BB:** It's been really impressive to watch the Lions this week. They're really a good football team, do a good job in all three phases of the game. They're good in the kicking game, really explosive on offense, they've got great skill players and I think they're statistical accomplishments on defense kind of speak for themselves. They're really at the top of the league in everything: points, yards, run defense, feeds over into time of possession, turnovers, red area, third down, pass defense, you name it. So, very dominant and disruptive there, so we're going to need to play a good complementary game all the way across the board. There's no real weak points; a lot of things we're going to have to deal with. It's a team we don't obviously know very well, so we're going to have to really work hard this week to get on top of them, get familiar with them. They present a lot of problems. They've been in a lot of close games, been in a lot of tough situations. I think they're a mentally tough, resilient team. They've show that. That will be a big challenge for us to match that toughness and competitiveness, too. It's a good football team coming in here.
Q: Is there anyone comparable to Ndamukong Suh in terms of his size and skill set and what he does?
BB: Yeah, he's pretty dominant. He can do it all, and his effort, the plays he makes from behind in chase, like on screen plays and hustling downfield, backside plays, in addition to all his point of attack and pass rushes and disruptive plays. The guy gets double teamed, [but] he's still productive. He's really good. They move him around and make it a little bit difficult to know exactly where he's going to be. You have a pretty good idea, but they do enough other things with their front to give him opportunities to make plays and he takes advantage of them. He's really good. That's a very good front they have. He's the marquee guy, but they have a lot of good players on that front. They roll them all through, they all play, they rotate frequently and they're fresh and they're active; very disruptive.
Q: Are there certain wide receivers where normal defensive protocols won't work against and is Calvin Johnson one of them?
BB: Yeah, he's really a hard guy to defend because of his size and his catching radius. He's always open, even when he's covered, there's always a place to put the ball where he can catch it. He's got a great skill set. Obviously, [he's] a great downfield receiver, big target on the intermediate routes and hard guy to tackle on the first level. He's got great production – tremendous, historical. Yeah, he's a big threat.
Q:** How do the linebackers complement what their defensive line does?
BB: [DeAndre] Levy is really their – he's a really productive guy for them. There's a little bit of a rotation with the other guys, but Levy is on the field pretty much every play. Fast, very instinctive. He does a great job of taking advantage of the penetration that their defensive line gets and fits on the ball well. He makes a lot of plays in the running game. He does an excellent job in pursuit. Plays to the perimeter, he can go sideline to sideline. He's got really good speed and range; very instinctive player. He does a great job of taking advantage of those plays. [Tahir] Whitehead is a solid guy. He shows up in the kicking game as well. You can see how well he runs. He's a hard guy to block, too, with his speed and his range. Levy is really impressive.
Q: How has Eric Ebron complemented their tight ends?
BB: That whole group has kind of been in flux a little bit, but [he has] good receiving skills, big target, runs well, excellent in the passing game. [Joseph] Fauria is another dangerous guy there, [Brandon] Pettigrew really can do it all, play all the spots. They use him more as the 'Y', a little bit more as the blocker with those other guys, but he's very capable, too. They have great talent at tight end, receiver, running back and quarterback. All the skill positions, offensively, are good and they have good depth.
Q: It's sort of obvious, but how important is it to not have negative plays? Tom Brady was saying the other day you didn't really have any negative plays last week.
BB: Yeah, well, it's a lot easier to convert the shorter yardages ones than the longer yards. That will be key against these guys. These guys do a great job on first down. They create more negative runs than any other team in the league. They get teams in a lot of second and third-and-long situations. Those are usually not only very difficult, but that's also where they get some turnovers, too, strip-sacks and tipped balls and interceptions and stuff like that. So, it just makes it even harder to not only convert, but even at some point protect the ball. Yeah, we're going to have to do a good job of staying out of those long-yardage situations, but they create a lot of them so that will be a big challenge for us.
Q:** When you face a defense that does so well on first down, do you strategize to change up what you do or do you just have to have faith in the system, especially coming off the week you just had in the running game?
BB: Last week doesn't mean anything, so I don't really care about that. That has no impact on the game. What we have to do is figure out how to play against Detroit and it's hard. They're good at everything. They're good against the run, they're good against the pass, they turn the ball over. Like I said, they're good on third down, they're good in the red area, they create a lot of negative plays so whatever we do, we're going to have to do a good job of it and everybody is going to have to do a good job. You can't just pick out one guy or one thing – we're going to have to do a good job all the way across the board. They've played against a lot of good offenses. [They're the] best team in the league: points, yards, you name it. However you want to look at it, they do a good job; no big plays or fewer big plays than any other team has given up this season in the league. They're doing a lot of things well.
Q: How has Jim Caldwell put his stamp on the team?
