HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: Jordan Richards has been inactive the last two games. What have you seen in terms of his growth and development? How beneficial is it for a young player to watch and learn from sidelines?
BB: No, I think he would play well for us. If we could have probably dressed one more player it would have been him in both those games. Like to get him in the game, like to get him there, but we've had some situations at other positions that have unfortunately affected him, but nothing that he has done. I think he has really done a good job for us both defensively and in the kicking game. We just have to see how things work out, but no problem at all with him playing. We have a lot of confidence in him and I think he's making great progress.
Q: How much can a young player gain by sitting back and watching the game?
BB: I think it'd be better if he was playing. It'd be better for him and hopefully we can get to that point, but again we have good depth at that position. I mean look, everybody learns something every day, but I'd like for him to be able to play more if the circumstances could work out.
Q: How close are you to finding a final offensive line combination for the rest of the season? How do you balance finding some consistency with giving guys a chance to earn a starting spot?
BB: That's a great question. I think there are a number of things in play here. First of all, for the majority of the year we've dealt with some kind of … We haven't had everybody available for one reason or another. You know what the deal is on all those, so some of what we've done has been a little bit by necessity. Earlier in the year when we had three healthy tackles in Marcus [Cannon], Sebastian [Vollmer] and Nate [Solder], that was really kind of a luxury there to have three players of that quality, but we ended up with none of those guys playing at one point. The center position has been somewhat in transition, same thing with the guards, so we really haven't had an opportunity to do that, to just have the same people in there, because guys just haven't always been available. If that could happen and it could all come together and everybody was available, maybe we'd be able to get to that point and it would probably be a good thing, but we'll just have to see how all that goes. I'm not against it, that's for sure.
Q: Would you be more inclined to stick with a certain group and let them work out their kinks, or would you be more inclined to move pieces around in order to find more consistency?
BB: Honestly I don't feel like a lot of that is in my control. It's up to the players how they play. We try to coach them and give them an opportunity and then what they do with that opportunity is really up to them. I can't control that. I think once a player is established at any positon – this isn't just a line discussion – at any position once a player has established that he's the best player of that group then he's going to play. If that's not the case then maybe more than one guy deserves to play until it somehow or other works itself out or becomes clear what the roles should be.
Q: What are your thoughts on how Danny Amendola played on Sunday?
BB: Yeah, Danny really competed hard. He's physically and mentally as tough of a player as we have. It was good to have him back out there and he really fought hard. I don't think he could have done any more than what he did. He gave us all he had on every play and we needed that.
Q: How is Houston's special teams unit? Will you guys do anything differently in that aspect of the game compared to the last two weeks?
BB: I'd say the basic format of our preparation is probably going to be about the same. Houston, I'd say they obviously have a great punter, so he's been one of the best punters in the league for quite a while now. And then I'd say their core group of players is big. They're big. They're physical. They have a lot of size, so we'll have to match up to that. [Keith] Mumphrey has taken over the returns and he's been an explosive guy. I think they've gotten pretty solid play out of [Jon] Weeks, the snapper. The big thing is handling the size that they have, a lot of linebackers and defensive end-types – [Alfred] Blue, a bigger running back. That will be a challenge for us. We have to do a better job of really everything from what we did last week. We need more consistency and everybody doing a better job.
Q: What is your view of dropped passes from both an offensive and defensive perspective?
BB: I don't know. That's a tough question, it's pretty involved. Just like anything else, I think you have guys that have really good hands, really good catch skills and there will be an occasional drop from them and that's usually a concentration thing. Then you have other guys who maybe don't have quite the same hand-eye coordination skill, so catching the ball is a little bit tougher for them. A number of those players that I've coached in the past have had exceptional concentration, so there was kind of technique drops and there is I would say concentration drops. Then sometimes it's related … As you mentioned some degrees of difficulty are harder than others, so it's related to timing and the ball location from the quarterback and so forth. In the end, if the player is not a dependable catcher, I don't think he's going to be involved much in the passing game, but again a lot of those catches are somewhat a function of the degree of difficulty of the ball that is being thrown to them or in some cases the coverage. That's another thing, too, where a player's got really good separation skills, it looks like he's always open and the catches are relatively easier. If a player isn't able to separate then every catch looks like a great catch because there is somebody right there on him. I would say that there are certain players that without exceptional hands wouldn't be targeted very much because they don't have the ability to create a lot of separation but because of their catching skills they can be productive because they don't need as much separation. I don't know if that answers your question or not, but I'd say there are a lot of components that go into that. And honestly some players are better, just like anything else, like any other skill – golf or whatever – some players are better at some type of catches than others, just like some guys are better off the tee and some are better around the green. Some players track the deep ball better than others. Some players catch moving routes and routes where the ball radius that they have to catch in is larger than other guys. I'd say not everybody's catching skills are the same on every ball either. Bottom line is you want somebody that's dependable. That's the bottom line – you want to throw to somebody that's dependable.
