Bill Belichick and Vince Wilfork’s Q&A’s with Miami media, 11/19

Posted on November 19, 2008 
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(On the biggest difference he sees in the Dolphins since week three) – “Boy, I would say, I just think that they’ve really improved in every area. They’re really a good football team. I think they do everything well. They stop the run, they rush the quarterback, they play good situation football, they can run the ball, they can throw it, they get the ball to all their receivers, scoring points, time of possession, keeping away from the defense, not turning the ball over on offense, turning the ball over on defense. I think they’re a solid football team. In the last month, they’ve probably played as well as anybody in the National Football League. So I think it’s just a strong performance; good return team. It’s a good football team.”

(On the toughest thing about stopping the “Wildcat”) – “Probably the toughest thing is tackling the guy who’s got the ball. They’ve got a lot of different ways to run the ball and that’s one of them, but that’s just a percentage of what they do. It’s not their whole offense, so what it really comes down to with the backs is tackling the guy who’s got it. They all run well. They break tackles, they make people miss in the open field, they’re fast, they’re quick, they’ve got good balance. I think all three of those guys are very tough to tackle and that really, with a good offense line and good tight ends, they get a little bit of space, they’re a hard group to handle.”

(On how much of a personal challenge it is to stop Dan Henning’s creativity on offense given his experience on the defensive side of the ball) – “That’s what you try to do every week. We try to stop our opponents from moving the ball and scoring points. We try to find ways where we can move the ball, offensively, and score points. That’s a challenge every week. It’s a huge challenge to try to stop Miami and their offensive football team. They’re well balanced. They’re well coached. They do a lot of things well, they keep you off balanced, but they also play good, sound, hard-nosed, fundamental football and run the ball as well as any team in the league. They hit you on a lot of different fronts and we’ll have to be at our best on all of them.”

(On if he felt the Dolphins were capable of more on offense they he had anticipated) – “I thought they were very capable on offense. Chad Pennington is one of the best quarterbacks that we’ve faced year in and year out. (Ted) Ginn is a big-play receiver. They get the ball to all of their receivers. They’ve got two real good tight ends. They’ve got good running backs, got a good offensive line, so you never heard me say anything about them not having a lot of talent or being well coached as a football team or on the offensive side of the ball. I had a lot of respect for them before the game and after the game.”

(On what it is about Chad Pennington that makes him so efficient as a quarterback throughout his career) – “I think Chad does a lot of things well, but I think probably the best things he does are make good decisions and throw the ball accurately. In the end, that’s really what every quarterback has to do.”

(On what it was about Matt Cassel that has intrigued him, whether it is talent, character or something different) – “I think initially it was talent. Matt has plenty of talent and he was very competitive with (Matt) Leinart and (Carson) Palmer at USC even though he ended up backing up both of those players. As I understood it out there, it was very competitive between him and those other two Heisman trophy winners and working him out, you can see that with his throwing skills, his athletic ability, and in talking to him and spending time with him, his intelligence and understanding of football. He’s come in here in three years and leading up to this season, worked hard to understand what we’re doing to work with Tom (Brady) and learn from Tom and pick up our offensive system and when he’s had an opportunity to play, even from his rookie year in that final game of the season when he played over three quarters against Miami when we lost at the end, that he continues to get better every time he’s on the field. I think that what he didn’t have was a lot of playing experience, but as he’s gained more of that, we’ve all seen his quarterback skills improve and he has plenty of playing skill to go with it.”

(On what Matt Cassel has specifically improved over the last several games) – “I’d say pretty much he’s improved at everything; understanding the game plan, making decisions, reading defenses, timing with the receivers and everybody seeing things the same way. His pocket presence, his decision making and third down in red area and two-minute situations, things like that where everything happens quicker and there’s less margin for error. It’s just all a little bit tighter than what it is on first and second down for the most part. So, I’d say all those thing s have improved over the last 10 weeks.”

(On if he sees similarities between Greg Camarillo and Wes Welker) – “Yeah, I think that he’s (Greg Camarillo) a good, productive receiver. He’s good with the ball in his hands, he’s got good quickness in the slot and they go to him in a lot of possession situations on third down which, to me, is an indication of how much confidence they have in him and his ability to get open in those critical situations. I think he and Ginn have really both done a good job for them. They’re different. They’re both effective, but maybe in a little bit different ways and I think that’s what’s been a good complement and guys they’ve gotten the ball to on some split screens and underneath routes and things like that that turn into plays. Like Camarillo’s play against Houston on that little under route that he caught for two or three yards and ends up with a 35-yard gain or whatever it was, those are the kind of plays that catch your eye when it looks like a nothing play and then all of a sudden, break a tackle, split a couple defenders and it’s 30. He’s shown up consistently doing that.”

