New England Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 17, 2008.
Q: Could you talk a little about Jerod Mayo and the job he's done up to this point?
DP: I think he's coming along. He's still got a ways to go and he knows that, but he's progressed pretty much every game. The guy works real hard in the classroom as well as on the field and that's really what you ask of those guys. I'd say he's progressed well. He knows there're things he'd like to do better and we'd like to have to do better and he'll keep working at them and he'll do them better. But at the same time for a rookie, grasping all the things that we try to do, I think he's done a good job and he's continuing to improve.
Q: In the last game it seemed like the opposing tight ends had some success. Why do you think that is?
DP: Well, there were a couple of times that they really shouldn't have been a problem, particularly the third and 15 at the end of the game. We actually blew coverage and it really shouldn't have been as big a problem - it wasn't so much them presenting the problem as us presenting the problem to ourselves. So that was the case with a couple of them. I think we just didn't play good enough technique on one of them that I can remember particularly and then on the last one we just didn't do a very good job on the coverage; we blew the coverage. That's our fault. I give their tight ends credit. He does a nice job and [Dustin] Keller is a good tight end, but we've got to do a better job.
Q: When you look back at that first game and some of the struggles you had, how much of it was Miami having the element of surprise and how much of it was you not executing?
DP: It's actually both. When you look back at the film, I think they did a good job of coming in with a scheme that nobody had really seen or prepared for, and caught us a little bit. To them I give a lot of credit to do that, and obviously it's been a problem for a lot teams that they played after us that did have a chance to look at it, so it's a good scheme. They do a good job scheming a lot of things up, not only just the Wildcat, but the way they utilize their personnel and the players they have; they've got good football players. All the running backs are good, the receivers are good, [Chad] Pennington does a great job at quarterback. They're a very, very talented group. At the same time, we have to do a better job of tackling because there were some plays in there where we had the play made and we just didn't tackle them. We didn't tackle well, so it's a combination of both of those things.
Q: When they run the Wildcat, where do they tend to get their mileage? They hurt you guys up the middle a little bit, has it been that way since or do they get outside more?
DP: They're very balanced. They take the ball outside just as much as they take it inside on that. They've hit a couple big pass plays off of it. To me it's not any different - I want to say this in the right way - basically most teams, most formations and most personnel groups, they've got a package where they can run it inside, run it outside and either play action or get a pass off it. Their Wildcat formation is kind of the same way. It's not something where we're lining up and you can guarantee that the ball is going to be run between the tackles or guarantee that it's going to be run outside. You can't guarantee anything. You don't know where the ball is going to go on it, or if they're even going to run the ball. They've shown a couple of passes on it, enough to keep you very honest. I think they're very balanced on running it inside and outside.
Q: How much of the challenge of that formation is simply the fact that they're going to have another blocker when the ball is being snapped right into the hands of the runner?
DP: Well it's the same way as it is in college: the 'ride-and-decide' series and that whole thing that has kind of taken off in college football. The whole idea is you've got a quarterback that can run the ball and he's an extra guy that really, you don't want to count for him being the runner. You kind of take him out the equation and just hand the ball off and there's one lead blocker, well now there's two lead blockers. You've just got to do a good job of being found and guys reading their keys and doing a good job and then when you have a chance to tackle the guy, you've got to tackle the guy. To me that's as big a part of the problem in facing Miami: not only the Wildcat and that kind of stuff, it's the guys that are running the ball. It's Ronnie Brown; it's Ricky [Williams]; it's Patrick [Cobbs]; it's that all those guys that are handling the ball are also very talented runners.
Q: Last year you were playing most of your games with a significant lead and you had a little bit more of a veteran presence, which is not the case this year. Do either of those factors change the way you call a game?
DP: Maybe a little bit, from the standpoint that last year if you got up by 30-some points, maybe, but not really, overall. You really kind of go in with the game plan that you want to play on defense and you're really gearing it more towards what the other team does. What happens is, maybe last year if you got a big lead you knew that the normal game plan that another team had - if all of a sudden you find yourself down by 28 points - you know you're going to have to start throwing the ball. You're not going to be able to hand it off and run the ball every down, so it may change how you call the game in that now you know they're going to throw the ball a heck of a lot more than they would had the game had been tight. But you really go in with a call sheet and a game plan that you're going to call and unless the game really gets out of hand, you're going to stick with that until you have to change it.
Q: Overall are you impressed with the contributions the rookies have made this year?
DP: I think they're working hard, yeah. Being impressed is such a tough word to use. I don't know. I think they're all working very, very hard, just as the veterans are. We're all trying to get better and improve and we certainly need to do that. There are certainly a lot of areas we need to get improvement in. I think they're all working towards that means. Sometimes I'm very impressed with them and sometimes I'm not impressed with them. Just like I am with myself or with some of the veterans or with all of us. We're just all trying to get better and I think they're working real hard, I'll tell you that. They're giving it what they've got.
Q: Would you assess the play of the defensive line without Ty Warren?
DP: Certainly, you miss Ty [Warren]. You miss any player when they're out, especially a starter. I thought overall, they hung in there pretty good. We had our moments. Again, I don't think anybody walked out of that game on defense thinking they played a great game, whether it be the front, secondary or the linebackers, there were always things that we can improve on. We could have done a little better job getting into a little longer yardage on some of those third downs instead of the more manageable third downs that we had. But I think overall guys tried to fit in there and we've got five or six guys that end up playing a lot anyway, whether Ty is in there or not, so they're getting a lot of playing time.
Q: How much of a toll have the injuries taken this year?
DP: Well it certainly hurts; it certainly doesn't help, but what are you going to say? There's nothing we can do about it. Like we've always talked about, if somebody else goes down, it's an opportunity for somebody else. We've had injuries in the past. In '04, I think we lost both corners and went on to win the Super Bowl. Everybody's got them. I look around the league and I hear everybody when I watch the other games and hear the commentators and hear who is out. Everybody's got them. It takes a toll on everybody; it's not just us. We've just got to make it happen and the other guys get opportunities and they've got to do a job and step up and we've got to do the job as a coaching staff and step up and get them to play and take the place of the guy that's out. Nobody wants to loose these guys, but unfortunately it's a fact of football.
Q: Why is the Wildcat formation - which seems to have elements of the college option - different and work more in the NFL than the option?
DP: I think one of the reasons it's worked a little better is that there really have not been that many option pitch plays off of it. It's not where one guy has the quarterback and one guy has the pitch like in college. The fact of it is most of this Wildcat has worked because that's a running back running the ball, who is usually a pretty good load and knows how to run, as opposed to a pro quarterback who nobody wants to lose that guy. So if they run the option, the ball is probably going to get pitched after about one step so they don't get hit. In college it's a little different because really most of the college quarterbacks that run this offense are running backs; they just can throw a little better, but they really are running backs. Generally in the pros, if it happens to you once, you kind of get surprised by it. The second time, I think they know that you're going to hit that quarterback and you're going to hit him pretty good, so they're not going to do it with the quarterbacks. The truth of it is most of the running backs don't have time to practice how to pitch a ball in the option very much.