BB: **Of course we're excited to be heading into the AFC Championship game against the Ravens. It's a great honor, really, to participate in the game; to be playing for the right to represent the AFC the following week. It's a big challenge for us. The Ravens came back and won in our first matchup against them. We've had a lot of great games against them through the years. We know they're a tough, formidable opponent wherever we play them. We know we'll have our work cut out for us this week. We'll have to play our best game. I think that's the way it should be at this time of year. It's disappointing to not have Rob [Gronkowski] available, but I thought that Shane [Vereen] and Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] both did a great job of stepping into the game yesterday and playing a significant role in terms of number of plays and their production, maybe more than was anticipated. I think that was a good example of our mental toughness and our ability to make adjustments and adapt to the situation at hand. I thought that was a positive in the game. Certainly there were things in the game that didn't go the way we wanted them to. Houston is a good team and they gave us some problems as you would expect. [There are] things that we need to continue to work on and do better this week. I don't really have any further comment on it, but I'll just put it out there now that we're in the process of bringing Brian Daboll back onto our staff. As soon as we get that worked out, he'll be part of our coaching staff going forward; similar to what Josh [McDaniels] did last year but without any specific responsibility at this time.
Q:To the best of your knowledge was Rob Gronkowski's arm 100 percent coming into last night's game?
BB:I covered that yesterday; he was cleared medically. I don't have anything to add to it.
Q:Were you told that there was any added risk in putting him out there?
BB:I have nothing to add to it.
Q:You gave up a few long kickoff returns last night. Was that execution and something that is fixable?
BB:Overall our kickoff coverage this year has been one of the best things we've done all year. We're right at the top of the league in kickoff coverage. We didn't have a good play in the San Francisco game and then we had three bad plays yesterday, but overall that's been probably as consistent as anything we've done as a football team for the entire season. Of course it's disappointing. Those are plays that you don't want to happen; certainly not three of them in one game. That's not what we want. That's not good enough. It has to be better.
Q:Jacoby Jones is an All-Pro kickoff returner, so clearly he's very dangerous back there.
BB:Yeah, absolutely. We face good returners every week. Every team has a good returner; it's the National Football League. Just like every team has good runners and good receivers and good passes and good everything; it's the National Football League. We have to do a better job than what we did. It starts with me – better coaching, better playing – we just have to do a better job. We've done a good job there pretty much all year – as good as anybody in the league has – but it wasn't anywhere near our standard or where it needs to be yesterday. It's always a huge point of emphasis for us, but it will continue to be. [You] just can't put a team in that kind of field position consistently and that's what we did.
Q:Houston's offensive numbers were quite similar to your offensive numbers. Was the difference third down?
BB:Third down was certainly a big part of it. We didn't do a good job at the end of both halves. We gave up 10 points before the end of the first half. We have up 15 points later on in the game, close to the end of the second half. A lot of their points, a lot of their production came at those times. I'm not saying they didn't move the ball at other times, but that's where they had a lot of production. It was a combination of things, but it definitely came in those spurts there. They had one third down conversion, I think, in the first half, so that was good. But we gave up some passing yardage on some inside routes, some over routes, some crossing routes, things like that. There are plenty of things we can do a better job on. Again, I think that you have to give Houston credit. They're a good football team, they're a good offensive team: they can run it, they can throw it. They've moved the ball and scored points all year long. They won 13 games. They presented some challenges that were good. It wasn't a perfect game against them but they're a good football team too. We have to continue to strive to coach and play at a higher level and that's what we'll do.
Q:Were Shane Vereen's limited opportunities this season a byproduct of the production of the guys in front of him?
BB:All of our backs have been productive. I think we've seen good production from all those guys. Stevan [Ridley] has had good production this year, Danny [Woodhead], Brandon [Bolden] when he's had an opportunity and Shane when he's had an opportunity. When you're basically in a one-back offense, which is what we run, you can't have all of them in there at the same time. We've had good production from our passing game too, with our quarterback and our receivers and tight ends. I think part of it is balance; part of it is if the defense tries to take away one guy [and] that creates opportunities for somebody else, like it did in the Jets game when Tom [Brady] hit him on the wheel route coming out of the backfield when some of their attention was focused on other parts of the pattern. When we get those matchups or we get those opportunities with other plays, then Tom does a good job of seeing that and trying to get them the ball. Those guys have done a good job whether it's Shane or Woody or Stevan, whoever it is, they've done a good job taking advantage of those opportunities. It's a combination of all those, but they've all been productive. I think each one of them has been productive at various points in different ways, so that's good for our offense.
Q:Has any of the foundation that Bill O'Brien laid carried over to this year and helped you this year?
BB:Sure, Billy did a good job for us and a lot of things that we've done we've carried over. But some of those things were carried over from previously when Josh [McDaniels] was here. There's definitely a continuity to our offensive system, but at the same time it's been modified year by year based on the way our team has evolved and some of the things we're facing defensively that we have to deal with and some of the personnel that has been added to our team on a yearly basis that has precipitated or even necessitated some changes. I'd say it's a constantly evolving thing. Sure, are there things that carried over from previous years? Yes. There is also a significant percentage of things that have been added or modified or are flat-out new that are part of an evolving offensive system. Sometimes we go back to things that we haven't used in awhile if the situation presents itself. Some things are more common on a weekly basis that we continue to repeat and work on because they're basic things that we deal with with pretty much any defense. But there are other things that are more specific to certain situations or certain looks that we face. Sometimes those could be in the closet for awhile until those situations reappear. It could be a couple weeks; it could be sometimes a year and a half. That's just the way it is.
