PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What's the primary message over the next few days for some younger players who might not have experienced the postseason before as to how things change on and off the field when the playoffs begin?
BB: I think the message is pretty much the same for everybody. We all know, no matter how many times we've done it – single elimination, you put everything you have into it. There's nothing to save it for, nothing to hold back. You compete with all you've got. I think that's true for everybody. I don't take it for granted. I've seen plenty of times young players go out there and sometimes they step up to the competition better than guys who are more experienced. I've seen it the other way too. I don't know that there's any set formula. I think we're all in the same boat. This should be the best we all have.
The New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills in a regular season game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, December 28, 2014.
Q: Besides self-scouting, what are some of the logistical elements that go into closing the book on the regular season?
BB: That will be a lengthy process that we really dig deep into at the end of the season. But in the short run, we've got to try to balance the looking at ourselves with looking ahead at what we'll need to do, no matter who we play and then specifically once we know who we'll play, how we want to play them. I'd say that's really the emphasis for us this week, is to figure out certainly a condensed version of self-scouting and self-evaluation; projecting that going forward on a general term and then projecting it specifically once we know who we're playing.
Q: How does this week differ from the bye week you had during the regular season? Obviously back then you know which team you were playing next. How does the workload get split up when there are a handful of teams you could be playing in a couple weeks?
BB: Right, we'll have to be ready for the different possibilities. Certain members of our staff will be doing the forward preparation on them. But we know where we'll be playing next week. We know the potential for some of the conditions that we'll be playing in. It doesn't matter who we play, but that could be a part of it. Again, just from our standpoint, no matter who we play, there are things that we're going to need to work on and need to do and want to improve on. Again, it's kind of a combination of those two things. I don't think we're going to get into a lot of specific game planning, but we definitely would want to have the preparation work done so that when we do find out how things unfold that we can just dive right in and have all the information that we need organized in such a way that we can get to it quickly and start putting together a game plan.
Q: How are you feeling, better?
BB: Yeah, I'm fine.
Q: Does Hank Stram's moving pocket have any application now? Are there any trends like that?
BB: I think there's always an element of not putting the quarterback in exactly the same spot for the defense to rush to on every single play. Sometimes it's, depending on who your quarterback is and what your style offense is, it's, I'd say, easier to do than others. Again, it's a pretty general question so it's got a pretty general answer. It would depend on specifically what your style of play was and who you're talking about and all that. I think that the fundamental part of the passing game is just a very – where the quarterback is, the type of protection that you're using, the timing of the passing game – quick, intermediate, longer – again, just to keep the defense off balance so they're not always facing the same type of pass. Therefore when you do that the route depths vary, the combination of receivers – you can change those receiver routes and combinations that force adjustments by the defense. But in doing that there's a tradeoff in the protections or in the location of the quarterback and so forth. I think all that is part of it somewhere along the line. You just don't want to do the same thing every time.
Q:Josh McDaniels' name has already started to pop up for potential job openings. What are your thoughts on the possibility of him interviewing this week and how it would impact things for you guys if that were the case?
BB: That's something that we've dealt with in the past. We know what the procedures are on all that, how it all has to work and the sequence and how it takes place and what the boundaries are in terms of the teams doing that. So, whatever they are, we'll take them as they come. I really can't, I don't know what – I have no idea really what exactly we're talking about because nothing has happened. But if something does happen then whichever coach it is, we'll follow the procedures that are set up for the league to take care of this type of situation. As always, I would talk with the people involved and try to satisfy all the, I would say needs, but obviously the number one need for me is our football team, what takes place here. Everything else would have to work around that.
Q: You mentioned yesterday that yesterday's game was a chance for guys who don't play a lot to get a chance to play. Darius Fleming has had an interesting road to the start of his career as he was dealing with injury. I think yesterday was the most he's ever played. How do you think he performed?
BB: I thought Darius did some good things. He continued to play in the kicking game as well as defensively. I thought he had kind of a big play in the kicking game on the punt where he kind of forced the penalty by getting blocked in the back there. He was in good position and did a good job of getting downfield and stacking the player that was trying to block him and he ended up getting blocked in the back. I think showed up positively in all areas, not just defensively, but continued to have his role in the kicking game. He had some opportunities to rush, cover, play the run, so it was good experiences for him. As you mentioned, that was true for a lot of guys, not a lot, but a number of guys got a chance to play more yesterday than they have in some other weeks. That experience may be valuable for us down the road.
Q:** The fourth-and-one running play by Jimmy Garoppolo looked like an outside run. Was that play schemed like that or was that where he thought the daylight was as opposed to running inside?
