PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: How pleased are you with the ball security of your team?
BB:I think the numbers have been pretty good. We haven't lost the ball a lot. I think our ball security could still be better, though. We have too many plays where I don't know if it's secure enough. Hopefully it is, but I don't know, I think we've got to keep working on it. I think it's something you've got to stress every week. Each team has different players and sometimes styles of how they get their turnovers. Not every team gets them the same way. I think there are certain higher frequencies with some teams than others, and you've got to make sure you're ready for what they do best, how they get their turnovers and at least try to keep them from getting them the way they've gotten them in the past. I still think we've got a lot of work to do in that area.
Q: Defensively, do you feel like you've left some takeaways on the field this year?
BB: Yeah, I think we've missed some opportunities. That's the way it always is. I don't think you ever get all the ones that you think you can get or might be able to get or whatever. We missed some opportunities. We've got to keep working to get the ball out and then when we get our hands on it, be able to finish it.
Q: Devin McCourty talked about how guys were flying to the ball last night. There was a play where Ryan Tannehill went deep down the sidelines to Jarvis Landry and there were three safeties on in the play to break it up. Was that an example of what he was talking about?
BB:I think there were a number of examples. Yeah, that's one. Probably just as importantly or maybe even more importantly were some of the passes where we had a lot of people sprinting to the ball quickly and there wasn't a lot of space for their players to really have a good opportunity to run. We cut down the yards per catch. That's the other part of it – not just playing the ball but also when the ball is thrown in front of us rallying to it so we just don't leave one guy in a one-on-one situation, which is always hard against any good skill player, but especially those Dolphins. That was a good example of that.
Q: What impact does the continuity on the coaching staff have on the team, especially on a short week?
BB: Well I said after the game I thought our coaching staff did a great job this week and they did. It really started last week trying to get ready for the Jets and then get ahead on Miami. A lot of times when we on a regular week kind of finish up a little bit earlier on Friday or have the Saturday afternoon if we're not traveling like we didn't last week between the end of our walk through and our Saturday night meetings. Those guys put in a lot of extra time in terms of the preparation and kind of early game planning, early stages of the game planning and kicked it into gear Monday after we did a quick run through of the Jets film. So, yeah I think they deserve a lot of credit for the success we had last night. Of course it helps to have continuity, but I think that's only part of it. Doing a good job and being efficient and using the experience and using it in a productive way and all that, that's a big part of it, too. I thought our staff had a good week, players worked really hard. They came in and turned the page and got on Miami quickly. Even though we didn't really have any real practice or any kind of tempo or anything at all to work with, but the players were really focused on getting everything down, trying to get it right and adapt in what we're doing to the Dolphins. I thought we tried to execute it pretty well last night.
Q: Can you talk about Logan Ryan's development and versatility this season?
BB: Logan has done a good job for us, as usual. He's one of our best prepared players, hard worker in the offseason and a hard worker in the season, really studies the game and has real good pass instincts and anticipation. That's shown up many times this year. He's played multiple positions. Sometimes it's been the third corner or the nickel corner, sometimes it's been the starting corner, sometimes on the perimeter, sometimes inside and kind of other adjustments in our scheme. He's a versatile player, has really good football instincts and intelligence, works hard, gets the most out of all the tools that he has, all the skills that he has, and he's worked hard to improve them and get better both physically and in his techniques. It's nice to see him have success like he did last night. He's also been one of our overall better tacklers in the secondary, so that's always a positive, too, and he's got a lot of those plays. That's the way it is at corner and safety in the open field – if you don't get them down they gain a lot of yards after that opportunity. Those tackles count for a lot, and he's done a good job for us there, too.
Q: Do you view David Andrews and Bryan Stork as pure centers or can they play guard as well? Also, what have been your impressions of working with Akiem Hicks?
BB: Akiem has been good to work with, really no issues at all. He's just had to adapt to I'd say some different terminology and a little bit of different technique, just because sometimes some of the things that we do and kind of the certain calls and way the offense would handle it or block it or what he sees is a little different than maybe what he's seen more frequently in New Orleans. But he's worked well. He's a smart guy, puts in a lot of extra time and I think he's really done a good job in the few weeks that we've had him in trying to do it the way we want him to do it. Not always perfect, but he works hard to understand it, to try to get it right and improve on it and really give us what we want when he's in there in terms of playing the position the way we want it played. The offensive line, the two guys you mentioned, they've both played the same position to this point. Could somebody play something else? Maybe. They haven't, so if we did that, there would be a question. I'm not saying they couldn't, but we haven't really seen it yet. I think the first thing for Stork is just get him back on the field and get him practicing. That's number one. So we took a step there a week ago, last week, as I said, we didn't really practice at all for the Miami week. Hopefully physically he can be ready to go or more ready and we'll just have to see how it all works out.
