of 2002, and he is the first New England player to win Defensive Rookie of the Month since the league started the award in 1996.
- Gostkowski has made 9 of 10 field goals (90.0 percent) in the month of October and has totaled 38 points to lead the Patriots in scoring. In 2008, Gostkowski has made 16 of 17 field goals (94.1 percent), including a perfect 10-for-10 from under 40 yards. In 2 games this month (at San Francisco on 10/5; against St. Louis on 10/26), Gostkowski made all three field goal attempts as the Patriots won both games by fewer than 10 points. The Mississippi native has made 23 of his past 24 field goal attempts dating back to last season. His career field goal accuracy rate of 85.1 percent (57 of 67) is the best in Patriots history.
- In his third year from Memphis, this is Gostkowski’s first Player of the Month Award. Gostkowski joins Adam Vinatieri as the only two Patriot kickers to win Special Teams Player of the Month.
Defensive lineman Richard Seymour just finished up a chat with the media at Gillette Stadium, and here’s the complete portion of his Q&A with reporters.
- On playing the Colts again… It never gets old. It’s always a big game. What more can you say about Coach Dungy and how well his team is always prepared. We have a lot of respect for them — they have a lot of great players on that side. It’s always a big game. As a player in this league, you have to relish opportunities to play against one of the best.
- Did you watch a tape of their game Monday against Tennessee? Yeah. Actually, I thought they had many opportunities to win that game. Obviously, when they went for it at the beginning of the fourth quarter and didn’t get it, it was a big momentum shift. But they were in that game and they scored first — they scored a touchdown first. They are a good football team and I don’t think their record is really indicative of how they’ve played the game. They probably should have won more games — Jacksonville came back and won on a last-second field goal, etc. They’re a good football team. They’ll be playing at home, and coming off a loss, so it’ll be a big game for us, a big challenge.
- On the Colts being inconsistent and banged up… Well, we’re all injured. No one on this football team is 100 percent. It’s midseason. We’re not making any excuses about it, and they aren’t either. But we’ll be ready to go, and I’ll sure they will be as well.
- On Peyton this season… He still has a rifle for an arm. He can still make all the throws on the field. He’s a smart guy. He has one of the quickest releases that I’ve ever played against. You can have the guy — you can be about ready to sack him, and he has just a missile that can get the ball all the way across the field. We have to help our defensive backs out, and they have to help us out as well. We have to play a complimentary game as far as the defensive line and the front seven and the guys in the back end, and have the offense put up some points. It’s a big game for us and we’re definitely excited to redeem ourselves on Sunday night.
- How do you feel at this point in the season? I’m not 100 percent [laughter], but I feel a lot better than I have in the past, you know? Just trying to help my team anyway possible.
- On your career checklist, how important is it to you to check off ‘sacked Peyton Manning’ at least once? I have, but a penalty was called against Roman Phifer. I always give him a hard time about that [laughter]. Like I said, the guys has one of the quickest releases in the game, so it’s important for us to get pressure on the guy and make him have happy feet and just throw the ball around. Sacks are often overrated. If we can get a lot of pressure on him and make him feel that early in the football game, I think it’ll pay big dividends for us down the stretch. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get him.
- Is this like, ‘It’s the first week of November … I have to remind Roman Phifer…’ I’ll definitely give Roman a text about that.
Here’s the latest….
Did Not Participate
LB Shawn Crable (Shin)
CB Ellis Hobbs (Shoulder)
RB Sammy Morris (Knee)
CB Lewis Sanders (Hamstring)
LB Eric Alexander (Hamstring)
DE Jarvis Green (Ankle)
RB LaMont Jordan (Calf)
T Nick Kaczur (Ankle)
WR Randy Moss (Foot)
WR Matthew Slater (Ankle)
Here’s the transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:
- Well, it almost feels like we are back in the division playing Indianapolis. We have had so many games with them and so much history with this team the scouting report looks like a phone book. But, they look as explosive as ever. There are a lot of examples of that: the first quarter of the Baltimore game, the fourth quarter of the Houston game, they came back on Jacksonville. They can score in a hurry. They are very explosive. [They] turn the ball over. They have a lot of fast guys on defense. They strip the quarterback. They strip the running backs. They intercept passes. They play very well against the running game. Several games this year and very recently teams are barley getting three yards per carry against them. They cover kicks very well – outstanding, [they have] good specialists and offensively I think we all know what the story is – [they have] a great quarterback, great receivers, good scheme, they can run it, they can throw it, tight ends, backs, receivers – you name it. [Peyton] Manning is as good [of a quarterback] as we play, [Reggie] Wayne, [Dallas] Clark, [Anthony] Gonzalez – right down the line. Tony [Dungy] and Bill [Polian] have done a good job with that program, very consistent. They have gotten a lot better on defense in the last couple of years. They are fast, they are active, they make a lot of plays and they are as explosive as they are offensively. You have to be alert of them in every play of the game. There is never a situation where anything is safe, you could lose the ball on any play, you could give up a long touchdown on any play. As we saw last year [we] gave up a 75-yard touchdown on a two-yard pass. So you really have to be on your toes the entire 60 minutes against this team. We know how energetic and what kind of emotion they have playing at home, we have been there before – so we have to be ready for that too Sunday night.
