Friday flashback... if only

Mike Petraglia
November 14, 2008 - 12:04 pm
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From the moment he walked into the media workroom Friday morning for his day-after meeting with reporters, you could tell the toll Thursday night's game had on Bill Belichick. He did crack a quick line to the sparse crowd of five reporters, "How we doing this morning? Big crowd, huh?" Then he went about the task of putting a painful game in the past. "[When] you go through a game like that, you look back at 20, 25, 30 plays, I don'€™t know. Any one of them could have made a little bit of a difference or maybe a big difference. I think everybody feels probably about the same way this morning as they did last night, that if I could have just done one thing differently or done one thing better or not done one thing or whatever. That'€™s the way I feel. I'€™m sure that'€™s the way all the players and assistant coaches feel. "That'€™s probably the case, so we just have to get over that and put this game behind us after today and move on and start getting ready for Miami. But there'€™s still a lot of football left to play this season. I think that our biggest thing right now is just to improve and each of us keep working harder at doing a little bit better job. We'€™ve lost two real competitive games here in the last three weeks. We just need to do a little bit more to put those on our side of the ledger. That'€™s what our focus will be this week and every other week." Bill Belichick looks backs on Thursday and wonders 'what if?' Belichick said his team has to regain effectiveness in close games. Belichick on Cassel's last drive performance. Jarvis Green said even the average fan understands why 3rd and 15 killed the Patriots in overtime. Green said injuries are no excuse. We are 6-4. Some other quick nuggets.... Q: Have you had time to savor what Matt Cassel was able to do last night in that last drive of the game? BB: Yeah. It was tough situation with no timeouts and having to go over half the football field. The offensive team did an outstanding job of really putting ourselves in position to where we could be throwing for the end zone in that last play, even though it was fourth down which made it a little bit more challenging. Had it been third down with eight seconds, we probably would have had time for two plays. But it was a good throw, good catch. [Cassel] was scrambling around, running out of the pocket; it was a good play. Q: When Matt Cassel makes a play like that in a Tom Brady-like situation, does that make you think you can maybe open up the playbook a little more with him? BB: I think it'€™s been very open. We'€™ve been doing what we do all year, whether Tom [Brady] was in there or not in there in preseason. Then as Matt [Cassel] has taken the regular-season snaps, we'€™ve been running our offense all year. So I'€™m not really sure which plays you'€™d be referring to that we don'€™t have, but we game plan each week for how we feel the best way to attack our opponent is and those are the plays that we put in and run. That'€™s the way it'€™s been all year, I don'€™t really see that changing. Q: How do you think Pierre Woods held up in his first real extended action? BB: I think probably like all the defensive players. There were some positive things, there were some good things and there is always a play or two that every player would like to have back and I am sure Pierre feels that way too. But, I thought he did a decent job in the running game, got a little pressure on the quarterback, was in on some tackles, good pursued player. There were some positive things there. But, just like the whole game the positive things were outweighed by the final score and a couple critical plays in the game. There is certainly room for improvement all the way around '€“ that goes for all of us. Q: Matt Cassel ran the ball well last night, do you hold your breath at all when he takes off? BB: No. I think it is a little bit of the nature of the position '€“ trying to get what you can and protect the ball. I think he has done a good job of sliding. He has taken a few hits along the way that you would always like to see him avoid but sometimes that is part of the game. It is a contact sport. Against a team like the Jets that played a lot of man underneath coverage when the receivers run their routes and the guys chase him and the pass rushers get up the field, there is a lot of space there. Really, that is a good decision by Matt to see that, recognize it and he turns into the sixth receiver in those kinds of situations. There are always exceptions but that is not always the best play against some other coverages, zone coverages where there are a lot of guys standing there. But the coverages the Jets were playing, there were some opportunities for him to run. He made good yardage on them. Q: Was part of that designed in preparation, figuring the Jets would play man coverage? BB: Yes. That is similar to the way they played us in the first game. As you go through the course of the game you can see how they were playing and that was pretty consistent through the course of the game. He got a couple of those early, not that he is looking for that, he is looking to