Q: Defensively if a player is open but drops the pass, do you still view that as a completion when you review it on film?
BB: There are going to be plays defensively that when you go back and look at – like you said go back and grade the film – when you look at that you're going to get off the hook occasionally on a dropped pass, maybe a quarterback doesn't see a guy who is wide open and isn't covered properly. Maybe it's a penalty of illegal formation or something that calls back a play that you really don't have defended. Those are still concerns. They still need to be fixed. The next team that you play is going to sit there and say, 'Well if we don't drop the ball or if the quarterback reads it properly or if we don't align in the improper formation, those are good plays for us.' So you're still going to have to stop them. Yeah, the players are accountable. Just because a guy dropped a pass it doesn't mean the defense was played well. That's not necessarily the case. That's why we talk about that after the game – just because the score of the game is what it is, it doesn't mean if you win everything is great or if you lose everything is bad. There are a lot of things regardless of whether you win or lose that are bad and good that happen in the game that you really have to address so those problems don't continue to occur. Of course at the same time there are a number of plays that will happen defensively where you feel like that's about as good as we can be, but the quarterback makes a great throw and the receiver makes a great catch and it's just a great play. And sometimes that happens, too, where you really want to tell the player, 'You did the job well. You did what you were supposed to do. You were in perfect position and the quarterback got the ball to a place that was a couple inches away from you and they made the play.' There are some of those, too.
Q: What are your impressions of Bill O'Brien as a coach? How much do you see them as a mirror image of your own team?
BB: I think Bill has done a great job coaching the team. He's had some challenges this year. He's started some different quarterbacks and lost their running back. We know Bill is involved primarily with the offensive side of the ball. He has dealt with some other challenges but they're well prepared. The team plays hard. They take advantage of your mistakes. They definitely create scheme problems that make it hard for you to defend them. I think he's done a great job with that. They went on a good winning streak here recently and they've been playing really good team football, complementary football. I have a lot respect of course for those guys on the defensive side of the ball – Romeo [Crennel], Mike [Vrabel] and so forth. I know they're well coached. I know it's going to be tough. We're going to have to do a good job all the way across the board. I know that they'll be well coached and well prepared, and I've seen that every week on film.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What do you think Tom Brady meant yesterday when he said on the radio that the offense was struggling to find their rhythm?
JM: I think there are a lot of things that go into finding a rhythm in any phase of the game, but offensively, our overall level of execution and consistency of that execution is really, to me, what defines rhythm. What you're looking for is [to] continue to make positive plays and drive the ball down the field, and if you're doing anything that kind of deters that from happening, then that certainly is going to disrupt your overall rhythm on offense as a whole. So whether that is a penalty, some type of a negative play in the running game, a sack, a negative screen play, any of those things could certainly affect your rhythm. And we've got to do a better job of coaching and executing to try and stay away from those negative plays and negative situations that obviously put you in more negative situations to convert on third down, which the more of those you're in, the more difficult it's going to be to stay in a rhythm any point in the game.
Q: Do you think Brady is at his best when he's getting rid of the ball quickly?
JM: I think Tom's at his best in a lot of areas. Certainly he can do that very well. I think there is a lot that goes into that though. You can't just do the same thing over and over again and expect it to work in this league. There are too many good players and good coaches on the other side, so you've got to try to do some things that give you an opportunity to do that. At the same time, there are certain defenses and schemes and players and coaches that try to take those things and those opportunities away from you in different ways, and when they do, you've got to try to take advantage of maybe some other weaker aspects of the coverage if that's what they're trying to take away and stop. So Tom can be effective doing any number of things in our offense.
Q: Was that trick play specifically designed for the Eagles? If it wasn't, was it originally designed with Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis filling the roles of Danny Amendola and James White?