- I know it has been unfair comparing Matt Cassel to Tom Brady but do you see similarities in the first seven or eight games when Tom took over in 2001 to Matt’s first seven or eight games? I don’t know. It is a long time ago. There is no real common, other than Kevin Faulk, denominator. There are so many different players; there are so many different things. Matt has been here four years, I think he has had more time and background in our offense than Tom did when Tom took over in ’01. They have both gotten in there, have done a good job, have worked hard, made plays to help us win and have managed the game the way they should offensively in terms of time management. I think Matt’s done a real good job of managing the game with the two minute warning at the end of the half with the time, getting out of bounds and throwing the ball away and making all those kinds of decisions. Those are the kinds of things that a quarterback has to do to be a good quarterback. It is not just throwing the ball and having a big arm but it is making the right decisions, managing the clock, we use a lot of different personnel groups so getting that all straight. That is a big part of it in our offensive system and both quarterbacks did that.
- Good news on Vince Wilfork? No suspension? I really don’t have any comment on that. I think we will leave that to the league [and] whatever they have to say about it. Really, it is a league matter. I don’t think it is appropriate for me to comment on because I really don’t have anything to do with it, we don’t have anything to do with it. It is a league matter. Whatever they want to say about it, they can say about it.
- Will you do anything in practice to simulate Indianapolis’ game speed? Yes. We will try. We will obviously work with the noise offensively, which I am sure there will be plenty of that on the road. The players we put in there at different positions to try to simulate their players and getting them to play like they play as much as we can. We will definitely do that. Personnel and trying to coach them up on…Make our defensive players watch plays on Indianapolis’ defense and make our offensive players watch plays on Indianapolis’ offense so they can kind of get the idea of the look that they are trying to give the other group, absolutely. We will meet on it [and] spend some time trying to coach them to get that.
- Are Indianapolis the fastest defense you will see or have seen to this point? Overall, I would say so. Denver was fast, San Francisco was fast but these guys – [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney – I can’t think of two better edge rushers than that that we have faced. The linebackers are active. Really they make a lot of plays from behind. I think they have made more plays from behind than any team that I have seen on film in quite awhile. There defensive lineman, their linebackers, check downs, screens, even running plays to get through the line of scrimmage – a lot of time the tackle is made by guys coming from the backside after it looks like a guy has been blocked he comes off the block, makes the tackle and a lot of times strips the ball out too. They are very fast. The play they made against Houston the one Mathis made on [Sage] Rosenfels, the strip sack there that was kind of typical. It is hard running away from them, they have too much team speed.
- How pleased have you been with Benjamin Watson and David Thomas at tight end? Well that extra guy out there on the edge makes a big difference for a tackle. If it is one man wide or just a body out, there even if he is not blocking, it makes a difference in the pass protection. They have done a good job. There are times when they have to stay in when they blitz then we have to block them. If they don’t blitz then we can check out into the pattern and let the lineman block the four pass rushers if they don’t bring anybody else. But reading that, helping but at the same time getting out so they get into the pattern to affect the coverage, draw the guy they are supposed to draw so the pattern is evenly distributed – that is part of it too. They have done a good job with that. It has been helpful.
- Last year Rodney Harrison covered Dallas Clark. With Rodney out hurt, is there any concern there? There are plenty of concerns with Dallas Clark. There are concerns about everybody – Clark, [Marvin] Harrison, [Reggie] Wayne, [Anthony] Gonzalez and [Joseph] Addai. It is about team defense, you can’t double everybody. You can’t set your defense to stop everybody they have too many good players. In the course of playing good team defense there will be a lot of different people that will have a lot of different responsibilities all the way through the course of the game. We will have to hold up all the way across the board. It will be a challenge from sideline to sideline from Harrison to Wayne to Gonzalez and everybody in between. [Tony] Ugoh, [Jeff] Saturday, [Curtis] Johnson, Clark – everybody is going to have to hold up everywhere.
- With Rodney Harrison out does it change significantly? Well he is not a part of it so whatever we do, obviously, other people are going to have to do it. We still have to play team defense.
- Players get hurt every year but this year you have faced a lot of adversity. Has this been a unique challenge for you and your coaching staff? Really, we don’t even think about it. So, we have had guys get hurt before that is part of football. Every team has injuries and every team has to deal with something. We just look at each game and try to figure out the best way we can to be competitive with the team we are playing. Every week it is a challenge. I know this is hard for you to believe but we don’t ever sit there and say, ‘if we had Jim Brown than we could run this play, if we had Tom Brady we could run that play, and if we had Willie McGinnest we could run another play’ – we never sit there and say that. We just say, ‘ok here is what they are doing and what are we going to do.’ You take your options and try to pick out the best ones.
- Is it times like this that you can draw on a lifetime of football and rely on your coaching staff? I think that is part of it every week, sure. We have a very experienced staff in all three phases of the game and there are always situations through the course of the year, I am not saying every week necessarily – this is something that would apply to something we did at some other point, whether it was a certain player or whether it was a certain scheme, the way we read a play or coach it, absolutely. I think there is plenty of that and you go through that over the course of the year I would say every year. I wouldn’t say one is any different than another necessarily it just depends on how things fall.
