Q: Some of Cam Newton's statistics are down this year but his completion percentage is up. I don't know if you watched any film from his first two years, but how has he progressed this year compared to the past two years and what have you seen from him?
BB: Like you said, I didn't see a lot of him. We haven't played them the last couple years, so just kind of catching up with all their games this year. But I think he's playing very efficiently. He does a good job. He's obviously a threat with the ball in his hands to run. He can make all the throws. He can put the ball on the sideline, he's got a lot of zip on the ball down the field and he's a good outside thrower, good deep ball thrower. Whether it's designed runs or scramble runs or loose-type plays, he's been effective on all those. They've been playing from ahead a lot this year and I think that, again, for a quarterback managing the game, getting the win for the team, doing the right thing in the right situation is a lot more important than individual stats. I think he's done a good job of that for his team, making good decisions, doing things that help the team win. He's avoided mistakes that put the team in difficult situations so I think he's playing very well, as is the rest of his offensive team.
Q: Does the preparation of having seen E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and Ben Roethlisberger and the principles that your defense has employed helped you at all with Cam Newton?
BB: It probably does. I think that a lot of the plays that Carolina runs we've seen from Buffalo and the Jets. They run a lot of under-center plays too, they're not in the gun nearly as much as teams like Philadelphia and Buffalo. So, they have a good mixture in the running game and their passing game. They're balanced. They do both out of both. They run and throw under [center] and run and throw in the gun and they have a nice mixture and a group of complementary plays running strong side and running weak side with their counter plays and things like that. They're a well balanced team. The fact that we have seen some of those plays, we've worked on the basic blocking schemes and how to fit on them, where everybody needs to be but it's always a little bit different from week to week, depending on the personnel. There will be some little differences, but there are definitely some similarities between the players that you mentioned and their overall scheme, probably less of Roethlisberger other than having a big arm and throwing the ball down the field, there are definitely some comparisons there.
Q: Self-scouting, my perception has always been you look at all the plays that you've run and then if you find a tendency, you see whether it works and if you need to break it. Is that accurate? Was there anything that jumped off the page that you and your staff really didn't realize you were doing as much as you were?
BB: First of all, I think all the basic tendencies you look at weekly. I don't think you wait until after you've played nine games to see what your tendencies are on second-and-long, third-and-medium, first-and-10. You try to stay on top of those on a weekly basis. I think maybe what you do in the bye week is you might expand on some of those breakdowns a little bit more. For example, maybe defensively you look at not just what you're calling on first-and-10, but how each call has been on first-and-10 – against the run, against play-action passes, against drop-back passes. Same thing offensively: how is your running game in certain situations, look at it per play. How productive has this play been on first down, how productive has it been on whatever the other situations are that you're running it on, whether it's a short yardage type of play or whether it's a spread long yardage, complementary run to your passing game, whatever it happens to be. I think you just look at it in a little bit more detail. I don't think you find a percentage tendency that's too strong at the bye week, here at this point in the season, that hasn't been there for multiple – if that's the case, I'm sure it's been there for multiple weeks. I think that we would be aware of it. Sometimes that's good. I think every good team has tendencies. I don't think not having tendencies is necessarily a good thing. But at the same time, you don't want to be too predictable. You want to have things that you go to, but you also want to have complementary plays off it to protect them. That's kind of a balance that you're trying to find.
Q: Is it too early to start looking at potential playoff scenarios?
BB: Yeah, we're not looking at anybody but Carolina right now, that's it. We're on Carolina, that's it. There's a lot of football left to be played this season. There's a lot of football left. Right now, we just need to focus on what we're doing and who we're playing and try to go out there and play better than we've played, try to improve and try to win.
Q: Thinking back to players you've coached in the past, who might you put in a similar category as
BB: I think Aqib is a little bit different than some of the players that I've coached. There are some similarities to Ty [Law], but I think they're two different players. They're both good, both perimeter corners but I see them as having different skill sets. But maybe Ty would be similar in that he was a good corner and you could put him on a lot of players and not maybe feel like you need to give him a lot of help. I think Talib is a guy that we have a lot of confidence in and probably would treat his matchups a little bit differently than we've treated some other ones in the past - [former New York Jets cornerback] Aaron Glenn, but again, he's about as different a player physically as you could get from Aqib but he also was a guy that could go out and cover a lot of receivers without a lot of help.
Q: With kickoffs the next two weeks at 8:40 and 8:30, does that force you to restructure your day and the times you practice trying to make sure your guys are at a peak for those late kickoffs?
BB: I don't think it's really going to change our practice structure too much. I think it's more on game day with those later starts, you kind of take kickoff and then move your schedule back accordingly. So, three hours before the game, you're kind of doing the same thing that you would on a one o'clock game and five hours before the game and so forth. Obviously there's more time in the morning so you can fill that in with however you want to do it. But I'd say like the five hours leading up to the game, we try to keep that as consistent as we can on a weekly basis, whether we're at home or on the road, or whatever time the game is, whether it's at one or four or eight or whatever it is. We try to keep that time period before the game consistent so that everybody can eventually, when that time comes, get into that routine leading right up to the game.
Q: The Panthers defense is near the top statistically in a lot of categories. What are some of the matchup problems that that defense presents?
BB: Well, they're very disruptive up front. I think it starts with that. [Charles] Johnson is an outstanding player. They have two good ends with [Greg] Hardy and Johnson. Their inside guys have played well. They've got [Dwan] Edwards and getting him back into the mix. Their linebackers are pretty active: [Thomas] Davis and [Luke] Kuechly are very good pass defenders. [Chase] Blackburn is an experienced guy. I would say that overall they're a pretty instinctive team, guys like [Captain] Munnerlyn and [Quintin] Mikell and [Drayton] Florence, you see those guys making a lot of plays. I'd put Kuechly in that category too – Davis – those guys make a lot of plays just because they kind of sense it. They sniff it out and get a step or a step and a half ahead on the play because they anticipate and then they're there to make it. I would say they're an obviously well coached defense that has a number of instinctive players on it. They don't do a million different things but what they do, they do well. They don't have a lot of bad plays. You really have to earn everything. You have to block them. You have to get open, you have to be able to operate pretty quickly because they close in on you in a hurry on the front. Like I said, they don't have a lot of bad plays where they cut guys loose or have a big, huge hole in the defense or something like that. They do a good job of being sound, taking care of everything, playing physical and then if you're sloppy, then they'll make you pay for it. You have to do a good job avoiding negative plays, staying out of long-yardage, getting into a bunch of third-and-10s and second-and-15s and stuff like that or it will be a long day. So getting ahead on first down, staying on track on down and distances and if you can find a couple big plays in there, that would really take the pressure off but they don't give many up. They're pretty good at not allowing big plays so they force you to drive it, they force you to go through the red area. They're good in short-yardage, they're good in the red area, they're good on the goal line. They seem to eventually get people stopped most of the time. Those are some of the challenges of that defense. But you definitely can't be sloppy with the ball or they'll intercept it, run it back for a touchdown, strip it from you. They're very aware of taking the ball away from the offense: strip sacks, strip fumbles, the defensive line gets their hands up, tips a few balls, they've had some interceptions on those plays too. You have to take care of the ball and not be sloppy with your execution, route running or throws or they'll definitely make you pay for it.
Q: Is there a realistic expectation that
BB: It hasn't, so that's why he hasn't been out there. We'll keep going but as you said, we're running out of time. I'd say that looks less likely now with each day that goes by.