Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 22, 2009.
Q: In the Bills game you guys only went six deep. I think at times during the season you went eight deep, so going forward, is that a sign of a shift to using less personnel in the defensive backfield or was that just for that game situation?
DP: Oh, it was just that game situation, like it always is. We felt like our best matchups for the coverage that we were playing against, the sets that they gave us, certain guys were going to be in there unless for some reason they either got tired or banged up or we needed to give them a break. That was kind of the game plan for that week.
Q: Can you comment on the season that Leigh Bodden has had and how you think he has integrated into the system in his first year?
DP: Oh, I think he's done a good job coming into the system and learning the system. It's a lot different than what - well, I won't say that. He actually had a little background there when he was in Cleveland with Romeo [Crennel] in some of the things we did - not all of them, but some of them. But I think overall he's done a good job. He's kind of like everybody else back there: we just haven't been consistent on every game throughout the season. There have been some games [we] really played well and there have been some games we really didn't play well. But I think overall, probably, he's been one of our more consistent players back there and he's caught on to the system. He's a sharp guy, works real hard at it, very professional, and overall I'd say he's done a good job.
Q: For extended parts of the season you've gone mostly without Shawn Spring and James Sanders, and then the last two weeks I think both have started and played extensively. After such a long layoff, how did you know they'd be able to come back in and play every snap?
DP: Well, we have them out there in practice, don't forget. It isn't like the only time we see them is on Sundays. We see them every day of the week, so when we're out there in practice, we can see what they can do and how they can do it. Like I said, it depends kind of on the game plan that we're using that particular week. In Shawn's case particularly - because he was out a little longer - the biggest thing on him was we just wanted to make sure he could last a whole game. Fortunately, in the last couple games, they haven't been 70, 80 play games. They've been in the 50's and we've had some breaks. We've gotten off the field on third down, which has really been key, as opposed to the Miami game where we couldn't get off the field on third down and they end up running 80 plays on us and everybody is dragging. So it's been a matter of we watch them every day in practice. We see what they can do and know how much they can play. And James - we always felt that that was never going to be a problem whether he can play the whole game or not. It's just what we have kind of done the last couple weeks has fit what they give us a little better than maybe somebody else.
Q: How did you keep their heads in it?
DP: That's them. That's them being professional. I mean, I talk to them every day, but I don't go in there and talk to them and give them a pep talk. They're grown men. They handle this as a profession and they know that at any point in time your number may get called back up or it may not get called up or you may get called to [do something else]. I mean, James during that time was doing a lot of extensive special teams work, which he still does. He was doing a great job with that. That's a credit to both those guys, but not only those guys. We have other guys that are like that. I think when you talk to them and when you prepare every week, you prepare them as if they are going to play. You don't sit down and say, 'Well, you're not going to play this week.' Everybody expects to play every week. How much I'm going to get to play, we'll kind of find out later as the week goes on how much I'm a part of the game plan. But I've got to know what to do, because the last thing you want to do as a professional is somebody goes down and then you're put into the situation and you're not ready to go. Then that's going to make it look even worse for you. Now everybody's going to say, 'Well, that's why he wasn't playing.' Those guys aren't going to do that. They're going to be as prepared as well as they can be prepared, whether they get a lot of reps or not. Like I said, that's a credit to both of them being professionals.
Q: Since you have some new players on defense this year, how much is it their experience and their ability to communicate a factor in them getting more playing time?
DP: Some. Everything factors into it. Depending on how extensive the game plan is, how much communication - there's always going to be communication going on, sometimes more than others, sometimes maybe too much. It just kind of depends on, not only the communication part of it, but then how they fit in the scheme and what we're trying to get done that week to stop that team. Are they the best fit for that? Inside of that, then, do they have the ability to communicate? And I think our guys - even though we have a lot of new guys back there - I think they've caught on well. We've had a couple games where we didn't do a very good job of communication across the board, and those were pretty easy to spot. But for the most part, guys have done a pretty good job and they're getting better at it and they're working hard at it.
Q: When you look at the defense with no linemen and five linebackers. How much of that was defending against something the Bills did or was it more just a way to mask some of the people you had missing on the line?
DP: Well, everything we do is geared towards what another team does, not so much to mask whether we have somebody or don't have somebody. It's kind of 'What can we do to stop them or prevent them or do the best job we can on whatever down, whatever situation it is?' Then, take into account whatever personnel that we have available. 'OK, now what's the best way to use that personnel that we do have available?' Some weeks you have some guys; some weeks you don't have certain guys. Well, that's our job to try to figure out then what's the best way to do this and how can we do it and hopefully be effective with it. So it was really a combination a little bit of number one, we wanted to do things to the Bills that we thought would work. Number two wasn't to mask somebody being gone, it was just more based on 'OK, here're the guys that we've got. Where're the best positions we can put them in?'
Q: Going back to the game, one of the things Bill Belichick mentioned was that the Bills had success running on that first drive. He talked about how they were isolating the inside linebacker. I'm just curious if you could elaborate on that a little bit, because after the first drive it seemed like the adjustments were made pretty well.
DP: Well, the guys did a good job. Yeah, they attacked certain spots there on the defense. Again, what we need to do is figure out OK, how can we change that up [and] make them either have to change their scheme or find somewhere else to go with the ball? So we made those adjustments to try to take a little bit of the heat off the linebackers. Again, whenever you change something, you've got to keep it moving, because every defense has an inherent problem. It also has a strength, so you've got to play to that strength but not stay in it so long that everybody else figures out what the weakness is. Move on. So I thought we did a good job of - the coaches - of getting it to the players that, 'Here's what we need to do. Here's how we need to change it up.' And we were able to do that, and then when we got the lead that certainly helped a little bit, too.