- Do you enjoy the challenge – it is harder now? It is the same. Every week we come in, we get all the information, we try to break it down and we go to work and try to prepare the team to play. Every team has good players, every team has good coaches, every team works hard, has a good off season program, plays to keep you honest, things up their sleeve, new wrinkles and they play hard. Each team has it’s own specific challenges and you have to try to figure out how to meet those every single week. There are good players on every team. It is challenging but I definitely enjoy it. I enjoy all the aspects of it – the preparation, the on the field coaching, the working with the players, the watching film with them, the game strategy – that’s what I do.
- Going back to the Denver game has Randy Moss been more consistent with downfield blocking? I think he has been pretty consistent with it all the way through. I remember we had a couple plays last year where he was blocking 40 yards downfield for [Laurence] Maroney. He is a good blocker. He is a big guy. He has long arms. He has a big frame and he covers some of those defensive backs up, they have a hard time of getting around him. He is quick enough to stay with them, stay in front of them and anticipate where the ball is going to go. But I think he and Wes [Welker] have both done a good job on that too. Our receivers have competed well in the running game.
- Can you comment on BenJarvus Green-Ellis? I think Ben has gotten better every week. He didn’t get a lot of reps early in the season or in training camp, he had a few other players ahead of him. But I think he has gained everybody’s confidence through his preseason play and his hard work. Anytime a guy doesn’t get a lot of snaps then you put him in there and he does well on those few opportunities, you really respect that because of the 100 plays that could be called you pick out four or five and if he knows those with not too many repetitions than that gives you confidence that he is studying, that he is on top of it. I think Ben did that a lot in the preseason games where he didn’t get a lot of plays in practice but whether it is blitz pickup or routes, or reads in the running game he showed that he could pick things up quickly and that led to his eventual promotion from the practice squad to the roster and opportunity to play and he has done that when he has been in the game. He still has a lot to learn, he is a young kid but he is tough and has done a good job in the opportunities that he’s had and that is a real credit to him because he pays attention, he is up on all the little things and when something comes up most of the time he’s pretty on top of it for the amount of reps he has had.
- How much stock do you put into the start of their season in terms of their record? Like I said, when I look at them I see a very explosive football team. Look at the last six minutes of the Houston game, look at the first quarter of the Baltimore game – you see plenty of good football from them and plenty of explosive football. That’s what worries us and that’s what we have to prepare for. It really isn’t about how they did against Tennessee or how Tennessee did against them. It is about how we do against them and they do against us. Each game is it’s own match up, it is it’s own entity. We have had some great match ups against them in the past, we have a lot of respect for their football team and their organization. We know we are going to have to play our best game out there and that is what we are going to try to do this week.
- Do you take any stock in the idea of desperate teams? I think each game is it’s own game – I have said that many times. I don’t think it is about last week or next week, it’s about how the teams match up and perform against each other. It is not three out of four or four out of seven, you get one chance to play. How those teams match up on that day – that determines the winner. It is not the better team it is who plays better. I think that is the way it will be this week and that is the way it will be every week.
- How much do you see the Colts offense changing without Joseph Addai in the line up? Addai is a great player. I think that [Dominic] Rhodes is a quality player too. He has shown that in the past. He certainly showed it in the opportunities he has had to play. They run their offense, he can do everything they need him to do and I think Addai is a good player too. Whichever one of them is in there we will have to be prepared for.
- Is Peyton Manning as dangerous as he’s ever been? He sure is. He does everything well. He makes all the throws. He is smart. He reads coverages extremely well. He is accurate with the ball. He is mobile enough in the pocket to buy time. He really doesn’t have any weaknesses.
- How much of a boost will their defense get if Bob Sanders returns? Sanders is a good player, there is no doubt about it. He is a great player – MVP in the league. I think they have played very well on defense. The way they have been playing the running game holding teams to three yards a carry, good running teams too like Green Bay and Tennessee – maybe it would be two yards a carry if he were in there I don’t know. I think [Melvin] Bullitt has done a good job of filling in for him. He has made a bunch of plays, had a couple interceptions, made a lot of tackles [and] still helps them out in the kicking game. I think that [Antoine] Bethea, Sanders and Bullitt – whoever it is, their safeties have all played well. Sanders – we have a lot of respect for him as a player too. It just gives them another guy.
- How do you assess the communication in the secondary? I think it was all right. St. Louis is a team that gives you a lot of different looks and a lot of personnel groupings so I don’t think that was really a major problem, it could always be better but I don’t think it was a major problem for us.
So I’m in the Patriots locker room this morning and there’s not much going on. I look over in the corner and I see kicker Stephen Gostkowski sitting by himself in the far corner near his locker. I start to think, “Jeez, I spent every week in my Metro column saying that if he keeps kicking at his current rate, he’s the one guy in the Patriots locker room who’s guaranteed a trip to the Pro Bowl. Why haven’t I talked to him yet?” So I talked to him — here’s a part of that Q&A:
- On kicking in a new environment—can you do anything to prepare? No, there’s nothing … there’s not much difference between one stadium and another. … You can predict the weather. The only thing we do is try and kick in our stadium a couple of times before our game. That’s not something we really think about. We just kick during practice and do the best we can during practice. We get to warm up an hour before the game, and that’s pretty much all you need. We kick so much and get so many reps in practice. We’ve kicked on it all — grass, turf, old turf, new turf. It’s pretty much the same. Sometimes, the weather is different — you can’t predict that. So you just run with it.
