PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What did you think of Ryan Allen and the coverage unit on special teams?
BB:Well, first of all I thought that we got real good play from our specialists in the game, which is always a key for good special teams play. Our kickers, our snapper, holder, returners, all of the guys that are there that had a key role in the ball handling on those plays. We did a real good job with our corners on the gunners on the punt team in order to get the return started and Danny [Amendola] did a good job of running, so it was really a good group effort all around. But the coverage was a combination of good kicking and good coverage and the returning yardage I'd say was a combination of some good holdups and good running. A little bit of everything there.
Q: How do you keep the coverage guys sharp when they aren't getting game reps?
BB:You work on that every week. There are a lot of things in football that don't come up every week – your goal line offense, your goal line defense, two minute drives, whichever end of it you might not be on. Our kickoff return, we really haven't had a chance to return a kickoff all year, a legitimate one. Those things are all going to come up sooner or later. You just keep preparing for them and when it happens, you have to be ready to go. I would say in our first four games, the number of actual kickoff returns between the two teams, given the number of chances, is not very many. We just keep working on all of those things and like I said, we know it will come up eventually.
Q: How do you think the Colts will play you on defense?
BB:That's a good question. They use some different people. They've been juggling around some guys in the secondary. If you remember last year in our game, they used [Darius] Butler as kind of a three corner, kind of a three-corner defense with one safety. Then they've gotten into some of their nickel looks. This year they've used a little more dime defense with [Clayton] Geathers as the sixth defensive back. I'm sure they have a number of options. We'll just have to be ready and whatever they give us we'll be ready to handle. I'm not really sure which way they'll go. Like I said, they've done some different things between last year and what we've seen this year.
Q: How have you seen Duron Harmon progress over the years? What has his development allowed you guys to do defensively?
BB:Duron has worked very hard. He was a good football player when we got him, but he's worked really hard on everything in his game – special teams to run force and tackling and man-to-man coverage, zone coverage playing the deep part of the field. He's given us a lot of range back there. We used Devin [McCourty] a little more down closer to the line last week against [Jason] Witten. Duron has shown up on a lot of those deep, deep balls, overlapping them, but his tackling has really improved over the last two-and-a-half years and he's taken on a much bigger role in the kicking game. His ability to communicate and make calls in the back end has always been good, but it's definitely gotten better because of the experience and how hard he's worked at that. Those are all big positives for Duron. He's a hard working guy. He's ready to go every day, really always prepared, always trying to make sure he's on top of everything. He's involved in a lot of different defensive packages – nickel, dime, some end-of-the-game-type things, special teams. He's a versatile player, but he really works hard at it.
Q: Is there anything the Colts have done differently under Matt Hasselbeck instead of Andrew Luck? Also what have you seen from Frank Gore and Andre Johnson as the season has gone on?
BB:I think that Gore's really looked good. There are a lot of great examples of him running the ball downhill, breaking tackles and getting positive plays. Johnson had a big game last week against Houston, but both those guys, it looks like they are still productive, and we're going to have to deal with the size and physicality and experience of both of them. I don't know. It's always hard to tell what somebody else's game plan is. Something is working and they were getting the ball to Johnson, you keep doing it. How much of that was Hasselbeck related, game plan related, or just how the game unfolded? I'm not sure, but we have to be ready for all of them, and those two guys are certainly two players I personally have a lot of respect for, the kind of careers that they've had, but they're playing very well now and we're going to have to do a good job to control them.
Q: Have you seen teams paying more attention to Jamie Collins of late?
BB:I think you'd have to ask the other teams that question. I don't really know what somebody is telling somebody else. But when you have a pass rush, if you bring four players and they protect with five, which is the usual case, then it's five on four and usually those linemen are taught to kind of help where they are needed, and so it's hard to just double team guys because you have to pick up blitz responsibilities and the offensive line has to account for at least five people, sometimes six. It's hard to get those double teams that you're talking about, but they can happen based on the way the rush unfolds and the protection that the offense is in and all that. It's hard to flat out assign two guys to block him in pass protection. I haven't seen a lot of that, no.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH McDANIELS CONFERENCE CALL
Q: Tom Brady is four-for-four this year on one-yard rushing attempts. Could you talk about his ability to get yards on the quarterback sneak, and also whether there is a learning curve when doing it with rookie center David Andrews?
