Belichick and Brady: From the other side

Brady's been prepping for 49ers since Thanksgiving

The ringleaders of the Patriots dynasty, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, cover the spectrum of Patriots/49ers during their Wednesday news conferences before media that cover the Patriots.

Bill Belichick


Opening statement: We're obviously on a short week here. San Francisco is, it goes without saying, an outstanding football team. They do a lot of things well. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh has done a great job with that team. They have a very experienced coaching staff, coordinators. It's a short week for us; we don't know them very well. We haven't played them in quite awhile and they've made a lot of changes since the last time we did play them. We really have to do a good job of trying to catch up preparation-wise this week. Hopefully we can do that, but these guys do a lot of things well. They have a lot of good players. They're a very physical football team, well coached, very good fundamentally. We know we have a big challenge in front of us this week – the entire week, not just Sunday but the whole week of preparation and getting ready to play these guys will be tough too.

Q: Coach Harbaugh said one of the things about Colin Kaepernick is that he reads the field extremely fast and extremely well. Do you see that with him on the field and is that ability to read the field what gets quarterbacks to the next level?
BB:
I think the two most important things for a quarterback are his decision making and accuracy. I could probably go out there and read the field decently but I don't think you'd want me playing quarterback. There are other guys that can thread a needle but maybe not see as well but I think the combination of seeing the field, making good decisions and accuracy is really what it comes down to more than some other qualities. Not that those aren't important, but I would put those at the top of the list.

Q: Do you see that with Colin Kaepernick?
BB:
He's had limited opportunities. I think you certainly see it at times. I'm sure if Coach Harbaugh said it, I'm sure it's right. He's with him every day. He's really started the last what, four games? We've seen him have opportunities to do it but not as many as they've seen. I think he's done it to a degree. He's a young, improving quarterback. It looks like he gets better each week and probably plays with more confidence and does things a little bit better each week. But, I wouldn't disagree with [Coach Harbaugh].

Q: You've been in the situation that they are now, where the starter gets hurt and the backup plays well and then the starter comes back. What are the considerations for a coach as to who should be playing when both quarterbacks are available?
BB:
To win. There are no other considerations.

Q: Does that go from week to week if one guy gives you a better chance to win against a certain team?
BB:
It would to me. That's the only thing we're really here for is to win. What else is there? I don't know. What else is there to talk about?

Q: They've been running a Full House Pistol. How do you combat that? Is that an inside linebacker thing or an outside linebacker type of thing?
BB:
No, it's a total team. They attack you everywhere; everybody has to do a good job. They can run inside, they can run outside, they can keep it, they play-action off it. Really, everybody has to be at the point of attack. No one player can stop it, no one guy can. Eleven guys have to play good team defense. I'm sure that's why they're doing it – is to try to put stress on every player on the defense and they do.

Q: It seems like Kaepernick has extreme speed but also some toughness to break tackles. You've seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks, but is he a little bit beyond the normal guy who can move around a little bit?
BB:
I think we saw that with Tim Tebow last year. He was a guy that broke a lot of tackles, ran the ball inside, he was more like a running back. I think each player has their own individual style. Guys do some things, other guys – there are a lot of different ways to be effective. But it looks like he can certainly out-run the defense. He has good speed, he has some quickness, he has some running skill. It's not just speed.

Q: What have you seen from Randy Moss? It seems like he's been more involved the last few weeks.
BB:
I think Randy is Randy. Good vertical receiver, he can still run through the defense, I don't think there's any doubt about that.

Q: Can you talk about bringing Deion Branch back at this point in time and what he brings to the team?
BB:
Same thing he brought to the team before. With Donte' [Stallworth] out, he gives us a good level of experience and knows our system, has played for us and we have confidence in him.

Q: Not only can Colin Kaepernick leave the pocket and scramble, but it seems like they mix in a good amount of designed runs for him. Have you seen that on film?
BB:
Yeah, they do. They have a few designed plays for him. I think a lot of it is some type of option play, depending on what the defense does he may keep it or he may not. There are some plays that are his plays and other plays that I'm sure are designed plays that he gives it, that he's getting rid of the ball. They do a good job in the running game. They have a lot of different plays, a lot of different concepts and blocking schemes, it's not just one thing. They make you defend a lot. They change it a little bit from week to week so it's very challenging to get ready for. You could have two weeks to get ready for them and still be scrambling. I guess we'll have to do the best we can but they give you a lot to get ready for.

Q: Their offensive line is very good.
BB:
Yeah, very good; athletic, big. Plus the tight ends and they have not just those five guys but they have other guys and the receivers block. They do a good job. They do a real good job running the ball.

Q: Tom Brady said he started his preparation for the 49ers after Thanksgiving. Did the coaching staff do the same? Were you able to get ahead on them as well?
BB:
We worked on them in the offseason. We always have people on our staff that look and work on the teams ahead of the ones that we're playing. We do that every week so that after the game we have a certain amount of information that's already been broken down and prepared by other members of the coaching staff. We do that every week.

