HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: How did Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards play in place of the injured Devin McCourty?
BB: I thought Duron did a good job in his role, primarily in the deep part of the field, and Jordan was active. They both were in on a number of plays. Again there are definitely some things we could have done better. The two touchdowns were both plays that overall as a defense and in the secondary that shouldn't have been what they were. On balance, there were a lot of good things and there are still things we could have done better. But for those, particularly Richards, playing at this time of year, playing these kinds of games, it was good experience for him and I thought he was competitive defensively and in the kicking game.
Q: There are reports you guys are signing Steven Jackson. Can you comment on that? Also what did you think of your running game yesterday with Joey Iosefa and Brandon Bolden?
BB: Yeah, I'm not going to comment on any players that aren't on our team. Offensively, we had to grind it out a little bit in the running game. There were a lot of situations where Tennessee had extra guys on the line of scrimmage, especially after we got ahead. That's kind of the way they play anyways with that defense. It's definitely designed to make it hard to run against, so there were a lot of times we ran against one unblocked guy or one guy coming down from the secondary that we couldn't really get to. There were some tough yards. We made some tough yards, could have made a few more, but I thought it was competitive and we were able to find a couple, squeeze through a couple gaps there and I thought the backs ran hard. I mean most of James' runs were on catch-and-run plays like the screen pass or the flat pattern that got called back, but he had some plays in space. But I thought Brandon and Joey ran hard inside. That's a tough defense to run against – [Jurrell] Casey and [Brian] Orakpo, [DaQuan] Jones. Their linebackers do a good job and then their scheme to stop the run and make it tough to run on. It was a tough defense to run up in there against.
Q: You've earned a first-round bye. How do you balance trying to win these final two games and also rest players who have some injuries or are recovering from injuries?
BB: That's a good question. I think we just probably do the best we can to manage all those things that you talked about. They are all somewhat of a consideration and we've just got to try to balance it out. I think each part of your question requires some thought and every decision impacts other things as well, so you just can't act independently when one thing happens when there is a residual effect to it one way or another as part of the conversation. We'll just have to do the best that we can to balance all those things out. That's something we'll have to give some thought to and get as much information as possible because there are some guys that are in various states of physical health. We'll have to work our way through all that. It's definitely a challenging situation. I wish I had a cleaner answer on it, but really we're just going to have to work it out.
Q: Considering that nobody is truly 100 percent healthy at this time of year, how do you decide when somebody like Dont'a Hightower is healthy enough to play?
BB: That's another good question that relates to I'd say a whole number of factors – one, just strictly what's the player's medical condition, and so that can define it right there. If he's out, he's out. Then it's can play but less than 100 percent and then that depends on or that conversation continues into how it goes in practice, how it looked in practice, how the player feels, possibly what you're going to be asking him to do in the game if you can determine that, but sometimes depending on what position it is, you can possibly narrow down sort of what the role would be or what you'd ask them to do. How long is another question – how many and how long – so could the player go out there and play two or three plays – yeah, probably. Could he play 60 plays – no, you wouldn't want him to do that. So what's the right number in there? Maybe you could talk about that during the game or maybe it's something you try to define before the game and work the player's role into that. But again at the same time you have to play the game and there are circumstances and events that happen within the game that you can't plan for. You don't know how it's going to go, so once you get into the game you have to be able to utilize the players that are available in a competitive way during the game. It's again a long kind of complicated discussion, but again once the player is cleared to play and he's able to play and he feels confident that he can play and so forth, then some of these other things come into play. Until that point, then there's nothing really to talk about.
Q: When were you aware that you clinched the bye? Were you watching the Steelers-Broncos game or were you busy with your own stuff?
BB: Yeah, I was doing some things kind of postgame. These one o'clock games are really good – good for me anyways – because it kind of gives you a chance to clean up some things from the Tennessee game and then also particularly with the Jets playing on Saturday and that game already being in our system if you will an opportunity to move on to that a little bit, too. Sometimes that's not the case because you might be finished playing but the other team is still playing, or even if they play at one o'clock as well you wouldn't have that game available. I was working through some of those things. I watched the end of the Denver-Pittsburgh game. But again, all those things, those other games are really out of our control and it seems like through experience, if you're rooting for one team one week then the next week you're rooting for somebody else. In the end whoever we play at this time of year is going to be a good team and we're going to have to play well. That's really the most important thing is us – not as much who we play or where we play or when we play as playing well. I'd say the majority of my focus is on us. You want to know for planning purposes what's going to happen relative to how your schedule or how the seedings are going to go, but the most important thing is us.
