Q: When San Diego was punting, how do you determine the right moment to send pressure after a punter? I know Brandon Bolden got that one last night and he came close to one recently, but you mentioned that he wasn't really even supposed to rush on that prior one and ended up getting close to it. How do you decide whether to send a guy or not? The second question is, how do you handle those situations differently when there's a new punter in the game or somebody who is not normally a punter in the game? Do you do anything different? **
BB: Well, I'd say, it's not 100 percent, but most of the times on a punt return, you want to have at least one player forcing the punt, making sure that the punter is getting the ball off on rhythm and it's not one of those plays where he takes it, takes a couple steps, sees the return forming and takes off. That's probably pretty normal – one, maybe sometimes two guys doing it. When you rush everybody then you're trying to kind of beat the protection, but with one or two guys coming, you could… if you're able to just beat that one single player, then you have a chance on it. The same thing happened to us in the first Miami game. We had one guy forcing and the punt team recognizes that it's a return and so they're not really looking to stay on those blocks a long time. Sometimes they get caught on an edge and the rusher is able to get there and make the play. In Brandon's case, on the block, it was just real good individual effort and [he] was able to dip his shoulder and get his penetration on [Donald] Brown there on the corner and squeeze it in enough to get in front of the ball. Again, sometimes a good, experienced guy on the punt return team, even if he sees that, even though he's not supposed to rush, that a player or two in front of him are so quick to start to get into the coverage pattern that sometimes he'll just go ahead and take a shot at it. But most of the time on those returns, there are one or two players forcing and that's what happened on our block.
After the block punt and the injury, with [Nick] Novak in there, he's a guy that can definitely punt the ball well, but probably with less consistency. We had the two-deep look and I thought that really helped us out a couple times on shorter punts. Danny [Amendola] is able to handle that ball cleanly and save us some field position, which you know how that goes. Sometimes you get a 25 or 30-yard punt and then it rolls 15 or 20 yards and ends up being a 45, 50-yard net play. You don't want to let your opponents off the hook with a bad punt like that. but at the same time, he came back and hit, I think two pretty good punts that Julian [Edelman] was able to handle and then Danny was able to help in the blocking pattern on the gunners and get Julian started, which I thought we were close on, I think it was the second one. Ball handling was an issue for us there. With Novak punting, just to protect against the short punt and the long punt, it'd be tough for one guy to handle the range that we thought those balls might come down in so we went two deep on that.
Q: After getting a chance to watch the film, do you have any thoughts specific to the job Darrelle Revis did last night against the Chargers receivers?
BB: You know, I thought Revis played good. I think we really competed well against their receivers. We had pressure at times on the quarterback and that eliminated some downfield options. Overall, I thought he did a real good job. [Keenan Allen] wasn't targeted a lot, but Revis was on him and they moved Allen around a little bit. He was usually outside, but played on both sides, played in the slot a little bit. He's a very good catch-and-run player. [When] he caught that under-route, Darrelle was right there to make the tackle on him for a pretty short gain. It's not just covering him, but also tackling him. That was a good finish on that play. Yeah, no, he did a good job, did a good job against a real good receiver. That guy is tough to cover and like I said, tough to tackle.
Q: What are some of the elements that go into your decision to give the guys a day off on Monday?
BB: The schedule, the schedule of the team. Really what we've been through from a schedule standpoint, where the team is physically, what we have coming up, the nature of the preparations for the next opponent – all those things.
Q: I know when you're in the game you're not focused on the atmosphere and the crowd, but did you feel that and what was your thought on the atmosphere?
BB:** Yeah, there was a lot of energy in the stadium: night game and the Chargers in their powder blues and definitely a lot of energy in the stadium. But there was a sea of Patriots fans behind our bench. I don't think I've ever quite seen that before. They were just all kind of in the same spot, it was almost like a college game in a neutral site, where one side of the field is one team and the other side is the other team. It wasn't quite like that, but we had all those fans right behind us. They were loud and vocal. There were a couple times when I was talking to somebody or talking to one coach or another while the other side of the ball was out there and you hear the fans start yelling and [you're] like, 'Uh oh, what happened?' and it was us making a good play and our fans cheering. It was a little bit of a different sensation. But the crowd was – it was an electric night. The crowd had a lot of energy. The support and the fans that we had at the game and all of them there behind us was awesome. It was great.