- On his performance this year… It’s not something I think about. I’m just happy we’ve won more games than we’ve lost. Anytime you can perform pretty good and help your team win, it’s an added bonus. But I don’t make any benchmarks or set any goals that I’m trying to reach. I just go into every game and try to make every kick and kick some good kickoffs. If I get caught up in numbers and who’s doing what and how I’m doing as compared to everyone else, it’s just one more thing to distract me from the game. I’ll look at my final performance at the end of the year and then look back at it. Right now, I’m just worried about kicking good at Indy. When the end of the year comes, I’ll tell you how I feel about my performance.
- On going out early to get an idea of the sitelines in a new stadium… We always go out there and run around and loosen up. You look at your aiming points. But it’s not something I get in-depth with. I’m not very … I stick to my routine. I’m not real picky. In college, I had to kick on a makeshift field goal post that was put in the middle of the field. I’ve kicked on it all. Some guys are different than others. Some have a more in-depth routine. Me, I don’t really think. I try to aim down the middle and kick it through.
- On working with Lonie Paxton… Lonie is the best snapper I’ve seen. He’s pinpoint, on the money. He takes his job seriously, and is good at what he does. He doesn’t read too much into it. Having a guy who has been there and snapped for a good kicker before, he’s been through different situations. It’s always good to have someone to lean upon. Show you the ropes. Having Lonie here is definitely beneficial for me. He still helps me out, day-to-day.
The announcement just came down–here it is….
The New England Patriots released veteran offensive lineman Oliver Ross today. Ross was signed by the Patriots as a veteran free agent on June 2, 2008. He was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list with a shoulder injury on Aug. 30, 2008 and has not played in a game this season.
Ross, 33, is a veteran of 10 NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (1998), Philadelphia Eagles (1999), Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-04) and Arizona Cardinals (2005-07). The 6-foot-4-inch, 327-pound offensive lineman was originally drafted by the Cowboys in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft. Ross has played in 89 career games with 52 starts.
The Iowa State product played in two games with the Cowboys as a rookie in 1998. The next season, he was released by Dallas following the preseason and was signed by the Eagles, for whom he was listed as a gameday inactive for 15 games in 1999. He spent part of the 2000 season on the Steelers’ practice squad before seeing his first significant game action in 2001. That season, he played in all 16 games with seven starts for Pittsburgh, seeing action at tackle and guard. From 2001-04, Ross played in all 64 of Pittsburgh’s games, totaling 35 starts over that span. In 2004, he started every game for the Steelers at right tackle. Ross was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2005 season, starting 12 games while seeing action at both offensive tackle spots. He played in 11 games with five starts in 2006 before missing the entire 2007 season with a triceps injury.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the full transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media today at Gillette Stadium:
BB: After watching the film you get an appreciation for the swings back and forth that took place in that game. First of all I thought that, as I said going into the game, St. Louis is playing good football right now. Jim [Haslett] has certainly done a good job with that team. He certainly gave us everything what could have won it yesterday. We thought we responded to a number of situations, adversity in the game. We had the situation in the second quarter, we were down by three, they got the ball on our 20 yard line and they end up getting knocked out of field goal range. Then we score and get it back and score right before the half. It was a big swing. We really had four turnovers in the third quarter with the onside kick, getting stopped at fourth and one, in addition to the two interceptions. So, that was a lot of short field for the defense. Offensively, we were down by three and end up winning by seven. So, [there were] a lot of swings back and forth in that game and I was proud of the way the players hung in there and played good situational football. A lot of real specific one situation type plays, our red area defense, the two minute operation, offensively getting the ball in on a double move there to Kevin [Faulk] – plays like that, things we certainly have been working on. It is good to see those come to fruition and help us be the difference in the game. Now we are on to Indianapolis. You know what kind of battle that will be up there. I know it is a new stadium and all of that. I am sure it will be a lot of the same elements that we have seen before in that dome. That will be a big challenge for us. But it is good to win, good to be 5-2. We have a lot to get ready for this week.
Q: It looks like Matt Cassel’s pocket awareness is getting better, is he progressing in that regard?
BB: I think that is fair to say. I think Matt is really progressing in all areas – his decision-making, his read in coverages [and] his pocket presence. Not that we are cutting anything back but we are building offensively as any team would in the seventh week of the regular season relative to the first week of the season, relative to the fourteenth week of the season. You build things not just with your quarterback but with your entire offensive, or defensive, or special teams unit. You add plays, you add wrinkles, you do complimentary things and so that has been a part of it too. I think Matt’s improved in a lot of areas in his game. As have a lot of other players as they have played more. His pocket presence, his decision making, reading the coverages, going to secondary receivers, reminding guys offensively about their splits or their depths – just part of the overall operation of offense is better than it was two months ago. I would hope it would be after all of those practices and all of those games. I would like to think we have improved a little bit in some of those.
