FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In his final news conference before the AFC Championship Game, Bill Belichick delivered a Belichickian performance on Friday, meaning he said very little about a lot of topics.
The New England Patriots coach was particularly tight-lipped about the status of injured quarterback Tom Brady (hand). Of the 28 questions in his Q & A with reporters, Belichick fielded 10 related to Brady and the quarterback situation.
What did he reveal? Not much, but he announced the day of the week is Friday. Belichick was so measured and dour that, if someone had asked if Brady still has a right hand, he might not have confirmed.
But he gave a detailed explanation of the Jacksonville Jaguars' over-under defensive front.
BB: All right, we're closing in on things here. I think the team's excited to play, ready to get going. We still have a lot more work to do here the next couple days, but by Sunday afternoon, we'll be excited and ready to go.
Do you have an update on Tom Brady's status for Sunday?
BB: Yeah, we gave out the injury report yesterday. We'll update it today.
When Brian Hoyer steps in at practice, as he did yesterday, how does that affect the team's preparation for the execution that you're looking for on game day? Do you feel like when he's in there you're getting the work that helps you meet that team execution?
BB: Brian does a great job for us -- works hard, practices hard. He does a good job.
Has not having Tom on the practice field limited your preparation at all for Jacksonville?
BB: We're going to continue to get ready for Jacksonville all the way through, up till game time.
Last week, Alan Branch said that he felt good and healthy to play. Was the decision to make him inactive injury related, or did you feel there were better options for the game plan?
BB: We have the same decision every week. We have 53 players on the roster, and we can activate 46. So it's the same for every team. It's the same every week throughout the entire National Football League season. That's the way it will be this week. That's the way it's been for a long time. So we do what we think is best for the team based on all the things that factor in to those decisions.
Now that Brady is dealing with this injury, do you have any regrets about trading Jimmy Garoppolo?
BB: We're getting ready for Jacksonville.
Does it look like Brady's playing status might be a game-time decision?
BB: Today's Friday.
Can you explain why the benefits of having a versatile defense outweigh any drawbacks or challenges? Why have you preferred being so multiple rather than just relying on one scheme?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. We try to do what's best for the team. We try to do that every week, try to do it every season, so whatever it is, it is.
What do you see from Tommy Bohanon and the way he has returned this year after being out of the league last season?
BB: Yeah, he's a solid player for them, also in the kicking game. He's stepped in for [Corey] Grant as personal protector on the punt team earlier in the year. So, he plays a lot of different roles for them. Not on the field all the time, but on the field for specific roles, and he does a good job in those roles. He had a big catch last week. That was a huge play. Blocking, special teams, pass protection -- whatever he's called on to do, he seems very dependable in doing it.
When a guy isn't in the NFL for an entire year, how difficult is that transition back to the field?
BB: I don't know. I mean, there's a lot of guys that miss a year for one reason or another. Dion [Lewis] missed a year. I mean, we're not talking about it like this has never happened before. Some players get injured, some players are out of the league, some players come back. I mean, there are a lot of circumstances that are involved, but at the start of the new year, it's the start of a new year. That gives everybody a fresh opportunity, a clean slate, regardless of what they have or haven't done in the past. It's starting all over again. So, every player, every coach is in that same position at the start of every year.
Jacksonville brought in a left-footed punter this week to prepare for you guys, and someone with the Jaguars told me that was Tom Coughlin's idea. What kind of effect do you think Coughlin has had in Jacksonville this year?
BB: Yeah, I was asked that question on Wednesday. It's really the same answer. I think you'd have to talk to them about that. I mean, collectively they've done a great job. Who does what, all that, I wouldn't know that from the outside.
What sort of things can you do at practice to prepare for the Jaguars' physical defensive backs?
BB: You know, we do the best we can every week to prepare for the team that we're playing and the schemes that they play, the style that they play, the type of players that they have. We have players that try to simulate their style of play, whatever position that is. So that's what we do every week at every position, not limited to one particular guy or one particular position. It's across the board. It's all 11 players on every play, whether it's their punt return team, their offense or their short-yardage defense or whatever it is. We try to do that every week. That's part of the preparation.
Given Brady's injury, did you consider bringing in a third quarterback just in case?
BB: Yeah, we're going to get ready for Jacksonville, do the best that we can, make the best decisions we can for the team to do that, so that's what we're going to do.
How much, if at all, does Brady's status complicate the game-planning process for you at this point?
BB: I don't know.
What is your level of concern that he'll be able to perform the functions that he needs to at quarterback?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. We'll see.
Is there one specific part of your preparation for Jacksonville that keeps you up at night and concerns you going into the game?
BB: Yeah, it's all of it. I don't know what the play is going to be. I don't know what the situation is going to be, so we have to be ready for all of them. We've seen a lot of situations come up in the last couple weekends that were one play, one situation type things that determine the outcome of the season for the teams involved. So you tell me what those plays are and we'll make sure we work on those, but there's really no way of knowing. So you have to be ready for all of them.
How much does Jacksonville move their defensive linemen around to isolate specific matchups, like moving a guy inside on certain plays?