Q: Could you go over two plays after reviewing them: the first was the Brandon Browner hit. How do you coach that? Without getting you in trouble, what's your insight? Brandon LaFell's fumble was such a bang-bang play. Was there anything he could have done there? How did you view that when you watched it over?
BB: Well, I think they were both pretty much the way you described them, to tell you the truth. LaFell's fumble was something that the receivers work on every day from the first day to the start of the season, the spring and every day until the end of the season: catching the ball, tucking it away, putting it in a secure position. Normally when you catch a pass, you catch it somewhat away from your body and then getting that ball from in your hands and away from your body into a secure position. As he was doing that, they made a good play and knocked it out. We work on that all the time. That's always something that we teach defensively and we work on offensively. We're on both sides of that play as far as it teaching and working on it. They made a good play on it.
Then the Browner play, we coach it exactly the way that's written in the rule book. What we're allowed to do and what we're not allowed to do and that's exactly the way we coach it. It was a close play. You should probably talk to the crew that called it. We coach whatever the rules are; we coach within the rules. That's how we coach it. [You] can't lead with your head, can't him them above the shoulders. We coach it the way it's… we coach what you're allowed to do, what you're not allowed to do. I think that's the way the players play it. Sometimes it doesn't always turn out that way, but that's what we try to do.
Q: It seemed like third down defense was a big part of the game last night. The Chargers started off with success but then had trouble. Did you guys change anything up defensively? How important was it to get off the field on third down going against a good third down offense in San Diego?
BB:** Yeah, it's really important to get off the field on third down. That's always a big point of emphasis for us. Third downs are, on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, third downs are really kind of like turnovers in terms of the possession of the ball changing if a team can't convert, whether it's us or them. Those are huge plays in the game. Red area plays are huge plays in the game because they involve points. When you talk about third down in the red area, that's really as important as it gets because those are kind of four-point plays, if you will. But I think it was a combination of things. I think on our third-down defense, we used different calls. I thought [defensive coordinator] Matt [Patricia] did a great job in mixing up the looks and the coverages and trying to keep the Chargers and [Philip] Rivers off balance, which is hard to do because obviously he's a very experienced and knowledgeable and savvy quarterback that can get the ball off to a lot of different receivers. And he did. He threw to his backs, threw to his tight ends and threw to his wideouts. Good team defense, good coverage, guys using their help when they had it and pass rush to try to either force the ball out on time or put enough pressure on the quarterback where he couldn't really step up and make a good, clean throw. There were elements of all that at different points during the night. But they're a very good third down team. They have a lot of weapons and a good quarterback. They're hard to stop. I thought our guys did a real good job on that and we needed to. It was kind of the reverse of last week in the Green Bay game where we couldn't get off the field, or didn't get off the field on third down as often as we needed to. Last night was much better and that created a lot of good field position for us. I thought one of the big factors in the game was our advantage in field position. It seemed like we had the ball in pretty good field position quite a bit, offensively. They got us on that first punt when he dropped it inside the 10, but otherwise we had decent to good field position offensively. And defensively we had real good field position all night. It seemed like they were always going 80 yards or more to get to the end zone. It was a good situation defensively. Even a couple times when they got a couple first downs, they were still only at midfield and not really in scoring range. Field position from the kicking game was really good for us.
Q: A couple guys mentioned that Sealver Siliga brought good energy to the defense. What did you see from his performance and what he brought to the defense last night?