Q: How important was it for Matt Cassel to have his first come from behind win?
BB: In all honesty I hope he doesn’t have to do it again. I hope we don’t put ourselves in that situation again, I hope we can play from ahead. But if that is what we have to do than that is what we have to do. We work on those things every week. We work on all the situational plays every week. Whether we are ahead at the end of the game or behind at the end of the game – what we want to do in those situations and half is a little bit different, red area goal line, all of that stuff. The last play defense, the five seconds at the end of the game, the punt at the end of the game on a tight punt – we work on those situational plays every week. It is great that Matt did that. I hope we are not in that situation every week though, I really don’t. We have to practice it because we might be. If we are then I am confident whether we are ahead or behind at the end of the game that we will be able to go out there and do what we need to do to turn the thing in our favor.
Q: St. Louis’ onside kick – is that a good teaching moment?
BB: It was a great… Yes, we definitely could have played it better but it was a great play by St. Louis. [Josh] Brown hit a perfect kick that came down right in the dead spot right over the ten yard restraining line. I think we could have reacted to it quicker [but] even if we had I don’t really know whether… It was a very well executed play by them. As much as I would have liked to be upset at how we handled that, sometimes you just have to say they really did a good job at that play and obviously we have to defend it going forward and not let that happen. But it was a very well executed play on their part. I mean it wasn’t as much of a, we didn’t see it coming and it was a big surprise as it was a perfect kick and it was perfect. I give them credit for that. Josh Brown is a good kicker.
Q: You were scrambling at corner back yesterday, did that remind you of the game against St. Louis four years ago?
BB: Unfortunately. We were just taking names there in the fourth quarter, seeing who was available and who we could put in and ‘if he went there someone else would go here’ and ‘he knows this’ and ‘he can do that’ – it was a little bit of that which was unfortunately a little reminiscent of the St. Louis game in ’04. It was definitely a scramble. But those things happen from time to time and that’s why in training camp you play guys at different spots and make them learn different positions. You just never know when it is going to help you or help that player create move value for himself to your team. When you only have 45 guys, you have a couple quarterbacks, you have some offensive linemen, you have some defensive lineman – in all honesty those players don’t have a lot of flexibility. They do what they do and that’s great but you take out the quarterbacks, kickers and lineman in the game [and] you are down to honestly not that many players for when you get to multiple receivers and multiple defensive back defenses. It is just not an unlimited amount of guys there. It is not like preseason where you can just keep dropping down and bring another one in. We were scrambling.
Q: How important was your red zone defense?
BB: It was huge. Both times we held them. They got the touchdown on the long pass obviously but it was huge. We all know that is the difference in a lot of these close games. Their two trips in the red zone are a field goal and your two trips to the red zone is a touchdown you have more points than they do. It was huge. We have been working on it and it was good to see it come through and pay off and conversely it was good to be able to get it in the red zone. I know the numbers were two for four but that one at the half wasn’t a great red zone opportunity. We were down there but we really didn’t have a great shot at the end zone. We were fortunate to get rid of it as quickly as we did to have a second left for the field goal. Our red area execution on both sides of the ball had a lot to do with the difference in that game.
Q: (On situational football specifically Matt Cassel’s kneel down play – managing the clock and using a timeout…)
BB: We thought when we took possession and looked at their two timeouts, we thought that we would probably be punting them the ball with about 25 seconds to go and they would be getting the ball with about 20 seconds [on the clock]. So they have 20 seconds to go on the 20-yard line or wherever the field position was. We knew we couldn’t kneel on it and run the clock out completely but we wanted to try to stay up on the kneel until Matt [Cassel] was actually going to get tackled and try to bleed a few more seconds off the clock. So that’s what we were trying to do there. Just after the first one and after they called timeout, I talked to the referee Scott [Green] about it and we talked about how the timing on that play was being officiated – we didn’t quite see it the same way. So we were going to give them the ball back with, we thought, about 20 seconds. It actually turned out to be a little less than that and the way that play turned out… The punt return was pretty unusual with [Dante] Hall running around in the end zone. And then they only had five seconds left. I thought they would have time for two to three plays to go 80 plus yards, hopefully.
Q: At the end of the first half can you talk about your decision to force them to kick the punt again?