throw the ball down the field but if it opens up, which a couple of times it did, it opened up pretty wide then step up in the pocket and that is an option for him. Q: Do you encourage him to slide more or do you think he has the sense on when to do it? BB:  I think there is a place to put your head down and get the first down. I think there is a place to slide, get what you can and protect the ball [and] let the other guys handle it. Q: Is that an aspect of Matt Cassel'€™s game that you need to see to realize how much of a weapon it would be? BB: We have seen it for four years. He did that his rookie year. I don'€™t think his running ability or his athletic ability has really been a question. I wouldn'€™t say that at all. Q: How about Jerod Mayo and his performance? BB: Jerod has been pretty active in all of the games, he was active last night. He'€™s instinctive. He has a nose [for] where the ball is, he gets to it and he is a good tackler. He doesn'€™t miss many. So, he has been productive for us all year and was productive for us last night. Q: (On adjustments made in the second half'€¦) BB: In all honesty we really didn'€™t make a lot of adjustments. We played a lot of the same things in the third quarter that we played in the first half. Some of them we played a little bit better, or they matched up a little bit differently or we recognized a couple of the Jets plays quicker. But really it wasn'€™t a big adjustment game. Q: Sammy Morris had five carries, was that by design or just how the game played out? BB: Yes, you saw how the game played out. We were in two minute offense for two and a half quarters. So that we just felt like was partially due to the score but the way it went there in the second quarter, we felt like that was the best mode to be in last night as the game unfolded. We started that way in the third quarter. I thought we moved the ball well in the third quarter, we just had three plays that stopped us up a little bit but moving the ball really wasn'€™t a problem. Like I said, those three plays staled those drives or stopped them. That was the mode we were in because that is what we thought was the best to attack them with. Had we been in a different mode I am sure Sammy probably would have gotten more carries, as BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] and Kevin [Faulk] probably would have been in the game a lot less. Q: Can you talk about the confidence that you have in Matt Cassel'€™s passing game especially on third and short? BB: I think we have confidence in Matt passing on all downs, in all situations: first down, second down, third down, red area, two minute. If the situation is there where we feel like we need to throw the ball based on what they are doing, if that is the preferred call then we make it. I don'€™t think there is any hesitation about that - any of Matt'€™s throws or plays. I think he has made all the throws that he can make: tight ends, backs, receivers, inside, outside. I don'€™t really see that as a problem. Most of that is a function of what we feel like is the best play in that situation and it is whatever he has been called on to do. We have confidence in him and if we need to run the ball in those situations or draw it or screen it then we call those plays. We have confidence in them too. Q: What kinds of strides has Pierre Woods made in terms of playing strength? BB: I think that the technique and all of that has helped him but I think that he started out there that is how he made the team. He made the team based on his speed, his athleticism, his power and explosion for his size and like any player doing it for three years and being in the weight room in the offseason program and working at it and reacting quicker and so forth. All of those things help. He has certainly gotten better and improved over the course of that time. He came in with enough of that to make the team and create a role for himself on the team. I think that has been a pretty big aspect of his game and it has improved. Q: How do you think the defensive line held up without Ty Warren? BB: Well, Mike Wright played most of the game there at left end. But Jarvis [Green] played and we rotated all of them in there a little bit. But I thought Mike did a solid job for is. We would love to have Ty [Warren] out there but unfortunately last night we didn'€™t. We would loved to have him out there but I think Mike is a good player for us. He gives us good depth both inside and outside, playing the run and rushing the passer. He is a good versatile player that played a lot of snaps last night and we needed him. Q: On the no huddle offense run by Matt Cassel, other than the missed snap, do you think he performed how you think he would? BB: I would say 550 yards of offense with one fumble, I thought that was'€¦But we still missed some opportunities. There were still some things that we would have liked to have done out there that we didn'€™t do. I thought we moved the ball well and that Matt did a good job running it, absolutely. I just wish we had a little more to show for it that'€™s all. Q: How do you feel about Mike Vrabel'€™s defensive holding call now that you have had the chance to look at it again? BB: It doesn'€™t really matter what I think.