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Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia Conference Call Transcripts 12/19

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, and Defense Coordinator Matt Patricia address the media during their conference calls on Monday, December 19, 2016.



Q: How do you feel Marcus Cannon did in his matchup against Von Miller yesterday?

BB: Well, yesterday Denver put [Von] Miller on our right side most all the entire game. Previously he had been mainly playing the 'Sam' in their base defense and going to the tight end. Yesterday he was almost always on our right, so those two really were matched up a lot. But I think Marcus [Cannon] did a real solid job for us, as he always does. Sometimes he was on Miller, sometimes he wasn't. He was on defensive ends or combination blocking the linebackers and so forth. They certainly saw plenty of each other. I thought Marcus competed well. Our offensive line competed well against that front seven which is a very good group. But Marcus, he did a good job for us in the running game and the passing game. He's done that for us all year.

Q: What kind of a season do you think Nate Ebner is having on special teams?

BB: Nate [Ebner]'s had a really good year for us. There are a lot of things he does that most people wouldn't notice, but yesterday was a typical, I'd say, example of what Nate has to deal with as the personal protector on the punt team. Denver rushed four of the seven punts. They had a very good rush team and they have good schemes. You probably saw him in a lot of those formations where they would line up in corner roles so the corner is already in the box at the line of scrimmage, just playing the whole game trying to get the gunners to come in or rush if we keep them out wide and that type of thing with a lot of crowd noise and playing on the road and so forth. Nate's communication and ability to make in-game and on-the-field adjustments, control, things like that - it's obvious in the punting game - but it also comes up in punt and kickoff return as well. He's been very productive. He's just from an overall - he's a good player obviously. He's fast. He's strong. He's got good instincts. He tackles very well and he gets to the ball, can beat blockers. He's a good blocker in the return game but he's kind of gone to another level in terms of his awareness and anticipation of things that happen out there. He's enabled other players on his unit to play better or to put them in a better, more advantageous situation sometimes with his experience and ability to make the right call against the right look.

Q: How valuable is James Develin to the offense when you have a run-heavy game plan?

BB: Well, James [Develin] has a very important and significant role in the offense. He does an excellent job. First of all, he's a very smart guy and just all-day tough no matter who he has to block. Sometimes its linebackers, sometimes its defensive linemen and occasionally he'll get a defensive back. A lot of times he's on the big guys, too, but he's tough. He's smart, has a good understanding of how the running game works, what he needs to do to help the running game, the adjustments he needs to make. Most of the time that's after the ball is snapped. When the fullback takes his course to this blocking assignment sometimes things cross in his way or there's movement involved or the guy that you're going for is not there anymore and somebody else is or something else happens. His decision making and adjustments are good and he's tough. He keeps bringing it all the time. He does a good job for us in the kicking game, too, as well. We were just talking about the punt team with Nate [Ebner] but James has been a big part of that. He's got a very important role for us and does a lot of different things. He's a very dependable player every day, not just on Sundays. Every day in practice you get a good, consistent performance from him so you know exactly how it's going to be in the game. His teammates can work off of that. His execution level of practice and so forth, communication, so those things that we do in preparation show up kind of the same way on Sunday and that gives everybody a lot of confidence and helps our execution because of the overall consistency.

Q: As a smaller player how do you feel Trey Flowers has performed in his role on the interior part of the defensive line?

BB: Well, that's something that Trey [Flowers] didn't do very much of in college. Most of the time at Arkansas he was at end, or there was one game - I think it was against LSU - where he played inside in some passing situations. He has good quickness and he has good length, good arm length, is able to keep guys off of him. He does a good job in the running game in there. There were a number of plays in there where he deals with double-team blocks or down-blocks by tackles where they have a good angle on him. It's not like it is when he's just standing when the blocker is sitting in front of him. Sometimes he's getting blocked from the side and still has to fight the leverage of those blocks. He's got good playing strength, he's got good length and he's got good quickness so he's able to escape and get off some of those blocks quicker than some of the bigger guys that the guards and centers are used to facing in there. They have an advantage in size and probably overall length. But he has an advantage in quickness and leverage with each guy trying to play that out. He's been very productive for us in there, has caused a lot of pressures and his penetration in the middle of the pocket a lot of times opens things up for one of the other defensive tackles or defensive ends that wrap around into the space that he has created with that penetration. So it's not just the plays that he makes but he creates some for his teammates, too.