BB: No. We motioned James Develin in to crack it and we just didn't do a good enough job of – obviously it's a new play that we put in this week. You haven't seen us run that before. We just didn't do a good enough of job on the timing and have it coached up well enough to get it executed as well as it needed to be. But yeah, no, it was definitely an outside run.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/QUARTERBACKS COACH JOSH MCDANIELS CONFERENCE CALL
Q:** We got our most extended look at Jimmy Garoppolo yesterday. I'm just curious what you liked about his play and what areas you think he needs to improve going forward.
JM: I think there were probably a lot of things that he learned from playing in an actual regular season game. He got an opportunity to do that a couple other times this year, and each time I'm sure there are little things here and there that he gets to experience for the first time, and yesterday was no different. The operating-the-offense portion of playing quarterback, I thought he did okay in terms of getting in and out of the huddle, getting the guys in the right spot for the most part. I think there is an element of toughness that you saw from him yesterday that was good. He got hit and made some runs that showed some toughness there, which was good to see from him. He's going to have to learn you've got to get rid of the ball on time, and you obviously can't take sacks or negative plays in the wrong types of situations or it really puts us behind the eight ball. [There is] plenty to learn from. [It was a] good opportunity for him to do it against a really good unit over there in Buffalo, and I'm sure that he'll benefit from the experience of playing in that game yesterday.
Q:** How impressed have you been by Jimmy Garoppolo's ability to handle a lot of information?
JM: I think Jimmy works really hard at every aspect of what we're doing. He does do a good job of giving the defense a look at the other team's offense when he's on the show team, and he's trying to digest our game plan each week and be prepared to play like he's the starter, because if you're the second guy you're always one play away from being in there. It's a learning experience, and I think as a rookie you have to work extremely hard each week to try to stay on top of the information, to learn a new opponent each week and to prepare yourself to play without that many reps. He's working at it. It'll be a process like it is for all rookies to learn and digest what you're seeing and be able to go out there and utilize the information and the things that we're coaching to your benefit. Again, he works extremely hard at it. We're glad he's here, obviously, and hopefully yesterday can only make him better.
Q: Bill Belichick said that one of the new plays that you put in this week was the fourth-and-one run to the left by Jimmy Garoppolo. Was that play designed to go that far outside, or did he just see daylight out there?
JM: That's been kind of an in-vogue play the last few years that some quarterbacks that can run decent have had some success with, and Jimmy moves pretty well. So, it was just kind of a thing we had seen over the course of many weeks. Sometimes you use things against our defense when you see other teams do it, and we're trying to give them a look at it, and it gives you an opportunity to kind of take a look at some other schemes. We felt like we had an opportunity based on what we expected in some of those situations to potentially give us a good play. Buffalo defended it well, and give them credit. They did a good job of being able to play the play as it developed. The second force guy came off and made a good play, and there really wasn't as much open space as you'd like there to be on that play.
Q:** I know you guys always like to maintain flexibility and versatility on offense, but at the same time, you were the only team this year to have four guys with 60 carries or more over the course of the regular season. What are some of the challenges that go into game planning specific to the running game when you have to find work for so many guys in different situations?
JM: At every position really, there is never a week of practice that goes by where one guy is taking all the reps at any position, whether that's due to soreness or whatever it may be. You obviously have to split the reps up in practice, and there are plenty of mental reps that go in each week, our preparation. Like we've said before, we've got a lot of guys we feel comfortable with handling the ball to or throwing it to that have helped us win. All those guys you've mentioned that we've handed the ball to have done good things for us this season and have really been productive at different times when they've had their chances. And there are a lot of things that go into when they're in the game, what matchups we're trying to get, how we feel about a certain personnel grouping against the defense we're facing. Those guys do a great job of preparing each week. I feel like they're really ready to go. They know that their role could expand during the game if we're having more success, and give them a lot of credit for preparing as hard as they do. They're all ready to perform when their number is called and they've done a good job.
Q: Do you have any interest of being a head coach next year in the NFL?
JM: I haven't even thought about that, to tell you the truth. I know that this is that time of the year, but I know that there is also a procedure in place, and those things will sort themselves out. I've said a number of times I'm very happy here. I think I've got one of the best jobs you could possibly have, and I'm just trying to do the best I can here. My focus has been on the Patriots. It will stay on the Patriots right now.
Q:** Is LeGarrette Blount looking stronger now than he did when he first re-joined the team? It seems like yesterday he was running with much more power and speed. Could you talk about the way he's played since returning?
JM: I think LeGarrette ran well yesterday. I think we left a few yards out there on a few plays during the course of the game. I think L.G. had one and [we] had a couple other ones with the other backs, but I think he ran hard, I think he ran well. He spent the offseason and most of the better part of the regular season with a different team, so I think each week has just been another opportunity for him to get back into our terminology, get back into our system, get back into some of the things that we do that he hadn't been doing for a while, and I think yesterday was a good step forward for him. [I'm] excited for what we'll do going forward.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA CONFERENCE CALL
Q:** Can you break down the responsibilities and play of Jamie Collins when he executed the play that resulted in the strip-sack during the first half?