BB: Well, [Donnie] Jones is a great punter. I forget what the net was on that but it was a lot. We had them inside the five or whatever it was. Kelley [Washington] almost blocked the punt and they were punting from the six and Wes [Welker] got tackled on our 45 [yard line] so they netted 50 on the punt, which is a lot. We knew it would take a little more time to re-punt it but we felt like we could gain more yards on that plus the fact that the penalty put them inside the five. I think when you punt from inside the five with the punter a little bit closer a lot of time psychologically the protection is thinking ‘I have to stay in longer’, ‘we don’t have as much room to punt’, ‘it is not our normal punting depth from the center to the punter’ and also when you make a team re-kick it, guys aren’t as fresh and you don’t get quite the same energy in the coverage sometimes on that second time around. All of those things played into it. Yes we were giving up a little bit of time but we hoped we would make up the difference in that time with more field position. So we ended up 10 yards. So it would have been the equivalent of completing a pass for ten yards in 13 seconds that we lost on the second punt. I don’t know if that was the right trade off or not. We gained a lot of confidence in our punt return game. Wes [Welker] has done a good job [and] our hold ups are good. We are at the top of the league in punt returns this year. We feel like that is a positive play for us. But Jones hit a good ball on the first one. It was a 50 [yard] net but he must have hit it 60 [yards]. Some of you would like to think he is not going to hit it 65 [yards] this time, he might. We did the same thing in the San Francisco game when he [Andy Lee] kicked the 80-yarder. It was the same thing. It was 82 yards or something like that. The last one of those since Randall Cunningham kicked it [91 yards on December 3, 1989] against us at the Giants.
Q: (On being rushed to throw on offense…)
BB: We had our moments. I think it was a good rushing team. They do a good job with their schemes and their players. They have a lot of guys that can rush. So there were times we blocked them and there were times when they had some pressure on us but overall for the most part I thought that we weren’t rushed to throw. But Matt [Cassel] saved us on a few of those. He ran three or four times where he scrambled out and got positive yards. So those were plays that could have potentially been losses, balls that weren’t thrown. Overall I thought the line did a good job against a good pass rushing team. It wasn’t perfect but we did a decent job.
Q: (On Stephen Neal rotating in and out of the game…)
BB: It was about the same as it was last week in terms of number of plays – it’s about the same. I think Steve is probably getting pretty close now. He has been practicing two weeks and he has played in two games about half of each game. Billy [Yates] has done a good job for us in there and I think Steve’s getting back so it is good to have another player at that position. We have confidence in all of those guys – Russ [Hochstein], Mark [LeVoir] has done a good job for us stepping in for Nick [Kaczur]. I feel like our overall depth on the offensive line and the quality of play is good, although you want it to be just five guys, I think we are fortunate that we have more than that [who] have been able to step in and give us quality performances. So, that is good.
Q: When you look at Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley, are those guys ready for Peyton Manning and Indianapolis’ offense?
BB: Well we will see how things go. Tune in Sunday night. I don’t know if I am ready for them [Colts], we will find out on Sunday night. All the players that are on the team we have confidence in and confidence to put them in the game or they wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be activated. That answers that question. Are they ready? Every week you find out. Do we have confidence to put them in there? Absolutely, that’s why they are here.
Q: (On managing backup specialists…)
BB: First of all, of all the players on your roster just across the board as a league not about our team specifically – this is not about our team – but I think if you looked at all 32 teams year in and year out you would find the biggest drop off between who you would normally have out there to whoever the next guy is that you would put on there – on those three specialists. So if you went from your first kicker to whoever your second kicker is, your first punter to whoever your second punter or your first snapper to your second snapper, you would find the biggest gap on your team compared to tackle, corner, safety, quarterback, receiver – any of those other spots. Because it is such a specialized position you don’t really carry anybody else to do that job, you just have to go with the best that you have at that spot. So, you give them some snaps in practice, sometimes you give them some snaps in a preseason game – your backup holder, your backup snapper, maybe if you have a backup kicker or punter you do that. A lot of the time you are trying to evaluate other players and that is not a priority but we got into that situation in 2004 when Lonie [Paxton] got hurt in the Miami game. There is a big drop off there. A – the player hasn’t practiced, B – it is not really his specialty anyway. You work on individual anyway and you work on it after practice in individual stuff and you take a few team reps in it but it is a big gap. So if you look at the 32 teams and [who] their back up long snappers are, some guys have guys that are more experienced in it that have done it in college, or high school and there are probably other teams where you are looking at a guy who has never done it in a game but he’s the best you have in practice. I don’t want to say it has ever come down to this but it certainly has been part of the discussion in the final cut to ‘if we release so and so now our backup long snapper would then be so and so’ and everybody’s ‘oh my god’. It is hard to keep a player to be a backup long snapper, like it is hard to go to the game carrying a backup holder, ‘well here is our holder and if something happens to him who is going to hold?’ But when you are taking 45 guys to the game it is hard to take a backup holder, it is hard to carry a backup snapper so you just have to make due with what you’ve got. If you have to compensate for it by moving the punter up 13 yards or whatever then maybe you have to make those accommodations.
- BB: Like I told the team after the game, this is a good example of having to play 60 minutes like we always have to do in this league. Those guys really stepped up and made some big plays in the fourth quarter. I am really proud of them. We got contributions from everybody. There is no way you could go down the line and name them all but a lot of guys stepped up. A lot of guys made big plays. At times we were moving along okay and at other times we weren’t. In the end, they hung in there and fought all the way and made the plays in the fourth quarter that we had to make to win. I am proud of them for that and now it is on to Indianapolis. We know what kind of test that will be but we will enjoy this one for a while. I think St. Louis – Jim [Haslett] has done an awesome job with that football team in the last three weeks. They are tough. They play hard and they are good in all three phases of the game. We had our hands full just like we expected to today. It is just good to come out on top.