Q: What did you see on the touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski? It looked like a guard pulled on a play action pass, but stayed in pass protection.
BB: Well, I think it definitely opened it up. Rob released and kind of got in behind the linebackers pretty quickly and then Tom [Brady] got the ball out in a hurry. There was some space there between the linebackers and really [Reshad] Jones, who was on the backside, so it was kind of away from the safety. Rob was lined up on the right side and he kind of ran away from the safety on his side and caught the ball in front of Jones behind the linebackers and then broke that tackle and then got a big block from [Brandon] LaFell and finished the play. I think the play action definitely had an effect on the play. That's one of the best things about play action is the opportunity to really get receivers into some open space. When you just drop back and throw, whether you're throwing against man or zone, for the most part the defense is usually going to be fairly close to those guys – either matching them in zone or running with them in man-to-man. Sometimes when you have a good play action and you're able to displace the defense and get the linebackers coming up or the secondary going back or get the linebackers or whoever running inside while your receivers are running outside you can create some space in the passing game that you just couldn't – I don't want to say couldn't – but it's much harder to get on a drop back pass. That's the advantage of doing it and the running game helps the passing game, the play action passing game. And then the play action passing game helps the running game in terms of keeping the linebackers from running up there quite so fast. We tried to have those plays kind of complement each other last night – the off tackle runs with the pulling guard and the protection that looks as much as we could make it look like a run, but it was a pass and we had guys running out. Actually I think those runs in the first drive helped that pass and then hitting that pass helped some of those runs later on in the game where the linebackers weren't quite up on the line as quickly as I think they probably would have been if we hadn't hit a play like that.
Q: Dominique Easley, Geneo Grissom and Malcom Brown all seem to have increasing roles and are showcasing their versatility. What are your thoughts on their development?
BB: All those players have made real good progress this year. Starting with Easley, just his opportunity, the fact that he's been out on the field and has participated in everything so much more than he was able to do last year, just really no comparison, and of course all that fundamental work in training camp and all the practice reps both against our offense and working with teammates on defense in terms of communication and all that. It's been very valuable. I think that his explosiveness, quickness, ability to be disruptive on plays where he can get into the backfield and penetrate the line of scrimmage has shown up on a number of occasions. And also Easley has helped us a little bit on the punt return side of it. He's been disruptive doing that the last couple weeks. Malcom Brown has really pretty much just played one position, but that's gotten progressively better. He's strung together now a couple consistent weeks, and that's good. Geneo has probably show the most versatility in terms of playing end, tackle and also on the punt team, kickoff team, a little bit on the punt return, kickoff return, so he's given us some snaps in the kicking game as well as on defense, and defensively inside as well as outside. Kind of the volume for Geneo is high there. There are a lot of things for him to try to get down and refine and work on, but he's a very diligent and hard-working kid, he tries to do that. His versatility is kind of a plus, but it's also a lot for a young guy to work on all those things and be able to get as good as he needs to be at them as quickly as we need him. He's definitely trying and he's definitely making progress, so that's good.
Q: Your team was penalized a lot last night. Were you concerned at all about how that could impact the game?
BB: The penalties are definitely a problem, and last night a lot of them hit on the offensive side of the ball, so we put ourselves in a lot of long yardage situations. Several of the penalties were really concentration lapses, just things we didn't do well enough and had a violation. We've got to do a better job being more consistent on that. Things like that are just bad offensively because the defense doesn't have to do anything. All they have to do is stand there. If we false start or go downfield or create fouls that are just not really caused by the defense, it's one thing if they cause you to do something or make a great move or something and you have to reach out and you're fighting and trying to grab a guy, that's one thing. It's another thing to go out there and have a low level of execution and either get a penalty or like I said, false start, misalign or something like that where the defense doesn't have to do anything at all. We've got to do a better job of that. Same thing in the kicking game – we've had these illegal block penalties now, just too many of them all year, lost too much yardage. Some of them are close, some of them are tough calls, some of them aren't, but the bottom line is we've got to do a better job avoiding them because it's costing us too much yardage and too much field positon, so we'll keep working on those. Obviously we're not there yet but I think the players definitely understand the importance of it. I think they're trying on those marginal kind of plays to play penalty free. As I said, some of those calls are close, it's not like they're just flagrant totally lack of judgment penalties, but we've just got to do a little bit better and avoid them.
