New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick discussed his team's next opponent, the Houston Texans and what he has seen from the AFC's top seed this season.
"Watching the Texans, they’ve been very impressive all the way around," Belichick said during a conference call with media Tuesday. "Obviously, they have a great record, playing well offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. They’re a very consistent team but also a very explosive team. They can make a big play on any play – strip sacks, batted balls, long runs, long passes, returns. This is a game where everybody is really going to have to do a good job on every play. Nothing’s safe with these guys. They really make you earn everything. You have to tackle them, you have to block them, you have to get open; they don’t give much away, you have to really work hard for everything you get. That will be a big challenge for us this week."
The Patriots (9-3) will host the Houston Texans (11-1) on Monday Night Football on Dec. 10 at Gillette Stadium.
Note: The following Q&A was provided by the New England Patriots Media Relations Department.
Q: Now that you have clinched the AFC East, do you turn your attention to what is going on in the AFC as a whole?
BB: No, we’re onto Houston. We’re just trying to get ready for Houston.
Q: Considering the importance of home field advantage and a first-round bye, why would you not pay attention to everyone else?
BB: We can’t do anything about anybody else. All we can do anything about is the New England Patriots. So, we try to just concentrate on what we have to do and it will all get sorted out in the end. We still have a quarter of the season left to play. We have a lot of football left, we have to keep working on the things we need to work on and not worry anybody else.
Q: Why do you think home field in the NFL seems to make such a big difference, especially in the playoffs?
BB: I don’t know. I think, obviously the teams that have the home field advantage are the best teams, at least, record-wise. I think that has a lot to do with it. I think winning games has a lot more to do with how well you play than where you play them – not that it isn’t nice to be at home and all that, but it’s a lot better to play well. I don’t think the home field helped us too much against Arizona because we didn’t play well. It’s not anybody’s fault but our own – we just didn’t do a good enough job as players and coaches to win the game.
Q: J.J. Watt has 15.5 sacks despite being a 3-4 defensive end. Does that speak to his dominance as a player?
BB: He’s a really good player. I think Houston, even though they’re a 3-4 base, they’re really an under team in their regular defense so they’re more of a one-gap team. You see five technique a lot and then when they go to sub, he’s an inside rusher and they’re in sub a lot. They’re probably in sub more than they’re in base. He certainly makes a lot of plays in the 3-4 defense, he has excellent quickness and he’s long so he does a good job rushing against everybody – the tackles, the guards – and he’s very effective on games because of his speed and quickness and his length and his instincts. But he also plays in a lot of sub-defenses because they’re in so much sub where he’s working on guards or occasionally on the center. Of course, they’ve won a lot of games, they’ve been ahead a lot so they’ve been in a lot of passing situations. I’m sure those things have all created more opportunities, not taking anything away from him, he’s a tremendous player and he’s had a lot of opportunities and he’s been very productive with them.
Q: He has gotten his hands on 15 throws already. Is that something he does better than most linemen? Is that attributable to his length and instincts?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a career number for a lot of defensive linemen – 15 in one season is remarkable really. Of course he’s long and he’s athletic but he does have great instincts to get in the passing lane. So, if he’s getting to the quarterback and knocking him down that’s one thing. If he’s not, if he’s getting double teamed or the slide comes to him or something like that, he’s also been very disruptive in not only knocking down balls but some of those have resulted in interceptions, like in the Miami game, in the opening game, that was a big play that turned things around right before the half. He’s able to get his hands on balls and be disruptive that way. He does a great job in the running game too. He’s really quick, he can split single blocks and run plays down from behind. He’s really a complete player, he does everything well. But yeah, that number of batted balls is, I’d say, an extremely high number. He’s very disruptive.
Q: It seems like Houston not only has 53 good players, but has players that fit what they do, especially Arian Foster and Duane Brown. Is that accurate or am I over-thinking it?