Q: So the short week doesn't really impact it in that regard?
BB:
It impacts it. It's 24 or however many less hours. Instead of spending all day Monday on them, we spent all day Monday on Houston and didn't get started until Tuesday. Normally we would spend Monday morning breaking down the film from the Sunday game and finishing that game up and making our notes and comments on that. I'm sure by Monday afternoon we'd be well into the next team and Monday night start to game plan and all that. We're a long way from that this week. From that standpoint, we're behind. I'm sure San Francisco did that. But that's the way it is.

Q: How accurate would it be to say that you're calling more defensive pressures in recent weeks than earlier in the season?
BB:
I don't know. I'd have to go back and look and see exactly what the calls were. Again, that's not, it's sort of like the run-pass ratio. That's not always 100 percent accurate either. Sometimes it just depends on, if you have a play call depending on what the other team does, then you're calling it based on what they do. I'm just saying, you can have a run-pass check on offense and say we're throwing the ball a lot this week. If that's the way it's set up, maybe that depends on what the load was from the defense or vice versa. If you're going to blitz this formation to cover that formation, it depends on what they're in, what you have called. There's a certain amount of that element to it as well or could be. Yeah, I don't know, I'd have to go look at it.

Q: Overall, how pleased are you with the pressure you're getting on opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks?
BB:
I'd say it's probably been about the same all year.

Q: How is Rob Gronkowski doing in terms of his recovery?
BB:
Day-to-day. Hopefully today is better than yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow will be better than today.

Q: With Julian Edelman out and Wes Welker returning punts, are you concerned about the extra workload or is it just ‘players play'?
BB:
No, we talk about that every week. Certainly players, what their roles are in the kicking game, plus what they do on offense or defense, whatever those are, including some situational things like goal line, third down, short yardage, it depends on the player obviously. But sure, we try to be conscious of what all the things that they have to do are for that week. Some players carry more of a load than others but we try to be conscious of that every week. It doesn't mean we couldn't put a big load on somebody or put a smaller load on somebody, but I'd say we're conscious of it.

Q: How would you characterize the defense's confidence?
BB:
I don't know. I think about the same as it's been all year. I don't think we lack confidence.


Tom Brady


Q: We were hoping that you would wait until 12:12 pm to start your press conference today.
TB:
I know what a day. It's not going to happen again, so enjoy that. We'll be in a meeting.

Q: Can you talk about the difficulties with the hard-hitting 49ers secondary?
TB:
Yeah [they're] a very hard-hitting group. I'd say the whole defense is that way. It's a very physical defense, certainly at the safety position. We've played Donte Whitner quite a few times and he's as physical as there is. Dashon Goldson, I'm really impressed by his ability – we haven't played them and I've never played against him, but he's really an impressive player. The linebackers they've got are all good, they sack the quarterback and that guy Aldon Smith is on an incredible pace and what a start to a career. So it's a lot of challenges and we're going to have to play our best game. I know all of the guys have been preparing hard the last 24 hours, so we're going to have to continue all the way through Sunday night.

Q: How much does 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith impact the defense's ability to generate sacks?
TB:
Sure, Justin Smith is a great player. He's got a great motor, he's big, powerful, takes up two guys and allows those other guys some one-on-one matchups. He's in there every play. He plays hard, he plays to the end of the play. He's a great player and they've got a great front. There's no real weakness on this defense and they do everything well.

Q: How do you combat that?
TB:
You have to do everything well too. That's what happens when you play a team that is as capable as they are. They've had a great season. They had a great season last year and that defense is a huge reason why.

Q: You have been in a similar quarterback situation that the 49ers find themselves in now: One guys gets hurt, the new guy comes in and does well and then the old guy comes back. What is it like to be the guy in your situation?
TB:
Am I an old guy or a young guy now?

Q: Back then.
TB:
I think individually, as a player, you just try to focus on what you have to do to help the team win. That's your role. When you're on a team, you're supposed to support the team in whatever way the coach needs you to support the team. When you're not playing, you support the guys that are playing. You help out in practice and then when you get your opportunity, you try to go in there and support the team by playing. Ultimately it's about winning games. It's not about an individual; it's about doing what's best for the team. So when you play, you've got to play well.

Q: From a team perspective, is it an awkward situation when the original starter comes back?
TB:
Well, it was a long time ago for me, but there was nothing like that on our team. I had great support from all of the quarterbacks, especially Drew [Bledsoe] at the time. I don't really know what's going on in San Francisco.

Q: You said Tuesday morning that you were well on your way to preparing for the 49ers. Did you start preparing earlier than you might have because of the short week?
TB:
I did. I did. After our Thursday night game against the Jets, I tried to do a bunch of work on the ‘9ers. So I put a couple of days in there and actually after the game on Monday night, I felt like I just had to watch their most recent game and I was caught up. So, you try to take advantage of a little extra time, a little planning. [I] probably wouldn't have done that 10 years ago.