BB: Yeah, I thought he brought a lot of energy. He's practiced; practiced really well last week in California. I think it was a very good week for him. He took a lot of snaps on the scout team and took his turns on defense, but I think you could really see his level of competitiveness in terms of being ready for the game and getting back. He was really hustling on the field, taking a lot of plays, playing with a lot of effort, making sure that his conditioning was at a level that he was confident at that he could play and go hard and be able to sustain it. I thought he did that last night. He played very competitively with good effort, chased the ball and gave us some of the strong and powerful-type plays that he's capable of in there. It was good to have him back and we were able to have a good four-man rotation at tackle there with Vince [Wilfork], Chris [Jones], Sealver and Alan Branch. I thought that was all good for us. It was good to have him back and hopefully he can build on last night and just kind of improve his reaction and playing techniques here this week going forward.
Q: I know you always speak how there's a need for constant improvement over the course of the year. It seems like Jamie Collins is one of those guys that we're kind of witnessing that. Can you speak to that? You brought Jonathan Casillas, Alan Branch and Akeem Ayers in midstream. Are you pleasantly surprised how all three have been able to jump in? You never quite know what you're getting when you bring guys in late in the year so to hit on all three seems to be a high rate of success.
Team photographer, David Silverman, offers his best photos from the Patriots-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, December 7, 2014.
BB:** I'll just take the second question first. All three of those players have definitely helped us, both with their playing time, their performance and I'd say the rapid pace at which they've picked things up. And even though Siliga isn't really in that category because he wasn't a new player, but getting him back after missing all those weeks since the beginning of the season, it was the third week he went out, getting him back, those four guys collectively, getting them all on the field last night was a big boost for us and certainly one that we've needed. You're right. You never know exactly what you're going to get when you get a player that hasn't been with you before. But I would say in all three cases, veteran players. Casillas is probably the one we knew the most about, just from practicing against him at Tampa and playing against him through the years. He came in and made a real impact for us in the kicking game right away. I think he had three or four tackles in his first game. But, he brings a level of experience and playing confidence and instinctiveness that's really good. I mean he would help any team. Akeem did a real good job coming in. I mean, he got thrown into the fire right off the bat and really helped us in part of our nickel package, which seems like we've been in that the majority of the time here in the last five, six weeks. He's played on the punt team, he's helped us in the kicking game, he's helped us with versatility, being able to play in pass coverage, kind of doing some of the similar things that Rob [Ninkovich] does for us on the other side. He's given us that element of a linebacker, but he's a defensive end, sort of like Rob does. But really smart kid that's picked things up in a hurry that's been able to grasp the volume of defense and that hasn't held back our game planning or play-calling. And Branch, the same thing. He's really worked hard. He, of course, was in training camp this year, but getting his conditioning back and again, his reaction time and playing in-game reactions and leverage and hand use and those type of things. He's given us some good pursuit plays. He runs well. He's made some plays on the opposite side of the ball pretty much in every game one way or another, covering a screen pass or in the running game or whatever. Those guys have all helped our defense. As I said, then last night to get Siliga back too, kind of a fourth guy there, a couple linemen, a couple linebackers. We've really been pretty healthy in the secondary. Those guys have really come in and done not only what we needed them to do, but probably more. Especially Ayers and Casillas have contributed in the kicking game for us.
Jamie has had some really outstanding moments throughout the course of the year. His consistency has just gotten better every week. This was a big game for him in San Diego with High [Dont'a Hightower] out, taking over the communication and working with Jonathan who has had the least amount of playing time in there. I thought Jamie did a great job of controlling the defense, the front. There were a couple of checks and adjustments that we had to make. San Diego kind of puts some pressure on you by the number of times they line up in empty formations. Most of the time they shift back in, but not always. But again, that's just another brick on the load to deal with, in terms of going from empty, not to empty and then where is the back come back in the backfield, to the tight end, away from the tight end and so forth. But I thought he plays with a lot of speed and acceleration. He's been very good in the open field and in space. He's done a good job of rushing, excellent job of communicating and working with his teammates and getting other guys in the right spots. I really can't say enough about the job he did last night. But as you said, I think he's gained a lot of confidence, experience and just overall grasping of the league and the NFL through the course of the season. He's built on it week by week. He did a real good job for us last night.