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Sun., May. 24, 2015 12:00 AM to 10:59 PM EDT
Mon., May. 25, 2015 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM EDT
Tue., May. 26, 2015 12:00 AM to 11:55 AM EDT
Chuck Pagano Conference Call Transcript
Q: What are your early thoughts about the Patriots? What jumps off the page for you?
CP: Well, [it’s] about the same every time you face them. You start watching the tape, they’ve had a fantastic season, and the quarterback is obviously playing at a high level. I know [they’re] missing some guys on both sides of the ball, I mean that’s the NFL today, you’ve got injuries. There are some guys that we’ve had to put on IR [Injured Reserve] and some guys that obviously they’ve had to put on IR, but they have adapted, and they do a great job in all three phases. Extremely well coached as everybody knows; they’re very disciplined, they’re a team that’s not going to beat itself, and so it’s a huge undertaking and a huge challenge for us.
Q: You have had a lot of success running the no-huddle offense this year. How much of that success comes from a familiarity with Andrew Luck and the options he has around him?
CP: Well, again, you’ve got to have the guy under center obviously that can handle a lot, and certainly Andrew is more than capable and does a great job with it. It’s something that we can utilize and do from time to time, and again, he does a great job with it. He does a great job of getting us in – he’s a smart, smart guy, and he prepares extremely well and studies, and he does a great job of identifying things, if you will, and does a good job of getting us in the right place.
Q: How does the diversity of the Patriots run game impact your defensive game plan?
CP: It’s a heck of a challenge. What LeGarrette [Blount] is doing and [Stevan] Ridley and certainly with Shane [Vereen] coming in, and [Brandon] Bolden is no slouch. I mean, they’ve got a stable of guys that are all more than capable, and you look at the one-two punch LeGarrette and Rid[ley] have been, and you look at almost identical numbers across the board, it’s a huge challenge. LeGarrette is a big, strong, physical, downhill runner that if you don’t tackle this guy and you don’t get a number of hats on him, he’s always getting positive yards, he’s always falling forward, he breaks a ton of tackles, he’s got a lot of yards after contact, and Ridley is the same way. He’s strong and can make the jump cut, good vision, all those things. Then a guy like Shane Vereen comes in, and he’s so dynamic, it’s almost Marshall Faulk and Kevin Faulk, and you go back to all the great ones, third down guys that – splitting them out in empty [formations] and throwing them deep balls and throwing them the screen game, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.
Q: When the Patriots had more “staples” of their offense in guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, it seemed like they were more predictable. Have their personnel losses caused them to be more diverse on offense and become harder to predict?
CP: Yes and no. They still do a great job of finding ways to move the ball up and down the field and score points and score touchdowns. I think they’re averaging a little over  points per game, so they’ve still managed to do a phenomenal job on offense. I think they finished [ninth] in the league in running the ball for almost 130 [yards] a game and [255 yards] through the air and all that stuff so, like I said, they’ve done a tremendous job. The system has been in place, and they do a great job of bringing guys in and plugging them in and putting them in the right spots. Josh [McDaniels] does a phenomenal job with them, and they put them in a position to make plays. I think with all those other guys, it’s a matchup nightmare across the board.
Q: I’ve heard some of the NFL pundits say that the thing about Andrew Luck is that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Is that a valid comment, and if it is, why?
CP: He’s a very bright guy. He’s able to compartmentalize and come off the field after – if it’s a pick he’s thrown or whatever, he’s done such a great job this year from year one to year two in managing the offense and managing the game and taking care of the football. We had the fewest amount of turnovers in the league this year at 14, and I know we had a couple last week, but he does a great job of putting that behind him. He figures out, OK, where he made the mistake and what he missed, and he’s got recall. He studies so much tape and prepares himself so well that he’s able to identify and see things even if it was a year ago. He’s got that, probably what Tom [Brady] has and what Peyton [Manning] has and all the great ones have, is the ability to identify and see things and put things behind him and move on.
Q: Did the fact that he was a former Patriot play into your decision to sign Deion Branch?
CP: No, not at all. We had worked out Deion three or four weeks ago. [General Manager] Ryan [Grigson] and his staff bring in guys every week to work out and have guys that you know about and give physicals to in case you have an injury here or there, and we were a little bit short at the wide receiver position, and we had worked out Deion. He came in and had a great workout for us, he was in shape, he’s local, he’s right in our backyard, so we knew about him and knew who he was from a physical standpoint. Again, every decision we make is based on two things: what’s best for the team and what helps us win, and we feel like we got a guy that’s a former Super Bowl MVP that’s played a lot of good football at a high level, so he can help us.
Q: Do you still anticipate Darrius Heyward-Bey not being able to play this weekend?
CP: It’s going to be tough. He’ s a quick healer, and he’s been ‘round the clock in the training room getting treatment, so hopefully he’ll come back sooner than later.
Q: How far has Andrew Luck come from last year’s matchup with the Patriots until now?
CP: I think you’d have to say we’ve made progress. Again, we’ve had some really good wins, and then we’ve had some disappointing losses this season. But the one thing that this group has done, and I think it’s because of players like Andrew and our veteran leadership, guys like Robert [Mathis] and Reggie [Wayne], even though Reggie’s been out since the Denver game, and Antoine Bethea and Adam Vinatieri and Cory Redding and all those guys. We’ve got great vets in the locker room, and whether it’s a big win or a disappointing loss, they’ve been sticking to the process and put it behind them and move on to the next game. So from that standpoint we’ve matured, and guys have a better understanding of what we want to get done in all three phases.
Q: Looking back at your 59-24 loss to the Patriots last season, how much does that play into what you see from this team this year?
CP: Again, you’re going to cover all your bases, and of course look at the tape, evaluate it again, try to find the things that – the errors that you made and the mistakes that you made and find the good things that you did, and then you look at obviously the tape from this year. We’re a different team; they’re a different team in certain areas. There’s probably a carryover system-wise, scheme-wise, philosophy-wise, concepts, and offense, defense, and special teams, but we’ll certainly cover all our bases and make sure that we’ve watched everything we need to.
Q: What are the differences you see between that Patriots team last year, who had guys like Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski available, and this current team and the different weapons that they have?
CP: They’re not there right now, but certainly you’ve got guys like Julian Edelman with 105 catches and playing great football, and adding [Danny] Amendola to the mix, and certainly the guys that are playing the tight end position for them now are more than capable, and the runners that they have and all those types of things. Jersey numbers may have changed a little bit and the names, but you’re still looking at a very productive offense and defense and special teams. I mean, they’re sound in all three phases and they’ve got players in all three phases that can make huge plays. A few new faces and so forth, and we’ve got some new ones, we’ve lost guys, they’ve lost guys, but that’s the nature of the beast. That’s the NFL.