JM: You try to do those things against the best look or the look that gives you the best chance for success, and whether it's, you know, you put it in that week and you get comfortable enough to call it that week in the game, that's certainly possible. There's an ongoing I would say flow of those types of ideas as the season progresses. Sometimes you put them in for different games and maybe don't get to it, don't call it, the right situation doesn't come up, and you continue to practice it. And then at some point, the right time comes up and you use it, and anytime we do any of those types of things, you have to have numerous people practice it. So I think there are a lot of different people on our offense that have worked those different types of scheme gadget plays, whatever you want to call them, because you never know what may or may not happen during the course of a game. If somebody has an injury, hopefully you can have an opportunity to back something up. Sometimes that's not possible, but I think we had a number of people practice that play and it just so happens it ended up being James and Danny doing the ball handling on that.
Q: The NFL charted Brady with being hit 45 times in the first 10 games and 36 times in the last three games. What do you make of those numbers and the disparity in them?
JM: Certainly we're not trying to see a spike in that number, that's for sure. We'll do everything we can to limit those. I think there are a lot of things that go into that. When you're talking about passing game and pressures and those types of things, there are many variables that could dictate whether or not the defense gets pressure on you or doesn't. The design certainly is something that can be looked at and discussed. You've got to have people open, on time and in rhythm to be able to get the ball out on time, and there are other times when you certainly need to hold up in protection a little bit cleaner, a little longer, to try to execute a specific type of play. So everybody needs to do their job, and we need to do a good job of coaching and trying to put those guys in good positions to certainly limit that number of hits. There's no question that that's not something we're looking to try to do, and we want to try to minimize that as much as we can. So that ultimately is our responsibility, and we need to do a better job of protecting the quarterback. And like I said, there are a lot of things that can go into trying to fix that.
Q: What did you see happening on that second interception? Was Brandon LaFell trying to change his route? What makes J.J. Watt so effective?
JM: I think that play in the game the other night developed, and the Eagles did a good job of covering the initial pattern and the design. We really didn't have an opportunity to get the ball out of our hands quickly, and I think they may have rushed three on that play if I remember correctly, three or four. But the protection was good, so Tom had an opportunity to hang onto it, and any time that the pattern develops the way it was designed and the ball isn't thrown yet, there are a lot of things that could happen at that point. And we try to practice scramble drills and scramble plays. There's no, I don't think there's a perfect science on that. Sometimes guys who are deep come back short. Sometimes guys who are short go deep. Sometimes it's somewhere in the middle. And I think a lot of times you're trying to get on the same page in an unscripted manner, and I think just an overall, the finish of that play, whether it was trying to make a play or just get the ball thrown away, [Byron] Maxwell made a good play on the ball there at the end. J.J. Watt is ... This defense as a whole is as good a unit as we'll face. They're certainly up there in a lot of those statistical categories. They do a good job of stopping people in the running game, stopping the pass. They create an incredible amount of negative plays, which puts the offense in a lot of negative situations on third down, which they lead the league in third-down defense. And J.J. Watt is as good of an individual player as we'll play all season. He's got a great motor. He plays the game extremely hard. He's physical, he's aggressive, he's fast, he's quick. He closes to the quarterback very well in the pass rush. He chases the ball down from behind in the running game. There's really no area of the game where this guy isn't a significant factor and contributor for their defense. And then to top it all off, he's not always in the same spot, so we're going to have to have a lot of guys prepared and ready to handle or to be ready to block him if he happens to be aligned over them or near them. And that responsibility probably won't just fall on one person, so we're going to have to do a good job preparing for him. He's as disruptive of a player as we've faced all season, and we're going to have to try to limit the number of opportunities that he has to create those types of plays because when he does, they usually change the outcome of the drive, the play or potentially the game. So he's a very unique guy. We're going to have to do a really good job of hopefully trying to limit the number of opportunities he has to make those types of plays.
Q: Are you ever concerned that Brady is going to try to do too much because some of his favorite targets aren't available?
JM: No, I think I never really concern myself with that. I think Tom always is aware of what our game plan is and how we feel best about trying to win the game as part of the team offensively. We always talk about playing complementary football and with the special teams, the defense, the offense kind of playing hand-in-hand with one another and not putting the other groups or units in a bad situation. And I think Tommy always understands that, has a great grasp of what we're trying to do to win the game, how we're trying to attack the defense, and the fact that we try to game plan specifically for each opponent, each team, based on the personnel that we have kind of allows the transition. When you don't always have everybody available at the game, it doesn't really change how we go about setting up our plan because we do that anyway. So we just try to take the people who are going to be available and active on Sunday and try to put them in the best positions we can, and Tom certainly contributes discussing all of that stuff. And I think he's generally right on top of how we want to do things on Sunday, and I have tremendous faith in everything that he's going to do.
