New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Belichick breaks down the Ravens

The hoodie and Harabugh

The hoodie and Harabugh

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks about the Ravens, the Pats first – round opponent yesterday during his weekly conference call with the media.

Q: What defines the 2014 Ravens to you?

BB: As usual, the Ravens are a solid football team in all three phases of the game. They’re well coached, they’re physical, they do a good job on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They have explosive skill players on offense, in the return game and on defense. I think Coach [John] Harbaugh has, as always, put those type of teams out there with Ozzie [Newsome] and their respective staffs. I think that’s what they have again. That’s what they are. They’re tough: they’re physically and mentally tough. They can play in tough situations and they’re talented. They keep coming at you.

Q: Offensively, what do you see from them in terms of the groupings they tend to favor? It’s a different offense under [offensive coordinator] Gary Kubiak than what we’ve seen in the past. I remember a lot of two-tight ends in Houston, I don’t know if it’s similar in Baltimore.

BB: There’s certainly a good amount of two-tight ends, but I think what they did in Houston and what they did in Denver when Gary was in Denver with Mike [Shanahan] and even now in Baltimore is you see different personnel groupings. They try to get the matchups that they want, or based on the looks that you give them against certain groupings, whether it’s a fullback in the game or tight ends or one tight end and three receivers or some type of three-open formation, however they get to it. If they get the looks that they want, that they feel like they can attack, then they try to put you in those formations that you’re going to use and attack them. I’d say they’re multiple. You have to be ready for however they’re going to personnel and formation you and what you do, which might be different than what they’ve done with somebody else. But at the core, they still are a very good running team, a very good play-action team. They hit a lot of big plays and they’re a very good vertical passing team. They make a lot of big plays down the field. They make a lot of big plays in the running game too. It’s not just long passes and a lot of their passes that are big plays come off play-action, which of course draws the defense’s attention to the running game and then that opens up other areas. They’re well balanced: it’s a well balanced offense that attacks the edges of the defense. It attacks vertically on the defense and it attacks all the intermediate areas as well. They do a good job.

Q: How different is the offense with Gary Kubiak compared to what the Ravens used to run? Do you see them using a lot of the boot-action stuff with Joe Flacco that he used with Matt Schaub down in Houston?

BB: Yeah, there’s a lot of boots. Absolutely, yeah, there’s a lot of boots. I think you see an offense very similar to what you saw in Houston, but I’d say Flacco being one of the best deep ball passers in the league with good deep receivers, especially [Torrey] Smith, but [Jacoby] Jones, they’ve got a bunch of them – Steve Smith – they can get the ball down there to several different guys. I think that’s an element of it that I’d say is – they did it in Houston too. Obviously they had Andre Johnson and receivers they could get the ball downfield to, but they do a good job of stretching the defense. They still have their running game and a lot of boots and other play-actions as well. It’s not all boots, but there’s certainly a good amount of those.

Q: Can you review the contributions that specials teams have had this season for you guys? Can you give us a synopsis on Baltimore’s special teams?

BB: I think our special teams units have certainly given us some positive plays this year in different areas: the return game, the coverage game and we’ve put some pressure on the specialists. You know, it’s very individualized. It changes week to week based on what the strengths and kind of what the scheme is of your opponent. I don’t think there’s any necessarily common thread there. The Ravens are very good in the kicking game, as they always are. Both their kickers are big legs. They can really change field position or maintain field position, particularly as it relates to the kickoffs, or change field position in the punting game. [They’re] very explosive in the return game with [Jacoby] Jones. They’re a good coverage team. They have a lot of fast guys with good size: linebackers, DBs, safeties and they use their receivers as well and a couple offensive players – the fullback and tight ends. They’re well coached. They give you enough scheme problems that you know you have to defend those and they have good personnel. They’re a tough, tough team to match up against in the kicking game because of the level of skill that they have and the amount of physicality that they bring with their core guys. It will be a big challenge for us, but that’s what our guys do. They meet those challenges every week and this will be another one.

Q: What is your assessment of how Dan [Connolly] played this year and how did he handle the leadership role that he had on the offensive line as a captain for the first time?

BB: I think Dan’s given us great leadership for several years as he’s been a regular player for us and he’s played different positions over the last five, six years. The captain thing maybe took on a little bit of a different twist, but he’s always given us good leadership. He’s got a great work ethic and toughness. He’s really a guy that competes every day on the practice field and in games. He’s played all three of the inside positions. He’s given us that and I’d say it’s been to a higher degree this year, but it’s always been there. His versatility, his experience are great assets for us.

Q: They used a lot of traps against Pittsburgh with Justin Forsett and used Owen Daniels more frequently as well. Is that in contrast to Baltimore with their vertical game? Defensively, with the all the injuries they had in the defensive backfield, and I know Le’Veon Bell out was a huge loss for Pittsburgh, but were they dropping their linebackers more into coverage to compensate for all the injuries they’ve had? Is that more of an overall trend or is that something they were doing against Pittsburgh specifically?

BB: I’d say defensively they really haven’t – I wouldn’t say they’ve really changed too much over the course of the year. They pretty much do the things that they like to do. They have a variety of schemes and their outside linebackers or defensive ends, whatever you want to call them, they play both depending on… But the guys that are on the end of the line: [Courtney] Upshaw, [Elvis] Dumervil, [Terrell] Suggs and [Pernell] McPhee, those guys move around a lot. Sometimes they’re inside, usually they’re outside. They create flexibility for them in the defense by their pass rush ability and their coverage ability. [C.J.] Mosley and [Daryl] Smith do most of the covering, but not all of it. They mix those guys around. But I wouldn’t say that they dropped more guys into coverage against Pittsburgh than they normally do. They give you a mixture: sometimes they drop, sometimes they come, sometimes one guy comes and the other guy drops. They’ve used different combinations of people in the secondary, but they’ve, as you said, had a couple guys banged up. [Lardarius] Webb has been steady for them and [Matt] Elam has played a lot of the nickel position for them. Will Hill has come in there and given them good snaps at safety. [Darian] Stewart at the other safety and then [Rashaan] Melvin has played well for them the last three, four weeks, starting with Jacksonville, but the last couple regular-season games and against Pittsburgh opposite of Webb when they leave Webb on the outside. Sometimes Webb plays in the slot, like he did against us a couple years ago. He has the flexibility to do both. He’s a very experienced guy that’s obviously an excellent coverage player with good ball skills. I would say overall defensively they kind of have their scheme. They fine tune it depending on who they’re playing, but it’s kind of not that often that you look at a game and say, ‘We’ve never seen them do that before.’ Sometimes on third down they give a team a little different look – a third down pressure or package or personnel even, but overall they do a good job. [Defensive coordinator] Dean [Pees] does a good job mixing up the coverage of single high safety, split safety, pressure, man zone, combination, using different rushers, using different guys in coverage. It’s pretty extensive, but they kind of keep rolling through it and you know you’re going to have to block several different looks over the course of the game.

(Transcript provided by


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