BB: Defensively, I think there's some carryover from previous years with Gunther Cunningham. But [Defensive Coordinator Teryl] Austin has come in and put his version of the Baltimore defense. He's obviously brought some things with him, certainly from a coverage standpoint. That's obvious, but there are some things that they do that I'd say have some carryover from what they've done previously when Gunther was the coordinator when Jim [Schwartz] was there, however you want to look at it. Offensively, they're still a combination of three receivers or two tight ends and two receivers, but that other tight end is kind of a receiver, too. There are a lot of elements of three real good pass catchers in the game, however you want to characterize the personnel, which is kind of what they were before. Obviously, with [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Joe] Lombardi, they have a big element of the New Orleans attack and the vertical passing game, catch-and-run plays, Reggie Bush, the running back plays that are kind of trademarks of the New Orleans-type offense as well as Caldwell's, some of his stuff that we've seen from Indianapolis or even when he was in Baltimore. I think there's a little bit of a merger there. The kicking game, [Special Teams Coordinator John] Bonamego was there last year, so there's a lot of carryover from what they did in 2013 in the kicking game, but they're very aggressive there. [Jeremy] Ross has done a great job for them in the return game; he's a hard guy to handle. They're an aggressive team; they're a good coverage team. They have a good combination of speed and size out there on their coverage units. They're good in all three phases of the game. But I'd say Caldwell's certainly brought in his philosophy and some of the things that he wants. I'd say Austin from Baltimore and [Lombardi] from New Orleans have also had some influence on their respective sides of the ball.
Q: You mention their receivers. Golden Tate has had a terrific year and when Calvin Johnson was out, it didn't seem like they missed too much when Tate stepped in as the number one receiver.
BB: He's good. Tate's a very good player. He's a good vertical player. He's fast and can get behind the defense. He's made a lot of big plays on catch-and-run plays with his good running skill. He's strong, he's a hard guy to bring down and he's fast. If he gets a little space, he can out-run guys, like in the New Orleans game. He took a 10-yard pass out in the flat and broke a couple tackles and went 75 yards. He's a very explosive guy, but he can beat you a lot of different ways. He can beat you on the catch-and-run plays, he runs good intermediate routes and he can take the top off the defense, too. He's a hard guy to defend. He's done a good job for them.
Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 12 as the Patriots prepare to play the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium this upcoming Sunday.
Q:** A lot of quarterbacks can keep plays alive with their feet, but it seems like the end of the Miami game, with different arm angles –
BB: Every game. You can go back to the Giants game, first game of the year. [He] scrambled out there, hit Johnson on a 60-yard touchdown. So, yeah, we've seen that before. He's very good. He's not the guy that's probably going to rush for 100 yards, but he certainly can keep plays alive, he scrambles on the third down in the red area and critical situations and he does a good job of avoiding the rush, sliding in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield. He makes a lot of plays on extended plays after he gets a little more time, finds an open receiver. We're going to have to do a good job with obviously our pass rush, containing him, not letting him extend plays, but he adds another element to that, too. You have him covered and then he breaks loose and then they uncover and there's another big play. Yeah, it's all the above.
Q: Does he have a lot of different arm angles that he throws from?
BB: He's got a good arm. I think he can pretty much get the ball where he needs to get it. I don't think that's a problem. He has good vision in the pocket, good feel in the pocket and then good vision downfield. When he's moving around in there, he gets his eyes downfield, finds open receivers. He does a good job. He knows where his people are, whether it's Bush or [Theo] Riddick or whoever on check-downs and those kind of things and getting the ball to them or finding Tate or Johnson or Ross or one of those guys down the field.
Q: James Ihedigbo has a pretty big role for them. How important has he been to the backend of that defense?
BB: Yeah, he's done a good job for them. I think he and [Glover] Quin give them a good safety combination. Quin is kind of more in the free safety mold. Ihedigbo a little more in the strong safety mold. James is a very instinctive player. He's smart, he reads pass patterns well. He does a good job in the running game of fitting into the right spot. Obviously [he has] experience within the Baltimore system with Austin. We know he's a smart guy, so I'm sure he's a little bit of a quarterback back there in terms of adjustments and communication. Yeah, [he's a] smart, instinctive player in the passing game, guy who is a good run-force player; smart, smart football player; good size. He's done a good job for them. Both those safeties have played well. They use a lot of different combinations back there, too, but those two guys are usually on the field. Ihedigbo was hurt for three games or whatever it was, but once he came back, those two guys are usually out there. Sometimes they play three-safety packages. I'd say they move those guys around a little bit, too.
Q: Where does Rob Gronkowski rank on the 'loves the game of football' list?
BB: I don't know, but he does. Put him up there.