Q: How much does this Texans defense look like a Patriots type defense? Did you feel like it was fair for the FOX broadcast of Sunday's game to be critical of Brandon LaFell for sometimes not finishing his routes?
JM: The Texans defense, they've got a scheme that's kind of their own. I think comparing it to our defense is ... I'd say there may be a few similarities to it, but I think each group has their own design and all that. And what we've studied this far relative to the Texans, there aren't many things that they don't do well, and they present a lot of challenges for you in every area. They do a good job of limiting big plays, and then they do a great job of creating negative plays, so like I said before, they're going to challenge us in every way. We've got to have a great week of preparation, got to really get familiar with this group. And they have a lot of great players we're going to have to deal with on Sunday night. And then relative to the game on Sunday, I thought our guys played with great effort, obviously played with a lot of fight. It wasn't an ideal situation we found ourselves in in the second half. Look, there are a lot of guys out there. For one reason or another we didn't make enough plays to win the game. It certainly doesn't fall on any one player, and I wouldn't question the effort of anybody on our offense.
Q: Why not try to quarterback sneak it three times on the first-and-goal in the third quarter given how successful Brady is with that? Does any thought go into not risking injury to Brady there?
JM: Yeah, that would be great in hindsight, what you suggested. You know, anytime you run something and it doesn't work out the way you want it to, you'd love an opportunity to change what you did, what you called, or how it was executed or what have you. Tommy has always been very successful at doing that, and he did it later in the game for an important score down there also. So it's one of those situations where you always try to call the right thing in the right situation. Certainly I'm far from perfect in that area and make my share of mistakes in terms of what we're trying to do. Hopefully we're always trying to put the guys in the right situations to be successful and score as many points as we can, and feel badly that we didn't get it in there because obviously that was a swing in the game that couldn't helped us. And relative to Tom and quarterback sneaks, there's nobody who I've seen do it any better. I think it requires courage and toughness and want-to and desire to stick your face in there and get a tough yard when you need it and whether it's short yardage in the middle of the field or down there on the goal line where it gets real thick and there are a lot of bodies in a short area he's got, it's kind of a science to it. I would say it's more complicated than maybe most people think in terms of just finding a soft spot and protecting yourself, protecting the ball, knowing how to get the yard that you need. There are a lot of little things that go into that in a hurry, and we try to coach and teach our linemen how to do it the right way to protect our quarterback. And Tom has obviously had a tremendous track record, very successful in doing that for us.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA CONFERENCE CALL
Q: How much does the Texans offense look like the Patriots offense?
MP: Absolutely, you can see a lot of elements of things that we've seen from Coach [Bill] O'Brien and George Godsey, who's running the offense down there – things we've practiced against in the past – but certainly this offense is kind of their own offense – the 2015 Houston Texans offense – so it's a little bit different. They have some great players down there that they are putting in some different positions. They do an excellent job using their skill players, all of them, whether it's the receivers, tight ends or the backs. There are certainly elements of our offense that we have seen, our offense that we've seen when Billy was here and George was here, but they do a great job of kind of keeping you off balance and there are certainly some wrinkles that we don't really run here at all, so I think one of the big ones, you'll see the Wildcat, a couple of different players that they'll put in the Wildcat position in their offense and try to catch you off guard with some gadget-type or different-type looks there. You have to talk not only the quarterback position – [Brian] Hoyer and how well he's playing, to run the offense and to get the check-with-me system and to get the ball to the right players and to distribute it all around – but [DeAndre] Hopkins, who is an outstanding player, the wide receiver position is just a huge part of their offense. Cecil Shorts, you're going to see him in there in the slot and he's also a Wildcat player, guys that are getting a lot of production in [Nate] Washington. They are doing a good job at spreading the ball all the way around and then they are trying to create mismatches with the backs. I think the best thing they're doing right now is running the ball, running with consistency and trying to establish the control of the game with the running game and to set up their play-action passes, their boots, their quicker throws, and then also to get the ball downfield. They really have a great complement of offense, a very balanced offense, from a run-pass standpoint. They are trying to make sure that the defense has to defend everything and keep you off guard and then they also have the ability to increase the tempo of the offense and go at a faster pace and be up on the ball and make quick decisions, which is something that Brian Hoyer does a great job of – recognizing the defense, being able to change the pace and go in and out of no-huddle-type situations and personnel groups and just keep everything moving on you so certainly a huge challenge from that standpoint.
Q: Thoughts on DeAndre Hopkins?