Q: Does that kind of go with the territory of not being able to practice this week?
BB: No, I wouldn't say that. I mean look we've practiced a lot this year. We've played four preseason games, seven regular season games. It's time for us to get it done on the coaching and the playing end in all three phases of the game. Again sometimes it's more in one phase than another. We have different crews and all that, but we've just got to do a better job. It's not anybody's fault but ours. We've got to coach better and we've got to play better and we've got to make better decisions and we've got to coach it in such a way that we don't put ourselves in that situation.
Q: You played pretty good last night, though.
BB: Yeah, but I'm saying there are still too many penalties. I'm talking about the penalties. Look, if we keep having them, eventually it's going to catch up to us. I can tell you that from experience. You might get by with it. Just like turning the ball over, you might get away with it for a game or two, you might get away with it, but eventually it's going to cost you. Like I said, it's one thing when you go out there and you play your best and coach your best and the other team, sometimes they're just better than you. You go out there and make mistakes that are really unforced errors or unforced penalties, unforced turnovers, unforced mental errors, bad coaching decisions, then you're just not giving yourself a good chance to win. We don't ever want to do that and we try the best we can to avoid those every week, but we've still got work to do.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: How does Rob Gronkowski's endurance play a factor in his overall game and does that play a part in him being able to make defenders miss down the field?
JM:First of all, Rob trains very hard. He's in good condition and he works extremely hard each week to continue to keep that conditioning where it's at and I think that that's a tribute to him and the work that he puts in each week to be able to do the things we ask of him. He's a big guy that obviously can run well and once he gets the ball in his hands he becomes a runner. For as big a guy as he is, he has good agility. He's got good speed and he's looking to try and make yards after he has the ball in his hands. [He] works on his open field running a lot in practice. I think when we have the opportunity to get him the ball in some space in the games, he usually does a good job of adding on to those catches and last night I thought he did a good job of doing that again.
Q: How have Tom Brady and David Andrews handled the center-to-quarterback exchange thus far?
JM:That's definitely the starting point for us on offense – nothing good can happen if that doesn't happen well. David's a guy that's come in and really worked hard from the day he got here, tried to learn as quickly as he could – our system – and get involved in our program in every way that he can, whether it be the weight room or meetings or on the field. He's a very unselfish player. He studies extremely hard, prepares and works hard each week to know the opponent and the game plan. I think he's a very good communicator. [He] does a good job of talking with Tom, whether it's a huddle, sideline, at the line of scrimmage, to get things sorted out. He's a guy that came here having played a lot of football at Georgia. He stepped into a tough situation, to come in your first year and do some of the things we've asked him to do and he's really done a great job. We're looking forward to continuing to try and work with him to improve and get better as the season progresses.
Q: What was Brandon LaFell's comfort level last night and what does it mean to the offense to have him back?
JM:JoJo had three days of practice prior to the [New York] Jets game and you know, went in there and played quite a few snaps in his first game. I think any player that hasn't had an opportunity to practice and play much, there's kind of a time factor there for him to feel comfortable and to get back into the swing of things. I thought he did a nice job of getting acclimated into the game last night in a lot of different areas. He blocked his butt off, did a lot of good things that helped people extend runs. [He] had a big block on Rob [Gronkowski's] touchdown play. [He's] a very unselfish player in that regard. [He] blocks for the receivers sometimes on the slip screens when they come his way or the halfbacks when they get the ball and then he made some big catches down the field for us which we saw him do plenty last year. Jo's a veteran guy, brings a lot of experience, toughness, talent, size to our offense and we're looking forward to continuing to develop our group and incorporate him into that as we go forward.
Q: Would you be open to moving David Andrews to guard once Bryan Stork returns?
JM:I think a lot of those things will sort themselves out. We've really never gone into it with you know, a specific design [that] we're trying to make work. What we'd like to try and do is give everybody the opportunity to work in whatever roles that they can and hopefully we're playing the best five guys out there as many plays as we can. Understand that there may be times where six or seven guys deserve to play because they're playing at a competitive level and they've earned the right to do that so I don't think this will be any different. Stork getting an opportunity to come back, hopefully there's some other guys here that have been dinged up a little bit that will have an opportunity to come back as well and once we get them out there and working together, we'll get practicing for Washington here next week and kind of sort it as we go. There are no roles that would be specific that we're trying to force. We just want to try and get the best guys out there and allow those guys to compete and practice together and then try and make good decisions about what groups should be out there together and where guys should play.