JM: Well, I think like everything else that you do in the football game you try to practice those things as many times as you can through the course of the year. Certainly we don't want a bunch of piles and bodies in practice on the ground, so you try to simulate some of those sneak situations or short-yardage situations if you will as best you can through training camp and during the season when you have the opportunity. It's a small thing, but a big play whenever it comes up. There are some little nuances to it that can help you be a little bit more productive in those situations, but I think ultimately it comes down to wanting to do it. The linemen have got to do a good job of coming off on the ball, and the quarterback has got to want to stick his face in there and try to find a way to get a yard, yard and a half. They did it productively the other day, and again, you never know how many times you do it in a season or you're going to do it in a season but usually whenever it comes up it's certainly an important play in the game.
Q: What are some of the coaching points you teach on rub routes so that you don't get flagged on those plays?
JM: Knowing the rules and our guys do, and we try to coach the rule the way that it was explained to us when we have the officials in and we get to ask numerous questions to them and they get to explain some things to our players. We try to do it, if that's what you're choosing to do, you try to do it the way they explain it to you and do it the best you can, coach it the best you can. I think our guys are always trying to do that the right way and sometimes when you're doing things like that, you're going to incur a few penalties here and there. It's not much different than any other penalty you end up getting. When you're offside on defense it's because you're trying to get a jump on the snap count. You're always trying to give yourself an opportunity to make a good play. Our guys have heard the rules from the officials and we try to coach them as well as we can and they try to execute them the way that we explain it to them. Certainly we're never trying to get a penalty and we'll try to coach it as clean and as best we can going forward to try to eliminate those situations from coming up.
Q: Marcus Cannon played a little more after Nate Solder left the game on Sunday. Was that a good example of how effective the offensive line rotation can play itself out if someone is forced to go in there due to injury?
JM: Yeah, I think the fact that Marcus has been playing on a regular basis and then had to go in because we have something occur to somebody else – I think that certainly helps the individual player. He's been communicating with both sides of the line. He's played on the left. He's played on the right. We've had him in there at guard before. Marcus is a versatile guy that's played a lot of positions for us. He's played a lot of good football for us, and we have a lot of confidence in Marcus. He went in there the other day and he held up well and did a good job with the things we asked him to do. I'm sure he'll be ready to go again if that's the case. We've taken the approach that if they deserve to play and they've earned the right to play that they go in the game and we give them an opportunity and that's certainly been the case with Marcus and the other two tackles. However it shakes out, we feel pretty good about those guys going in there and playing competitive and doing what we ask of them.
Q: The Colts seem to have playmakers in the secondary on defense, but DeAndre Hopkins was able to shake loose against them last week. Is there something about their defensive identity that you notice when you game plan against them?
JM: Well, they're aggressive. They're very active in the front. You're right about the cover people – they've got good cover players. [Vontae] Davis is certainly a good cover player. [Greg] Toler does a nice job. He missed the first few weeks, but he's back now. He does a nice job. [Darius] Butler is competitive in there in the nickel situations. [Dwight] Lowery has really created some turnovers for them, some big plays for them this year back there at safety. And [Mike] Adams has certainly been a productive player and took the ball away from us a couple times last year, too. So, good pass rushers on the edge, added [Trent] Cole, [Robert] Mathis is back – we didn't see those two guys last year. [Erik] Walden is a really difficult guy to handle on the edge in the running game or in pass protection. [Jonathan] Newsome is another guy in his second year now that shows up a bunch in the protection when you're watching them rush the passer. They've got an entirely new front on the defensive line, so a couple rookies in there that are doing a nice job for them. Kendall Langford, they've added him, too. Good blend of veteran experience, some younger players, they've added some pass rushers, a guy that's made some plays for them at safety in Lowery. Their corners have always been very good. And they've got the two inside linebackers who really run the defense are back and do a great job getting them lined up and they're good blitzers. This is a good group. It's much different than what we've played in the past. We're trying to get familiar with the players and the scheme again and do a good job of studying these guys as we head into the week and start practicing tomorrow.