Q: As a team that runs a lot of trick plays, does that just add to the workload that you guys have to do to prepare?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. It's similar to last week. We've got to – you can't relax for a second. You just can't be out of position. Onside kicks, fake punts, fake field goals. They change up their kickoff coverage a lot, different looks on that. Teams have obviously had trouble with it. You have free guys running down there to the 15, 10-yard line unblocked because the return team can't get it blocked properly. You've got to be alert for those kind of plays, but at the same time, not let it take away from your aggressiveness in the kicking game. You just can't stand there and watch the game and hope nothing bad happens. You have to be aggressive and go make plays. But being alert for things like that that they do and they've shown throughout the course of the year. Yeah, it's definitely part of the preparation and part of the problem of playing them.
Team photographer, David Silverman, offers his best from the Patriots-Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2014.
Q:** Even though it was negated, did you think that Jeremy Ross play was as heads up as you could have on special teams?
BB: Yeah, it was the type of thing that – yeah, it obviously was a close call on the play, but yeah. But Ross is an aggressive guy. He'll take the ball, but that was a situation where he had an opportunity to do it, he did it and turned [it] into a big play. They ruled it differently, but he plays like that. You give him space or the ball is rolling around and you're not right on top of him and he'll pick it up and go. He's a strong runner, he breaks tackles and he's got good speed, but good size, strong runner, doesn't run out of bounds. He makes you tackle him and he breaks a lot of tackles. He's good, does a good job.
Q: What was it about Jonas Gray this past summer that made you guys want to keep him around?
BB: Look, everybody here earns their spot. That's what it is. Everybody gets an opportunity to compete and the guys that earn it, earn it; the guys that don't lose out to somebody who has earned it. There's no magic to it.
Q: What did you see from him to earn it?
BB: Earn what? He was on the practice squad. What are you talking about? He was in training camp and he was on the practice squad. So, how did he get off the practice squad? Is that that the question?
BB: You were at the preseason games. He ran well in the preseason.
Q: Was it especially gratifying to see a player like that who wasn't highly touted to have a breakout performance?
BB: Look, I'm happy when any of our players and all of our players play good. That's what they're all here for. They're all here to work hard, to get better, to help the team and to perform well when they get an opportunity. That's all 46 players that are active, all 53 players on the roster, all players that are on the practice squad. That's what we're here [for]. We're here to help everybody. We're here to help everybody perform at their best. They're here to work hard and do their best. It's great when that happens. We feel good about that for everybody, whoever the person is. They all deserve it. That's what we're here for.
Q: In general, when there are players that are injured for an opposing team, like Nick Fairley and Reggie Bush have been banged up, do you still have to prepare for those guys as if they're going to play?
BB: Yeah, sure. Until they're out, you have to prepare for them. You bet, yeah. We went through that last week with [Gosder] Cherilus. It didn't look like he was going to play – didn't practice, didn't practice, questionable for the game, whatever it was and played the whole game. Sometimes it goes the other way. Again, being on the other side of that, there are guys that honestly we don't know if they're going to play until game time. So, how could they know [if] we don't even know and vice versa. So, yeah, if they're on the roster, if they're active, you have to be prepared for them. Just because the guy is not the starter, one play into the game, he could be playing. So, you have to know who all those players are too because one play, one sprained ankle, one equipment problem and the next guy is in there. You have to know who that is. We have to prepare for everybody that's on the active roster. We cross some guys off [the] day of the game once we get the inactive list. But then the guys that are left, we have to know all those players and all their potential roles and matchup situations. That's just part of the preparation. And honestly, where there's an obvious injury situation, we go through the practice squad players. They don't have to give us any notification on that. They can active those guys as late as four p.m. Saturday. So it's not like signing somebody from the outside and bringing them on the roster. That's a move that obviously you would see and they would need to do most likely a few days before the game in order to get the guy ready. But you could bring a guy up on the practice squad and play him. That's not really the kind of thing you want to be talking about 10 minutes before the game: 'Who is this guy? What does he do? Is he fast? Is he this? Is he that?' That's part of, 'They have a couple injuries at this position. OK, who is on the practice squad? Who could they bring up to play on offense or defense or who would they bring up to play in the kicking game?' Which a lot of times is where the practice squad guys factor in first, is on special teams. That's all part of it, too. We go through that every week of who do they have available, which includes even the practice squad players. Yeah, sure. We don't eliminate them until they're out.
Q: With Fairley in particular, how does he affect what they do on the defensive line?
BB: I don't think he changes their scheme a lot. I don't think it's a situation where when he's there, like they have a whole bunch of different defenses and then when he's not there they have, you know. It's not that. They do what they do. He's a good player. He's very active. He's got great quickness and explosion. He's got good playing strength. He's a productive player for them and it's just another guy in the rotation. But they've gotten good production out of all those guys: [Jason] Jones, inside [Caraun] Reid, [C.J.] Mosley. They've used multiple guys in there. He would just be another good one. But, again, until any of those guys are definitely out then we have to be ready for them.