Q: How do you coach players on the decision of whether or not to reach the ball across the goal line for scoring opportunities? Also, what went into the decision yesterday to not challenge the play where it appeared Dion Lewis reached across the goal line before fumbling?

BB: Right, well I'll kind of I guess start with the second question first, Phil [Perry]. I think the way you analyzed it was pretty close to what the thought process was. I mean first of all, let me just say - and I've said this before - because as a coach you don't know what view you're going to get of the play and there's no guarantee that we're going to get a good look at it from a goal line camera because we don't know that there is a goal line camera, you're at the mercy of whatever shot you have available. Sometimes that can be good enough and sometimes it can't. I think just in general on the whole coaching challenge discussion, if you knew that there were cameras located in certain positions then when plays occurred and you were confident that you would have a real good look at the play because you knew that there was a camera there then that would make me more likely to challenge the play, whereas the way it is not you're not assured of that. You might have it but you might not. Unless there's pretty compelling evidence or you or one of your players or one of your coaches got a real good look at the play and they feel pretty strongly about what happened, it's hard to have the confidence to know that you're going to get the look that you need. If it's a game-changing play then sometimes you make that challenge anyway just because of the importance of the play and just kind of hope for the best there, and on that play it was a close play. There were a lot of people around him. Certainly from where I was standing I couldn't tell whether he did or didn't get in, whether he did or didn't have possession, or whether his knee was or wasn't down or anything else. There were a lot of variables that could come up on that play. Of course if they had recovered it and it had been ruled a fumble and a recovery by Denver then that would've come under an automatic review and part of that review would've been whether or not he scored because parts of the play would come up if the play was reviewed, right? Honestly I don't have the time to answer the question about what we tell our players about handling the ball and so forth. We spend a significant amount of time talking about ball security, how to handle the ball, particularly around the goal line, relative to the goal line, end line, pylons, so forth and so on, on both sides of the ball, offense, and defense and the kicking game for that matter, impetus of the ball and all of that. I mean all of these subjects are at some place here related, so yeah, we talk about all of those things and the decisions that the players make with them and so forth. We've covered them all.

Q: Is it accurate to say that your defense played a lot of Cover 2 yesterday? Also, Dont'a Hightower has said that he feels the defense started to turn the corner for the season during the San Francisco game. What have you seen in that aspect and do you agree with that comment?

BB: Well, I wouldn't disagree with anything that High [Dont'a Hightower] says. He's right in the middle of it. When you're the middle linebacker out there on the field with the defense nobody has a better feel for the players and their level of confidence and communication and so forth than he does. Whatever he says I would accept on that. I think from my standpoint every day is an opportunity for us to get better. I don't think you just get better in games. I don't think you just get better in one game. Sometimes a game can give you a little spark or impetus; I agree with that. Each day we come in here and meet and watch film and walkthrough and practice and work together to try and improve our performance and our preparation and it's targeted towards a certain team but over the course of time a lot of those situations will repeat themselves. Situations will come back up or fundamentals and techniques will occur so that improvement will usually have an opportunity to manifest itself in another situation or similar situation that can be used. I think in our case what I've seen from this team especially defensively, but really in all three phases of the game is a commitment to work hard and get better. You take small steps every day. Those pile up after days, weeks and months together. I think that's really what's happening with our team is they've worked hard. They've improved, improved a little bit each day. They maybe improve a little bit each week in certain areas. I think we do things better now than we did a few weeks ago. We did them better a few weeks ago than we did them a couple of months ago, which is the way it should be. We have a few new players in there that have taken on more roles. Shea [McClellin] playing more off the line, [Kyle] Van Noy, [Eric] Rowe, guys like that, [Vincent] Valentine's played more and so forth. The extra time that those guys have to prepare together, communicate together and work on and off the field together, those are all positive things, too. Rob [Ninkovich], not that it's been recently, but Rob missed four weeks, missed a quarter of the season so it's a process with him coming back when you look at the big picture. There have been some moving parts, but again, it's been just a steady, I would say not necessarily exciting process, but a necessary one that you just grind out day-by-day and I think eventually when you do that you'll start getting better results.



Q: What did you see from Dion Lewis running the football with power and through contact the way he did yesterday?