(On how the landscape of the AFC East has changed and how have injuries impacted the Patriots) – “This year, every team definitely is in the race here at 10 games into the season. It really wasn’t the case last year, but that’s generally the way it’s been. It’s been a very competitive division. It’s competitive this year. Every team is right in the thick of it and there are a lot of good football teams in this division. Right now, our focus is just a one-game season for us just getting ready for Miami and trying to go down there and play them a little more competitively then we played them up here the last time. Where everything turns out and all that, the last six games of the regular season is anybody’s guess. It really doesn’t matter right now. The only thing that matters is our next opponent against the Dolphins and how we do in that game. That’s really all we’re thinking about is how we can come down there and be competitive against the Dolphins.”

(On when he started game planning for Miami this week) – “After we were finished with the Jets game, we do the same thing that we always do; after we play a game, we probably spend the better part of the day going over the film, making corrections, cleaning up the loose ends from the after the game analysis and then we move on to the next team, so that’s what we do every week. That doesn’t really make a difference who the team is. We put one game to rest after we’ve closed the book on it and done everything that we do as part of our normal procedure and then we move on to the following team.”

(On his philosophy of using starters on special teams) – “It’s not really a philosophy. On a weekly basis, we try to do what we feel like gives our team the best chance to win, whatever that happens to be whether it’s usage of personnel or plays or strategy or what have you. That’s the way we approach everything and it’s not always the same. It changes from week to week based on our situation and the team we’re playing and what we feel like how we match up with them and how we need to make decisions based on our personnel and schemes to give ourselves the best chance to win, so that’s kind of what we do. We do it on that basis. There’s no set formula or anything like that.”

(On how eager he is for the rematch against the Dolphins) – “We knew we had them twice being a division game. We basically, after the first game, which we were kind of embarrassed at home, this moment has finally come and we kind of put it to the back burner until this week. Now, it’s occurring, so now that we have a chance to do something that we didn’t do the first game so it’s going to be a lot harder going down there. Everybody’s fighting for a spot in the Wild Card, in the playoffs. Like I said, being a division game and a rivalry game, I think that’s the toughest thing. We’re doing everything we can to get prepared for those guys. They’re playing great football down there and we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game to match them. Anything other than our ‘A’ game won’t help us. We’re working hard up here and I’m pretty sure they’re working hard down there. I think it’s going to be tough battle Sunday.”

(On this game being in the back of the players’ and Coach Bill Belichick’s minds) – “I think it’s on everybody’s minds now. Like I said, when we first met up here, it wasn’t pretty; they handled us pretty well in every phase of the game – passing, throwing, everything they did, I think they played way better than us. That’s something that we’re going to have to go out this Sunday and kind of try to control, especially can we run the ball, can we stop the run, can we force them into third and long’s? If we can’t do that then it’s going be a long day. They haven’t been in third and longs for all season, they haven’t been in there a lot. That means they’re running their offense pretty well when they have a third and short, second and shorts where they can basically continue with their game plan and call any play they want to call. They’ve been doing a really great job down there. Those guys, they got that team pumped up, they’ve been playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger. I think it’s going to be another tough battle Sunday. I can pretty assure you it’s going to be a physical game again. Anytime we play a division game like this, it will always be a physical game. The most physical teams come out on top.”

(On how the Patriots have been able to overcome the injuries and still remain competitive in the division) – “Because the bar has to roll on. We look at that as adversity. How can you continue to play going through all of that stuff? Losing all of the guys that we did lose, some getting back, some didn’t get back, key players that play a big-time role for us. I think Coach Bill (Belichick) does a real good job of keeping us level headed and at the same time we do a real good job with the leadership that we have in this locker room knowing what is at stake, knowing that when your number is called you have to be ready to step up. I think this year has been a little different because like you said with the injuries and everything, it forces us to do some things that we normally don’t do, to play differently, to approach games differently, our preparation is different. There are a lot of things that we had to start doing that we haven’t done in a long time. I think everybody has jumped onboard and we’ve been playing pretty good football, we’ve been pretty sound. The losses have been tough losses, but at the same time, we’ve been playing pretty good football. By the same token, you have to be ready when your number is called and I think we do a real good job of identifying that.”

(On LB Jerod Mayo’s impact as a rookie) – “He’s jumped on ship quite early and has got this defense down pat. He’s still learning and at the same we’re all still learning, we all can play better. As a rookie, to come in and to step up to the plate and basically been thrown into the fire, I think he’s handled it pretty well. We just keep in mind that these younger guys, right now in college your season is just at the end or winding up the end, and here we are with six more games and hopefully more after that in the postseason. I think the physical part, it’s going to be a little different because they’re so used to basically ending their football season right now, but this is where teams start to play their best ball right here. We’re trying to get that through their heads and everything. He’s one hell of a player and he’s going to get better and better as time rolls on.”

