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Bill O'Brien Conference Call Transcript

New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 6, 2011.

Q: What you saw from your offensive line, new combination of guys again on Sunday. Is that sort of what led to not the best rushing performance you guys have had?  

BO: No, I would say that what led to not rushing for as many yards was probably the way the game went. Just having gone back and watching it a few times, we were in a decent amount of no-huddle. There were a couple of drives there where we threw the ball on every play - that was because of what Indianapolis was giving us and we're always going to take what the defense gives us. I wouldn't look too much into those rushing stats. As far as it relates to the line, I would say that they played, again, a very solid football game. Nick McDonald went in there and held his own. He's got a ways to go and he knows that but for his first start, I thought he did a good job.  

Q: Nick McDonald answered some questions after the game and his response seemed to be that no one really treated him any differently being his first start or not. Is that what you want when you put a new guy in there?  

BO: The expectation here for everyone involved is when it's your time to play and to step up and perform, then you're just expected to do that. That's the way it's always been here and that's the way it's always going to be here as long as Bill [Belichick] is here. There is no player here right now that we don't expect good things out of. Nick has a really good demeanor, he's a smart guy, he's a tough guy - just like all those guys up front. We've got, obviously a really, really solid, good offensive line. Those guys are smart, they're tough and when it's time to play, they're all ready to play.  

Q: It seems like the use of the running backs as receivers has kind of disappeared this year. Anything in particular on that?  

BO: Disappeared, I wouldn't say that. I would just say that, again, we take what the defense gives us. If the defense says to us, 'Okay the tight end is open' or 'The receiver is open' or 'The back is open,' we're going to throw to the open guy. I think that's what we've done all year. The backs are involved in the passing game and just because of what the defense is giving us or shown us that maybe they haven't stat-wise caught as many balls but they're still heavily involved in the passing game.  

Q: Disappeared isn't right but consistently for the past 10 years, you've had running backs in the 50 to 60 catch range but this year you're down about 60 percent or something number-wise.  

BO: Yeah, I understood what you're saying. I'd say now you have two tight ends that have a bunch of catches; you have a couple receivers that have a bunch of catches. I think it's being distributed a little bit differently based on again, what the teams we've played over the last 12 games have given us. That's just how it's gone. I wouldn't say that's anything that we've looked at and said, 'Hey, we're not going to throw the ball to the backs.' That's certainly not the case. It's just that some other guys have been open on plays quicker or sooner or the first part of the read than the back has.  

Q: Is there any by-product of that to the offensive line? I know Stephen Neal was really good at getting outside on those plays and he hasn't been around and you've had a rotating cast at tackle and center. Does that have any impact on it?  

BO: No, I think you're talking about screen passes now. As far as screens go, I think we've tried to get our screen game going over the last four weeks and probably need to do a better job of coaching that and get it going a little more. No, it has nothing to do with the line. The line is an athletic line that does a really good job of getting out on the perimeter, all those guys, so no, it's not that at all.  

Q: Is there any one thing that you can attribute, other than the obvious, to the reduction in turnovers that we've seen over the last few weeks?  

BO: That's again, the way that we coach that, number one is that we emphasize it. One of the keys to every game is always going to be to not turn the ball over and to take care of the football and ball security. If you're a ball carrier and you're handling the ball then you're handling the lifeline of the team. We emphasize it. Then I think we do drills during practice. Our defense does a good job of trying to strip us after the play, things like that, to remind us to take care of the ball. I think there's been a lot of emphasis on it, which has always been the case here, but I just think we're doing a better job of it the last four games.  

Q: How about Tom Brady's role in that too?  

BO: He's as hard on himself about interceptions or strip sacks and things like that as I could be hard on him. He's done a really good job in the drill work, in practice of just reminding himself, me reminding him, the backup quarterbacks reminding him, 'Hey, look take care of the ball,' 'Hey, this was a good throw,' 'This was a nice job of taking care of the ball in the pocket.' I think over the last four weeks, he's really improved.  

Q: Is there one thing you can put your finger on as to why Rob Gronkowski has been such a target in the red zone? It's not a surprise anymore but you still see him uncovered. Is there something scheme-wise that you're doing to get him open? What is leading to that production?  

BO: I'd say number one is his size and his wingspan. He's 6'7" but then he's got the long arms so he's really just a tough matchup for anybody, whether you want to double team him or single cover him. That's number one, I'd say number two is his ability to understand how the coverage is playing out and be in the right spot - his own instincts when it comes to being open. Number three obviously is Tom [Brady] seeing him and giving him a good throw. Again, it's the players and they do a good job with it. We try to move him and do different things with him but again it's all about the execution of the players and those guys for the most part have done a good job.  

Q: We saw a couple of plays in the Colts game where you had Stevan Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis together in the backfield in I-formation. Do you look at that as one of those guys as a fullback or do you see it as two running backs on the field?  

BO: Every week, we're going to try to give the defense different looks. Being a game plan offense and a personnel oriented offense, we're always going to try to give them something different from the week before or previous times that we played. That was one of the packages that we had and we felt good about in that game. One guy could have been a fullback, one guy could have been a tailback and they were interchangeable parts - that's what's good about our backs. That's kind of what we were trying to do in that game.  

Q: How is that formed? Is that basically what you're doing on a Tuesday? Are you looking at the team and finding things to exploit? Is coming up with ideas on a weekly basis part of the challenge of being an offensive coach?

BO: Definitely. I think it starts with who is available to us. Obviously Bill [Belichick] is in charge of that and he tells us, 'These are the guys that are available to us' based on health and things like that. That starts there and we try to take our players and look at the defense that we're playing. As a staff, we have a bunch of smart guys and we all work really well together. Each guy does part of the game plan and I just, like I've always said, just put it all together and put our players in the best position possible to do the things that they do well. It's kind of a strategic session every week and that's what makes coaching fun and what makes coaching smart players fun.  

Q: What is one area at the top of your list that you want to see better production out of offensively?  

BO: No question, we have to finish these games better. We play well for a big part of the game and then we go into the fourth quarter. It's coaching, it's playing, everybody is involved in it - we're all in it together. We just have to do a better job of possessing the football at the end of the game.

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