Q: Can you talk about the rise of James White in the past three games?
BB: Well I'd say the big jump for James was in preseason this year. In training camp and preseason, he I thought performed very well and very consistently for us both in training camp and practices and when he had opportunities in the game. There was a decision – really part of it there was we were talking about Jonas Gray, who was also on our team last year, and James and Dion [Lewis] was a new player, and Dion had a good training camp and preseason for us as well, but I'd say the big jump for James was between the end of last year to the beginning of this year over our training camp, offseason program time, and he's really played well all year. When we had more depth in the backfield than we have right now, he didn't get as many opportunities as he's had more recently, but as he's gotten more opportunities, he's really taken advantage of them and shown what he can do. He's a tough guy to handle with the ball in his hands and he's very smart. He does an excellent job with his assignments and adjustments and blitz pickups and all those things. He's really done a good job for us.
Q: It seems like Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones have benefited from having each other this year, both by splitting reps and sharing the field together. What are your thoughts on that? Is it an on-the-field thing or is there also a health benefit to it as well?
BB: Yeah, I'd say all of the above. I think the way you characterized it is very accurate. When we signed Jabaal, we kind of thought that it would be kind of put us in a three-for-two position at defensive end. Rob and Chandler, when they, well two years ago they played almost every snap. They were both in the high 90-percent range. Then Chandler missed a few games last year and then came back and again played almost every snap once he came back and was a big factor for us. It's just hard to count on guys at that position to be as durable overall as Rob and Chandler had been, particularly this year and two years ago. So, kind of having that three-for-two with those players, we felt like would give us good depth on defense. We also drafted some younger players at that position, too, but these three guys have all been really good. We've played Chandler inside some in the past and we've done that some this year, but Jabaal has played in there more. That's something that in Cleveland, he played primarily on the left side. He did play on both sides – he was at right end, too – but primarily on the end of the line. You rarely if ever saw him inside and this year when we put him in there early in the season in training camp he had some very productive plays, and so we've been able to get all three guys on the field at times and then there have been other times where we've kind of been in kind of a three-for-two rotation, and all three players have been very productive. They've all been great. Jabaal in particular has had to do some things he hasn't done before in terms of playing inside and some pass coverage responsibilities, but he's done very well in picking that up and has given us a lot of production. I think Chandler and Rob not having to be out there every single snap has also benefitted them and they've been very productive, too, so that's been a really good situation for us. We probably hoped it would go that way but couldn't envision that it would have gone any better than it has.
Q: When you've talked in the past about acclimating new players to the team, you've mentioned how different players learn at different paces and in different ways. Is tailoring your system to different players always been part of your philosophy or is that something you've picked up over the years?
BB: No, I think I learned that pretty early and even going back to before I started coaching just being around my dad and other coaches and being around different players that I played with, you've just got to learn that everybody is different. Each of us is different as individuals and we learn at different rates, and some things come easier to some people and some things come harder to some people. There are some things I feel like personally I can pick up pretty quickly and there are other things that are very difficult for me to put together. When you teach somebody, trying to teach anybody, there are different methods you can use. You can read it, you can hear it, you can write it down, you can show pictures, you can stand and have kind of a spatial instruction as opposed to a picture or a diagram, and again, some players, some people learn in one way, some people learn in another way. I've done different studies or part of our testing on players includes information like that – how does a certain player learn best, what's the best way for him to process information – and again it comes in a variety of methods when you look at your entire roster. We probably do a little bit of everything and then with certain players if they want or need one more than another then the position coaches adapt to that and we give them more of that particular method that is most helpful to them. I think that's just fundamental teaching, which is really what coaching is – it's teaching.