JM: Yeah, I thought all the backs ran hard. James [White], LeGarrette [Blount] and Dion [Lewis] all had opportunities and were productive with their chances. Dion certainly, I mean, Dion is a good runner and he's tough and he's got good vision. He did a good job of really continuing to move the ball forward, stay out of bad down and distance situations, and he definitely made a few people miss in the hole and gained some extra yards after contact. He always finishes tough, so I'm pleased with what as he did, as well as the backs as a whole. The entire group did a nice job of being productive yesterday. 

Q: What stood out to you from Marcus Cannon going up against one of the best players in the game in Von Miller?

JM: Yeah, he's one of the best players in the league at any position, I'm talking about [Von] Miller, and their entire defense is tremendous. They're really well-coached. Coach [Wade] Phillips does a great job. Their entire staff does a great job. They always have a great game plan, and they make every yard hard. We tried to have some presence on him, but I thought Marcus [Cannon] did a really consistent job of just trying to make it hard on him and keep him from having an easy path inside to the quarterback; tried to be physical when we had our opportunities. We ran the ball a lot, so that was a change for us in the last few games we've played against them. Marcus is continuing to improve and get better and better each week. He's answered every challenge that's been put in front of him and this was certainly one of if not the top players in the league, so Marcus did a nice job of doing his assignment, playing within the scheme, and trying to just make it tough for him to make big plays and impact the game in a negative fashion. 

Q: I know it was only one play, but how did Shea McClellin do lining up at wide receiver?

JM: Yeah, sometimes you just try to sprinkle in a wrinkle or two and Shea [McClellin], we've been working with different things, and that happened to make its way into the game plan and on to the field. Sometimes you get some results out of it, sometimes it just makes the guys on the other sideline think a little bit or at least they have to go over there and spend a little time talking about it, but Shea did his job. 

Q: How much time have you been able to spend with Michael Floyd so far and what kind of challenge will it be trying to bring him along in this offense given the short window of time you'll have with him?

JM: Yeah, I just got to meet him late last week. It was good for him to be on the trip with us and experience how we do things because I know each team is different. We all do it differently in terms of our preparation and how we get ready for the game and all the rest of it, so I think it was good for him to experience that. He's done a nice job [and] he has a great attitude, so we look forward to getting out there in practice and really being able to get acclimated to one another. The most important thing is that our players feel comfortable when they're in the huddle together and that we're asking them to do things that they feel good about, so we'll begin on that process again this week and continue to try to grow and build. I like his attitude and his approach. He was into it and excited to be here and we're excited to have him.   

Q: How valuable is it to have such diversity in the offense and get contributions from everyone rather than depending on one guy?

JM: Yeah I think it makes you more difficult to defend when you don't have to force the ball to one thing or use one type or portion of your offense to move it. That's the best part as a coach. We have a really unselfish team. I don't think they care too much who gets credit or statistics or what have you. They all want to help us be productive and help us win and that's their goal. Sometimes it's one guy or another. Sometimes it's a different position group, sometimes it may require us to throw it or run it more than the other, but we just try to figure out what the best thing to do is each week and sometimes that may change during the course of the game and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes what your intention was, it kind of plays out and you have an opportunity to play the game that way, but Coach [Bill Belichick] usually identifies what it is we need to do and then we try to hone in on exactly how we need to do it and work hard with the players to get them to understand how we want to play the game. Again, we have a lot of good players at a lot of different positions and we trust them. When their number is called, we have great faith that they're going to come through and produce for us. 

Q: Are you using James Develin more in Rob Gronkowski's absence and what have you seen from him in with the increase in playing time? Also, what have you seen from Marcus Cannon and how he's grown as a player from last year?