MP: I'll say that from an offensive standpoint, they do a good job of spreading the ball around, but certainly he is a huge target and a huge player for their offense. He is a big guy, he does a great job of going up and getting the ball, he can run a bunch of different routes, inside-outside vertical routes, he competes very well, he has got good speed, he can get downfield and really stretch it, and he just does a great job of getting open and has a big catch radius. Just overall he is a very good wide receiver, an excellent wide receiver that's a big problem for the defense, and even with everybody knowing that he's a guy that is going to get the ball, he still is so productive in their offense. They do a great job of getting him in different positions to get him the ball. They understand that teams are going to be looking for him and they do a good job of moving him around or getting him different looks and different routes to keep it productive for him, so they do an excellent job of scheming that up.
Q: How has Malcom Brown developed?
MP: It's obviously a big adjustment when you come in from college and your first year in the NFL is always a long road, it's always a difficult one, there's a lot of learning that is involved with it. He's a guy that really works hard, really is trying to learn what we do and has embraced the coaching and has really tried to adapt to the way that we want him to play. Really, he's done a good job of trying to learn and understand what we do from a defensive standpoint and be able to understand the concepts that we run. That's the biggest thing to have to get used to, and then obviously the consistency of play that we are trying to get and the constant improvement and the ability to change things week-in and week-out. There's certainly still a huge learning curve for him to push through and to learn week-in and week-out this part of the year when we really have to start to play our best football going forward and we are looking for improvement from everybody and improvement from him. I think he's done a good job of understand that this is definitely a tough road and the first year is a hard year, and he's trying to embrace that challenge, and get better every week.
Q: Are you seeing him exhibit a greater comfort level?
MP: Well, I think the biggest thing for our guys, rookies, older guys, new guys, whoever it is, is to just kind of get into the routine. I think that is the biggest thing where at this point in the year we are in our routine, we are in our grind, we are week-in and week-out. We have a different opponent and we have to reset and get ready to go and I think that is something that he definitely understands that this is how we operate. This week is different than last week and will be different than the week after. From that standpoint I think he is understanding how the weeks in the NFL operate.
Q: How would you grade Jamie Collins performance? Also, the play where Collins tipped the pass, was that a challenge for you to get a look at the play?
MP:* *It's good to have Jamie back out on the field and trying to do everything he could to be in the right position and certainly we haven't had him out there in a little while so there's going to be a getting back into the swing of the things. Jamie is a constant professional. He comes in and works hard every day and tries to get himself prepared to play whether he is on the field or not. At this point in his career he understands that and we have a lot of guys, whether you are active or inactive for whatever reason, you just get yourself ready to go and mentally prepare every week like you are. He does a great job of that. He's a student of the game. I know he is ready to go when he gets out there. As far as the other question, it doesn't really matter. I couldn't really see where I am on the far sideline. Plus it's all about Houston, it's all about pushing forward and getting ready for their offense and the things that they do, and that's the biggest challenge right now – turn the page and get ready for an extremely difficult offense to defend – a team that will throw a lot of different personnel groups at you, put a lot of different players on the field in different positions, and you have to do a great job of recognizing and handling that.
Q: What has impressed you about Brian Hoyer?
MP: Great question. I think just even knowing Brian Hoyer, being around him, this is a very competitive guy. This guy is a guy that goes out on that field every single moment he's out there expecting to win whether it takes all the time on the clock or they get an early lead, whatever it is, this a very competitive player, a very smart player. He studies very hard. He understands disguises, coverages, fronts. He's going to get the offense into the best play possible and he is going to be smart with the football. I would say the biggest thing that they are doing recently and what they have done the last five weeks or so, is really just settling the game down. He settled the game down with the run, he's making quick and smart throws, good decisions with the football, not turning the ball over, he doesn't hold it very long, gets the ball out quickly, doesn't allow the pressure to get there. He does a great job with protection, understands schemes from a defensive standpoint and how to protect himself and knowing when he is protected and when he is not and who to get the ball to when he's not. He's doing great job of getting the ball into the hands of their guys he knows can make great plays for him, [DeAndre] Hopkins and [Nate] Washington does a great job and Cecil Shorts will be out there, and the backs, whichever back is in, they use all four of them. He does a great job from the standpoint of running the offense, keeping it moving on the defense, keeping it in a positive form, not putting them in bad situations. The big element they have, too, is that they can go in and out of the tempo, personnel groups with tempo, he does a great job of understanding that, recognizing that and understanding and taking advantage of where the defense might have some issues, whether it's lining up, whether it's substitutions or just you know how they may have adjusted to that personnel group and getting them in a positive play.