BB: No, I think that’s accurate. I think you can say that really about a lot of teams. They have a certain scheme and they try to bring players in that fit that scheme. But, sure, Foster does a great job on the downhill runs and the zone plays. And Duane Brown is a very good left tackle. He’s one of the best guys we’ve faced. I don’t think he’s really given up anything all year in the passing game. He’s a good run blocker, he’s good at the point of attack and he’s quick and he does a good job on the backside cutoff blocks as well. Those two guys in particular are very good for their offensive system. Brown because he’s a very good left tackle but he’s really athletic and helps them in there with their running game, similar to [Ryan] Clady what he did for Denver when Mike [Shanahan] was out there, same type of athlete that can pass protect but is also a real good and quick run blocker. This guy is really a good player, Duane Brown. He’s a good left tackle, he’s one of the better ones we’ve faced.
Q: Houston’s offensive balance seems pretty apparent. What do they do that makes it so difficult for a defense? What can a defense do to try to have success against the Texans?
BB: Again, they’re very well coached and they have a lot of good players. That’s a pretty good combination. They run the ball well, as they always have with Coach [Gary] Kubiak, they’ve got good backs. They definitely make you respect the run and play the run and you better play it well or they can get a lot of yards in a hurry. They combine their play-action passes with the running game and they hit a lot of big plays on that – bootlegs and play-action. They’ve got a couple of big receivers there with [Kevin] Walter and of course Andre Johnson and their tight ends are also good in the passing game – [James] Casey and Owen Daniels. They catch a lot of balls, too, on play-action, on bootlegs, over routes, flat route – things that complement their running game. Then on third down, they again, they have a good quarterback, they have good receivers, big receivers and they have tight ends and a running back that’s still a threat to run the ball. You have a lot to cover so you’re trying to defend everything all the time and that’s tough. They have great balance and I think they work hard at that. Once they get a little heavy on one thing or another, whether it be during the game or in a breakdown you can see a tendency starting to form, they do a real good job of breaking those tendencies. They really never let them get too far out of whack so you’re always looking at pretty good balance with them offensively. Like I said, I think they really are conscious of that, they work at it and they make you defend the inside runs, the outside runs, the short passes, the long passes, the play-action passes, screens, vertical routes, crossing routes. They have a good mixture of all those things and they do them well. They have a lot of good players.
Q: Going back to the draft last year, did you envision this kind of production from J.J. Watt given your scouting of him coming out of Wisconsin?
BB: I don’t think he had the opportunity to do some of the things that he’s had the opportunity to do in the National Football League. He was a productive player in college but a little raw, a little underdeveloped in terms of his overall football experience. But obviously as he’s gained that, he’s really grown with it and he’s become very adept and proficient at a number of different things and techniques. His athletic ability and his ability to be a better technique player, to recognize things, to play instinctively and all that has grown, it’s grown quickly and it’s been very impressive. He’s taken all the athletic ability that he has and he’s really played with it to a very high level.
Q: Was Donte’ Stallworth one of the tougher cuts during training camp and anticipating an announcement later, what do you anticipate he will provide for your offense?
BB: There’s no announcement that’s been made so I don’t really have any comment on that. A lot of cuts in training camp are hard. Guys come in, they work hard, they’re competitive on our team, they’re competitive against competition and the group of players that you have to release from your roster is always tough because everybody has something that they can contribute and something they do well. The guys that you keep, they have things that they do well that make them competitive for a roster spot too. It’s a real competitive league and there are a lot of good players out there. It’s always tough.
Q: Can you talk about the contributions Julian Edelman has made to the team this season, especially on special teams with his ability as a punt returner?
BB: Julian’s had an opportunity to contribute offensively and in the kicking game in the games that he’s been able to play in. He missed a few there after the Baltimore game. In the kicking game, he’s done a good job for us as a returner. He’s also done a good job for us on kickoff coverage. He’s helped us there in the last few weeks, not just the Jets play that kind of popped to him but by making a number of tackles and doing a good job containing the ball and that kind of thing. Offensively, he’s done a good job with the ball in his hands on screens and routes where he can run it, reverses and screens and things like that. He had the big play in the Jet game when we hit him down the middle there on the trap coverage that the Jets missed. He’s worked hard. Julian is a solid, solid guy. He works hard, very good conditioned athlete. He’s versatile and he’s done a number of different things for us.