JM: James [Develin] has got a very important role in the offense. He does a lot of things that may not show on a statistical sheet, but whether he's a lead blocker or pass protector, he's helping in protection in some way. He's in on a lot of short yardage and goal line situations that are always critical plays in the game that determine possession or points. We've talked a lot this year about just our overall toughness and if you're tough, you know what to do, and you'll do your assignment the right way, it would be hard for us not to feel good about putting those guys on the field. James has really been dependable, he's very tough, he's an unselfish player, he's a great teammate. He's very intelligent, knows what to do, learns his role and tries to do everything we ask him to do on a week-to-week basis. He's earned his opportunities and he's helped us be productive when he's on the field. Any time anybody does that, you'd like to give him more. Marcus [Cannon] has just continued to - Marcus has got a great attitude. He cares about the game, he tries to get better, he cares about getting better and being dependable for his teammates. He's really done a nice job of helping a younger player in Shaq Mason who's played beside him for most of the year [to] come along and grow as well. Marcus has just become more consistent each week [and] each year that I've had an opportunity to be around him. I think he's just trusting his preparation and playing - he always plays as hard as he possibly can. He prepares hard, he practices hard. It means a lot to him to do his job so we're happy to have him over there. I think he's really had a nice year and had a good game for us yesterday. He really answered a big challenge and he'll have another one this week. 



Q: What have you seen from the defensive ends and what do you like about what they've done?

MP: It's really not a lot different than kind of the beginning part of the year when [we were] just trying to get those guys, whoever is active for the game, out rolling through. Everyone is going to try to play, help and grow. I think the more we can get everybody out there and kind of contribute, then the better we're going to be from the long run standpoint as far as reps and play count. Everybody is doing a great job of trying to stay fresh and get in there and help us in whatever the situation it is whether it's early down, third down, things like that. I think the good thing so far has been starting to see some consistency and improvement in the play and the techniques. Certainly with the guys going in and out, consistency is the best thing for us which helps. There are certainly a lot of things we need to improve on so we're looking at that real closely as far as things we need to do better, and those are usually fundamentals for us - trying to make sure we have our proper technique and everything handled from that standpoint. The communication is always a big thing for us with those positions between the ends and the defensive tackles and the linebackers and just kind of the communication of the defense as a whole. It's something that at this point, we're really trying to make sure we have really good, strong communication, which is something that those guys are really trying to do a good job of doing. 

Q: What have you seen lately from Jabaal Sheard as he seems to have been a pretty consistent guy recently?

MP: Yeah, I mean I think that group in general has done a good job of working together and trying to be consistent out there and be on the field, and Jabaal [Sheard] is certainly a part of that. He's done a good job of trying to do what we ask him to do. He certainly has had a couple of good plays that have stood out, maybe just from a production standpoint, but he certainly does a good job in the run game, too. He's strong, he's long, he has some good leverage that he plays with and he really does a good job of gauging the offensive linemen and trying to fit the run game there. That's been good, and the pass rush, obviously, he has a skill set there that is good. We've just got to keep trying to work to get as much as we can out of the entire group. I think all those guys - Chris [Long] and Rob [Ninkovich] and Jabaal, Trey Flowers, all of them have really done a good job of being in those spots. There are a lot of times when you're going to see consistency playing defense, and you're not really sure which one of those guys is in there because they're all just trying to do a good job of maintaining the integrity of the edge. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the way Malcolm Brown was able to come back into the game after dealing with an injury and what was he battling through to do that?

MP: Yeah, I mean he was obviously was out there for a little while and then came back. I think it was good to see him come back and play well, get out there and battle hard. I think it was just part of the game. There are a lot of instances when a lot of guys, whatever the case may be, are maybe out for a series or something happens or equipment or whatever the case may be. It was certainly good to get him back. It was good to have him out there. We needed him and he did a good job for us. [He's a] very tough kid, strong kid, tough kid. He really wants to be out there and play with his teammates to help us win, so that was good, good to be able to get that. 

Q: Have you spun it forward to the Jets yet?

MP: We are pushing forward, it's unfortunate we've got another short week here.  The Jets, which is obviously a huge challenge for us here on a short week - [they're] a team that knows us very well and a team that, like we talked about before the last time we played these guys, does just an excellent job of game planning for us. They really have done a good job of putting their players in positions to make plays. They obviously have excellent skill players. They're working through some things here with the quarterback, but knowing that they're going to do everything they can to make sure that those guys are in position to make plays and go out and get the ball to their go-to guys. [Quincy] Enunwa is obviously a real good player and [Robby] Anderson is really kind of coming along and [Brandon] Marshall, we know how good he is. I would say the run game right now has been outstanding for them, so being able to control the game, run the ball and put a lot of pressure on the defense from that standpoint is really kind of the challenge for us looking forward. We're diving into them and we've got to get going.  

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