Belichick press conference
BB: It’s good to be able to play in the AFC Championship Game next week. I’m really proud of our players; I thought they worked hard all year. Today was a big win for us. The Texans are good football team, they fought hard, they battled us all the way to the end. They have a lot of good football players but fortunately we had a bunch of guys step up today and make the plays we needed to make. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly a lot of things we can do better but it was a good win. I’m happy for the players. I think they really earned it. They had a good week of practice. I thought they really did a good job preparing for this game. It was good to see us make enough plays here to win. We know Baltimore is tough. We had a great game with them down there earlier in the season. We know that will be a great battle. We’ll enjoy this one for a little while and then get on to the Ravens tomorrow.
Q: You lost Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski early in the game. How much did that impact you?
BB: Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] and Shane [Vereen] stepped in there and both did a good job for us. Shane obviously made a lot of big plays but Hooman did a great job too, as he’s been doing for the last month. These kinds of games, you never really know when the dial spins, where it’s going to wind up, who it’s going to end up on. Those guys were prepared. Offensively we were able to move the ball, put up some points. It’s a credit to everybody to be ready.
Q: Did Rob Gronkowski break his arm again?
BB: I’m not sure.
Q: Did he go to the hospital?
BB: I just walked off the field, I don’t know.
Q: How big was Devin McCourty on the opening kickoff?
BB: Yeah, it was a huge play. Devin has done that a couple times for us. He has great speed, tracking [Danieal] Manning down. Obviously Manning did a great job. They had used him on kickoff returns all year until last week. He led the league in Chicago. We have a lot of respect for him; we knew what he could do. We didn’t do a very good job of it most of the time, but that was a huge play by Devin to really end up saving [four] points. The defense went in there and had a big stop on the sudden change on the big return. That was really a huge series in the game. [We] didn’t get off to a good start but at least minimized the damaged and held it to three points.
Q: Was there any question whether Rob Gronkowski was ready to go?
BB: He wouldn’t have played if he wasn’t.
Q: Do you have any regret in playing him, seeing as he has the same injury as before?
BB: The doctors handle the medical decisions.
Q: Can you talk about Rob Ninkovich and what he means to the defense?
BB: Rob has been really productive for us all year. He’s had a great season. His production is right up there at the very top of the league at his position. He’s made big plays for us in the past – sacks, strips, fumbles, recovered fumbles, tackles for loss, all that. We know he’s got good hands. He’s had many interceptions before; made a great play there. We blitzed from the outside, he dropped down inside, got underneath the route and really made a great catch on the ball. It was high, tough catch but Rob’s a good athlete. He makes it look easy; he catches the ball well. That was a huge play for us, big stop and we were able to convert that into points offensively. That was a big key play in the game for us.
Q: What did you do schematically to control J.J. Watt during the game?
BB: I think you have to give credit to the guys up front. It’s not about ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ – somebody has to block him. Whether it was Dan [Connolly] or Wendy [Ryan Wendell] or Logan [Mankins], of course he moves around a little bit and then when they stunt, he could end up on the tackles; Sebastian [Vollmer] had him a bunch. Whoever has to block him, just has to block him. They run games and they move him around a little bit. He’s a great football player but the credit goes to the players. It’s not blocking him on the chalkboard, you have to get out there and block him. The credit goes to the offensive line and the backs. The backs did a good job reading the holes and getting through there. We tried not to dance around. We found some daylight and Stevan [Ridley] and Shane [Vereen] hit it. That’s good execution there in the running game at times, too.
Q: Can you talk about Tom Brady passing Joe Montana for all-time playoff wins?
BB: Of course Tom has meant a lot to us since he’s been here. He started winning playoff games the first year he really got a chance to participate in them. Tom is a great competitor. He had a great week of preparation as he always does for every game but especially the playoff games. He’s our leader and we all follow him, we all respect him and he led the team today, along with a lot of other guys but he certainly did his job, as he’s done many times before. There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady.
Q: Can you talk about Shane Vereen? You guys had him outside a lot. Did you see a mismatch with the linebacker or did you just want to get him in space?
BB: We used some different formations to try to move some people around. As Tom [Brady] usually does, he finds the best matchups depending on the route and the coverage and so forth and getting the ball to the guys that have a good opportunity to win on those routes. A lot of credit goes to Tom for finding him but also to Shane for running good routes, catching the ball in tight coverage, running after the catch, all those things. Obviously it’s something we worked on during the week. When Tom saw matchups he liked out there, he was able to take advantage of it.