Q: How hard is it to look ahead to a particular game, but also stay focused on the next game?

TB:
How hard is it? I've done it before, so you just kind of close the chapter and then move on and focus all of your attention on Houston. We had eight days to do that, which was good. And certainly we had extra time with Miami too, so it was just part of time management.

Q: What are some of the things that stand out about the 49ers defense that make them such a good unit?
TB:
Well, it's speed, they play well together, they're physical, they stop the run, they rush the passer, they can cover, they create turnovers, they play well in long yardage situations, they're good in the red area. They do everything well. Like I said, they were in the NFC Championship last year and had a great season. They're off to a great start. They won some really tough road games – at New Orleans is tough, they won that one; at Green Bay is as tough as it gets, they won that one. So they can win on the road. They're a very good team.

Q: Does your advanced preparation influence other players to prepare in advance for games?
TB:
Other players on our team?

Q: Yes. Do they say, ‘Well, Brady's doing it. Maybe it's a good idea to break out some stuff on San Francisco as well?'
TB:
I mean it's probably most important for the quarterback position. I don't think the receivers are necessarily doing that. They study what they need to study. I kind of have my own routine and preparation. A lot of guys prepare differently. I know Matt Light, who we honored at halftime last week, didn't watch much film at all. He said it screwed him up. He's one of the best players I've ever played with, so there's something to be said about that too.

Q: What do you learn about your team when they are able to deal with the difficult logistics of flying to London after Seattle or playing against the Jets on Thanksgiving? What do you learn about your team when it is able to focus in and perform well?
TB:
Well, it's all about mental toughness. I think that's what it comes down to. You have those situations where you might not feel great or you're flying a long way, but you've got to eliminate all of those distractions and everything. You've got to put it behind you and you're competing against that team: that team is the opponent. This week it's the 49ers. It's not the weather, it's not the rest, it's not the crowd – it's the 49ers. I think as long as you stay focused on them and you focus on what you need to do against them, then you let those other things really take care of themselves. The more you waste energy worrying about a plane flight or weather conditions, it's really a waste of time. You've got to focus on your opponent because whatever you're dealing with, they're dealing with the same stuff.

Q: What are some of the variables that go into a good play-action pass and play fake?
TB:
I think for the most part when you play-action pass [is] you better be able to run the ball. That's the most important thing, is the threat of us handing the ball off. You hand it off, you hand it off, you hand it off and the safeties and the corners go, ‘Wow, I better get up there and try to make some tackles or else they're just going to run it all the way down the field.' Then you play-action pass and you get guys open and there is distribution in the passing game in terms of where your receivers are at, more so than in any other facet of the game. You're not going to get it on a drop back pass. Brandon [Lloyd's] touchdown, for example, you're not going to have a guy that wide open if you're not on a play-action type of play. The better you run the ball, the better you are going to be at play-action passing and vice versa.

Q: What are some of the major difference between the 49ers defense and the Houston Texans defense? Are they similar or are there one or two things that you will have to prepare for that you did not have to worry about last week?
TB:
Well, they're different schemes and different players. I think they both rush the passer well, I think they're both good in coverage. That's why you win a lot of games: because you're really fundamentally sound in all of those areas. But in terms of style, they are very different teams. But it's equally as big of a challenge for us to be able to go out there and execute against a team that really doesn't have many weaknesses.

Q: Your defense has allowed fewer and fewer points over the last few weeks. What have you seen from the defense's development in practice?
TB:
They're gaining a lot of confidence. I talk to Vince [Wilfork] every week, and Jerod [Mayo], and they have a lot of confidence in what they're doing. They've really settled in and they're playing great football. They've got us the ball a bunch of times on turnovers, which is really critical to our success and hopefully we can continue to do that.

Q: What are your thoughts on Donté Stallworth going on Injured Reserve after his strong performance and the team's ability to add someone you are familiar with to fill his spot?
TB:
Yeah that's a bummer for Donté. He was so excited to be back and he makes a great play and gets injured on the play. So that was disappointing. But I haven't heard anything on Deion [Branch], to tell you the truth. If we have, then that's from you, not from me. If so, that'd be great.

Q: You grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and there have been a lot of comparisons between you and Joe Montana. How do you feel about that?
TB:
I don't think about that much at all. I don't think about comparisons much. I really don't.

Q: What was your mentality when you replaced Drew Bledsoe?
TB:
Like I said, you just try to focus on your job. There are a lot of players that you count on and depend on you and you depend on them. That's what makes it a team game. That's why the best teams win the most important games: because they've got a group of players that are committed to doing their jobs. Like I said, if your role is to play quarterback, your role is to play quarterback and you've got to do as best you can. If your role is to play scout team running back, that's what your role is. Until that role changes, you just do it the best you can do.

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