Q: How have Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount evolved in your system?
JM:The backs come into each week and work hard to kind of learn their roles. Some of that kind of evolves as the week goes on. We let them all kind of have an opportunity to do that. In Dion's case, he's been a productive guy in a lot of different areas for us. He can certainly catch the ball and make some plays. He's done a nice job when we've handed it to him. Another area that he's continuing to make progress and improve in is his protection and then his ability to help sometimes with the [offensive] tackles. He had some good chips last night on the defensive ends. He's a very unselfish guy, team guy, whatever role we ask of him he's ready to go in there and do the best that he can and that's been a very positive thing for us so far. LeGarrette's another unselfish guy who two weeks ago, or two games ago, we didn't ask to do a whole a lot and then there's certain games where we ask him to do a lot of banging on first and second down. He's certainly come through in those situations for us. I have a lot of confidence in our entire backfield group. We're pleased with some of the things that we've been able to do and we're looking forward to try and make progress and improve with each of those guys as we move forward into the second half of the season.
Q: Did you envision using Dion Lewis as a wide receiver at all before his arrival?
JM:Not really. Dion's got a nice skill set and [he's] been able to do some things in space going back to when he was in college. With every player we get we try and give them an opportunity to do some different things and then we'll hopefully evaluate what they can and can't do well and then try and put them in as many positions that they're good at as we can. I feel like that's what our job is. We've tried him in a lot of different areas and it's up to the player really to define their role by how productive they can be in those different aspects of the game.
Q: How does continuity on the coaching staff help in preparation during a short week?
JM:We're very blessed here to have the group of guys that we have on our staff and in particular, speaking about the offensive group, I can't say enough about them. They have their positon groups and their players ready to go each and every week. On a short week it's even more critical for that communication to be exactly the way that we need it to be so they can learn the game plan and adjust to the things we're asking them to do in a short period of time. They each have a lot of different responsibilities relative to presenting the scouting report, the game plan information, the installation, the tips and pointers for each player and each position group. I've got a tremendous amount of trust and faith in those guys. They do a tremendous job each week with their group of guys and I think it shows on the field. Our ability to communicate the things we have to get done in a three day week early in the week began before the Jets game because you've got to start preparing for the next one quickly and those guys did a tremendous amount of work before we even played the Jets. I can't say enough about that. Having continuity in that area and understanding what those three day weeks are like and having been through it before with this group of coaches I think is definitely something that can benefit you.
Q: Would you be comfortable using David Andrews at guard if that situation arose?
JM:I think we've asked a lot of our guys to play some different spots here and there in practice, and you know, you get an opportunity to rep at some positions that may not be you're first spot but you get an opportunity to go in there and do that because let's face it, the situation going into each game is you only have seven guys. If something happens to one guy then you've got some shuffling around. If you happen to have two guys go down in the same game then you could have multiple things happen. Like I said before, our goal is to try and get the best group out there that can play together well and execute and do the things we need them to do as a group, as an offensive line. The second thing we ask them is to have versatility and flexibility because it's hard to take a lot of guys to the game that can only play one position because of the flexibility that you need due to injury. We're going to rep a lot of guys at a lot of different spots whether that be right tackle, left tackle, tackle-to-guard, guard-to-tackle, certainly the guys inside – center-guard, guard-center – and that won't change going forward. Well just try to give those guys an opportunity to do that next week starting in practice, and again, sort it out and hopefully make great decisions about what the group is that's going to play. A lot of times, like I've said before, we've used a lot of six and seven linemen in the same game because they've earned the right through their preparation in practice to play and help us win.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
Q: Other than work ethic, what has stood out to you about your defense so far?
MP:Well, I don't think you ever want to overlook what you just said. I think the work ethic of these guys was really on display last night. I can't give enough credit to these guys and what they did on a short week to come in and prepare and to work as hard as they did to really try and get to know an opponent, get a game plan installed coming off a very difficult week the week before and just resetting the clock and going back to the process that we try to get done. So I think that is the thing that's most impressive about this group. I'll say that the thing that's enjoyable about the group is I think that they genuinely really like to play football together. They want to work hard. They want to go out and achieve success together and try to execute what we're installing. So they work hard, and that's important at this stage because we obviously have a lot of work that we have to get done, a lot of improving that we have to do. And I think they all understand that. They're trying to get better every day, but we've got a long way to go. We've just got to keep stressing the things that we do from a mental standpoint, and there are a lot of areas that we need to improve on.