Q:Can you give us some clarification on Danny Woodhead and if you expect him back this week?
BB:Danny was examined [and] he was back on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Had we needed to use him, he would have been available to go back in there. Now that we're into a new week, we'll readdress the whole situation, try to get a good feel for what he would and wouldn't be able to do and how functional he would be doing it. I would say that that's something that we'll have to look at during the week, assuming that the doctors clear him to play, which is – that's a medical decision. Then the next situation would be from a football decision, what can he do, how well can he do it, what is he and are we comfortable with him doing in this week's game/game plan. That would all be determined at a later point in time.
Q:What value does Devin McCourty add to your team? He made a great special teams play at the start, but particularly on defense, why is he so effective to be able to handle playing multiple positions?
BB:I think it's a combination of his skill set from the standpoint of versatility and also from his mental makeup and the way he approaches the game. Devin has obviously got corner skills; that's where he was drafted [and he] went to the Pro Bowl in that position. Even as a safety, those corner skills come into play at times when he's matched up on wide receivers. It also gives us the flexibly to not always have to go to a substitute package where we have to bring in another defensive back when they bring in another receiver because we have another corner in the game if we elect to do that and we do that from time to time. His ability to play safety in terms of his athleticism and speed and all that is obvious, but he has a good instinctive nature about that position in terms of reading the quarterback, seeing the field, seeing the receivers, being able to support in the running game, taking good angles to the ball, a lot of things like that that are sometimes hard for a corner moving inside to safety. You see the game from a different perspective inside than you do…you kind of see it from the inside out; when you're a corner, you see it from the outside in. It's a different perspective there that not all players are able to make that transition as smoothly as Devin has. But I would say with Devin from a mental standpoint, he's very smart, he has a very good understanding of the game and overall defensive concepts, coverage adjustments and secondary rotations and matching up on different receivers and how the secondary should align to do that and so forth. That's a strong point for him as a safety. He's a good tackler, which again for a corner playing inside, is sometimes a limiting factor. I would say it isn't with him. He's a tough kid, he tackles well, he takes good angles and he certainly has the speed to get to the perimeter plays and be a factor in pursuit. His versatility comes from his skill set and it comes from his mental ability to handle the defense and also to see the game from a different position and understand it from there.
Q:When you scouted him, was that one of the things that impressed you – the ability to see the field and what everyone else did on defense?
BB:Yeah, absolutely. We drafted him as a corner. But when you sit down and talk to Devin, I still remember sitting with him in the film room there at Rutgers. The play would come up on the screen, this is pretty common but the defensive call would be on the play, it would be like an overlay onto the play. So, it would give the front, the line stunts, the coverage, sometimes if there was a tag like, 'You're going to play this defense against this look but if they give you a different look, you would play a different defense.' Each time the call would come up, I would say to Devin, 'Can you explain the call here? What's this?' 'The front is set this way.' 'What does the nose do on this?' 'Here's the stunt call so he would do this.' He was talking about what the nose guard would do, what the three-technique would do. 'Here's this stunt. This would mean that the end would go inside and on this stunt the end and the tackle would go inside and the linebacker would go here.' I didn't really expect him to know all that, but as it's up there, you just start asking him about, 'Well, what does this mean?' 'Well, that means when we're going to play this defense against this look. If they line up in this other look then we would check to this coverage so we could defend the option better, or they're overloading the formation so we're going to check this coverage and get into something else.' Of course, Coach [Greg] Schiano had a very sophisticated defensive system there and they had a number of different calls, different adjustments, different checks and all that. Devin took me through every single one of them. Whether it was a coverage adjustment, whether it was a play in the secondary or whether it was the way the nose was going to slant – 'This means we're going to slant to the tight end side. This means they're going to slant to the open side. This means we're going to run an X stunt to the open side on this call.' He knew all that. He understood the whole defense; it wasn't just what his position did, but it was the nose guard, the three-technique, the inside linebackers. He had a good understanding of the entire defense, so I was very impressed with that when I talked to him prior to the draft. When you talk to a kid like [Dont'a] Hightower, he would be able to do the same thing, but I think it's easier for a linebacker because he's involved in that. He has to know where the line is stunting; he has to know where those guys are because it affects him in the running game. If your middle linebacker is making coverage checks like Mayo does or like Hightower does, then it's important for the linebacker to understand what the checks are, why you're making them and to try to get the defense in the right position to match up against the offensive formation. I think it's a lot more common for a linebacker to be able to do those things, or even in some cases the safety. I thought Devin as corner just had, I would say for that position, an exceptional ability to do that, particularly to understand what was going on in the front. Not that a corner needs to know what the nose guard is doing but just the fact that he did, showed that he had a good understanding of the overall defense and that he was well taught by his coaches there too.