MP: Obviously that was a good play in the game for that particular call. [We] had an opportunity to rush and get in the pocket and take a chance there. Obviously it was a passing play so [we] had an opportunity to get a good rush and put pressure in the middle of the pocket, get after the quarterback. Certainly the ability of him to be able to come back and get the quarterback the second time and get the ball off of him was great. It's always what we're trying to do, is try to get the ball, trying to attack the ball and trying to execute there. A play like that that is actually extended a little bit longer than maybe what it should have been to begin with, you've got to give credit to the coverage and the whole defense as a whole as the particular play came together. So really it was kind of a good team defensive play: good coverage, good rush, good opportunity in the middle of the pocket and we are fortunate we came through with the play.
Q:** What has it been like working with Darius Fleming and how has he progressed this season?
MP: Well Darius is a guy we've had for a while [and] we've been working with. Obviously like all parts of our defense and our team, when called upon you've got to step up and play to the role. I think he's done a good job of trying to learn the system, obviously being his first year here, trying to learn [and] understand what we're doing. He's had to learn multiple roles, as a lot of guys in his position do. If you're a guy that's at the games, if you're going to be playing special teams and be a defensive player that needs to be able to fill in at any call, at any particular time, in any position then it's quite extensive in a lot of learning that you have to do. He's done a great job of that in the classroom, really works hard to try to improve from a mental and physical standpoint trying to really understand the techniques that we use. I think he's working hard. I think he's trying to get better. [He] certainly had some opportunity yesterday to go out and do some things. We're just going to go back and take a look at it and try to improve on those things that he did do.
Q: The Patriots have not allowed a second half touchdown since the Colts game back in mid-November. What stands out to you from the second halves since that point that has contributed to that being the case?
MP: I think certainly we are trying to go out there every single snap and not let them score. So whenever we can get that done then we are doing our job and when we don't then we're not. I think we're trying to improve as the game goes along. I think we are trying to improve every single play and get better. I think every play as the game goes becomes more critical. I think our guys understand that and that's something we put a point of emphasis on. So [we're] really just trying to get the execution better every time we go out on the field and try not to let them in the end zone. That's our job. That's really our goal every single time we're out there. So it's really nothing different from the standpoint of a mentality or anything along those lines. We've just got to go out and execute better. We've been able to do that a little more in second half than apparently in the first half.
Q:** Early in the game Tavon Wilson came on a blitz and got there pretty quick and was showing that he has taken some strides as a player recently. What have you seen from Tavon Wilson from a growth perspective has propelled his game to a higher level?
MP: Yeah, I know exactly which play you are talking about. They completed a one-under route on us where we were a little late on driving on the football and getting the play handled. Certainly Tavon was a good rush off the edge, but obviously not good enough. We've got to get there quicker. We've got to be able to play the play better and prevent them from completing that pass. But I think Tavon is another guy who works extremely hard. He's a smart guy that has to study a lot of different positions and handle a lot of different things based on his game day responsibilities. So it's good to be able to see him go out there and have an opportunity to play but obviously like I said there are areas there where we've got to still keep working to improve.
Q: Vince Wilfork missed all but four games last season and came back and played in all 16 this year. What have you seen from him getting back to where he is today?
MP: I think you obviously can't say enough great things about Vince Wilfork. The guy is a tremendous team player. He's a tremendous football player. He's an incredible athlete for a guy that size. [It's] amazing what he's done to be able to come back and play and play at a high level and get himself ready to go for a full NFL season. But that's the mark of a true professional. We get a lot of guys that get injured; in the offseason guys that have whether it's surgeries or rehab or whatever it is. It's a part of the deal of being an NFL football player. Get yourself ready to go for the full season. I don't think anybody comes back from injury trying to get ready for half the season or a couple games or one game. I think they're trying to put themselves in a good position to play and they understand that it's a long season and they have to take care of their body. He certainly does all of that. Vince is great from off the field, on the field, the leadership in the classroom, studying opponents, trying to get better every week. It's just a true testament to him as a professional and to him as a football player.
Q:** How much time will you spend this week looking at the offenses that you could potentially see in a couple weeks? There's one of the group that you haven't seen yet this season.
MP: Well obviously you know we are going to take a look at ourselves and see where we've got to improve and try to get better first and foremost. We are going to try to divide our time up in a reasonable manner to make sure we have our avenues covered for the potentials that lie ahead. We'll try to clean up and improve ourselves first and then take a look at the potentials that could come and put ourselves in position to be able to handle that situation when it declares itself. So we'll kind of try to divide it all up.