Q: What do you see from Chandler Jones?
MP:Well, certainly the most important thing that we're trying to focus on, on the field is the execution, so that's what our point of emphasis is, is trying to execute better. I think Chandler is trying to improve with his technique. Certainly he's fundamentally trying to work on the different aspects of the techniques that we're using to improve there. I think there are some positives that have shown up, and obviously there are some things that he still has to work on. So we've just got to get him to keep playing with a consistent pad level and go out and do the fundamental things that we talk about and keep trying to get better from that standpoint. So certainly these guys, they tried to play with some energy last night, and that's good to see. But I think for us, it's just really concentrating on the fundamentals. For Chandler, like all the guys, it's just going to be, you know, constant improvement every week, and that's really what we're looking for.
Q: What are your impressions of Duron Harmon's season?
MP:I think he's doing a good job in the back end of the defense really trying to make sure the deep part of the field is secured. I think he's getting a lot better and trying to be disciplined in the back end and trying to read the quarterback and make some plays back there. It's certainly good to see him come up with one last night and a shot at another one. He's got to keep trying to improve himself and put himself in a position to make some plays. He's done a good job of coming up with some plays when we need him to, and we've just got to work to keep trying to get that done week in and week out. But [he's] certainly another guy who, work-ethic-wise, has really worked very hard to try to improve and to get better, and it's good when that shows up on the field. We've just got to try to get it consistent every week.
Q: How much has Logan Ryan improved in his ball skills over the last couple of years?
MP:Yeah, I mean Logan definitely has the knack for finding the ball, and he has really good hands, really is very instinctual from that department and can locate it, find it, catch it, secure it. So that's one of the things he does well, and that along with his, you know, he's been one of our guys who's been able to tackle well. So that's been important for us on the field defensively. And when you get those opportunities to get the ball, it's so hard to get the ball in this league. When those opportunities come up, you've got to take advantage of them. So it was good to see that last night, but he's definitely a guy who has good ball skills from that standpoint. If the ball is coming at him he can catch it.
Q: Was the success of the secondary last night an example of out-preparing the Dolphins? Was there a point made to prevent Ryan Tannehill from running?
MP:With all the guys really on defense, in particular I know you're talking about Logan and Duron Harmon, two guys who work extremely hard to prepare themselves week in, week out. I think that's evident when that shows up in a game like last night where they worked really hard and then have been able to follow that up with good execution on game day itself. So those guys have a great work ethic. They have a great drive behind them, and just fundamentally from their core, that's what makes them better. I would say in general, our goal each week is to try to out-work our opponent, and obviously out-work them during the week but then we've got to go out and execute on the field and that's the most important in the game is to be able to execute. And I think it's just, you know, we had some good instances last night where we had some good execution in some areas where we've got to improve and we've got to get better and we've got to get more consistent. And that's really what my focus is and what I'm trying to do with the defense. But I was really proud of the guys the way they worked through the week this week and how they went out and performed last night. I think you've got to give them all the credit. They're the ones that did it, but there are a lot of areas where we've got to get better. And the great thing is, the guys here, they know that. They work really hard to get better, and they'll take the plays that we left out on the field last night and try to improve those and that will be our focus. So certainly, it's obviously always good to go out and perform and to win, but we've just got to keep pushing forward. We've got a lot of football left.
Q: Is it a good sign to see your safeties swarming around the ball?
MP:Well I think in general, when we look at it one of the things we always talk about is the marriage of the coverage and the rush. And any time there's a good coverage play, there's probably a good rush, and any time there's a good rush play, there's probably a good coverage behind it. I think they both deserve equal credit or accountability, however you're looking at it in that situation. So I certainly think when the guys on the back end are able to get to the ball, there's something going on in the front. When the guys in the front are able to get to the quarterback, then there's something going on in the back end as far as the passing game is concerned. I think those two go hand-in-hand. I think they complement each other well, and obviously we had some plays last night where that was achieved. We had some plays where that wasn't achieved that we've got to improve on. And I think in general, as a defensive player, you need to hustle to the football regardless. Our goal is to tackle the guy with the ball and to get to the ball. And in order to do that, most of the time you need to be running. So that's what we expect to see on the field, that the players expect from themselves and from each other, is that defensively we're going to hustle, we're going to do our best to get to the ball and tackle them and get them down when we get there. So that's what we expect.