- Q: Did you feel fortunate, given the turnovers and onside kick, to keep them to two field goals? BB: Sure. We were scrambling in the third quarter. We had about four turnovers offensively as a team, the onside kick, getting stopped on fourth and one and the interceptions. We were hanging on. At times defensively I thought we played pretty consistently and then we had some big plays that marred that a little bit. But that was good in the third quarter and it was great the way the offense came back in the second quarter and got back on top going into the half. It was a good two-minute drive and good clock management there by Matt [Cassel] and the offense to get three [points], we almost had seven. So that was good. We just weren’t able to sustain it there in the third quarter with the onside kick. But it was a big field position play.
- Q: Can you talk about Matt Cassel’s poise down the stretch? BB: Matt is a good quarterback. He has played good for us all year. I thought he played good today. There’s always things to work on. There’s always things to improve on. It’s not perfect. But he’s played good for us all year and I expect him to continue to do that. He works hard, gets better, understands the mistakes and things that he hasn’t seen before and goes on and usually those aren’t a problem going forward. Him and a lot of other people offensively that stepped up and made some big plays and we really had to have them today.
- Q: Did St. Louis not having Steven Jackson change your approach defensively? No. Not really. We prepared for him all week. We didn’t really change anything in the game plan. There were no new calls or anything. Obviously he’s a quality player but I think for the most part we played [the way we] expected to play going into the game. I can’t tell you what would have happened if he were to have been in there.
- Q: Are you pleased on the amount of pressure your defense put on St. Louis? It seemed like Richard Seymour and Adalius Thomas were in the backfield quite a bit. BB: It seemed like we had some decent pressure on the quarterback. I am going to have to look at the film to get a gauge on it. But I think it could have been better a few times but we knocked him down, [we] were in the pocket and made him run out a few times too. That was good, probably could have done a little better but in the end it was enough.
- Q: Already losing Rodney Harrison, was it tough to lose Deltha O’Neil and Ellis Hobbs for parts of the game? BB: We were scrambling in the secondary. There is no doubt about it. We were scrambling in the secondary when Deltha went out and then when Ellis went out. Then Mike [Richardson] got hurt on that last kickoff and then they put the four wide receivers in the game, which is their two-minute offense so we expected that. But we were down on defensive backs. Brandon [Meriweather] had to move up to corner, Antwain [Spann] came in at safety. We took that time out there after the kickoff to get organized because we were trying to find bodies to put out there.
- Q: There were no accepted penalties against you guys today, can you talk about the disciplined play? BB: That is something we talked about this week. We really emphasized staying away from the personal fouls and we did that. You always want to play penalty free. That is a goal each week for every unit and obviously you are not going to go through a whole season without getting a penalty. But offensively, defensively and in the kicking game before each game our goal is to play penalty free in each of those units so that’s great. Everything they get, make them earn it. They are going to get some we understand that but try not to give them second chances, try not to go backwards with penalties on offense and create long yardage situations that way. That was outstanding really. I can’t remember how many of those we had but we haven’t had many.
- Q: I know Kevin Faulk’s touchdown was in the far corner from where you were standing but what did you see on Faulk’s touchdown catch? BB: Well it was a double move. I saw a bunch of people cheering when he came down there in the end zone so I assumed it was good. Kevin has made some big plays out there as a perimeter receiver before whether it’s screens, goes, double moves. We try to hit him a little bit earlier down there on our sideline, the ball was just a little bit out of bounds. We feel like him on linebackers is a pretty favorable match up. So we got him out there, [Matt] Cassel made a great throw and Kevin came down with the ball.
- Q: How nice is it to have someone like Kevin Faulk who has been here forever, has done everything for you and still makes plays? BB: Kevin is a good football player and, you are right, he has made a lot of plays since I have been here and before. He has been a very dependable and consistent player. It seems like you can always count on Kevin no matter what phase of the game it is in. Whether it is returning kicks, blocking, pass protection, catching, running, two point plays [or] being on the goal line. He is a clutch player and he is a good player. He does a lot of things well and I think he is a guy that we all have a lot of confidence in around here – coaches, players, quarterbacks, the whole football team. He comes to work everyday. He is one of the best team players we have. He is all about our football team. Whatever he can do to help us win he’d do – mop the floors, he’d mop them. Like Troy Brown, you just can’t say enough about a guy like Kevin Faulk.
- Q: How big a part of your game is confidence, and were you able to build on that today? MC: I think for any QB, if you play with confidence you play well because you’re confident in what you’re doing; you’re confident in where you’re going with the ball. It’s a big part of my game and I played with a lot of confidence today. I felt good about the game plan and it showed out there.
- Q: Can you talk about the touchdown pass to Kevin Faulk in the fourth quarter? MC: It was a great catch by him. He made a great move on the linebacker. He was in one-on-one coverage and I just tried to put it out there and give him an opportunity to make the catch. He did a great job. He did what Kevin Faulk does best.
- Q: How good of a job did the offensive line do today? MC: They did an impeccable job. I had great protection all day. I was able to step up, go through my reads—go through one, two, even get to three at times. They did a great job.