Q: I know you don't comment on players that aren't on your roster, but do you have an expectation over the next 24-48 hours that there could be a roster addition?
BB: At this time of year, yeah, it's definitely possible.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH McDANIELS CONFERENCE CALL
Q: Can you talk about James White's touchdown and how the team's blocking influenced that?
JM: Any screen play is really a team play, there are a lot of people that are going to have to do their jobs and do good things in order to have success on it. On that particular play we had quite a few guys get in front of it. I think Josh Kline and [Shaq] Mason and [David] Andrews got involved in that and gave James [White] an opportunity to kind of get the thing started. James was patient, allowed them to make their blocks and get in position to make their blocks, and then Brandon LaFell and Danny [Amendola] were doing their job down the field as well, trying to cover up some guys up in the secondary. Those take a lot of team work, a lot of repetition to try to get all of the little things right that you need to have work for you in your favor in order to make those plays go and I thought the guys did a really good job of executing that call yesterday.
Q: Can you talk about James White's development?
JM: James has really come on and been a dependable guy for us. His work ethic since we drafted him last year and his maturity, his intelligence, his ability to retain information from one week to the next has always given him an opportunity to know what to do and then now he's had those opportunities in game situations to go out there and then perform on the field. So he was working hard even when he wasn't playing a lot and that has definitely benefited him and our team as well since Dion [Lewis'] injury but he goes in there, he knows what to do, he competes at a very high level, he's in the right spot. I think everyone trusts James to do his job well on every play and when he has had his opportunities, he's really made the most of them, to his credit.
Q: The second series of the second half, Brady threw to Gronkowski three consecutive times, was there anything to that?
JM: I think that they've always said that whatever the defense plays, you have to try to find the right plays to go with the ball and in those few situations, I think that was the right play, so nothing more than that.
Q: What did you see on Gronkowski's touchdown catch?
JM: Rob gets a lot of different looks from the defense, and in this particular case, I believe it was [Brian] Orapko standing over top of him, or right to his left. He tried to disrupt Rob's timing and route by jamming him at the line of scrimmage and then the linebacker was inside of him, waiting to accept the coverage and I think that Rob did a good job of not getting disrupted or rerouted too much at the line and then that gave him an opportunity to make his move on the next player at the second level. That requires a lot of detail, a lot of time spent working on his releases and the top of his route. I thought he did a good job at the top of his route to create some separation and then Tom [Brady] threw the ball away from the defender and then Rob went and got the ball with his hands. A lot of little things go into most plays and in this case, Rob had to do a lot of little things well and Tom read the coverage well and we ended up with a situation where there was an opportunity where there was one-on-one coverage, on a third down, important part of the game. It gave us an opportunity to start fast and they made it happen.
Q: What are your thoughts on Steven Jackson having been able to see him on a day-to-day basis when you were in St. Louis?
JM: I'm going to stick to the guys on our roster right now, the guys that we have, and I appreciate the question but I'm going to stick with the guys I have on the team.
Q: What are the challenges of trying to work someone new into your offense in the middle of the season?
JM: I think that happens to every team. You never go through the whole season without some changes and some things you have to adjust. I think that in Joey Iosefa's case, he wasn't here at the beginning and he has kind of had to scramble to get some things learned in a hurry, and we've tried to use a few extra periods in practice to help some of those younger players or newer players come along and try to get some extra repetitions in our system so I think that is the challenge that every staff faces, every team faces, as they go through the year, you certainly will have injuries, or additions or subtractions, when you have a new guy in , it's your job as a coach to give them the foundations of the offense, present them with the material that they are going to need to be successful playing in your system and then coach them as hard and as quickly as you can to try to get caught up so that they can do the things that you are going to ask of them to do on your team. Like I said, Joey was a good example. We've had a number of them obviously, through the course of this year and the past and that's a challenge that each coach welcomes. Sometimes it's refreshing in the middle of the year to get a guy that you have to go back with through the foundation of your system and their terminology and those kinds of things. It's a different type of challenge, and as coaches I'm sure we all welcome that because we know it's those guys that are coming in to help us for a reason and it's our job to catch them up as soon as we can.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA CONFERENCE CALL
Q: How do you feel about the performance of your safeties yesterday?