Q: A lot of people in the media will be talking about the recent history between these two teams, especially last year's AFC Championship game and the accusations of tampering with the footballs. For someone who works directly with Tom Brady, how accurate would it be to say that this matchup is a little more personal than normal?
JM:I really don't see it any different than each of the other games we've played. I think it's a very good team. It's a road game in a hostile environment, in a place that's tough to play on a Sunday night. They've got new people, new personnel. But they want to beat us and we want to beat them. It's not very complicated. But that's the same thing it is every single week that you play in this league. It's very difficult to get ready for the coaching staff, the schemes they use, the players that are on this team, the environment that you're going to be competing in and trying to do your job in, and to allow really anything other than that to kind of creep into your preparations, it's going to take away from your performance. Whether it's this week, the next week, two weeks from now, they're all different challenges, they're all really difficult. The scheme is really difficult to prepare for each week. That's why it's so hard to win. I think our focus is going to stay on this. I know mine is. I mean, I don't really have anything to do with all that stuff, and I don't think really anybody in our building cares a whole lot about it at this point. We've got a challenge ahead of us. We've got a lot of things to do. We've got a long work week and we've got a lot of things to get caught up on and get our players prepared to do. We've got a great challenge ahead of us. It should be a fun environment to go play in. I know playing on Sunday night is always exciting, and we're going to go there and try to put forth our best performance, and that's really where our focus is going to be this week.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What has Duron Harmon's range allowed you to do as a defense?
MP: I think all of our guys have kind of different roles each week, and depending on what the particular game plan is for that game, everybody is kind of out there and trying to execute what we're asking them to do. I think Duron has done a good job of really trying to improve himself through the course of his career and learn the defense, understand offense, study and just try to improve his mental game, which he's done a great job of, then being able to transfer that into communication on the field, being able to recognize formations or coverages or adjustments that we need to make. So, those have been great strides that he's continually trying to work at and improve, so I think he's really done a good job of that. I think he does a good job in the deep part of the field trying to see the routes and understand what's coming downfield at him, so certainly trying to get better and working hard to improve there. I think he's a really hard worker. Duron just is a guy who grinds at the game every single day, so it's something that is to his benefit.
Q: What's the scouting report on the Colts offense?
MP: Alright, here we go. I think you take a look at Indianapolis, obviously a very, very explosive team, would be a great word to use to describe this offense – explosive skill players at the wide receiver position, dynamic players at the tight end position and then obviously with the addition of Frank Gore, I think their running game has really stepped up to another level. They're top in the league in big-play runs. They're top in the league in big-play passes. So, it's really allowed them to open up the complementary offense that they want to run. So, they run the ball really well. You get guys down in the box to try and stop the run, and then they can throw it up over your head and get the big plays downfield. If you stay deep downfield so they can't throw up the big plays, and then they have the ability to hand the ball off and obviously then Gore, who's doing a great job, looks really, really good. He's got great vision, great ability to move and jump and cut and see the plays develop. A very patient runner – he's got enough speed to get to the edge and turn those into big plays. So, he's doing an excellent job in the run game. I think it's really opening up everything else. The tight end position is another strength for them. They have some matchup problems that they create with their tight ends. All three of them will be out there – [Coby] Fleener, [Dwayne] Allen and [Jack] Doyle. You'll see them in some different spots. Fleener, you know, big target, huge catch radius, a guy who can really push vertical down the field. [He's] another one of their big play guys who can get vertical. And then Allen who's a really, just a good tight end, a strong tight end in both the run and the pass game, another guy who has some vertical speed and can really push downfield also, does a good job of blocking, so you can see where they can use him in the run game. And then Doyle who will come in, he's another big-bodied guy. He'll line up in multiple different spots. Put him in the backfield. Put him on the edge. He can block the edge. He can block from the backfield. He can catch the ball from the backfield, especially when it's in certain situations, so you'll see that also. And then obviously just tremendous speed at the wide receiver position, guys who can just flat out fly and push vertical downfield for the deep-ball throws, but also guys who have great catch-and-run ability. I think they're complemented with Andre Johnson, his ability now as just a big wide receiver who does a great job of separating at the top of routes, finding open spaces in the zones, really has a deep-threat ability and a possession-type of ability. So, they certainly have a complement of weapons on offense, and obviously the quarterback play here, [Matt] Hasselbeck has stepped in and done a great job as far as understanding what they're trying to do and distributing the ball to the players out on the field and protecting the ball. So, they're doing a great job.