- Q: Bill Belichick said that you have been playing well all season. Do you agree with that or do you feel like it has been more up and down? MC: I feel like I’ve been playing pretty consistent throughout the year. Sometimes the score doesn’t reflect that, but we’re constantly working, we’re constantly trying to get better. I continue to mature, I believe, each and every week. Today was a good performance and something we can go forward and build on.
- Q: Did it register with you that you were behind in the fourth quarter and it was up to you and the offense? MC: It did. And this was a big game for us because it was one where we’re behind in the fourth quarter and it’s up to us to come back and, in the face of a little adversity, to fight and we did that as an offensive unit. Everybody stepped up and I thought that was a big thing for this offense to prove that we can do that in those tight games because I’m sure there’re going to be a lot of those down the road.
- Q: Did you calm yourself down a little bit on the last drive? You seemed pretty sure of yourself. MC: As you get going in the game you just kind of go along and you play the game. I really wasn’t worried about the situation other than the fact that I knew we had to score. I wasn’t trying to press; I was just trying to go out there and execute the offense like we always try to do and we were successful at it.
- Q: Can you tell us a little bit about that run for first down in the first half when you kind of had to scamper around a guy a little bit? MC: I just saw man coverage. I went through my reads and didn’t see anybody open and decided to take off and run.
- Q: What did you see on that run, especially to get around a couple of defenders there? MC: I don’t know. I saw a lot of big guys running at me and then I just tried to move around and dive. ‘Please don’t hit me. Blow the whistle.’
- Q: Aside from that play, did you feel like you had more time in the pocket this week and that it was there for longer? MC: It did. The offensive line did a great job today. They gave me a great amount of time in the pocket. I was able to go through my reads. I was able to step up when I needed to and I think that was huge for our passing game.
- Q: Is the number of sacks you’ve taken a case where you are cautious because you don’t want to make a mistake, so instead of throwing a bad ball you’re conservative in order to get the ball back in the next series? MC: There are definitely times when taking a sack is a better play than doing something else and trying to make a play when something is not there. Then there are also times when I’m trying to run around and make a play and I’m sure a lot of those sacks aren’t even on the offensive line. They’ve been doing a great job all year. Sometimes I feel like I can make a play outside the pocket and I’ll try to scamper and I’ll run and it will be a one-yard loss and it ends up being a sack because we were throwing the ball on that play. That happens.
- Q: Does Bill Belichick try to discourage you from running, in part because you’ve got to stay healthy? MC: No he doesn’t. We go out there, and the one thing we try to do each and every week is go out there and don’t play scared. If that’s part of my game and something where I need to pick up a first down on third down because I don’t see anybody down the field then I’m going to run and do it.
- Q: There was a sequence where Randy Moss had a tipped ball interception, Wes Welker fell down and the ball was intercepted, and then Randy Moss dropped a ball in the end zone. Was it tough not to get frustrated there? MC: It’s just one of those things where you go out there and you keep fighting. Those things are going to happen, where a guy falls down [or] a tipped ball happens. The main thing I thought was great for the offense was that we didn’t get discouraged. We knew the plays were there; we just didn’t make them. Then we came back and made the play when it counted at the end.
- Q: Did you see Kevin Faulk make that touchdown catch? MC: I saw him catch it. It was great. It was a great feeling.
- Q: Do you feel like you are playing better as an offense and if so, what specifically are you doing better? MC: The last two weeks I feel like we’ve stepped up on offense and we’ve done a better job. I just think everybody is starting to work together. The offensive coaches have done a great job getting us prepared and ready and we’re playing with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. If we can continue to do that and build on the things we’re doing well, we’ll be hard to stop.
- Q: As far as building, do you feel any more confident or do you feel the same? MC: Week in and week out I try to go out and execute the game plan and play consistently. From week one to week whatever we’re in now, I definitely feel a little bit different, from my role, understanding my role, [and] being comfortable in my role.
- Q: Do you feel the game slowing down for you? MC: You talk about slowing down and you try to just understand what they’re doing on defense and if you’re able to do that that it automatically slows it down. But at the same time, there’re a lot of fast guys over there. There’re a lot of moving parts and you always have to be on top of it.
- Q: In the big picture, what has been the toughest part for you stepping into this role where you almost can’t win in comparison to Tom Brady? MC: I think that’s one of the main things when you step into a role like this and you step in for a guy like Tom Brady who has done the things that he’s done over the last nine years here. He was the MVP of the league last year. I think it puts a lot of pressure on myself and I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and try to pick up where he left off. Obviously a lot of people would say that’s hard to do and it is hard to do, but as long as we can continue to build, we can be a successful offense and continue to grow.
- Q: You don’t seem to show the pressure you must feel? MC: I just go out and like I said, I just try to play the game and have fun doing it.
- Q: That’s hard to do when you haven’t played a whole lot. MC: Sometimes. Sometimes. But I’ve been here for four years and I wouldn’t be in this position if the coaching staff didn’t believe in me and that gives me all the confidence in the world.
- Q: Have you stopped to think big picture: you’re 5-2. Are you proud of that? MC: Of course we’re proud of that. Of course we’re proud of that. We’re 5-2 right now and hopefully we’ll continue to build on that and keep getting better. It’s only midway through the season here, so we have a lot of games left and we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.