Q: It looked like you matched up Aqib Talib with Andre Johnson. How beneficial is it to be able to match up a corner with a receiver like that?
BB: It was a great battle; it’s two good football players. Johnson is a great receiver. He’s arguably one or two all-time, he’s tremendous. He’s big, fast, has great hands, good route runner. Aqib competed with him every down, just like he did the first half of the first game. That’s two good football players and that’s a battle. We didn’t give him a lot of help. Johnson caught a few but Aqib battled him pretty well there. It was a good matchup.
Q: Can you talk about the job you did on third down?
BB: We had him in some long yardage situations, which are good. We had them in the third quarter in a couple long yardage situations before Rob’s [Ninkovich] interception let them off the hook. Third down starts on first and second down. It just comes down to team defense – good pass rush, good coverage and keeping the yardage longer by playing better on first and second down. I thought we did a good job in the running game until we got to the last drive in the second quarter and [Arian] Foster hit a couple long runs to the weak side on us. They scored right before the half. Because we were able to hold off a few of those runs, that put them in some third-and-long situations. It was good team defense; I don’t think it’s any one guy. Third down obviously is critical for us and our red area stop was big too.
Q: You did a nice job on Arian Foster. Is he quite different from Ray Rice who you’ll have to deal with next week?
BB: They’re both great backs. Foster is fast, he’s really fast. Not that Rice isn’t, unfortunately we’ve seen the back of his jersey a couple times. Foster does a good job of hitting the crease and he gains a lot of yards with his speed running away from people. Similar to Chris Johnson, I’m not saying that fast, but that type of guy. They’re different; they’re both good.
Q: You seemed to rely on Wes Welker a lot early in the game. It was a big catch down the sideline.
BB: Yeah, it was a great catch. Wes is a tremendous receiver, a great competitor. Again, we felt like at times there was a good matchup with him in the slot. He did a good job in there. Again, Tom made some good throws. Wes is quick, he’s tough to cover. Tom had some good weapons to work with and he was able to move it around and get it to a bunch of them. I thought we had good balance offensively, overall it was pretty good.
Q: Another matchup with Ed Reed next week. How much do you look forward to playing him?
BB: I don’t look forward to it at all. I’m glad we’re [in the game] playing him, let’s put it that way. Ed is a great football player. Ravens have obviously an outstanding team – defense, special teams, offense. They’re good all the way around; very well coached. We thought they were as a tough as anybody we played all year. We had a great game with them down there at the beginning of the season. Now it comes back to a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. We know it will be tough and hopefully we can play our best game next week.
Q: It looked like Arian Foster was short. What was told to you?
BB: That it wasn’t short. I thought we had the ball out there in the third quarter on that fumble and they ruled forward progress so we couldn’t challenge the play. They ruled him down by forward progress. That was a tough call. Then the fourth down call, which we were able to stop them on the following sequence, but still, that was a huge play there. I thought when his elbow went down, the ball hadn’t crossed the line but evidently they didn’t see enough evidence for that. Those were a couple calls that…one we would have challenged but we couldn’t because it was forward progress. And the touchdown catch, the official right on the spot thought it was moving and called it incomplete and then that one got overturned. You’d have to ask the officials exactly what they saw but that’s kind of what we saw.
Q: How would you describe this playoff ride you’ve had with Tom Brady?
BB: I don’t know. I think right now our focus is just happy to win this game and get on to Baltimore. We can reflect back on some other years some other time.
Q: The Ravens are on an emotional high. Do you try to match their intensity emotionally or is it all ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’?
BB: They’re a great football team, they’re well coached. They have a lot of outstanding players; they have some great veteran players. They have guys that can score, guys that can rush, guys that can defend, guys that can return, guys that can cover. Look, that’s why they’re here. When you’re playing at this time of year, each game gets tougher, each game gets bigger. I think the Ravens certainly showed how physically and mentally tough they were to go out there and come from behind and beat Denver in a tough environment. That showed a lot of character, resiliency and toughness. Our game with them this year, our game with them last year, went down to the last possession, the last play, however you want to look at it. Our other games with them over the years have usually come down to that too – the final possession or sometimes the final play – even going all the way back to ’09, unfortunately not the playoff game but in the regular season. That’s what we’re going to prepare for this week – a tough team, mentally and physically, that has a lot of talent, that’s very confident. They’ve gone on the road and won. I don’t think that will phase them. We just have to go out there and play and coach better than they do and that will be a big challenge but that’s what we have to do.