MP: Certainly at this time of the year, everybody's kind of ready to go. Everybody's just got to step in and play week-in, week-out. If you're active for the game you're going to have some sort of role in the game or some sort of position that you're responsible for. Certainly at this point of the season we've got some guys shuffling around and some guys that have to step in and do the job that they're asked to do. Certainly whatever position you're playing, so for Duron Harmon, obviously he's played a lot of football for us, too, so he does a good job on the back end with communication and making sure our guys are lined up and recognition. Same thing with Jordan [Richards] and Nate [Ebner], all those guys, Tavon Wilson, Patrick Chung, they've all played a lot of football for us. They're all very active in the week-to-week process and just ready to go every week. Certainly from that standpoint just a credit to their preparation and their professionalism to be ready to go and when we put them on the field we expect them to perform, so certainly we have to go out and play better than we did yesterday and go but everybody's out there ready to go.
Q: How would you characterize the work of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard this year and how has your depth at that position helped their energy level this late in the year?
MP: I think in any situation we're trying to have as many guys on the field that can perform at a high level as we can and certainly we've been able to do a good job of rotating with those guys in there. We've had some other guys that have played those types of positions, too, this year for us. I think Chandler, Rob, and Jabaal are doing a great job of trying to understand what we're doing. Jabaal obviously came in and is trying to learn our system and get used to the way that we use our players in those positions. I think Coach [Bill] Belichick hit all of it. Chandler and Rob play a lot of snaps for us and certainly when you can get a rotation at any position and hopefully help out those players over the course of the game, course of the season, then that's an ideal situation to have. [That's] just basically what we've tried to do there. Those guys have all been able to move around and play different positions and fill in spots for us that week-in, week-out we're asking them to do. I would say just in general that's a group that works really hard. Those three guys are really good players on game day but also during the week, practicing, and preparing, and getting ready for the meetings, and stuff like that. Certainly credit to what they do.
Q: When you're keeping those outside defensive ends fresh, how much does that benefit some of the interior defensive linemen?
MP: I think you're exactly right. It's a collective group effort in general on defense and any of those guys you can rotate and play as many guys as you can. We only have so many active for the game. If you're active for the game we expect you to be ready to go and probably at some point we're going to try to get you out there and get you some snaps and help out the group. I'd say with the front, those guys have done a good job of rotating through also. We've been able to play different guys at different positions inside, keep everybody fresh and hopefully ready to go there. They've done a good job with that. I think in general as a defensive line, if the entire group is being able to rotate and play at a high level – when you do that – then those guys can feed off each other, the competition is at a high level and hopefully everybody's trying to make each other better. Certainly I think it's a change-up for your opponent. They've got to try to prepare and be ready for different plays they're going to see across from them in different positons. That's why we try to keep it moving there.
Q: How do you strike a balance between being a coach and a teacher for the defense with also being a motivator?
MP: Well, I think Coach Belichick obviously hit that point really well. I would just say for me personally, coaching is teaching. My parents are both teachers and my dad was a coach. You just kind of learn at a young age. When you have those kinds of influences in your life, the more what you're trying to do is just instruct people and get them to accomplish something, whatever that is, whether it's a game plan. However you're trying to get them to learn is in essence teaching. There's multiple different ways that people learn. Everyone learns in a different way and you try to make sure that you hit all of those different senses and things that may click for one guy, doesn't click for another guy. First and foremost our job is to make sure they have the information and then they can go and take that information onto the field and perform at a high level. Obviously like we're talking about teaching first and foremost and getting that information and whatever the game plan is or their particular technique or their particular assignment taught, and that's the first thing we've got to get done. After that everything is kind of just based on an individual basis and what players are particularly needed in a different situation or coach even for that matter. I think the coaches here do a great job of knowing their guys at much more at a level that's more than just football and trying to really care about those guys that are around them, that we're around all the time. We really try to make it on a personal level. We spend a lot of time working together, both the players and the coaches and the staff, everybody here. I think when you have that sort of relationship I think the motivation for all of it kind of takes care of itself.