Q: What has Jerod Mayo been able to give you this year? Is he a guy who can make an impact even when he's not on the field?
MP: Well, I think the first thing for us is it starts with our preparation and our work during the week. I think there's no better example of someone who works hard, loves the game of football and comes in the building every day to get better and try to improve. Jerod, from the first year he was here all the way up through, no matter what the situation is, comes into the building and just has the same steady attitude of working hard to get better and to try to improve himself every year. So, it's certainly a great thing for younger players to see and look at and understand how to be a professional football player and how to approach the game every week where the preparation really has to be consistent every week. The process is the same. What you're looking at is a little bit different each week depending on the opponent, but the process that you go through is the same. So, certainly a very steady, solid, just great approach to being a professional football player, so that in itself is great leadership and something that people can follow, which is great. Jerod provides a lot for us both on and off the field, but like everybody on the defense, everyone's ready to go week-in and week-out. Whatever we're doing there, based on game plan, guys are going to be on the field, off the field, and we're just trying to put everybody in the right position to make plays. We're fortunate to have guys who we can, you know, sub in and out of the game week-in, week-out, depending on what we're trying to do, and he's certainly an integral part of all of that.
Q: How do you define big-play runs and big-play passes? Have the Colts changed what they've done schematically with Gore and Johnson?
MP: Well, I think, like I was mentioning, they're the tops in the league, one of the top teams in the league, in both those categories. I think you just watch the film, and you can see the run plays that they're able to get. And again, whether it's [Josh] Robinson or Gore, those guys are doing a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities in the run game to get those long runs and get through the first and second level and try to break into the secondary. So, you can really take a look at that. And then the explosive plays in the passing game, whether it's just getting the ball downfield, but there's also the catch-and-run element where they break a lot of tackles and they make a lot of people miss in space. You can certainly see that on film, too, so really good production with the ball in their hands, whether it's getting it downfield or catch-and-run-type of plays. That's where they really, you can see a lot of production from their offense. Again, with Gore and Johnson, I think their roles, whatever it is week-in, week-out, it's going to be whatever their particular game plan approach is that week, and whatever they decide to attack their opponent with, I think those guys are just kind of doing a great job of fitting in the system and doing what they're asked to do, and whether that's in the passing game or the running game, I think those guys have acclimated to the system very well and have been productive players for them.
Q: What's the importance of tackling on defense? How important is tackling in the evaluation of assessing a cornerback's skills?
MP: I think everybody on the defensive side of the ball, one of the goals for the defense is to get the guy with the ball. And when you get to the guy with the ball, you need to be able to tackle him. So whether you're a corner, a lineman, a linebacker, a safety, whoever it is, the idea is to tackle the guy with the ball. So, it's something we work extremely hard at. We put a lot of emphasis on it. I think it's part of our fundamentals that we always talk about every week about trying to improve our fundamentals and trying to get better at the basics of the game. Certainly, if you're not very good at the basics then that's got to be your starting point. So, it's something we spend a lot of time on. We really try to improve that every day, every week. Tackling, it's a huge point of emphasis for us, and it's a skill that I think needs to be worked and developed all the time. I don't think that you can just kind of look at it and say, "I'm a good tackler," and that's it. I think it's something that you're continually trying to improve, so we try to put a big emphasis on it defensively from all the way across the board and just try to make sure we can get the guy down with the ball.
Q: Do you have plans for how you will approach each quarterback depending on who plays?
MP:Well, yeah. Obviously, you've got to be ready for both guys. I think Andrew Luck is appearing to be moving in the right direction. We'll find out on Sunday, but extremely great quarterback. [He] provides a whole level of depth to their offense with his mobility, his arm strength, his ... He's a great quarterback in the NFL, so certainly somebody who brings a huge element of challenge and competition. But really, I think Hasselbeck has done a phenomenal job of coming in and obviously putting some good games together here and running this offense. And I don't think they've missed a beat. I think they're really right on track, so I think both quarterbacks are excellent. I think we've got to be ready for both, and we'll find out on Sunday who's out there.