JM: I would say that’s a week-to-week conversation and a week-to-week decision. There are some weeks where we definitely want to mix some of the groupings in there early in the game for multiple reasons. One may be to get some of our guys in there and maybe let them play, touch the ball, whatever it may be. Another is definitely to fact find and kind of see how you are going to be defended based on the grouping you put in the game. Then there are other games where, like the Jet game two weeks ago, where we started in one grouping and tried to play, you know, more of a no-huddle approach and ended up playing most of that drive in one grouping only. So, I think that’s really a decision that we come upon each week individually. There are a lot of factors I would say that go into that.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the third down numbers, which have been kind of eye-opening lately, and what has been the cause of the struggles you’ve had on third downs? Is there an easy answer in turning those around and getting them fixed?
JM: I don’t think – it’s definitely not one thing. I think that we’ve had opportunities and maybe not connected on them. We’ve had a few breakdowns here and there in protection, whether that was blitz pickup or something along the front. There have been some plays where they had a good call against whatever we called and it really wasn’t a great match for that defense. So, I think that all-in-all third down comes down to your ability to put people in good positions to succeed and then going out and executing at all of the levels. The protection, the routes, the throwing, the catching, the blitz pickup, the communication, the formation – all those things you have to do well on third down because there’s going to be usually some form of tight coverage by the defense and you definitely have an opportunity for there to be some type of blitz or pressure. Those are the big downs. I think what we have to do is focus on the process that we go through each week and really try to do a good job of coming up with a good plan, practice well and execute on Sunday better at all levels. If we do that I think we are going to improve in that area in which we need to.
Q: Are you drawing up any 93-yard touchdown runs for
JM: [Laughing.] I think there are better ways to spend our time than that.
Q: Do you believe in the idea that an offense has an identity and if so, what do you think this Patriots offense hangs its hat on?
JM: I think that our philosophy, and that’s what I believe in, is to try to figure out what exactly you need to do each week to win on your side of the ball to help your team win. I think that really, over time, has been what we’ve tried to teach our players, what we’ve tried to do on a week-to-week basis. Just really try to identify the things that are really important for us as we head into each week. I think sometimes that may look like you’re switching things from week to week, which we definitely have done and definitely continue to do. It may make, I would say, the word identity a hard one to pin your finger down on. We always want to maintain our balance, we always want to take care of the football, and we want to play well in the situations that come up during the course of the game. At this point, are we everywhere we wanted to be in all those categories? No, but I think the season is a process. I think that hopefully, what we can say is that we get better during the course of the year and have an opportunity to play our best football in the last month of the season.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the Steelers defense. Obviously the team is not having the season that they would like to have, but the defense seems to be playing well, as Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defenses typically do. What are the challenges that usually go into going up against LeBeau’s defense?
JM: Well it is always an incredible challenge to coach against Coach LeBeau and [Head Coach] Mike Tomlin. They both do a great job. Their defense is always sound and very aggressive. They have a lot of key veteran players that have been in the system a long time and understand the way that they want to play. They do a great job of getting their guys in the looks that they want to be in. This is always a difficult team to run the football against, it’s always a challenge to protect the passer against their pressures and they have always been a defense that has taken the football away. I think there are challenges we are going to see this week in terms of our preparation. I think they have a number of great players that are playing at a high level. Troy Polamalu is one of the best players we are going to play against all year. You have to make sure you account for him on every snap. [LaMarr] Woodley is being disruptive on the edge. I think Ryan Clark is one of the best free safeties in all of pro football. He makes a lot of plays not only in the passing game, but in the running game. He is an impact type player. [Lawrence] Timmons is a great inside linebacker that has played in their scheme a long time and understands the way they want it done. He is almost always in the right place at the right time for them and makes a lot of impact plays on critical downs. They’ve got a good front that they’ve definitely infused some younger players into that are doing a good job in there too. I just think it is a good, solid defense. They don’t give up a lot of big plays and they never have. They make you work for it all the way down the field, make you convert third downs, convert red zone and that’s how they normally end up in the top of the league in defense. I don’t think this year is really any different. It will be a great challenge for us, and we are excited to begin our preparation on them.