BB: Well, I mean, their base defense is an over-under defense. So, if they're over, then they're over the tight end. If you put the tight end on the right, then they're over to the right. If you put the tight end to the left, then they’re over to the left. If they play an under defense, then if you put the tight end to the right, then they're under to the left. If you put the tight end to the left, they're under to the right. So, they flip-flop their defensive line, so depending on where you line up and depending on what they have called, then they're going to line up based on that. So, they're either going to be on the right if they're in over or they're going to be on the left if they're in under, if you’re in right formation and vice versa. So, you tell me where the tight end is, you tell me what their call -- over or under -- and then you'll know where they're going to line up. Before that happens, then you don't really know. But I mean, you know that's what it's going to be. Third down is a little bit different. They have some third-down variations. Campbell is more of an inside rusher on third down when Fowler comes in the game, so that is what it is. But on their base defense, they're an over-under defense that flips sides based on your tight end location and their call. So, I don't know if that answers your question of not, but I mean, yeah, they're going to flip their defensive ends on every play. If they stay in the same defense and you flip your tight end, then they're going to flip.
What have you seen from Campbell in the sense that he is a tough guy to block?
BB: Yeah, he's got 14.5 sacks. Let's start with that. Yeah, he's good at everything. He's long, he's strong, he's powerful, he's quick, he's very instinctive, he's a smart player, uses his hands well, and he's one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
You said after you traded Garoppolo that you had one of the best quarterback situations in the league for the past several years. What are your thoughts on the quarterback situation now with Brian Hoyer?
BB: Yeah, right now my thoughts are getting ready for Jacksonville. So we're going to do the best we can to put the most competitive team out there and play the best and coach the best that we can on Sunday.
Have you had a good week of preparation so far, or do you still have a ways to go before you’re ready for Sunday?
BB: Yeah, we're over two days away. We have a long way to go.
When you're preparing the team for situational football, how do you get proactive instead of reactive, making sure that players know specific rules? With the rule book as expansive as it is, how do you make sure the players know things beforehand rather than after the mistakes or situations come up?
BB: You try to coach them before they happen.
How do you organize that or prioritize certain situations?
BB: I don't know. I mean, some things show up every week or frequently, let's say, two-point plays. There's other things that show up -- kickoff return after a safety might show up once a year. You know, I don't know. But they're still important when they show up. So over the course of your teaching progression, you cover them and things that they change from week to week based on the situation. Then you go over the changes of how you would play this differently or do it differently than you would normally do it because of whatever the reasons are. So it's part of the weekly preparation, is to go through those things.
Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise Jr. have gone through this rookie process together in the same positional group. In your experience, is it easier for players to go through the rookie process when they're doing it with another guy at the same position?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. It probably depends on the individual players. Everybody's different, every player's different, so every two players is different. Every year is different. I don't know.
How impressed have you been with the level of toughness that Brady has displayed over the course of his career?
BB: Yeah, very. Been outstanding.
With Jonathan Jones moving to IR, what has Johnson Bademosi shown you this season that gives you confidence in him? How does having the versatility of Patrick Chung factor into the decision to stick with your four cornerbacks?
BB: Yeah, Bademosi's done a good job for us. He's made a lot of big plays for us defensively and in the kicking game. Throughout the course of the year, his role has changed, as often happens with players -- role changes from week to week or during the course of the year. He's always ready to go, does a great job in his preparation and gives us everything he's got, whatever we ask him to do. Chung, I've talked about Chung a lot. The guy is a really good football player. He's one of the best players in the league, one of the best players on our team. He does a lot of things very well and has done them that way for a long time. We're lucky we have him. He's an outstanding player in all the things that he does. We put a lot on him, and he always comes through.
To what extent is the deep ball play-action a part of Jacksonville's offensive identity?
BB: A big part. Yeah, a big part.
How can the personnel they have help in that kind of situation?
BB: Just look at the average per catch. Those guys all make a lot of yards on their catches. They get the ball down the field. A lot of them are play-actions -- tight ends, receivers. The quarterback is really good with play-action. They have a good running game. They tie them together well. They're well-coached, they have a good scheme, so that's a big part of what they do.
How important is it against this Jacksonville defense to threaten a deep part of the field when they have so many fast players?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, it's important to execute the plays that we run well. So, whatever the components are of those plays, it's important that we do them well. Not every play is an 80-yard touchdown pass, we know that, so there's a lot of things we have to do. I don't know. I mean, the deep ball is part of it, intermediate passes are part of it, running game is part of it, blocking's part of it. I mean, everything's part of it.
What stands out to you about Jacksonville's kicking game and special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis?
BB: Good at everything. Good return game. [Jaydon] Mickens, Grant -- really explosive players. Good coverage team. They do a lot of directional kicking, put a lot of pressure on the ball handling, good rush team -- field goal and punt rushes. Good situational football team -- like the onside kick they had against San Francisco, plays like that -- well-executed, end-of-the-game plays. Well-coached, got a lot of good players. They're big -- big on special teams. They have a lot of big, physical-type players. A few speed guys, but they have some size, more than most teams do, I'd say, in the kicking game. They're well-coached, and they have a lot of explosive players. They've had a lot of production. They're aggressive -- fake punts, onside kicks, plays like that. Yeah, got to be alert.