(On how much the Dolphins won the battle at the line of scrimmage in Week 3) – “They dominated the whole game. They dominated everything; the line of scrimmage, the passing game, running game. Special teams we played pretty competitive, but at the same time, there were some times where we didn’t do what we had to do there. I think they played a complete game the first game around. We knew that and we knew exactly what they do. Looking at the film, we remind ourselves of what’s going on and everything. We have a chance to do something about that. We can talk about it all day and we can live in the past all day, but the fact of the matter is we play Sunday. It’s going to be two teams in the same division out there fighting their tails off at one o’clock. We’re looking forward to it and I’ll tell you we’ve been looking forward to it, we’re working hard towards that and hopefully we can come out with a win.”

(On Samson Satele calling him the toughest defensive lineman he faces and what kind of challenge Samson presents to him) – “For him to say something like that, that’s pretty encouraging of me. At the same time, the first time we played them, they handled us pretty well, including myself. It’s a lot of things that we’re going to do differently. We’re going to play more physical at the line of scrimmage and I think he does real good job of controlling that line up front with his guys. I think ever since he came into the league I think I can see the difference in his play and he’s getting better and better and better. Now, those guys are playing great. They’re running the ball; they’ve got two of the best running backs in the game right now. The quarterback (Chad Pennington) is not making any mistakes; they’re not turning the ball over. They’re running that offense to the ‘T’ and I think it all starts around the center. My hat’s off to him and the whole offensive line. It starts with him up front because he’s the one that makes the line call, he’s like a quarterback on the offense and he does a real good job of that. It’s very challenging for me and my defensive line when we play these guys. I’m looking for a tough battle like we always have. We have fun out there and everything, we talk and everything, but he’s one hell of a player himself.”

(On how other teams have used the Wildcat against the Patriots) – “The Jets ran it, every year they sprinkle in here and there, but not as much as the Dolphins did. If I was the offense, I would do the same thing. The Dolphins showed something that people really didn’t show and they were very successful doing it. That’s something that we have to prepare for. If you have talent like the Dolphins do, I don’t there is a team, there’s probably a handful of teams that have talent the way the Miami Dolphins have talent. They can basically do what they want on offense because there’s talent everywhere from the skill positions down to the O-Lineman. They were very successful with that, I think, going forward. That was something that we needed to attack because they were so successful doing it. We have to make sure that we can get all of that stuff under control. After that game, we’ve seen other teams that did the same thing. It won’t surprise me if they come out with that again. Why not? They were successful once doing it. They’ll see if we figured it out and test it so it won’t hurt anything. We have our antennas right now, but anytime somebody has success against you, this league is going to look at all of the film they can look at. I think a lot of teams look at that film and like, ‘Okay, we might have something here. Let’s sprinkle in this and see if they learned their lesson’. I think over the past couple weeks, we’ve gotten a couple teams that sprinkle in just to keep us off balance and everything. The Dolphins, they work it to the ‘T’ and that’s probably the only team that can really do it because there’s only a handful of teams that have athletes like they have and they have a bunch of them.”

(On how much Bill Belichick takes this game as a personal challenge) – “I really don’t know. I can only speak for me. I take this for a personal challenge because I think they did something to us that a lot of teams haven’t done to us. For one, they rushed for over 200-something yards and you almost had two running backs for over 100 yards. Around here, we’ve been pretty good against the run over the years past and everything. The Dolphins did something that you really don’t see. That’s one thing that, being a nose tackle on the defensive line, that’s the first thing we talk about is stopping the run and we didn’t do it. When you can’t stop the run and when a team is able to run the ball, they can do whatever they want to do to you, point blank. I don’t care if they’ve got the Randy Moss, or TO (Terrell Owens) on their side, or Jerry Rice, it doesn’t matter. If your ground game is getting five, six, seven yards per carry, why go in the air if you don’t need to. We’re going to have to a better job of stopping the run and getting them and try to force them into third and long situations so they can get the ball up in the air. Maybe we can get to the quarterback or get our hand on a ball or two. It all starts up front with stopping the run first.”

(On if this game plays any special significance since he is from South Florida) – “Every time I play Miami in Miami it’s pretty exciting for me because I’m from Florida. I played down in the University of Miami so I have a lot of friends and family down there that are able to watch the game or come to the game. I’m always excited about that so that will be something I’m looking forward to, is playing in front of home crowd fans of my own, some friends and family, some people that I don’t get to see all year until this time. I’m excited about it, but at the same time I think my team is excited about going down there to play football just because of the last outcome here. We’re doing everything on our end to get prepared for the Dolphins. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be ready to go. They’ve won some games, they lost some tough games. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get their best.”

(On Matt Cassel’s development since Week 3) – “I think as a team we’re growing. I think his is more noticeable because of the position he plays. He’s our quarterback and every week you can see him getting better and better and better and better. As a team, we need the team to do the same thing. We can’t just have one guy stepping up each week; we need everybody stepping up each week. I think Cassel has stepped up each week and I think as a leader on this football team a lot of guys are looking at him in a different light now and almost putting him in that leading category because of the way he’s playing. As long as he keeps doing what he’s doing and we feed off him, I think we’ll be in good shape, I think we’ll be okay, but we have to get better as a unit, not as individuals, I think as units to be a better football team. I think we’ll be okay.”


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